Missouri Business Headlines

More action on tort reforms as House committee approves legislation addressing expert witness and collateral source rule

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A Missouri House committee made quick work of two tort reform priorities of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, passing both House Bill 153 and House Bill 95 on a 9-3 margin on Jan. 23.

House Bill 153, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, a Republican from Kansas City, would provide the same high standards for trial evidence that is required in federal courts and 40 other states. Called the Daubert standard, it ensures that only evidence deemed relevant, reliable and provided by qualified individuals will be admitted as expert testimony. By nature, expert witnesses are very influential in shaping the outcome of a case. Under Daubert, the judge serves a critical role making sure an expert witness meets certain basic criteria.

Strengthening Missouri’s collateral source rule is the goal of House Bill 95, sponsored by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, a Republican from Carrollton. The legislation clarifies that in a lawsuit an injured person can recover only the actual cost he or she incurred for a medical treatment.

Currently, the collateral source rule bars the admissibility of trial evidence showing when a plaintiff’s losses have been compensated from other sources, such as insurance or workers compensation.  Plaintiffs can make money bringing suits for injuries that may already be covered by other sources or claim phantom damages – a cost they never incurred. Many states have advanced legislative measures to reform collateral source statutes and rein in awards that exceed actual recovery costs.  Missouri lawmakers also attempted to change the collateral source rule in 2005, but the courts have since altered the intent of the law.

Gov. Eric Greitens campaigned on promises to enact strong tort reforms. That’s a welcomed change for Missouri employers, after years of watching the General Assembly pass common-sense reforms only to have the bills vetoed by former Gov. Jay Nixon.

For more information on this issue, contact Bunten at 573.634.3511.

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