JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri has taken a step to move St. Louis off the top spot of the American Tort Reform Association's 2016 Judicial Hellholes list.

Gov. Eric Greitens last week signed into law a bill that would raise the standard of expert witnesses allowed to testify in cases in the state.

House Bill 153 will bring the Daubert standard to Missouri courtrooms to provide that expert testimony be relevant and given by qualified individuals.

The Daubert standard was named for a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court precedent that is now used in all federal courts and many state court systems.

The bill will ensure certain criteria are established with an expert witness. Judges will play a critical role in the expert witness criteria.

The bill states, “A witness who is qualified as an expert may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if the expert's specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data, the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

“This legislation should help bring Missouri more in line with other states, which already follow the federal model for the admissibility of expert testimony,” Clay Crawford, president of the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, told Legal Newsline.

Missouri’s lax standards when it came to expert witnesses was one of the reasons the state found itself in first place on the Judicial Hellholes list in 2016.

Crawford cautioned the bill may have little impact on personal litigation.

“I think that will depend on the type of case at issue. For most matters, there will be very little impact, in other cases we will have a more definitive minimum threshold for the admission of expert testimony in Missouri state court,” he said.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, a Republican from Kansas City. Sen. Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff, also a Republican, was involved with the bill.

It passed with a final 21-11 vote in the Senate March 15.

“Generally, for parties and lawyers who typically retain qualified experts, there should be very little impact,” Crawford said. “I do not expect Daubert-type motions in every case or in opposition to every expert. In other cases, where junk science or similar concerns exist, the legislation should have positive impact.”

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American Tort Reform Association
1101 Connecticut Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC - 20036

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