Senate committee votes on punitive damages bill
A key legal reform bill is on the move in the Missouri Senate.
On Jan. 22, a Senate committee passed a bill to enact common-sense reforms to Missouri’s lax punitive damages system, which is currently open to abuse that unfairly drives up payouts from businesses. The bill, heard on Jan. 14, will next be added to the Senate calendar for floor debate.
Senate Bill 591 is sponsored by Sen. Bill White (R-Joplin), a Missouri Chamber 2019 Business Champion.
“It’s become more of a common practice to immediately file, along with your compensatory case, a punitive damages case. Actually, I’ve overheard in conversations that, ‘Well, it would be malpractice not to file that,’” said Sen. White at the bill’s hearing. “That’s not the intent of it. Punitive damages should be filed when there is a cause for punitive damages.”
SB 591 includes a requirement that plaintiffs must present clear and convincing evidence that the harm was intentional in order to receive punitive damages. It would also establish new procedures and timelines for filing for punitive damages.
The Missouri Chamber testified in support of the bill and continues to strongly support it as it progresses through the legislature.