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Top legal reform priority for business in 2020 sent to Governor Parson


May 12, 2020 - Senate Bill 591, a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill White to address punitive damage reforms and make changes to Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act, was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed by the Missouri House of Representatives this morning on a vote of 98-51. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Mike Parson. CLICK HERE FOR THE HOUSE TAFP VOTE.


Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM), the state's oldest employer trade association, firmly supported and worked for passage of the bill.


Senator Bill White sponsored the bill and handled deliberations on the Senate floor.


"Senate Bill 591 returns the requirements for a punitive damages case to its original intent and modifies the procedures for bring such a claim to ensure that such claims for punitive damages are grounded in facts," said Sen. White. "The bill also does not inhibit a valid claim for punitive damages.”


Rep. Bruce DeGroot, who handled the bill in the Missouri House, said, "This is really good legislation.   I am proud of our House members and proud of the Senators who worked so hard to make this bill a reality.  I view it as an economic stimulus which comes with a $0 price tag."


Jerry M. Hunter, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Associated Industries of Missouri and partner in the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner law firm, commented on passage of the bill.


"We applaud the work of the Missouri legislature in passing SB 591," said Hunter. "The threat of punitive damages, when such damages have no merit, often drives up the cost of cases without any benefit to the community at large, which is supposed to be the reason for such damages."


AIM President and CEO Ray McCarty echoed Chairman Hunter's support.


"The process for determining punitive damages, those awarded above and beyond actual damages, has warranted revision for a very long time," said McCarty. "Punitive damages are not proper in every case and should be reserved for cases in which the defendant has intentionally caused harm. At the very least, punitive damages should not be alleged in every case. The revisions in SB 591 will allow those damages to be assessed when a judge and/or jury decides they are proper and can have a positive effect in changing behavior, which is the purpose of punitive damages," he said.


The Missouri Civil Justice Reform Coalition, led by lobbyist Rich Aubuchon, worked very hard to pass the bill over the last several years.


"Senate Bill 591 is the most comprehensive change in law for punitive damages and Missouri Merchandising Practices Act that our legislature has passed," said Aubuchon. "Many hard working people, strong legislators, lobbyists and individual business owners, were involved in its passage and all deserve to know they made a huge difference for Missouri’s business climate. Passage of SB 591 will go a long way to balancing the scales for all parties involved to reshape how we think of and use punitive damages in litigation and for the first time ever to require causation in Merchandising Practices Act cases. Passage of SB 591 is a huge win for Missouri businesses at a time in our history when our employers need it the most," he said.


"This is an appropriately stronger requirement than current law and we are very thankful the Legislature has passed this bill and sent it to the Governor," said McCarty.

We will let you know when Governor Mike Parson takes action on the bill.

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