The Senate experienced another successful week moving two pieces of legislation that will improve the anti-business environment our court system has created. Senate Bill 237 and Senate Bill 45 both advanced in the Senate, and both will help reform Missouri’s legal climate to be fair and structured to attract, rather than discourage, investment to our state.
Senate Bill 237 modifies definitions of “employee” and “physician employee” in actions against health care providers for personal injury or death. This bill returns the law to the intention of the 2005 tort reform that the Missouri Supreme Court broadened. In 2005, the General Assembly passed legislation that limited the liability of hospitals when the defendant was not an employee of the hospital. However, a court ruling in 2014, Jefferson v. Missouri Baptist, greatly expanded liability exposure. The Court applied a broader standard for the definition of “employee,” meaning patients would now be allowed to sue not only individual doctors and their practice, but also the hospital where the procedure was performed, even if the hospital did not employ that doctor.
Expanded and unnecessary liability increases premiums. Increased premiums drive up the cost of health care for both patients and businesses. Senate Bill 237 fixes the drafting error and definition of employee and restores the language to what was intended in 2005 before being reinterpreted by the courts. It limits liability to the responsible party for malpractice, not the party with the deepest pockets. By limiting malpractice liability to the party that is responsible for malpractice, we bring stability and clarity to malpractice insurance and help keep health care costs down for every Missourian.
Also advancing this week is Senate Bill 45, which modifies laws regarding arbitration agreements between employers and at-will employees. Mutual agreements, or arbitration agreements, between an employer and employee are a quick and cost-effective way to resolve employment issues. Unfortunately, recent Missouri court decisions have eroded the arbitration agreement system. As a result, many workplace arbitration agreements may no longer be enforceable.
Senate Bill 45 reforms the arbitration process and will protect employers’ rights in arbitration agreements. This will allow for more disputes to reach arbitration by having an arbitrator decide if a case can be arbitrated. The measure also ensures that the arbitrator is mutually agreed to by both parties. This will also allow businesses to better manage their legal risk more effectively. It’s a lower-cost and quicker option than the expensive and sometimes long, drawn-out court system process. It’s also a fairer process for the employee as well.
I would also encourage you to visit our new blog – https://mosenatesidebar.wordpress.com/. Here you will be able to find more information about the bills in progress as well as watch videos and read some news.
I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government so that I can better represent you during the 2017 legislative session.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.
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