The latest bill to receive Gov. Eric Greitens’ signature is another priority for Republicans: tightening rules on who can be called as an expert witness.
He signed House Bill 153 into law Tuesday, a month and a half after he used his State of the State address to call Missouri and St. Louis in particular, a “judicial hellhole.”
The new standards, touted by Republicans as business-friendly, will take effect Aug. 28. They require testimony to be based on sufficient facts and reliable principles, instead of generally accepted opinions within the scientific community.
“When crooked trial lawyers bring in shady witnesses that act as experts while peddling junk science, it makes it harder for justice to be done,” Greitens said during the bill-signing ceremony. “That scares away businesses, it means fewer jobs and smaller paychecks. Today, we’ve made it clear that Missouri is open for business.”
Critics of changing expert witness policies say doing so can ramp up costs and make seeking justice more difficult for plaintiffs. Kansas City lawyer Ken Barnes said that’s because challenging witnesses’ expertise likely will require hearings, which can mean paying experts for time spent explaining themselves to judges and more attorney fees.
The measure is part of a broader push from Greitens and Republican legislative leaders to overhaul state law dealing with torts, which are wrongdoings. Tort cases range from medical malpractice to consumer fraud such as sales of lemon cars.