On January 23rd, the Missouri House Special Committee on Litigation Reform recommended the passage of two significant tort reform bills that, if passed, would benefit parties defending lawsuits.
The first bill, concerning the collateral source rule, would limit the evidence a jury can receive in special damages claims to the amount of money that has actually been paid to satisfy medical bills and actual costs. The bill would prohibit evidence of what value is placed on a procedure by a hospital, as reflected in healthcare invoices. Currently, Missouri juries can hear evidence about the amount of money a hospital charges for a procedure, as well as evidence of the amount that a plaintiff has received from an insurance company. Thus, in cases involving personal injuries, Missouri juries are currently asked to compare between higher as-billed amounts versus lower as-paid amounts.
The second tort reform bill proposes the adoption of the Daubert standard for whether or not expert witness opinions are allowed at trial. The Daubert standard, modeled after the federal standard for admission of expert testimony, has been adopted in the vast majority of states and provides that a judge may rule on whether a proposed expert witness has based his or her testimony on reliable scientific facts or data before the expert is allowed to testify. Today, Missouri is in the minority of states that will allow the admission of expert testimony so long as it is “reasonably relied upon by [other] experts in the field.”
In his January 17th State of the State address, newly elected Republican Governor Eric Greitens urged reform of Missouri tort laws which make Missouri an appealing venue for plaintiffs. The Committee votes regarding the collateral source bill and the Daubert expert standard bill when along party lines wit Democrats opposing the bill and Republicans in favor (9-3). The bill will now move to the House to be debated before the end of the month.