Governor Greitens takes steps to improve Missouri’s “worst in nation” business legal climate

Jefferson City, MO (July 5, 2017) – Associated Industries of Missouri President and CEO Ray McCarty today applauded Governor Greitens’ approval of Senate Bill 31, Senate Bill 66, and SS SCS HCS House Bills 339 & 714.

Senate Bill 31 will ensure only costs actually paid by the plaintiff, his/her insurer, or another party are recoverable from the defendant as a cost recovery claim. Current law allows some costs to be “recovered” that are billed but never paid by anyone. We supported this bill throughout its passage because it is fair and based on common sense. Allowing recovery of amounts for medical bills that are never paid artificially inflates the cost of lawsuits.

A top initiative of Associated Industries of Missouri is contained in Senate Bill 66: workers’ compensation retaliation reform. The bill provides that employees must prove a workers’ compensation claim was the motivating factor in the employer’s employment decision to prove workers’ compensation discrimination. This is the same standard used in federal courts in Missouri to prove other types of discrimination cases and is the same standard that will be adopted in Missouri state courts now that SB 43 has been signed into law.

SB 66 also defines “maximum medical improvement,” establishes guidelines for determining when an employee was abusing alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident and reduces benefits accordingly, terminates benefits when an employee voluntarily quits after an employer has made accommodations for the employee, and denies successor death benefits to a person that is voluntarily dependent (able to work but chooses not to work). We strongly support these changes.

SS SCS HCS House Bills 339 & 714 will allow insurance companies to intervene in lawsuits where the defendant/insured enters into an agreement with the plaintiff under Section 537.065, RSMo, and will prohibit time limited demands made without sufficient information to evaluate the claim.

Current law allows plaintiffs’ attorneys to work with a defendant against the defendant’s own insurance company. In exchange for the defendant’s cooperation, the plaintiff promises to pursue only the defendant’s insurer. A sham trial is held where the insurance company is not allowed to participate and a judgment is rendered. This bill allows the insurance company to intervene in such lawsuits.

Current law is also replete with requirements for time-limited demands made by plaintiff’s attorneys. If the demand is not met within the timeframe allowed by the demand, plaintiff’s may inappropriately pursue bad faith claims against insurers. This bill will require such demands to contain information necessary to allow the insurance company to properly evaluate the demand and will require sufficient time to respond.

Associated Industries of Missouri worked with insurance companies to obtain the compromise language found on both subjects in this bill. We believe the bill is fair to all parties.

“These bills, along with the bills signed last week, are a great start toward reforming Missouri’s legal system that has been labeled as the worst in the nation for business,” said Ray McCarty. “Governor Greitens has shown strong leadership in signing these bills and we thank him for his leadership and that of the sponsoring legislators,” said McCarty.