Chief Justice Breckenridge alludes to tort reform in State of the Judiciary address

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Photo by the Missouri Times

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Patricia Breckenridge, delivered the State of the Judiciary address to the Joint Assembly on Tuesday. It was her fourth and final big speech as Chief Justice.

As you may recall, Governor Greitens listed Missouri courts as a roadblock to job growth in his State of the State address. He proposed moving to the Daubert standard for expert witness testimony to keep out trial lawyers from other states, a proposal supported by Associated Industries of Missouri.

While Breckenridge did allude to tort reform currently being prioritized by the Missouri legislature, she did not state proposals like the collateral source rule change or an adoption of the Daubert expert witness standards by name.

In her speech, Breckenridge listed that of the 1.8 million cases filed in Missouri in the last fiscal year, 60 percent involved municipal ordinance violations and 17 percent were civil cases.

“About 5 percent of civil cases – and fewer than 1 percent of all cases – involve tort claims like wrongful death or personal injury,” said Breckenridge. “I understand Governor Greitens and some of you in the General Assembly have called for changes in the law governing certain types of cases. Do not view these calls for action as a condemnation of our judicial system. Our citizens can be proud of our courts, where they go to resolve their disputes peaceably and where their constitutional rights are protected. Day in and day out, in the courtrooms in your communities, hundreds of thousands of cases are adjudicated without fanfare. We, more than anyone, want our courts to live up to their responsibilities to properly administer justice.”

She went on to discuss the changes of standard that have already been made to help combat these types of lawsuits, that became effective upon their adoption in September.

“While some say the standards don’t go far enough, others say they have gone too far,” she said.