SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Governor Mike Parson was in Springfield on July 1 to sign a bill that is supposed to help protect businesses against lawsuits with no credibility.
Senate Bill 591 being signed into law means the definition of punitive damages has changed and businesses will have protections when wrongfully sued over their products.
At Positronic Industries in Springfield, Governor Parson spoke about why he believes Senate Bill 591 is a step in protecting and growing Missouri businesses.
“Where there’s not so many frivolous lawsuits all the time, and just the cost of fighting those lawsuits every time is a big deal around the State of Missouri,” said Governor Parson. “Again, it keeps them from expanding, new businesses coming here. Every new business that wants to come to your state is going to find out what that legal climate is like in your state.”
State Sen. Bill White (R-District 32) sponsored the bill and explained how it could keep people from filing a baseless lawsuit to try and make a quick buck.
“It’s going to prevent meritless punitive damage claims from being used as a tool against industries, against physicians, against anybody to try and extract a higher settlement fee upfront,” said White.
Springfield Personal Injury Attorney Steve Garner has been a lawyer for 35 years and says punitive damages are in place for a reason.
“Punitive damages are rarely given, but they are to punish horrible conduct and deter it,” said Garner.
Garner says the new law could make it more challenging to win a punitive damage claim.
“Now, you’ve got to prove almost an intent element in order to submit, which intent is very hard to prove directly, so it does make it harder for bad conduct to be deterred,” said Garner.
But Senator White says if your case is legitimate, you will be unaffected.
“If you’ve got a valid punitive damages claim, this bill does absolutely nothing to stop it,” said White.
The bill will also make changes to merchandising practices to protect a business. Senator White says the law will essentially require the consumer to have a reasonable assumption and prove they sustained damage from a product.