Missouri Legislature Working to Replace Archaic Lawsuit Expert Rules
Today, a civil or criminal case rarely goes by in which each party does not try to offer the jury multiple “experts” upon whose opinion to base its verdict. Unreliable expert testimony presents one of the most difficult and dangerous challenges to the fair administration of justice. The admission of such unreliable evidence, also labeled “junk science,” has led juries to impose liability on civil defendants for injuries they did not cause.
Two-thirds of state courts and every federal court relies on the Daubert standard to evaluate and decide whether to admit experts in a pre-trial hearing. Simply put, the expert’s testimony must be based on sufficient facts. Using a pre-trial hearing to vet expert witnesses before their opinions are shared with the jury protects the accuracy of court proceedings and keeps juries from having to hear one thing and somehow strike it from their memories in deliberations. Daubert-style pre-trial hearings safeguard the respectability of the courts and keep junk scientists from pushing proof-light narratives that degrade justice.
Surprisingly, one third of states have not yet adopted the Daubert standard and still allow poorly vetted experts to testify in court. Missouri is one of the third. Fortunately, state legislators there are working to change this. The Senate passed legislation, SB 591, at the onset of session. Reform measures are being considered in the House and are expected to face a vote on the House floor in the coming weeks.
Missouri, in particular, needs to improve its delivery of justice. The entire state is number 4 on the American Tort Reform Association’s list of Judicial Hellholes™, in large part because the state still applies an archaic expert witness standard. A survey of business litigators ranked Missouri’s lawsuit climate 42 in the nation, marking it as one of the states whose lawsuit industry is most likely to hinder economic growth. Businesses do not want to do business if they cannot expect a fair trial when they have to defend themselves in court.
Missouri legislators are pushing a number of other lawsuit reform proposals as well, including reform to align medical expenses with actual expenses rather than inflated billed rates and reform to minimize fraud in asbestos litigation.