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Greitens signs Corlew’s expert witness standards bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Eric Greitens signed his second bill and his first major piece of tort reform Tuesday morning by putting his signature to Rep. Kevin Corlew’s expert witness standards bill.

At Midland Transports in Jefferson City, Greitens said the bill, which would switch Missouri’s expert witness standards bill to the Daubert standard, instead of the current model based on statute.

Rep. Kevin Corlew speaks before the signing of his expert witness standard bill March 28, 2017. (Travis Zimpfer/MISSOURI TIMES)
Rep. Kevin Corlew speaks before the signing of his expert witness standard bill March 28, 2017. (Travis Zimpfer/MISSOURI TIMES)

“Signing this piece of legislation into law is a big step for Missouri,” Corlew said of his legislation. “It will help improve the administration of justice here in Missouri courts by improving the reliability of expert evidence that’s presented to our juries in both our civil and criminal cases.

Currently, 39 other states as well as the federal government use the Daubert standard to determine suitable expert witness testimony in court cases. The Daubert standard concerns itself more with the scientific information and solid methodology of an expert witness’ testimony than just a “generally accepted” idea within the scientific community. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the Frye standard had been superseded.

The bill has been a major part of conservative tort reform efforts for years. Corlew has carried the legislation since his first term in 2015, and Sen. Doug Libla, Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson have all carried this bill during their times in the Senate.

Greitens noted this bill fell in line with his promise to deliver “more jobs with higher pay.” Adopting the Daubert standard was one of two tort reform measures Greitens mentioned in his State of the State address in January alongside joinder and venue rule changes.

“In Missouri, our businesses and companies have been held back,” Greitens said at the signing. “When crooked trial lawyers bring in shady witnesses who act as experts while peddling junk science, it makes it harder for justice to be done. That scares away businesses… Businesses who have customers here and could make money here have been afraid to expand here.”

Other major tort reform measures being considered by the General Assembly include a Senate collateral source rule change bill currently going through committee, as well as changes to Missouri’s Human Rights Act that opponents have said could make it more difficult for victims of discrimination to sue their aggressors.

In a statement, House Speaker Todd Richardson thanked Greitens for signing the bill.

“By signing the expert witness legislation into law, we can ensure juries have the accurate facts and data they need to make sound decisions with their verdicts,” Richardson said. “The Daubert standard has worked well in our federal courts, and in 40 other states, and I am confident it will make our court system here in Missouri fairer for both plaintiffs and defendants.”

Pro tort reform groups also spoke out in favor of the signing of the bill.

“Missouri is turning the corner on legal reform and we applaud the legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens’ continued commitment to improving Missouri’s legal climate,” said Lisa A. Rickard, the president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, in a statement. “H.B. 153 requires Missouri courts to adopt a higher expert evidence standard known as Daubert. Enacting the Daubert standard will bring Missouri in line with forty other states and U.S. federal courts when it comes to measuring scientific expertise on common-sense factors.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce also expressed their satisfaction with the bill.

“Gov. Greitens campaigned upon bringing justice back to our courts and today he has delivered,” Missouri Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan said in a statement. “Several other common-sense tort reform measures are also well-positioned for passage this legislative session. We are working hard to get those measures across the finish line and we appreciate Gov. Greitens’ leadership.”