NFIB-supported legislation strengthens testimony standards.
Missouri Senate Advances Expert Witness Bill
The American Tort Reform Association named Missouri the fourth worst “judicial hellhole” in its annual report, but Missouri lawmakers have already responded to improve one of the key problems ATRA noted in the report: expert witness testimony.
Senate Bill 591—supported by NFIB and several other groups—would institute the Daubert standard in the state’s judicial system, which ensures that evidence will only be admitted as expert testimony if it has been deemed relevant, reliable and has been provided by qualified individuals. This means only witnesses with personal knowledge about the facts at issue in a trial may testify. Expert witnesses who can provide opinion testimony about complex scientific, technical or medical issues are accepted as well.
The Daubert standard is required in federal courts and 40 other states, but Missouri is currently using a flexible standard that allows admitting scientific or technical testimony based not on an expert’s methods but on his or her purported credentials on paper.
Legislation that would have brought Missouri into line with the Daubert standard was proposed during the 2015 legislative session, but vocal opposition from critics—such as plaintiffs’ lawyers and firms and judges—killed the bills. Critics claimed adopting this nearly nationwide standard would increase legal costs, but no evidence of this was found as lawmakers perfected the bill.
SB 591 is one of the first bills to advance in the Senate in the 2016 legislative session.