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Critical legal reform blocked in Senate

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Missouri’s outdated statute of limitations is creating costly delays in our state’s legal system. Currently, plaintiffs are allowed to delay filing personal injury lawsuits for up to five years — that’s double or more the amount of time provided by many other states.

Allowing years to go by before filing means records can be lost or discarded, witnesses may pass away or cannot be located, and memories fade — all factors that work against justice and can slant Missouri’s system against defendants, which are often businesses.

There is a strong push to fix this problem in the Missouri General Assembly this year. However, this work was halted in the Missouri Senate on April 6 as some senators aligned with trial attorney interests blocked progress on Senate Bill 631.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, a Republican from Cosby, changes Missouri’s statute of limitations from five years to three years. The bill was passed by committee and was scheduled for a key vote on the Senate floor until Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from Weldon Spring, and Sen. Mike Moon, a Republican from Ash Grove, engaged in a filibuster to block the bill. Sens. Eigel and Moon have taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from trial attorney groups which have opposed reforming Missouri’s statute of limitations, according to Missouri Chamber’s Money Trail system.

These blocking tactics are harmful to Missouri’s economy. The state has a detrimental reputation for its unfair legal climate. The state’s legal climate currently ranks 44th in the nation according to the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. The American Tort Reform Association says St. Louis is the nation’s seventh worst Judicial Hellhole. On the topic of statute of limitations, 46 states have shorter limits than Missouri. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is leading the push for reforms to bring fairness to our state’s legal system, ensuring legal climate is not an impediment to our economic growth.

“There is broad support among the leaders in the legislature that we need to address the statute of limitations this year to keep our economy moving forward. By blocking this bill, Sens. Eigel and Moon are simply working to keep Missouri courts tilted in favor of their trial attorney donors — at the expense of our economy,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “Missouri can’t afford to let two senators stop our progress. We need work to build a fair court system that supports economic growth.”

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