ST. LOUIS – A Republican state representative who helped usher through venue reform legislation this session believes the measure will stop the flow of out-of-state plaintiffs from flooding Missouri courts.
"There was so much venue shopping from out-of-state plaintiffs going to St. Louis because it was regarded as very friendly," state Rep. Jim Murphy of St. Louis told the St. Louis Record. "We have fixed that to make sure (they) cannot come in from out of state, (and) must have some connection."
Gov. Mike Parson signed the legislation, Senate Bill 7, into law July 10. The bill restricts out-of-state residents from joining lawsuits filed by MIssouri plaintiffs.
Murphy described the reform as a "big legal reform" issue, in the face of having been ranked among the worst jurisdictions for corporate defendants.
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) ranked cities and states it believes to be the worst in the country for defendants, with St. Louis having been listed fourth behind California, New York City, and Florida.
In its latest report, the association's foundation, which publishes the annual ranking, heavily criticized what it argues is the reluctance of St. Louis judges "to properly apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent," which has "encouraged out-of-state plaintiffs to flock to the jurisdiction."
The report cites talc litigation, largely against Johnson & Johnson and its powdered products, in which thousands of women have claimed the powder caused their ovarian cancer. A jury in St. Louis awarded a group of 22 plaintiffs a total of more than $4.5 billion last year, a verdict that is under appeal The ATRA report noted that 17 of those plaintiffs had no connection to Missouri.
Murphy said Missouri can solve these issues on its own and is not looking to a "magazine" to point out the problems. "We know our own problems," he said.
In the next legislative session, Murphy said he and other legislators will be looking at prosecution issues in some jurisdictions, particularly in the city and county of St. Louis, where prosecutors have announced they will not prosecute certain offenses.
Murphy said they should not have the ability to simply decide to nullify laws the state has said should be enforced.