The 2005 version of a litigation reform bill has been given close to four hours of testimony before a Missouri House committee. The sponsor, Representative Richard Byrd of Kirkwood, told the panel there are several key elements to his legislation. They include caps on punitive damages and an end to venue shopping – the practice of trial attorneys doing all they can to have their cases heard in St. Louis, where jury awards far exceed the norm just about anywhere else in the State. Byrd says the push to have cases from all over the country heard in St. Louis causes delays to St. Louis residents who want their day in court. A number of doctors testified, with several expressing concerns that physicians are leaving the state to get away from lawsuits. Representatives of business groups – including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Missouri – told the panel that the state’s business climate is being harmed by trial attorneys who file lawsuit after lawsuit against businesses. Day One of the testimony heard only from supporters of the legislation. Opponents get their chance when the hearing resumes tonight.
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