Missouri's Leaders Work to Improve Lawsuit Climate as New Survey Shows State's Ranking has Slipped

Seven-point Drop Highlights Importance of Missouri's New Legal Reforms

September 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Missouri’s lawsuit climate fell to 49th out of 50 in a new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The low ranking comes at the very time that Missouri’s governor and legislature have passed significant legal reforms designed to fix the problem that the survey highlights.

The 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States surveyed senior business executives on their experiences with state lawsuit environments. The survey was in the field in the spring before the new reforms passed, and therefore reflect Missouri’s long-running problems with its lawsuit climate rather than the positive impact of its new laws.

The emphasis on tort reform by Governor Greitens and other political leaders comes at a critical time. An all-time high 85 percent of survey participants said that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or expand.

“Missouri’s lawsuit climate is in a state of transition, and Gov. Greitens and the state legislature deserve credit for rolling up their sleeves and working hard to turn things around,” said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard. “That’s a tall order given the poor legal environment that developed under past leaders, but the state is now showing a new determination to be known as the ‘Show-Me State’ rather than the ‘Sue-Me State.’”

Missouri’s reforms include keeping “junk science” out of state courts, reining in “gotcha” lawsuits against insurers who tried to pay a claim in good faith, and allowing juries to know whether a plaintiff already received compensation for the injury over which they’re suing.

More reforms are slated for next year’s legislative session, giving Missouri optimism that its ranking will improve in future surveys.

Harris Poll, a global polling firm, conducted the 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, 2017. Participants were senior business lawyers and executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million. The survey asked participants to rank the fairness of state lawsuit environments across 10 categories including their laws, courts, judges, and juries.

Reflecting significant concerns about state courts, Missouri ranked last in making sure that lawsuits have a connection to where they are filed. It also ranked near the bottom for its judges’ competence and impartiality, as well as the fairness of its juries. Survey participants also ranked St. Louis among the 10 cities or counties with the worst legal environments.

To promote the survey, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform is conducting a national public awareness campaign. The national and key state online and broadcast ads can be seen here.

In tandem with the survey, ILR today released 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, listing key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.