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Senate Bill 7 passes: Missouri is no longer the nation’s courtroom

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Trial attorneys have long seen Missouri as an enticing destination to file blockbuster lawsuits. Thousands of litigants from across the nation have flocked to Kansas City and St. Louis, locations where the courtrooms have a reputation for handing out big judgements against employers. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry worked for years to put a stop to this problem, which will finally end with Gov. Mike Parson’s signature of Senate Bill 7.

A final vote by the Missouri House of Representatives on May 1 has sent the bill to the governor’s desk. The legislation, which passed 100-46, was sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican from Lamar.

“Passing venue and joinder reform is a tremendous achievement years in the making. This issue is a major reason why Missouri, and St. Louis in particular, has annually ranked as having some of the worst legal climates in the nation. Passing Senate Bill 7 changes that,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “This legislation was one of the business community’s top priorities coming into the legislative session. I’d like to thank Sen. Emery and the leaders in the Missouri House and Senate for working to improve our legal climate and bring fairness to our state’s courtrooms.”

During public hearings on the legislation, the Missouri Chamber argued that courtrooms in some parts of the state were being flooded with outside litigation. Sen. Emery illustrated the problem when he cited statistics showing that out of the 13,252 mass tort plaintiffs involved in cases being heard in St. Louis City, only 1,035 are Missouri residents.

The American Tort Reform Association specifically cited the state’s “loose venue rules” when it ranked St. Louis as the nation’s fourth worst “Judicial Hellhole” late last year. The state overall ranks 49th in the most recent U.S. Chamber Institute for Judicial Reform state legal climate survey, which also ranked Missouri dead last in “enforcing meaningful venue requirements.”

The negative reputation caused by our legal climate hurts Missouri’s ability to be competitive for economic growth opportunities. Improving our state’s competitiveness is one of the four key drivers of Missouri 2030, the Missouri Chamber’s strategic initiative for growth.

“Passing Senate Bill 7 is a very important step forward for our state,” said Mehan. “We will no longer allow out-of-state trial attorneys to abuse our state courts for their own benefit. We look forward to Gov. Mike Parson signing this bill into law and helping Missouri become even more competitive as we get closer to 2030.”

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