(The Center Square) – Missourians annually pay approximately $800 to $1,700 in consumer costs and lose an estimated 58,000 jobs due to excessive litigation, according to new research.
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a nonpartisan organization focused on implementing legal reforms to stop excessive lawsuits, published a report on the cost of torts – acts or omissions causing injury or harm to another leading to a civil lawsuit where a court can impose a financial liability penalty.
In the Kansas City area, the organization estimated a “tort tax” of $1,698 per person and a loss of 20,418 jobs. In St. Louis, the estimate was $1,608 per person and 32,249 jobs, and in Springfield the probable cost was $754 per person and 3,380 jobs.
The organization estimated excessive litigation costs amount to $4 billion in direct costs, $6 billion in lost gross product, a decrease in state tax revenue of $313 million, and a loss of $264 million in local tax revenue.
“Small businesses in Missouri should not have to worry about added costs from frivolous lawsuits,” Brad Jones, Missouri state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement announcing the studies. “Unfortunately, this report shows that lawsuit abuse continues to cost businesses massive amounts each year.”
Jones’ organization is rallying support to pass Senate Bill 117, which would change the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits. Currently, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within five years from the time the injury occurred. The bill would shorten the time to two years. However, any current suits against an insurer relating to uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage would be allowed a 10-year window instead of the current two-year period. Similarly, the amount of time for filing assault and battery lawsuits would increase from two to five years.
Currently, hospitals and health care agencies can be sued for malpractice, negligence, error or other care-related mistakes within two years from the date each act occurred, with some exceptions. The bill would allow lawsuits and damages against hospitals and other entities for malpractice, negligence, error or mistake related to providing gender-transition services to minors to be filed within 10 years instead of the current two-year window.
“This new data underscores the importance of passing bills like SB 117, which would bring Missouri’s legal climate into closer step with neighboring states and give small business owners greater certainty,” Jones said. “It’s time for the General Assembly to act on tort reform.”
The Center for Justice and Democracy is critical of organizations like Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and similar organizations.
“The CALA message is a sly deception designed to appeal broadly to patriotic, hard-working Americans, many of whom will ultimately serve on juries,” the Center for Justice and Democracy posted on its website. “At its core, the message equates the efforts of injured consumers to recover damages from those responsible with ‘lawsuit abuse.’ Unfortunately, many jurors around the country have been influenced by this erroneous message … and as a result, statistics reflect juries’ increasingly antagonistic attitude toward injured plaintiffs.”