ST. LOUIS – The CEO of the Associated Industries of Missouri said a new bill introduced for consideration by the Missouri legislature would provide a common sense approach to avoid potentially endless litigation over product defects.
“The current state of the law allows lawsuits alleging manufacturing defects to be filed decades after the item was purchased, which is totally ridiculous," Ray McCarty told the St. Louis Record. "While other states have statutes limiting such lawsuits to 10 or 12 years after purchase of the item, Missouri does not have a limit. After making numerous concessions over the years, we believe 15 years is an appropriate time limit for manufacturing defect lawsuits.”
The Associated Industries of Missouri is the state’s oldest business association, tasked with the job of improving the local business climate.
SB 555 is part of an effort made by Missouri Republicans and business advocates to limit when and how companies can be sued over product design defects, the Insurance Journal reported.
State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Battlefield, the bill’s sponsor, told the Insurance Journal the legislation would prevent frivolous and endless lawsuits. He said having no statute of limitations on when litigation can be launched against a product defect means that after years go by, employees have moved on and company records can be difficult to locate for evidence in a court trial.
“We’re protecting manufacturers from cases where too much time has lapsed and we no longer really have the ability to accurately determine if there is liability, and if so, where it properly lies,” Trent said.
Earlier this month, at a hearing before a House panel of lawmakers, a Missouri woman condemned the bill. Her father was among 17 people who died in a tourist duck boat accident at Table Rock Lake when the Stretch Duck 7 sank during a storm. The boat had reportedly been converted for sightseeing use from a World War II amphibious vehicle.
Jennifer Asher said if the proposed bill had been in place at the time of the accident that claimed the life of her father, the owners of the boat company could possibly escape liability.
“This bill would limit a company’s responsibility for its product to 15 years,” Asher said. “I believe that that will lead to more disasters like the one that I went through. This was a preventable disaster.”
However, McCarty said, the bill would allow a longer period of time in cases subject to federal defect recalls, additional warranty claims by the manufacturer that a product will last beyond 15 years and other reasonable exceptions.
“We believe this bill is an appropriate fix to prohibit frivolous lawsuits while continuing to protect consumers with legitimate issues," he said.