Missouri Legislating Against Joinder in Mass Torts
For mass tort plaintiffs, seeking relief in St. Louis, Missouri may soon no longer be a viable option. Although seen as a plaintiff-friendly venue, particularly given the recent massive multi-billion dollar award against Johnson & Johnson, the state's senate has decided that it's time to change their reputation.
The Missouri Senate passed a bill effectively prohibiting the joinder of out-of-state plaintiffs, unless the joining plaintiff resides in an adjoining, less populated, county. Proponents of the law explain that of the 13,000 plus mass tort plaintiffs in the St. Louis court, barely a thousand are actually Missouri residents, and less than a quarter of those residents live in St. Louis.
The Fight Against Big Verdicts
The legislation effectively seeks to codify a High Court decision barring state courts from litigating out of state plaintiffs' claims. But it goes further to limit even in-state joinders to only adjacent counties.
As the recent news coverage suggests, the Missouri legislature's efforts to restrict joinder seems to be in direct response to the J&J verdict, and others like it. Curiously though, the lawmakers don't seem to recognize that joinder helps to level the playing field between individual plaintiffs and large corporations.
What's the Problem With Plaintiff-Friendly Places?
Mass tort litigation isn't like a rear-ender car accident. Plaintiffs that suffer injuries as part of large groups of consumers or medical patients, are not fighting against an individual's insurance company in a case with clear liability. They're fighting against large corporations interested in turning the highest profit possible for their shareholders. Cases often requires teams of lawyers and experts to comb through discovery and present the right evidence.
Plaintiff friendly jurisdictions should not be ashamed, but rather proud of that distinction. After all, plaintiffs are utilizing those court systems to resolve legal disputes. Additionally, given how defense-friendly most jurisdictions are, having a few plaintiff friendly ones seems just.
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