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Missouri Senate acts quickly on legislation to protect employers in Missouri courts by strengthening expert witness standards

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The Missouri Senate has made it clear that tort reform is a priority. The body has taken quick action on legislation that sets standards for expert witnesses brought into court. Senate Bill 591 was perfected by the Missouri Senate on Jan. 19. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican from Bolivar, Senate Bill 591 would provide the same high standards for trial evidence that is required in federal courts and many 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.

While this bill is one of Missouri employers’ top priorities, the legislation is designed to protect all parties, Sen. Parson explained during debate on the bill.

“We want the right person on the stand testifying on behalf of Missourians. No matter who you are – whether you are in the jury, whether you are in the bar, whether you are the judge, whether you are a plaintiff or the defendant – if someone says they are an expert, they ought to be a qualified expert,” Parson said.

During debate, Parson noted that 40 states have enacted some form of the Daubert standard.  He pointed out that those states have not experienced any cost increases tied to the reforms, despite claims by some critics of the bill.

“There is no evidence to support the claim that legal fees have gone up,” Sen. Parson said. “when we heard testimony, no one could provide any evidence of that claim.”

Under the bill, only witnesses with personal knowledge about facts at issue in a trial may testify, with the exception of expert witnesses who can provide opinion testimony about complex scientific, technical and medical issues, for example.  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.

For more information on this issue, contact Brian Bunten, Missouri Chamber general counsel, at bbunten@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.


How They Voted:

Yes Votes
Brown(R); Cunningham(R); Dixon(R); Emery(R); Hegeman(R); Kehoe(R); Kraus(R); Libla(R); Munzlinger(R); Onder(R); Parson(R); Richard(R); Riddle(R); Sater(R); Schaefer(R); Schatz(R); Wallingford(R); Wasson(R); Wieland(R)

No Votes
Chappelle-Nadal(D); Curls(D); Holsman(D); Keaveny(D); Nasheed(D); Romine(R); Schaaf(R); Schmitt(R); Schupp(D); Sifton(D); Silvey(R); Walsh(D)

Vote statistics provided by GovWatch.



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