Senate committee discusses liability reform proposal

A Missouri Senate committee met this week to discuss changing Missouri’s liability statute to fit a simple standard—every party found at fault should pay for their fair share of the damages.

Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Sen. Mike parson, a Republican from Bolivar, would make it so that defendants in Missouri pay only the portion of damages that equal their percent of fault.

“If you just held people accountable for whatever portion it is, common sense is going to tell you that’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. Parson during a recent interview with the Missouri Chamber.

Unfortunately, Missouri’s current law works in a very different fashion. Today, if a Missouri defendant is found at least 51 percent at fault in a lawsuit, that defendant can be held liable for up to the entire judgment. The 51 percent law has been in place since 2005. Lawyers call it “joint and several liability.”

The current law has created a problem for the business community as it creates an incentive for trial attorneys to seek out successful businesses to add to their lawsuits. If lawyers can then make a convincing argument that these companies are 51 percent at fault, then the companies may end up paying much more than their fair share.

Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber General Counsel and director of governmental affairs, testified in favor of Senate Bill 140.

The Missouri Chamber’s recently released Missouri 2030 calls for the state to improve its litigation climate. The Missouri 2030 Gallup survey of more than 1,000 CEOs showed that only 21 percent of Missouri business leaders are satisfied with the state’s litigation environment.

“Missouri’s litigation environment is a key area that is impacting economic growth. There’s no better way to scare off business investment then to create a litigation climate that invites trial attorneys to sue successful corporations,” said Atkins. “The Missouri Chamber would like to thank Sen. Parson for his work on this bill. Now we are asking the Senate Committee on Small Business, Insurance and Industry to quickly pass this proposal and more discussion to the Senate floor.”

For more information, contact Atkins at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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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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