Supreme Court takes another bite out of Missouri tort reforms

With a new ruling that bypasses Missouri’s limit on punitive damages, the state’s Supreme Court continues to erode a successful 2005 reform law.

In their decision, released on Sept. 9, the Supreme Court reinstated a $1 million judgment against a used car dealer who defrauded a customer. The court’s ruling uses centuries’ old legal language to sidestep the clear, current 2005 statute limiting punitive damages at $500,000.

The decision comes two years after the Supreme Court similarly overturned Missouri’s 2005 cap on medical malpractice lawsuits.

“Less than 10 years ago, our state was a haven for frivolous lawsuits, outrageous judgments and skyrocketing litigation insurance premiums. In 2005, we fixed it. Lawsuits declined dramatically and premiums decreased. With this ruling, we’re seeing a trend where the Missouri Supreme Court is working to undo our progress and open the flood gates once again,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “If we want Missouri to compete in a global economy, we can’t have a rampant litigation climate and we can’t have a judicial system that bypasses current reforms in favor of language that was written before the State of Missouri even existed. This continues to be an urgent matter that our state must address.”

This Supreme Court decision is Lewellen v. Chad Franklin, National Auto Sales. The 2012 ruling against liability lawsuit caps came in the case of Watts v. Cox Medical Centers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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