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Expert witness bill heads to the House

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Senate passed SB 591, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, was passed by the Senate Thursday morning 20-10 – one of the first bills through 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.

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.

“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.”

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.

“Associated Industries of Missouri has long supported this legislative change and we greatly appreciate the quick action on the bill, led by sponsor Sen. Mike Parson, and Senate leadership,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “Common sense dictates that Missouri use a standard in evaluating expert witnesses that is used in most state courts and federal courts.”

The bill now moves to the Missouri House for further action.