06/19/2017 - US News: Missouri Govenor changes standards for expert witnesses

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens last month signed legislation to change the standard for vetting expert witnesses in jury trials. The reason; to lift the economy in the state.

Under new legislation starting 28th August, Judges will be required to examine the quality of expert witnesses, requiring testimony to be based on "reliable principles" and "sufficient facts" that are accurately applied to cases.

Govenor Greitens said the aim is to ensure experts "are actually experts" and calm fears of lawsuits crippling or ending businesses.

"When crooked trial lawyers bring in shady witnesses that act as experts while peddling junk science, it makes it harder for justice to be done," Greitens told reporters during a visit to a Jefferson City trucking company, where he signed the bill. "That scares away businesses and means fewer jobs and smaller paychecks," he said.

Opposition to the legislature say the new expert witness policies can hike costs and make seeking justice more difficult for plaintiffs. Fears are challenging witnesses' expertise likely will require hearings, which can mean paying experts for time spent explaining themselves to judges and more attorney costs.

"I do not believe this is in any way is going to benefit the citizens of Missouri," said Barnes, a leader of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. "I don't think it adds any justice. I don't think it will improve the quality of experts."

He also said the new standard will require judges to decide whether expert witnesses are reaching the right conclusion based on evidence. He said that can be challenging on issues on which experts disagree.

Greitens' action brought praise from groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based American Tort Reform Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform, said in a statement that Missouri is "turning the corner on legal reform."

The changes are part of a broader push from Greitens and Republican legislative leaders to overhaul state law dealing with torts, which are the personal bringing of legal cases by people who feel they have been wronged by another who has broken an obligation of contract.

Legal Editor