A proposal under consideration by state lawmakers would target many lawsuits that are litigated in St. Louis.
Senate Republican Brian Munzlinger of Williamstown says thousands of court cases in the city belong in other states, and are sucking up time and tax payer money from Missouri.
He notes the proposal defines requirements for a lawsuit to take place in St. Louis. “If the corporation isn’t housed in the city of St. Louis, if they weren’t injured in St. Louis city or they don’t reside in St. Louis city, it would cut off those people.”
According to Munzlinger, the Office of State Courts Administrator reports 8,400 people with no ties to St. Louis have pending court cases in the city.
To address the issue, the legislation places a restriction on locations where lawsuits can be brought, and on how claims can be brought together.
A suit would only be allowed if it were linked to one of three settings within the state – where an injury occurred, where the plaintiff lives or where the business being sued is headquartered.
Munzlinger says current interpretation of state law allows people from other state to enter into litigation in Missouri, particularly in St. Louis.
“One person might have established venue in St. Louis city. And then others from around the United States will enjoin with that, and the case will be heard in St. Louis.”
Munzlinger says plaintiffs are drawn to the city because of its reputation for judges and juries that issue favorable rulings.
Craig Ortweth with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, a group which opposes the measue, says its restrictions would needlessly force people involved in the same claim to file separate lawsuits.
“You have two friends” said Ortwerth. “One owns four McDonalds franchises in Boone County, one owns two in Cole County. They both buy contaminated meat from the same shipment from the franchisor. Under current law they could both sue that franchisor together. They would be joined. Under the proposed legislation, we would (have) one trial for the four franchisees in Boone County, and then one trial for the two franchisees in Cole County.”
Ortwerth says the proposal would have the unintended consequence of wasting judicial resources.
In December, the American Tort Reform Association named St. Louis its No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole”, saying “You have junk science, driving groundless lawsuits, by out-of-state plaintiffs and monstrous, monstrous verdicts”. Ortwerth disagrees. He claims lawsuits are appropriately brought to the city under current law.