WASHINGTON, D.C.—The United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today applauded Missouri Governor Matt Blunt for signing comprehensive legal reform legislation that will bring fairness and common sense to Missouri’s civil justice system. Missouri ranked 40th among the 50 states in legal fairness in the 2005 ILR/Harris State Liability Systems Rankings.
“This landmark piece of legislation will go a long way toward balancing the scales of justice in Missouri’s courts,” said Lisa Rickard, president of ILR. “Thanks to Governor Blunt’s leadership, the heavy burden of lawsuit abuse has been lifted from Missouri’s employers, families, and consumers.”
The legislation includes crucial venue reforms to stop the current practice of “venue shopping” for plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions and requires cases to be filed in the county where the alleged injury occurred. The bill also includes joint and several liability reforms stating that a defendant in a multi-defendant case can no longer be held liable for the entire judgment unless that defendant is at least 50 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injury. The previous threshold was 1 percent. Also under the new law, juries will no longer be prevented from knowing if a plaintiff has already been compensated by insurance or other sources.
A much-needed feature of the new legislation aimed at protecting small employers and individuals is the inclusion of punitive and noneconomic damages caps, according to ILR. The new law limits punitive damages to $500,000, or five times the actual damages of an action, whichever is greater. Noneconomic damages are capped at $350,000, with no cost-of-living adjustment.
The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America’s legal system simpler, fairer, and faster for everyone. It seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.