Missouri Limits Punitive Damages in Workplace Safety Lawsuits
On July 1, 2020, Governor Mike Parson signed SB 591, which modifies various provisions relating to civil actions.
What are the details?
On July 1, 2020, Missouri has passed SB 591, creating additional restrictions for plaintiffs when filing for punitive damages. SB 591 provides that punitive damages will 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.” This language is a change to the previously lower burden on plaintiffs for establishing punitive damages. Additionally, plaintiffs may now only seek punitive damages by submitting a written motion for leave to file a pleading seeking punitive damages and can no longer seek them in an initial pleading. Such motions must be supported by evidence “establishing a reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages.” SB 591 also establishes that the amount of punitive damages shall not be based, in whole or in part, on harm to nonparties.
Plaintiffs must file a motion for punitive damages no later than 120 days before the final pre-trial conference or trial date. The court must then rule on the motion no later than 45 days after a hearing on the motion, or if no hearing is held, after the defendant has filed its response to the motion.
The full text of SB 591 can be found here.
What do employers need to do?
Employers in Missouri should consult their legal counsel if they are involved in a civil action.