Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opinion: It’s time to protect the people, not the trial attorneys

Believe it or not, Missouri has some very outdated statutes governing tort, which is the way we are able to file civil lawsuits. Think of the kind of lawsuit you would file against your employer if you were to be injured on the job. Some of these laws haven’t been changed since 1939. This is obviously something we don’t want to think about, but it’s an important right that we have as Americans. Here’s the problem: The way things are done now usually only benefits the rich attorneys who you and I would hire to represent us, and it ultimately hurts the small businesses that are the backbone of our communities. That is why I believe we need to change these laws.

The biggest issue currently is the statute of limitations, or the amount of time you’re allowed to file a lawsuit after an incident takes place. Currently, we allow plaintiffs with one the longest periods of time to file for personal injury lawsuits in the country – five years. This is double or more the amount of time in almost every other state. Virtually everywhere else provides three years or less to file a general tort claim. Only four states provide a plaintiff with as long as four years, and only Maine, Minnesota, and North Dakota have a longer statute of limitations for general personal injury claims.

Initially you might be asking, “Why would we give up this extra time that we have to file a lawsuit?” The issue is that ultimately having those extra three years usually only ends up hurting the person who files the lawsuit. It can be difficult for judges and juries to evaluate cases when the evidence is old, when memories fade, and when witnesses can’t be located. In reality, two years is plenty of time for you to decide to file a lawsuit.

The reality is that the more time that passes the more likely it is that a plaintiff won’t win the lawsuit because of everything I just mentioned. When evidence isn’t as fresh it is unlikely that you can win the case. Win or lose, the trial attorneys that you hire still need to get paid. That is why the longer the cases drag out the more it helps them, and hurts you.

There is legislation to fix our statute of limitations in Missouri. Senate Bill 117 would ensure we will not change the process in place unfairly, we just are fixing it moving forward. However, for any claims in the future that should be filed after this law would go into effect, the new statute of limitations period would be 2 years, not 5 years.

Let me be clear: Statutes of limitations are important. Sometimes cases take time to develop, and it’s unrealistic to expect people to follow a lawsuit immediately after they are injured. If 42 other states believe that three years or less is enough time to decide if you want to file a lawsuit then why shouldn’t we as well?

Vinnie Clubb is a Republican activist and proud husband and father. He resides in Wayne County with his family.