Two bills join Missouri’s urgent tort reform effort

Continuing their work to restore a pro-physician climate to Missouri, Senate lawmakers held additional hearings on improving the state’s medical malpractice statutes.

This week, Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, presented a pair of bills intended to change evidence standards in medical malpractice suits as well as place limits on punitive damages.

Sen. Dixon’s Senate Bill 583 would require that medical malpractice plaintiffs provide “clear and convincing” evidence in order to claim noneconomic damages. The current standard is for plaintiffs to provide a “preponderance” of evidence.

Sen. Dixon also presented Senate Bill 585, which limits punitive damages to $500,000 or five times the judgment awarded to the plaintiff.

The bills were heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which did not vote on either proposal. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the measures.

“Without reasonable caps on medical malpractice and tort judgments, Missouri can expect to see rising malpractice insurance premiums which increase the cost of medical care for all Missourians,” said Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel. “We need to make sure we are keeping costs reasonable while also protecting our doctors from expenses that make it prohibitive to practice in Missouri.”

In addition to Sen. Dixon’s proposals, a number of tort and medical malpractice bills are currently moving in the General Assembly. Among these bills is House Bill 1173, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, which was passed by the House and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing. Senate Bill 589, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, is on the Senate floor calendar for further debate.

The urgency this year to tackle tort and medical malpractice statutes comes after the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the state’s previous tort reform effort, which was passed in 2005.

The Missouri Chamber will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation and work toward the passage of meaningful tort reform this session.

For more information on tort reform legislation, please contact Jay Atkins at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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