Missouri Business Headlines

Bill proposes modifying statute of limitations for more timely justice

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gavel and scales of justice

Missouri plaintiffs currently have a five-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, one of the longest in the country — double or more the amount of time provided by many other states.

But over time records are lost or discarded, witnesses pass away or cannot be located, and memories fade. This loss of evidence impairs courts’ ability to rule fairly.

To address this, Rep. Curtis Trent (R-Springfield) is sponsoring House Bill 2206, which would bring Missouri into the mainstream by setting a two-year statute of limitations for bringing personal injury claims, and for claims relating to uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Missouri already has a two-year statute for other types of claims including medical malpractice, libel, slander, assault and battery.

Rep. Trent testified at the bill’s committee hearing on March 1 that the current five-year statute has not been adjusted since 1939.

“Obviously technology has changed, communications have changed, transportation times have changed, and some of the leeway that was built into the original statute no longer strictly applies,” Trent said.

This reform is relevant to the business community because legal climate ranking is frequently a factor weighed by site selectors and employers seeking to expand or relocate. Though the Missouri Chamber has successfully advocated for several notable legal reforms in recent years, there is still more progress to be made — in its most recent report, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ranked Missouri’s overall legal climate as 44th in the nation.

Modifying Missouri’s statute of limitations would demonstrate that our state is serious about providing justice to all litigants in a timely manner.

“Missouri’s lengthy statute of limitations increases uncertainty for all parties. A shorter time period would promote timely resolution of potential disputes,” Missouri Chamber General Counsel Carol Mitchell said.

House Bill 2206’s counterpart in the Senate is Senate Bill 631 by Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby).

The Missouri Chamber also testified in favor of House Bill 1717 at the hearing. This bill by Rep. Alex Riley (R-Springfield) would increase fairness in asbestos exposure cases by requiring a claimant to provide all parties in an action with a sworn statement that all asbestos trust claims that the claimant can file have been completed and filed.

The Missouri Chamber has a history of supporting legislation that increases transparency in asbestos litigation by requiring trust claim disclosure before trial. Such disclosure increases transparency, curtails fraudulent claims, allows businesses to fairly litigate all relevant exposures and ensures that there will be compensation for future claimants by appropriately apportioning fault.

Read more about the Missouri Chamber’s legal reform priorities here.

For more information on this or other legal reform topics, contact Mitchell at cmitchell@mochamber.com or call (573) 634-3511.

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