The Republican Party is the party of the hard working, regular people who support the Make America Great Again agenda. Well today, Missouri conservatives are working to support these same people, like you and me, by passing legislation to reform tort laws that currently favor rich attorneys, corporations, and not our hard working Missourians.
Hopefully you never have to think about it, but if you were injured at work I’m sure that you would want to be able to do something about it. Tort laws are what regulate that. They govern your ability to file a civil lawsuit against your employer. However, Missouri has some of the most outdated tort laws in the nation, and some of these laws haven’t been changed since 1939. One of the flaws that we have is the statute of limitations in these cases, which is the amount of time you’re allowed to file a lawsuit after an incident takes place. It isn’t just good policy to reform these laws, it is in the Republican platform, which is why our Republican elected officials need to start doing so.
Right now in Missouri we allow plaintiffs five years to file personal injury lawsuits, one the longest periods of time in the country. This is double or more the amount of time in almost every other state. Deep blue Democrat states like Maine and Minnesota are the ones that have a longer statute of limitations for general personal injury claims. In the unlikely event that something were to happen to you on the job you probably would want as much time as you could have to file a lawsuit. The problem is that ultimately having those extra three years only ends up hurting the plaintiff while benefiting the rich attorneys who you would hire to represent you.
Our Missouri Republican platform states that the Republican Party supports, “Continued efforts to reduce costly frivolous lawsuits, which may result in killing jobs or harming the economy in other ways.” That’s exactly what legislation to lower our statute of limitations laws would do. The platform also states that the party supports, “Missouri’s tort reform law that stopped the abuse and misuse of Missouri’s judicial system through the filing of frivolous lawsuits and has allowed doctors to remain in our state.” Again, this is part of our party’s platform, so our Republican representatives and senators should support these efforts.
Another key reason that the extra time isn’t great for plaintiffs is that it can be difficult for judges and juries to evaluate cases when the evidence is old. Memories can change, and it can be difficult to locate witnesses. I’m not saying that statutes of limitations are not important. Sometimes cases take time to develop, and it’s unrealistic to expect people to follow a lawsuit immediately after they are injured. However, if you have the constitutional right to a speedy trial, why would Missouri want a long and drawn out five year process?
For every day that passes following an injury, the risk increases that evidence will be lost or inadvertently destroyed that would disprove the claim, including faded memories, death of key witnesses, loss of key evidence, etc. Long statutes of limitations can also cause waste in court resources as defendants rightfully challenge verdicts based on less than complete evidence. That is why we need to reform the outdated way we do this in Missouri and pass Senate Bill 117.