Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) applauds Governor Mike Parson’s signature of SB 591. The bill is the result of years of work by the Missouri Civil Justice Reform Coalition, led by Rich Aubuchon. AIM is an active member of that coalition.
The bill addresses the top business legal reform priority by restoring fairness when courts are considering punitive damages. The bill also addresses important changes to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
In the first of two ceremonies of the day, Governor Parson signed the bill today at Discovery Design, a small business in St. Peters, Missouri, specializing in building custom trucks, including making the longest boom used to transport shingles to rooftops.
The bill sets an appropriate standard for bringing the discussion of punitive damages into a case, limiting them to those cases that warrant punishment of the defendant. Current law allows plaintiffs’ attorneys to open a discussion of punitive damages at the onset of a case, whether such damages are appropriate or not. The language in this bill sets forth a more deliberative process that allows plaintiffs to present evidence of unusually bad behavior to the court and allows punitive damage claims to proceed if the evidence shows punitive damages should be considered by the court.
Other provisions in the bill ensure plaintiffs have relied on statements made by a seller when bringing a lawsuit under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. We believe the standard included in the bill is appropriate and protects consumers while preventing frivolous claims by plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“Too often, plaintiffs’ attorneys allege punitive damages when the underlying action was not intentional and punishment by assessing extraordinary punitive awards is simply not effective in advancing the public good," said Jerry M. Hunter, partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Chairman of the Board of Associated Industries of Missouri. “This bill allows the court to consider whether punitive damages are warranted in a way that is consistent with the intent of punitive damages in changing the behavior of the defendant," said Hunter. Hunter also said while the legislation was extremely important, it was equally important for the courts to interpret the law as written.
“We thank Governor Parson for his leadership on tort reform issues as we all strive for a fair and balanced court system,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of AIM. “We applaud his signature of this very important bill today,” he said.
Established in 1919, Associated Industries of Missouri is the state’s oldest advocate for businesses in Missouri.