St. Louis Record

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Punitive damages reform top priority of Missouri business leaders

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By John Breslin | Dec 19, 2019


Puntiive damages reform is a top priority of business leaders in Missouri, the state Chamber of Commerce has said.

The chamber is supporting the refiling of legislation that includes separating the decision over whether to award punitive damages from any compensatory damages decided by on by a jury. A bill was introduced by Sen. Bill White in the last session of the Missouri General Assembly.

"Punitive damages reform will be a top priority for the Missouri Chamber in 2020," Matt Panik, the chamber's vice president of governmental affairs, told the St. Louis Record.

"We supported Sen. White’s legislation last year because it provided greater clarity for how and when punitive damages may be awarded."

Panik added, "The changes in the legislation, including allowing the jury to first focus on compensatory damages, and then punitive damages later in trial, add fairness to the system.

SB 65, which was placed and remained on the senate's informal calendar when the legislative session ended, states that punitive damages can only be awarded if there is "clear and convincing evidence" of intentional harm or that the defendant "acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others."

Further, the claim for punitive damages will not be allowed in any initial complaint and can be added only as a motion, supported by evidence, ahead of a final pre-trial conference or trial date.

Under the bill, any pleading for punitive damages can only be filed after the court decides whether a particular standard has been met.

It will also be up to the court to decide whether a jury should consider whether punitive damages should be awarded after actual damages are awarded.

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