Missouri is often considered to be a thriving environment for innovators and aspiring business owners as well as an overall great place to live. And it is. Our state is constantly looking to improve the standard of living for its citizens and is at the forefront of many novel ideas and reforms. However, when examining our judicial landscape, Missouri has fallen behind a majority of the rest of the nation. After surveying business owners and leaders, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently ranked Missouri near the very bottom of states for the worst legal system in our nation. Additionally, the American Tort Reform Foundation continues to list Missouri, particularly the City of St. Louis, as a “Judicial Hellhole,” reinforcing the need for serious reform. Failure to provide increased legal reforms will result in Missouri failing to maximize its potential as a leading state open for business.
One of the contributing factors to Missouri’s troubling legal environment is the absurd amount of time plaintiffs have to file a personal injury claim. We adhere to a statute of limitations in order to ensure that the administration of justice is brought about in a timely manner and to provide a sense of finality to civil litigation. Now, although Missouri does a lot of things the right way, our state’s statute of limitations is one of the longest in the U.S., allowing for five years to bring a claim. With only three states having a longer statute of limitations, and the vast majority being three years or less, Missouri has become an outlier leading to uncertainty amongst litigants.
Missouri’s statute of limitations has not been updated since 1939 — a time when communication and transportation technology had not advanced into what it is today. In our modern world, the same justifications for a five-year statute of limitations no longer exist. The time has come to update Missouri’s statute of limitations for the 21st century.
That is why I am in full support of SB 631 and HB 2206 which will amend Missouri’s statute of limitations from an outlandish five years to a more reasonable two-year period. The law is not retroactive, and will only apply to future personal injury claims that take place after the bill’s effective date. In addition, neither SB 631 nor HB 2206 change the current exceptions to the statute of limitations, such as the exception for an injury to a child.
A shorter statute of limitations encourages injured parties to bring meritorious lawsuits sooner, rather than delaying for years on end. This helps to ensure that evidence will not go missing, that witnesses’ memories will not fade, and that there will be prompt resolution of disputes. In passing SB 631 and HB 2206, Missouri would join the ranks of most states, demonstrate that our state is committed to tort reform, and show the country that Missouri has a strong economic climate open for business.
Rep. Alex Riley is a Republican who represents HD 134 in Greene County. He is the vice-chairman of the General Laws Committee and holds a Juris Doctorate from Southern Illinois University.