“Sue-Me State” Or “Show-Me State”: The Latest Push For Asbestos Exposure Tort Reform In Missouri

by Husch Blackwell LLP

The stage is set for a heated showdown between GOP leaders and bipartisan critics over implementation of HB 1645. If adopted by the Senate, the bill would alter several provisions related to a plaintiff’s ability to bring asbestos tort claims. The main contention sparked by HB 1645 requires plaintiff-side attorneys to identify and file claims against all potentially liable defendants or bankruptcy trusts at the onset of lawsuits alleging injury from asbestos exposure. The idea behind this segment of the bill is twofold: (1) to embed built-in transparency preconditions allowing asbestos claim resolution with minimal delay; and (2) thwart the practice of “double-dipping” by granting injured plaintiffs compensation from one defendant at a time—before pursuing claims against additional defendants. As an added benefit to defendants, the bill currently includes provisions expressing that trust applications “may be sufficient” for jury findings which deduce that products for which the trusts were established constituted a “substantial contributing factor” in causing alleged injuries; and also, that trust claim materials may be used to prove alternative causation for alleged injuries. These provisions suggest that trust materials can be used to off-set liability by viable defendants without any additional burden of causation.

The lines of demarcation are clearly drawn. On one side stands the bill’s proponents, led by Rep. Bruce DeGroot, who argue that historically asbestos litigation in Missouri has been blemished by mass exploitation, which in turn diminishes availability of trust fund capital for future claimants. DeGroot explains HB 1645 “is designed to keep [Missouri] from being called the ‘sue-me state’ instead of the Show-me State[.]”  On the other side stand the bill’s bipartisan critics who contend the proposed reform adds additional roadblocks, effectively hampering victims of asbestos related illnesses—such as firefighters, laborers, and military veterans—by demanding identification of every source of possible asbestos exposure in initial filings.  Moreover, critics believe added measures would prolong the adjudicative process by placing claimants with declining health in a position where death may arrive well before the opportunity to confront defendants in court.

If HB 1645 becomes law, Missouri would be the thirteenth state to increase transparency in the somewhat murky and convoluted world of asbestos litigation. However, the bill’s adversaries question its true intent: whether HB 1645 is being pushed to protect Missouri’s corporate base from distribution of just damages to aggrieved victims; or whether the bill’s enactment is fueled by a notion of “fair litigation,” which would ensure trust companies are aware of, and are able to, unimpededly defend against multiple exposure allegations under equitable circumstances.

HB 1645, along with HB 1512 (changes to the Uniform Arbitration Act) and HB 1531 (modification to interpleading in civil proceedings) are components of contemporary tort reform. Experts surmise HB 1645 has a 50/50 chance of going the distance and converting into law due to developing agenda being promoted by an overwhelmingly Republican majority General Assembly.  Based on sheer numbers alone, both house Republicans have the votes to pass the bill in the Senate, nevertheless, the tactical warfare of filibuster could be a cause for concern.

The current session of the General Assembly ends mid-May, leaving approximately seven weeks left for negotiations. On April 4, HB 1645 was voted out of committee in the Senate; next, it will be placed on the calendar by the Senate Floor Leader and then presented to the Senate for a final show of hands.  In short, the process mimics the all too familiar cycle of life—some proposed legislation will survive at the expense of others that will parish. Either way, the struggle for control of procedures governing asbestos litigation in Missouri is well and alive in the political streets of Jefferson City. Only time will tell whether Missouri’s true mantra will be the “Sue-me State” or the “Show-me State.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Husch Blackwell LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Husch Blackwell LLP

Husch Blackwell LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.