January 11, 2018 Less than a minute read

Sen. Munzlinger’s bill to help stop out-of-state cases clogging up Missouri courts

Sen. Munzlinger
Sen. Munzlinger presents SB 546 at a Government Reform Committee hearing on Jan. 10, 2018.

Missouri’s venue and joinder laws put out a welcome mat for out-of-state trial attorneys exploiting the system by trying to win outlandish judgments against out-of-state businesses.

All attorneys have to do to get in the door is name a Missouri business as one of the defendants. And once they’re in, they can stay, even if that business is later dismissed. Cases like this between out-of-state parties slow down our court system and hinder the timely resolution of legal disputes between Missouri-based parties.

But this problem could be solved by Senate Bill 546, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, a Republican from Clarence. Munzlinger shared some concerning numbers at the bill’s first committee hearing.

“In 2017, there were 10,666 plaintiffs in St. Louis City and there were 9,983 joined in those suits from out-of-state – really no tie to the actual case that was brought forward,” Munzlinger said. “[It’s] 9,606 now with 8,922 out-of-state. That is clogging up our court systems.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has long advocated for legislation that would reform the state’s venue laws.

“Missouri has been highlighted negatively over the past several years for ‘forum shopping’ done to bring cases into friendly jurisdictions for plaintiffs and their claims,” said Justin Arnold, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber. “Our employer businesses are being hauled into courtrooms where venue should not be allowed and our venue statute has been widely stretched and repeatedly misinterpreted by judges hoping to keep cases inside their courtrooms.”

Under this bill, two or more plaintiffs can only be joined in a single action if each can establish proper venue independently. Similarly, two or more defendants can only be joined in a single action if the plaintiff can establish proper venue and personal jurisdiction for each defendant individually. This would reduce costs and help make Missouri courts more efficient, allowing them to focus on in-state cases. Similar legislation was proposed in 2017.

The corresponding House legislation for SB 546 is House Bill 1578, sponsored by Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, a Republican from Odessa.

For more information, contact Justin Arnold at jarnold@mochamber.com or 573.634.3511.

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