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U.S. Chamber targets Missouri with new legal reform ad campaign

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -– The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is taking aim at Missouri’s lawsuit climate with a new online and television advertising campaign.

The ILR launched the campaign earlier this month, urging the Missouri General Assembly to take legal reform action.

According to the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey, conducted by Harris Poll, Missouri ranks number 42 out of 50 for the worst legal environment.

The ILR also says that St. Louis was named number 10 on the list of cities or counties with the least fair and reasonable litigation environment, and it makes the list of the five worst states in terms of its treatment of class actions and mass consolidation suits. These issues were highlighted by the American Tort Reform Association, which designated St. Louis as the top ‘judicial hellhole’, though the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys has rejected that label.

The ILR has partnered with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry to advocate for comprehensive reform in this year’s legislative session, saying Missouri must be put consumers and small businesses first.

Both groups contend that legal reform is needed to create jobs and grow the economy.

A 30-second advertisement featured on the IRL’s website says Missouri’s legislature must “stop the avalanche of lawsuits and fix a broken system,” highlighting expert evidence, collateral source, venue and joinder, punitive damages, asbestos trust transparency, and insurance bad faith as key issues to be addressed.

“These are not outlandish changes, rather reasonable reforms to return equity to our state’s legal system and improve our national reputation,” Dan Mehan, the president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said in a statement. “We want to return balance to our court system, no more and no less.”

According to a Missouri Chamber-commissioned Gallup survey of more than 1,000 Missouri CEOs and business owners, fewer than one in four Missouri employers are satisfied with the state’s litigation climate.

“Missouri’s poor litigation environment benefits trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses and consumers,” Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR, said. “Fortunately, the state legislature now has a chance to put jobs and justice first.”

In a letter published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ILR executive vice president Harold H. Kim writes that “Missouri has laid out the welcome mat to the nation’s trial lawyers with its weak rules on what cases are eligible to stay in its courts, and terrible standards of evidence that can be presented to its juries. This makes for terrible law but gives plaintiffs’ lawyers huge verdicts with fat paydays.”

Mehan also said that it’s “unfair to subject Missouri employers to a constant barrage of trial lawyers filing outlandish lawsuits hoping for a big payoff.”

The ad finishes by asking for Missourians to “support jobs, justice, and common sense legal reform now”.