SCS/HB 186 - This act modifies various provisions relating to civil actions, including venue, unlawful merchandising practices, joinder, punitive damages, statutes of limitations for product liability claims, and intervention for insurers.
VENUE FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES (SECTIONS 375.1800, 375.1803, AND 375.1806)
This act specifies that an insurance company shall be deemed to reside in the county in which it maintains its registered office. A foreign insurance company without a registered office in any county in Missouri shall be deemed to reside in, and be a resident of, Cole County.
Venue for tort and contract claims in which there is a count against an insurer shall be in the county where the insurer resides, or in the county in which the insured's principal place of residence was located at the time the insurance was issued. Venue shall be determined by these provisions even if the insured's rights or claims under the policy have been assigned or transferred to another party. However, venue shall not be affected by intervention by an insurance company in an action where recovery has been contractually limited to the proceeds of an insurance policy. These provisions shall not apply to actions relating to uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage nor shall they apply to a vexatious refusal to pay claim to collect an amount due under uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
The act also specifies how venue shall be determined in actions against an insurer relating to uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If the accident occurred in Missouri, venue shall be in the county in which the accident occurred. If the accident occurred outside of Missouri, venue shall be in the county where the insurer resides, or the Missouri county of the insured's principal place of residence at the time of the accident.
These provisions are identical to provisions within the truly agreed to and finally passed SS#2/SB 7 (2019), are substantially similar to SCS/SB 252 (2019), and are similar to HB 118 (2019) and HB 231 (2019).
UNLAWFUL MERCHANDISING PRACTICES (SECTION 407.025)
This act provides that a person seeking to recover damages for unlawful merchandising practices shall establish that the person acted as a reasonable consumer, that the alleged unlawful act caused the person to enter into the transaction that resulted in damage, and the individual damages with sufficiently definitive and objective evidence to allow the loss to be calculated with a reasonable degree of certainty. A court may dismiss a claim where the claim fails to show a likelihood that the alleged unlawful act would mislead a reasonable consumer.
In addition to current damages available, a court may provide equitable relief as it deems necessary to protect the party from the unlawful acts. No action may be brought under this act to recover damages for personal injury or death. Furthermore, this act provides that any award of attorney's fees shall bear a reasonable relationship to the amount of the judgment.
This provision is identical to a provision within SCS/SB 276 (2019) and is similar to HB 714 (2019).
JOINDER (SECTIONS 507.040 AND 507.050)
Claims arising out of separate purchases of the same product or separate incidents involving the same product shall not be joined regardless of whether the claims arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences with a common question of law or fact. Additionally, this act expressly adopts the holding of State ex rel. Johnson & Johnson v. Burlison, No. SC96704, issued on February 13, 2019, as it relates to joinder and venue. If such terms are just, parties may be dropped, added, or severed by order of the court upon a motion by any party or by the court during any stage of the action.
These provisions are identical to provisions within the truly agreed to and finally passed SS#2/SB 7 (2019) and similar to HB 231 (2019).
VENUE - GENERAL (SECTION 508.010, 508.012, AND 537.762)
For the purposes of meeting the venue requirement, there is a rebuttable presumption that the principal place of residence for an individual is the county of voter registration at the time of the injury. For an individual whose employment conduct with a corporation is at issue in at least one count in the action, the individual's principal place of residence shall be the corporation's principal place of residence. Finally, the principal place of residence for a corporation is the county where the corporation has its registered agent. When all defendants are nonresidents, proper venue in a non-tort action is any county in this state if there is personal jurisdiction over each defendant, independent of each other defendant.
In tort actions where the plaintiff was first injured in Missouri, venue shall be the county where the plaintiff was first injured by the acts or conduct alleged in the action. In tort actions where the plaintiff was injured outside the state of Missouri and the defendant is an individual, venue for that individual plaintiff shall be the county where the defendant has his or her principal place of residence, which shall be that of his or her employer corporation if any count alleges conduct in the course of employment.
If the county where the action is filed is not proper venue, the plaintiff shall be transferred to a county where proper venue can be established. If no such county exists, then the claim shall be dismissed without prejudice. If denied in error, a denial of a motion to transfer venue pursuant to this act is required to be reversed and no finding of prejudice is required for such reversal.
For the purposes of meeting the venue requirement, an insurance company resides in the county where it maintains its registered office. A foreign insurance company without a registered office in any county in Missouri shall be deemed to reside in, and be a resident of, Cole County.
At any time prior to the commencement of trial, if a plaintiff or defendant is added, removed, or severed from a petition filed in any Missouri court which would have if originally added, removed, or severed from the initial petition, altered the determination of venue, then the judge shall transfer the case to a proper forum upon application of any party.
Currently, a products liability order of dismissal for a defendant whose liability is based solely on his or her status as a seller shall not divest a court of venue or jurisdiction that was proper at the beginning of the action. Further, the defendant seller dismissed in the action shall remain a party to such action for venue and jurisdiction purposes. This act repeals these provisions.
These provisions are similar to provisions within the truly agreed to and finally passed SS#2/SB 7 (2019), CCS/SS/SCS/SB 230 (2019), SCS/HB 186 (2019), HB 231 (2019), SS#4/SB 546 (2018), SCS/SB 1102 (2018), and HB 1578 (2018).
PUNITIVE DAMAGES - GENERAL (SECTIONS 510.259, 510.263, AND 510.265)
The act provides that punitive damages shall only be awarded if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others, and the plaintiff is awarded more than nominal damages. Punitive damages may only be awarded against an employer due to an employee's conduct in certain situations, as provided in the act.
A claim for punitive damages shall not be contained in the initial pleading and may only be filed as a written motion with permission of the court no later than 120 days prior to the final pretrial conference or trial date. The written motion for punitive damages must be supported by evidence. A pleading seeking a punitive damages award may be filed only after the court determines that the trier of fact could reasonably conclude that the standards, as provided in the act, for punitive damages have been met.
Currently, in jury trials involving a claim for punitive damages there is a bifurcated trial. In the first stage, the jury determines liability and amount for compensatory damages and the liability for punitive damages. In the second stage, the amount of punitive damages is determined. This act provides that after an award of compensatory damages has been made in the first stage, then the court shall determine whether punitive damages may be considered by the jury. After the court's determination, the jury will determine whether to award punitive damages and the amount.
Currently, if a defendant has previously paid punitive damages in another state for the same conduct, following a hearing the court may credit the jury award of punitive damages by the amount previously paid. This act provides that the defendant may be credited for punitive damages also paid in federal court.
These provisions do not apply to claims for unlawful housing practices under the Missouri Human Rights Act.
These provisions are substantially similar to provisions in SS/SB 65 (2019) and similar to provisions in SCS/SB 1102 (2018) and in HB 489 (2019).
STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS FOR PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS (SECTION 516.099)
This act provides that a person who is injured by a defective or unsafe condition of a product or due to negligence in the design, manufacture, sale, or distribution of a product has fifteen years after the sale or lease of the product to bring a claim for damages.
The fifteen-year time limitation shall not apply to actions relating to real property, actions where a person has knowingly concealed any defective or unsafe condition, actions for indemnity or contribution by a defendant, actions involving a product which has a warranty longer than fifteen years, actions regarding negligent service or maintenance of a product, actions involving a product that is subject to a government mandated product recall related to consumer safety, actions where the product causes certain latent diseases, and actions against manufacturers where the harm occurred during a product's useful safe life. However, the exception to the time limitation regarding products causing certain latent diseases does not apply to certain actions against a seller claiming a product is unreasonably dangerous due to a defective condition, unless the seller is also the manufacturer.
This provision is identical to SS/SB 100 (2019) and similar to SCS/SB 596 (2018), a provision in SCS/SB 1102 (2018), HCS/HB 1611 (2018), SB 220 (2017), HB 594 (2017), and SB 1091 (2016).
INTERVENTION FOR INSURERS (SECTION 537.065)
The act provides that insurers intervening in a court proceeding where the defendant has contracted to limit his or her liability to specified assets shall have all the same rights as are afforded to defendants. This provision shall not alter or reduce an insurer's obligations to any insured other than the tort-feasor, including any co-insureds.
This provision is identical to a provision in SCS/SB 49 (2019) and similar to a provision in HB 120 (2019).
PUNITIVE DAMAGES - MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS (SECTIONS 538.205 AND 538.210)
The act modifies the definition of "punitive damages" as it is used in sections of law relating to actions for damages against a health care provider for personal injury or death caused by the rendering of health care services.
In order to be awarded punitive damages, the jury must find by clear and convincing evidence that the health care provider intentionally caused damage or demonstrated malicious misconduct. Evidence of negligence, including indifference or conscious disregard for the safety of others, does not constitute a basis for a punitive damage award.
These provisions are identical to provisions in SS/SB 65 (2019) and similar to provisions in HB 489 (2019), SCS/SB 1102 (2018), HCS/HB 2434 (2018), HB 2273 (2018), and HCS/HB 2119 (2018).