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Friday, December 6, 2019

Tort reform Senate bills to take effect, impacts may not be immediately felt, according to legal expert

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By Rich Peters | Sep 23, 2019

Parson

JEFFERSON CITY – Several tort reform bills signed by Gov. Mike Parson in July took effect at the end of August that could change the legal climate across Missouri. However, those changes so far are still relatively unknown and could stay that way for a while, according to experts.

Senate Bill 7 restrains out-of-state residents from filing lawsuits in Missouri by requiring plaintiffs to have standing in the court where they plan to sue. The bill also restricts the ability of more than one plaintiff to sue jointly.

Senate Bill 30 allows a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt to be used as evidence of negligence in a case involving civil damages.

However, despite the groundbreaking laws having been passed, it’s not fully clear just how they will affect the tort landscape.

“For the most part, the bills will apply prospectively and would typically apply to bills filed after the bills were filed,” said Mimi Doherty, president of Deacy & Deacy LLP in Kansas City. “I would say it usually takes a while for the new bills to see what effects they will have because very often there will be some sort of appeal that will involve the new (bills) and we’ll just have to wait and see how the judges apply them. There’s probably not going to be an immediate effect.” 

Doherty said it could take up to a year before any impact is seen.

“There’s a hopeful sign that cases will be filed in the proper jurisdictions and it may be less burdensome on the Missouri court if cases have to be filed in the proper venue,” Doherty said of SB 7. “Each case is probably dependent on its own facts, but I think that one of the goals of the venue law was to have cases be brought into the proper jurisdiction as opposed to where plaintiff lawyers think they’re going to have a bigger verdict.”

Current notable cases in Missouri involving a number of plaintiffs filing jointly across multiple jurisdictions are the cancer cases against Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide product, and ovarian cancer/mesothelioma cases against talcum powder maker Johnson & Johnson. 

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