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Missouri Supreme Court decision points out need for expert witness legislation advocated by AIM

During the 2015 Legislative Session, Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) and other business groups, including the NFIB and the state chamber, backed legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) and Rep. Kevin Corlew (R-14, Kansas City) that would have changed the standard used for evaluating expert witnesses in state courts to the standard used in the federal courts.

Trial attorneys cried foul, claiming that the new guidelines would increase costs for small businesses involved in court disputes.  We disagree with the plaintiff’s bar and believe adopting the federal standard would provide a better litmus test as to whether a person is truly an expert or not.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision in a workers’ compensation case involving conflicting medical opinions. According to several medical specialists, the worker had achieved maximum recovery following an injury and the work comp claim had been settled. Later, the case was reopened by the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission and the worker was granted additional temporary total disability benefits, based on a diagnosis of a family physician and one orthopedic surgeon.

What is interesting is the opinions of several specialists that the injury was resolved were noted but dismissed as the Commission found in favor of the employee and awarded additional benefits on the settled case, based on the family physician and one orthopedic surgeon’s opinion. The Supreme Court, and the Commission for that matter, did not have the benefit of using the guidelines established in federal court cases to decide which of the doctors’ testimonies should be accepted over another.

Representative Corlew has again filed his expert witness legislation, House Bill 1676. We will again support this legislation in hopes of bringing the same level of scrutiny for expert witnesses to the state courts that is used in federal cases.

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