For years, lawmakers have been working on solutions to not only keep the great businesses we have in our state in Missouri, but also bring more industry. There are several factors involved in making our state more attractive in the eyes of business leaders. We are fortunate to have a good economy right now, which plays a major role in this effort. Another piece of this puzzle is a bit more difficult to attain, but we are closer than we have been since the beginning of this century.
The Missouri Legislature has been chipping away at sensible tort reform efforts for a decade. Every year, we make end roads. This week, we moved closer to eliminating a major barrier when the Missouri Senate gave first-round approval to Senate Bill 591, a measure that would modify provisions relating to civil actions, including punitive damages and unlawful merchandising practices. Punitive damages are punishments, in my opinion, and should only be used when a defendant intentionally harms a plaintiff or acts with deliberate disregard for others’ safety.
Reforming the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Practices Act requires litigants to prove unlawful merchandising practices led them into a transaction that resulted in damages. Then, they should be able to calculate the damages to a reasonable degree.
When unfair lawsuits happen, I believe it does damage to our judicial system. When the person sued is a business owner, it can potentially mean the end of that business, and those who work there have to find new employment. This leads to the situation we are in now, where potential business owners stay away from Missouri out of fear a lawsuit would devastate them and their employees. I believe SB 591 could help curb this from continuing in our state.
As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is 573-751-1415, my email is email@example.com and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
Dan Hegeman is the 12th District State Senator.