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Committee vote moves venue and joinder reform closer to finish line

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Venue and joinder reform — a top Missouri Chamber legislative priority — continues to make progress as a House committee has endorsed a senator’s bill.

Senate Bill 7, filed by Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican from Lamar, is a key component of the legislature’s efforts to improve Missouri’s legal climate this year.

The bill would fix a longstanding issue which allows lawsuits with little-or-no connection to Missouri to be filed in plaintiff-friendly St. Louis and Kansas City courts.

The Missouri Chamber has worked for years to address this issue, pointing to a flood of litigation from outside of Missouri. Earlier this session, Sen. Emery illustrated the problem by citing that out of the 13,252 mass tort plaintiffs involved in cases being heard in St. Louis City, only 1,035 are Missouri residents, according to bill sponsor Sen. Emery. He contends Missouri is “being used as the nation’s courtroom.”

This situation is a big reason why Missouri courts annually rank among the most unfair in the nation. This is a problem for our state’s image as we seek to attract jobs and business investment. Improving our state’s competitiveness is one of the four key drivers of Missouri 2030, the Missouri Chamber’s strategic initiative for growth.

The House committee agreed that the state’s venue and joinder laws are in need of reform and on March 26 voted the bill forward. While additional steps remain, the last major hurdle for the bill appears to be passing one final vote by the entire House of Representatives. If it passes the House without being amended, it would then go to Gov. Mike Parson for his signature.

The same House committee that passed Senate Bill 7 also heard testimony on two other important legal climate reform bills:

  • House Bill 186 would put reasonable time limits on product liability lawsuits.
  • House Bill 489 would halt the overuse of punitive damages in Missouri.

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