Several tort reform bills are advancing in the Missouri legislature, thanks to some very hard work on the part of our sponsors and help from several representatives and senators.
SB 233, sponsored by Senator Mike Kehoe, would adopt the federal rules of evidence when evaluating an expert witness in Missouri courts. In other words, when a person claims to be an expert witness in Missouri courts, we want to be sure they are truly an “expert”, at least in the eyes of the federal courts. The bill was debated on the Senate floor week before last until a lengthy discussion of the bill led by a couple of Republican senators caused the bill to be “laid over” for discussion another day. We continue to work with leadership to revive debate on that bill.
In the House, HB 697, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, a bill identical to SB 233, was heard in the House Committee on Civil and Criminal Proceedings. Rep. Corlew, an experienced attorney, laid excellent groundwork backing up the reasons for the bill. AIM president Ray McCarty testified for the bill, citing problems caused for business when junk science and fake experts are used to victimize businesses in the courtroom.
“We are only asking that the federal rules of evidence – the same rules used to evaluate expert witnesses in federal court – be used to evaluate whether someone claiming to be an expert is allowed to testify as an expert in state court,” said McCarty. “Not only does this make common sense, this will provide efficiency in lawsuits because unnecessary time will not be spent evaluating credentials of expert witnesses, consistency and fairness between the courts and trials will be created, and politics will be removed from the courtroom as we remove the subjective opinions of the judges regarding witnesses and replace them with objective criteria used by federal courts,” said McCarty.
There was no action taken on HB 697 by the committee at the hearing this week.
In addition to the expert witness bills, several bills regarding punitive damage caps continue to advance through the legislature as well as the bill capping the medical malpractice non-economic damages. We will keep you posted of progress on these issues.