JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Senate perfected SB 591, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar,Tuesday evening – one of the first bills to advance in the Senate in 2016.
The perfected bill hopes to provide the same standards for trial evidence that is required in federal courts and 40 other states. Called the Daubert standard, it ensures that only evidence deemed relevant, reliable and provided by qualified individuals will be admitted as expert testimony.
Parson explained during debate that he hopes his version of the bill will protect all parties.
We want the right person on the stand testifying on behalf of Missourians. No matter who you are – whether you are in the jury, whether you are in the bar, whether you are the judge, whether you are a plaintiff or the defendant – if someone says they are an expert, they ought to be a qualified expert,” Parson said.
During debate, Parson noted that 40 states have enacted some form of the Daubert standard. He pointed out that those states have not experienced any cost increases tied to the reforms, despite claims by some critics of the bill.
“There is no evidence to support the claim that legal fees have gone up,” Parson said. “when we heard testimony, no one could provide any evidence of that claim.”
Under the bill, only witnesses with personal knowledge about facts at issue in a trial may testify, with the exception of expert witnesses who can provide opinion testimony about complex scientific, technical and medical issues, for example. By nature, expert witnesses are very influential in shaping the outcome of a case. Under Daubert, the judge serves a critical role making sure an expert witness meets certain basic criteria.
The National Federation of Independent Business, the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Missouri Petroleum Council, MSCPA, Missouri Retailers Association and several other groups have voiced support for the bill, while the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, judges, and labor have voiced opposition, saying the bill would cause a court clog.
“I filed this legislation so we could establish some good ground rules for evaluating whether a person providing ‘expert’ testimony is truly an expert,” said Parson. “The bill would use the same standard used in federal courts and all but eight other states and should reduce ‘junk science’ used by so-called ‘experts’ in lawsuits involving farmers, small businesses and in criminal cases.”
“To say adopting a uniform standard will slow down the legal process or increase costs for businesses that find themselves in court is ludicrous,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “That smokescreen argument was made last year by a couple of senators that filibustered our bill and is simply not true.”
Yes – 19
Brown(R); Cunningham(R); Dixon(R); Emery(R); Hegeman(R); Kehoe(R); Kraus(R); Libla(R); Munzlinger(R); Onder(R); Parson(R); Richard(R); Riddle(R); Sater(R); Schaefer(R); Schatz(R); Wallingford(R); Wasson(R); Wieland(R)
No – 12
Chappelle-Nadal(D); Curls(D); Holsman(D); Keaveny(D); Nasheed(D); Romine(R); Schaaf(R); Schmitt(R); Schupp(D); Sifton(D); Silvey(R); Walsh(D)
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.