Expert witness bill moves quickly through process

One of Associated Industries of Missouri’s priority pieces of legislation is through the committee hearing process is ready for debate on the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 591, the so-called “expert witness” bill was heard by the Senate’s Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee on Tuesday (1/12), and voted out of the committee on a 4-1 vote. Only one Democratic committee member, Sen. Gina Walsh, voted against the bill.

On Wednesday, the bill was reported out of committee and placed on a Senate debate calendar.

SB 591 is sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar). The bill adopts the federal court guidelines on who is considered to be an expert witness in the field on which they are testifying. It also sets out rules on what the expert may testify about, and what can be considered facts and what can be considered opinions.

You can find a summary of the bill’s language here.

“I filed this legislation so we could establish some good ground rules for evaluating whether a person providing ‘expert’ testimony is truly an expert,” said Sen. Parson. “The bill would use the same standard used in federal courts and all but 8 other states and should reduce ‘junk science’ used by so-called ‘experts’ in lawsuits involving farmers, small businesses and in criminal cases.”

Testifying in favor of the legislation during Tuesday afternoon’s hearing was Ray McCarty of AIM and representatives of The National Federation of Independent Business, the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Missouri Petroleum Council, MSCPA, Missouri Retailers Association and several other groups.

Testifying against the bill were labor groups, the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, and a judge representing a judge’s association that claimed the bill would slow down the state court system.

“To say adopting a uniform standard will slow down the legal process or increase costs for businesses that find themselves in court is ludicrous,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “That smokescreen argument was made last year by a couple of senators that filibustered our bill and is simply not true.”