by Jim Layton
Governor Parson has completed action on bills passed by the 2020 Missouri General Assembly. Many of the bills the governor signed may affect Tueth Keeney clients. Among the significant provisions of those bills, most of which become effective August 28:
- The tort reform bill changes the law regarding punitive damages. It imposes new procedural requirements and a higher burden of proof, bars juries from basing punitive damage awards on harm to persons other than plaintiffs in the case, and allows for larger offsets from the payment of punitive damages in other cases. The new law requires a separate filing in the case, months before trial, providing factual support for a punitive damages award. Notably, the new law applies to cases filed “on or after August 28, 2020”—which may prompt a rash of filings prior to that date.
- The election bill temporarily changes the criteria for absentee voting, allowing such votes by those at greatest risk from COVID19, even if they are not ill. It also allows for mail-in ballots—essentially no-excuse absentee ballots. Like most absentee ballots, those must be notarized. The changes are likely to reduce the number of voters who physically vote at the polls in November—and because absentee and mail-in ballots are not included in the counts at each polling place, the change could delay announcement of election results.
- Two bills restrict animals that can qualify as service dogs—and impose a criminal sanction on those who misrepresent dogs as service dogs.
- Two bills expand the availability of Missouri licenses to military spouses who are professionals licensed in other states. The first excluded school teachers, but the second—which supersedes the first—repealed that exclusion, giving military spouse teacher the same right to work in Missouri as other licensed professionals.
- A perennial effort to limit Missouri’s motorcycle helmet law was finally enacted. It leaves the mandate to wear a helmet in place for those under age 26. But older motorcycle drivers can now drive without helmets—if they have, and are prepared to show that they have, health insurance that will cover any injuries resulting from an accident.
- Timelines and inspection requirements previously imposed on the St. Louis County Assessor have been extended throughout the state. For other counties, that means that the time for filing a protest was delayed—which could delay resolution of protests.
- Public entities will now be barred from entering into contracts worth more than $100,000 with a company that has 10 or more employees if the company will not certify that it is are not participating in a boycott of goods or services from the State of Israel.
If you have any questions regarding the impact of these new laws, please contact a Tueth Keeney attorney.
James Layton leads the firm’s Appellate practice group and is a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation, Labor, and Education groups. He assists clients with analysis and presentation of complex legal issues in Missouri and federal courts, both trial and appellate. In addition to handling cases himself and with other attorneys at Tueth Keeney, Jim consults with clients on appellate strategy and assists other counsel in high-stakes, complex appeals.
Jim has briefed and argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and before all Missouri appellate courts—including nearly 100 cases before the Missouri Supreme Court. He has represented clients in U.S. district courts and in Missouri circuit courts from Jackson County to the City of St. Louis. He has extensive experience with government-related litigation and state taxation disputes. Jim is a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a past president of the Bar Association of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Council of Appellate Lawyers. He is a frequent speaker in the areas of appellate practice and constitutional law, both state and federal.