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Senate hearing on punitive damages reform begins 2020 tort reform effort

The Senate Government Reform Committee, chaired by Sen. Ed Emery, considered a bill to reform punitive damages in its first hearing of the 2020 Missouri Legislative Session.


Ray McCarty, president/CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri offered written and oral testimony in favor of the bill.


Opponents of the bill said punitive damage awards were few and not a problem that needed addressing. McCarty pointed out the fact that the threat of punitive damages was used to force settlements for higher actual damages. He noted the plaintiff (and the plaintiff's attorney) receive only half of punitive damage awards, with the rest going to the state Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This creates a desire to settle on behalf of all parties: the plaintiff wants to keep money and the defendant wants to reduce the amount to an amount less than the punitive damages that have been requested by the plaintiff.


What is lost, McCarty pointed out, is the fact that punitive damages should only be levied in cases where the court believes the defendant needs to be punished (hence the name "punitive" damages). It should not be a regular allegation in every case used to coerce defendants into higher settlements.


The bill is SB 591, sponsored by Sen. Bill White. CLICK HERE FOR RAY MCCARTY'S FULL WRITTEN TESTIMONY

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