Resident’s Corner – New Missouri Legislation on Expert Witness Testimony Standards

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POSTED IN: EPIC - The Official Newsletter of MOCEP, March/April 2017,

Written by Lucy Hormberg, MD, JD, PGY 4 Resident at Washington University/Barnes Jewish Hospital

Q: I’ve gotten several email updates from MOCEP about tort reform blitzing through our state legislature last month. What do I really need to know?  

February 6th, 2017 – Forum Topics

Tort reform and legislative updates in MO

Both collateral source and expert witness both passed the House and Senate. They go to the Governor for passage hopefully soon.

February 19th, 2017

Tort Reform in Missouri

Legislative Updates

SB 200 establishes a better standard for the admissibility of expert testimony than our state courts presently apply.  It is now on the floor calendar.

A: Glad you asked! (But one topic at time.) This article will cover the new legislation on expert witness testimony. For more information including basics of medical malpractice and tort reform, see resources listed below.

Last month, in both the Missouri House of Representatives and in our Senate, bills that help better define the requirements for expert testimony have been passed. The bills focus on ensuring the expert testimony presented in a medical malpractice case is not only from a qualified expert, but also that the information provided is scientifically reliable.  As we in the medical community move toward a more evidence-based practice, this legislation represents an effort to move the judicial system toward a more uniform, systematic method of evaluating expert testimony.

Some Background:

Current Missouri law states that “a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify” if he or she has “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge [that] will assist” with a particular issue in a lawsuit. § 490.065.1, RSMo 2016.

At first blush, this law seems sensible. However, one of the criticisms is that the standard is too broad. For example, medical expert witness in a case does not necessarily need to have actual clinical experience in the same specialty as the defendant physician. In addition, the current law does not necessarily require that what the expert testifies about is reliable. Because of similar discrepancies, some states have passed various legislation specifying stricter qualifications for an expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases.

House Bill 153 and Senate Bill 200:

The recent bill that passed in the Missouri House of Representatives, HB 153, requires that expert testimony is reliable.  Specifically, the bill adds the requirements that:

  • “the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data, ”
  • “the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods,”
  • “and the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

A similar bill has passed on the state Senate side (SB 200). Adoption of this legislation will align Missouri’s law with the current federal standard (known as Daubert standard) and the standards of about 36 states.

Well? There you go. One topic down. Want to know more? Check out: