St. Louis Record

Monday, January 20, 2020

Business leader says tort reform will be a top issue in next year's legislative session


By Kyla Asbury | Oct 28, 2019

Legislativesession 1280

ST. LOUIS – The Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) hasn't officially set its legislative priorities for the next legislative session, but there are several leftover bills from the previous session it would like to see advanced. 

AIM president and CEO Ray McCarty said there are several key issues for 2020 that the organization would likely focus on.

McCarty said punitive damages reform has been a focus for several years and he hoped work would continue with House Bill 489 and Senate Bill 65.

Associated Industries of Missouri President and CEO Ray McCarty | Photo courtesy of Associated Industries of Missouri

"Last year, we had two bills filed," McCarty said. "Punitive damages reform is something we’ve been trying to work on for several years."

McCarty said the purpose of the bills is to make sure punitive damages are only brought up in a court case when a defendant needs to be punished for verifiable wrong-doing, not just for the purpose of driving up settlements.

"They’re very often brought up very early so the plaintiff’s attorney can raise the amount [for a settlement]," McCarty said. 

McCarty said some states, like Kansas, have a process that uses different motions where a plaintiff has to have some level of proof presented to the judge that there’s a good discussion to be had about punitive damages before being included in a claim.

"We have filed this for three or four years and it’s evolved every time to address concerns raised," McCarty said. "We have a much better bill now. That will be our starting point for that issue next year."

McCarty said two bills regarding the statute of repose, House Bill 186 and Senate Bill 100, would also be something to focus on in the following session.

"Missouri is one of the few states that doesn’t have [a statute of repose]," McCarty said. "It involves diseases that take a longer time to develop. This bill would say you’d have 15 years after you purchased a product or if there was a longer warranty, you’d have that full warranty period. You'd have additional time for things like mesothelioma."

McCarty said it's a good idea to get a law on the statute of repose on the books.

McCarty said Senate Bill 96, which involves changing the statute of limitations from five years down to two years, is also an important bill.

"I didn’t realize Missouri was an outlier in this area," McCarty said. "A move to two years is important – certainly we would support that. Being an outlier doesn’t attract businesses to the state."

McCarty also said two bills involving asbestos trust fund transparency would also likely be a focus for the next session.

McCarty saidSenate Bill 69 would make sure both judges and jury members would be aware if a claimant was able to receive money from an asbestos trust and could take that into account when awarding damages.

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