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Tort reform legislation signed into law


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson added his signatures to a group of bills making alterations to laws regarding tort case in Missouri’s courts.

On Wednesday, Missouri’s chief executive signed four tort reform measures: SB 7, SB 30, SB 224, and HB 959.

“During this year’s session, we made major progress improving Missouri’s business climate,” Parson said in a statement. “Today, we took a great step in bringing fairness to our courts and giving Missouri businesses the opportunity for competitive economic growth.”

One of the most notable tort reform bills changes the state statutes regarding joinder and venue. SB 7, championed by Sen. Ed Emery, codifies that plaintiffs cannot use joinder to establish venue and modifies which cases can be brought together — along with carving out a venue exception for insurance agents.

It also allows cases with scheduled trials to be grandfathered in under the old rules. The savings clause was part of the compromise between two warring sides in the Senate.

The measure, which goes into effect August 28, requires individuals to bring a claim where they live, where they were injured, or the principal place of business of the defendant. It would require those looking to join cases to have been injured in the same instance or under the same circumstances. The legislation also carves out specific venue regulations for insurance companies — agents, those who sell policies, would not be classified as a business location.

“The law signed by Gov. Parson today addresses a major reason why Missouri has annually ranked as having one of the worst legal climates in the nation. Starting today, Missouri will no longer be the nation’s courtroom,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “This law was years in the making and was one of the business community’s top priorities coming into the 2019 legislative session.”

One of the bills also modified a variety of rules related to discovery. SB 224, backed by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, alters the limits on interrogatories and deposits, privileged information and trial preparation materials, electronically stored information, and requests for production of documents.

“Discovery accounts for about 75 percent of the time and cost of any lawsuit,” Sen. Luetkemeyer said. “This legislation streamlines that process and will lower the cost and length of court proceedings for all parties. Plaintiffs who have been wronged can receive compensation sooner, and defendants facing frivolous lawsuits can have them resolved with minimum delay and cost. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

SB 30, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, allows evidence of failure to wear a seatbelt to prove comparative negligence, causation, absence of defect, and failure to mitigate damages. HB 959, sponsored by Rep. Dean Plocher, modifies provisions of the Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices Act.

Other bills

On Wednesday, Parson also signed two other bills.

  • HB 220: modifies provisions relating to the taxation of property involved in producing wind energy
  • SB 196 : modifies provisions relating to the Department of Natural Resources

All the bills will go into effect on August 28, 2019.

On Tuesday, Parson signed nearly 20 bills.

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