Senator Ron Richard sponsors bill that would amend constitution regarding punitive damages

Senator Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 7, which would aim to amend the Missouri constitution to say that no award for punitive damages would be greater than $500,000 or five times the net amount of the judgment awarded to the plaintiff against the defendant.

The Missouri Chamber is in favor of damage caps on punitive damages and has testified in favor of similar legislation in the past including medical malpractice claims.

In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned caps on malpractice payouts. The Missouri Chamber fought the overturning of the law.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports this legislation.

“Non-economic damages awards, such as for pain and suffering, are highly subjective and inherently unpredictable – there is no market for pain and suffering,” the Missouri Chamber wrote in a brief. “In recent years, a confluence of factors has led to a significant rise in the size of pain and suffering awards, creating the need for statutory upper limits to guard against excessive and unpredictable outlier awards. Such awards may occur when juries are improperly influenced by sympathy for the plaintiff, bias against a deep-pocket defendant, or desire to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff.”

The bill awaits assignment to a committee for an initial public hearing.

For more information about tort reform, please contact Jay Atkins, general counsel and director of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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