This week, the Missouri Senate engaged in 16 hours of meaningful debate and discussion on Senate Bill 7, a proposal that will put an end to out-of-state plaintiffs filing suit in Missouri seeking larger settlements.  Although it was a lengthy and exhausting evening for all my colleagues, this was a valuable demonstration of how the legislative branch of government works.

A joinder-venue case is one where an attorney finds an individual in a city or county to join their lawsuit in order to establish a favorable county for the lawsuit. These courts are considered favorable because they typically produce higher awards for plaintiffs.

Throughout the evening and early hours of the morning, senators discussed ways to reduce the occurrence of these kinds of cases, especially when they involve out-of-state businesses. The bill is now perfected and will be brought back to the floor of the Missouri Senate for a final vote of approval.

Background on Issue

For years, lawyers seeking to cash in on the pro-plaintiff courts in St. Louis have been ruining Missouri’s pro-business environment. Under the current laws, plaintiff lawyers are abusing the legal procedure known as joinder to file nonsensical lawsuits and bring defendants from throughout the country into St. Louis courts where they traditionally receive bigger judgements from juries. Data shows that there have been more than 13,000 tort litigation cases filed in St. Louis, where only 1,035 are from Missouri and only 242 are truly from St. Louis. Large awards from juries in St. Louis have helped the city gain the name “Judicial Hellhole” which is not something Missouri is proud of.

I believe these are the kind of cases that clog up our judicial system and make it harder for common Missourians to have their case heard in court. Those same Missourians are paying the taxes which pay for the courts.

Components of Senate Bill 7

Senate Bill 7 codifies the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling in State ex rel. Johnson & Johnson v. Burlison, in which the court ruled that simply joining a party to a case is not sufficient to establish venue. The bill also ensures cases involving out of state businesses filed before the court ruling on Johnson & Johnson v. Burlison decision may continue as-is.

In addition, the bill states that if the county where the action is filed is not the proper venue, the plaintiff shall be transferred to a county where proper venue can be established. If no such county exists, the claim shall be dismissed without prejudice.

As a result, this bill has the potential to cut down on the large amounts of out-of-state lawsuits flooding Missouri courts that are paid for by Missouri taxpayers.

I believe it is impractical for Missourians to bear the tax burden for cases that do not affect our communities or the livelihood of our family and loved ones. I support any legislation that protects the pocketbooks of working Missourians.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-7985. You may also email me at cindy.olaughlin@senate.mo.gov.