Senate Bill 7 (Emery, R-Lamar) modifies provisions of civil procedure regarding joinder and venue. On Jan. 29, the Senate Government Reform Committee held a public hearing on SB 7 that modifies provisions of civil procedure regarding joinder and venue. Senator Emery provided an overview of his bill and the need for reform. Emery stated, “Missouri is the courtroom to the nation” due to the expansion of venue and joinder in select courts in our state.
Testifying in support were Associated Industries of Missouri; Ford Motor Co; Shelter Insurance Company; Missouri Insurance Coalition; former State Representative Kevin Corlew; Missouri Civil Justice Reform Coalition; Property Casualty Insurers Association of America; Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry; National Federation of Independent Businesses; General Motors Co; Missouri Hospitals Association; American Tort Reform Association; Chubb; Missouri Retailers Association; Doe Run Co; Enterprise; Monsanto; and United States Chamber of Commerce –Institute for Legal Reform.
Those testifying in support discussed how trial lawyers have abused the St. Louis City Circuit Court using joinder with out-of-state plaintiffs in an effort to try their case to a sympathetic jury. In addition, handouts were provided that reflect that plaintiff lawyers continue to push their class action suits in St. Louis and avoiding going to federal court as they seek large verdicts against a handful of businesses that are located in Missouri. Further, the insurance industry noted their support of a provision that clarifies that insurance companies are to be treated just like corporations in regard to venue due the Messina court decision.
Testifying in opposition were Steve Goring of the Missouri Association of Trail Attorneys; Gregory Brett Adams, as the parent of a child who died in a traffic accident and is seeking civil relief in state court; Attorney Eric Holland who brought suit against Johnson & Johnson in St. Louis City; and Attorney Jim Onder from St. Louis.
Opponents testified that Missouri courtrooms should be open to all citizens hurt from the actions of businesses based in our state. The majority of the opposition testimony was on the joinder provisions of the bill. Opponents also suggested that more class action cases are brought in the St. Louis City circuit since more people reside in urban areas of the state.
Opponents also testified that class action suits in the City of St. Louis are also unsuccessful. They noted that a recent federal case on Bristol-Myers has changed the process and now provides a mechanism to kick many cases out of Missouri courtrooms. Mr. Onder discussed recent cases again the herbicide “Round Up”and how it causes Non-Hodgkin lymphoma for farmers. Onder believes the Constitution clearly says they have a right to bring case in Missouri and the recent U.S.Supreme Court precedent requires there to be a connection to our state.