JEFFERSON CITY – According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey, Missouri’s ranking is improving – having moved up five places since 2017 – though it still remains 44th worst in the country.
The Associated Industries of Missouri is optimistic about reforms enacted in the last legislative session, and the prospect of more in the next session.
“The fact that we’ve had a major number of verdicts and cases that are clogging up the St. Louis courts, that really brings some urgency to the matter to try to get tort reform done in the state of Missouri,” Ray McCarty, president and CEO of AIM, said. “One thing I did find encouraging is that several of the criteria (in the Lawsuit Climate Survey) that they were using we have taken action on in recent sessions, so I expect us to improve in those ratings.”
Among the most meaningful reforms enacted last session was in codifying venue requirements regarding where litigants can sue, McCarty said.
Another was proportional discovery, which McCarty called the "discovery to death bill." The measure limits multiple discoveries, which had been perceived as a harassment tactic.
"The bill that we passed last year limited the number of discovery requests, the number of interrogatories, the number of depositions you could take, so it was a very good bill that will also improve our rating in that area," he said.
McCarty said that another legislative reform passed in a previous session was the adoption of the Daubert standard for expert witness testimony - a standard used in at least 39 states and all the federal courts. The Daubert standard requires judges to ensure that expert witness testimony is relevant to the issues in the case, is based on solid facts and is backed up by scientific methods.
“While we have achieved some things in recent sessions and we should be proud of that and that is helping, we have a lot of work yet to do and we all realize that and are trying to start the conversation on what should be the priorities for the coming legislative session,” McCarty said.
Editor's note: The St. Louis Record is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.