Latest Judicial Hellholes report underscores need for venue reform
With the state legislative session less than a month away, a new report from the American Tort Reform Association should help convince lawmakers that 2019 must be the year when the Missouri General Assembly passes long overdue reforms to improve our legal climate.
The annual Judicial Hellholes report shows the City of St. Louis maintaining its ranking among the most unfair legal environments in the nation. The new report calls the city “one of the nation’s leading litigation hot spots” where “loose venue rules and St. Louis judges’ reluctance to properly apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent have encouraged out-of-state plaintiffs to flock to the jurisdiction.”
Those negative attributes led the American Tort Reform Association to rank St. Louis as the nation’s fourth worst Judicial Hellhole.
“Our state’s legal climate — exemplified by the huge verdicts coming out of St. Louis — remains a black eye for Missouri. It’s one of the largest remaining problems we need to fix as we work to create a leading business environment that attracts jobs and business investment,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “Fortunately, we know how to fix this problem. When the Missouri General Assembly convenes for their legislative session in January, we will push for a slate of new laws that will level the playing field in Missouri’s courtrooms.”
The Missouri Chamber Board of Directors recently approved the organization’s 2019 Legislative Agenda, which included several reforms that would help erase our Judicial Hellhole status. These reforms include measures that would:
- Clarify venue and joinder laws to curb venue shopping.
- Strengthen the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act to reduce frivolous class action lawsuits.
- Increase transparency in asbestos litigation to curtail fraudulent claims and ensure compensation for future claimants.
- Strengthen Missouri’s employment arbitration climate to avoid costly litigation and resolve disputes rapidly.
- Establish a statute of repose to stop new regulations from opening additional paths to litigation.
- Reforming punitive damages to clarify the standard and define when an employer can be held liable.