The Missouri Senate has approved legislation aimed at sharply limiting the large legal awards coming out of the St. Louis court system in cases where multiple plaintiffs combine similar lawsuits.
Republicans have tried for years to outlaw awards like one in February in which 22 women were awarded $4.7 billion after claiming that Johnson & Johnson baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. Many of the plaintiffs were not from Missouri.
The attempt to change the law was helped this year when the Missouri Supreme Court halted the practice after the Johnson & Johnson verdict was reached, said Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, who led the GOP effort.
Under the proposed change, an incident must have occurred in the same county or the parties in the lawsuit must live in the same county, The St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported. The Senate approved the bill Monday on a 24-7 vote. It now goes to the House.
Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, acknowledged that the current practice needs to be addressed but said the proposal approved Monday could have the unintended consequence of clogging the court system if each individual must file a separate lawsuit.
Sifton, an attorney who is considering running for governor next year, held an overnight filibuster on the proposal last month to find time for a compromise. His fellow Democrats argued during the filibuster that the proposed change would make the claims process inconvenient and more expensive.
“I think plaintiff joinder is something that allows us to resolve important disputes more efficiently,” Sifton said. “In that regard, I am still concerned you are going to see more lawsuits than you otherwise would.”
The new proposal exempted lawsuits that were filed before the state Supreme Court’s decision and that are scheduled to go to trial before August 28.