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Two court-centered bills fail to reach veto session finish line


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Amidst wins for the Republican Party on the gun bill and photo voter ID during veto session Wednesday, other legislation both escaped major attention and fell by the wayside legislatively. Specifically, Sen. Mike Parson’s SB 591 and Sen. Ed Emery’s SB 847 did not see final votes that would overrule the will of Gov. Jay Nixon.

SB 591 would have changed the standards used for expert witnesses to the Daubert standard used by the federal government and most other states. The Daubert standard gives greater authority to a trial judge to determine the validity of expert testimony, which proponents say will ensure more accurate testimony from a highly influential source. Opponents said the bill could slow down the court process and increase costs for expert testimony.

The bill was not brought up in the Senate.

Sen. Ed Emery
Sen. Ed Emery

On the other hand, Emery’s SB 847 did receive a vote in the Senate, which voted to override the governor’s veto. However, the House did not take up the bill for consideration. SB 847 was the controversial collateral source rule bill that would make it so the actual cost of damages in injury lawsuits, rather than the value of the damages.

That bill was the subject of the first Senate filibuster of 2016, which lasted 13 hours in February.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce supported both bills and executive director Dan Mehan expressed his disappointment that the General Assembly did not pass two reforms that he believes contribute to Missouri’s label as a “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association.

“The failure to override this veto highlights a bizarre situation in our legislature,” he said in a statement after veto session. “We have a supermajority of lawmakers who campaign on pro-business platforms. Yet, when they are in Jefferson City, they collectively fail to address our legal climate problem – arguably the biggest business issue in our state today.”

However, the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys came away victorious on those two measures last night given their opposition to the bills. MATA Deputy Director Sharon Jones said that the Senate’s silence on SB 591 was telling.

“The fact it was not even brought up is an indication that the Legislature acknowledges that it was not a necessary law and didn’t feel the need to override the veto,” she said.

She noted the group was pleased that SB 847 failed to make it through the house because it would have essentially given a benefit of health insurance to a party that had caused injury.

Still, Jones noted that she expected to continue fighting those proposals next year.

“While we’re happy our message is getting through, we definitely don’t think yesterday’s lack of action means the fight is over,” she said. “We worked really hard on them during session along with other legislation, and we’re certain we’re going to have the same battles come January.”