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House committee takes action on two tort reform bills

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The House Committee on Litigation Reform has voted yes on important tort reform bills: one to end venue shopping and another to stop double claims in asbestos cases.

Venue shopping

Our current venue laws make it too easy for trial attorneys to relocate lawsuits to Missouri to take advantage of the state’s reputation for being an easier place to win lucrative verdicts. This has resulted in Missouri’s courts getting swamped with out-of-state cases.

On Jan 29, Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer’s bill to help put an end to this practice passed the committee by an 8-3 vote.

House Bill 1578 states that two or more plaintiffs may only be joined in a single action if each can establish proper venue independently, and likewise two or more defendants may only be joined in a single action if the plaintiff can establish proper venue and personal jurisdiction for each defendant individually.

Asbestos claims

At House Bill 1645’s first hearing, sponsor Rep. Bruce DeGroot explained that Missouri law currently allows a plaintiff’s attorney to file against the bankruptcy trust even after they get their settlement or judgement in the civil court system for the same claim. Essentially, they are getting two or three times what the case is worth and depleting the limited trust fund resources for future claimants.

HB 1645 would also help address the problem of smaller businesses being unfairly roped into the litigation for alleged exposures that they are not aware of and unable to defend against.

This bill passed committee by a 9-2 vote on Jan. 30.

What’s next?

Now the bills need approval from a rules committee before being debated on the floor.

“Curbing the rise of venue shopping and putting an end to double-dipping on asbestos claims are two important reforms needed to boost Missouri’s legal climate ranking and foster a welcoming business environment,” says Justin Arnold, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber. “We appreciate this committee’s quick work to move these bills forward.”

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

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