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Missourians would have more difficulties to sue in a civil lawsuit

April 29, 1999
By: Jorge C. Alvarez
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 89

JEFFERSON CITY - A measure quietly working its way through Missouri's legislature would make it more difficult for you to sue some licensed professionals for damages.

The measure would require a signed affidavit from a fellow licensed professional to file a major damage law suit against an architect, engineer or surveryor.

For the lawsuit to be filed, the affidavit essentiall would have to affirm complaint in the lawsuit. Small lawsuits filed in small claims courts would be exempt from the requirements.

"This bill says that in order for you to go to court you have to have a bright profesional to say yes, there is merit in what you are saying, so the lawsuit can go in a capable manner," said the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Walt Mueller, R-St Louis County.

Mueller said that the measure is designed to stop frivolous lawsuits against design profesionals. He also complained that the proceedings would take much time for professionals.

"Most small architects and engineers have to be committed to a lawsuit that takes a lot of time from their work, and it is a real handicap for them because it stops production."

Mueller said the bill would give to architects and engineers the same protection already provided to doctors.

"If you bring a charge against a doctor, you have to have a like doctor to tell yes, this is a real case, it is not a frivolous case and that reduces the number of charges against doctors tremendously."

Some small businesses support the measure.

"We feel that the bulk of these claims or lawsuits against us are not of merit and eventually are dismissed," said Bruce Wylie, executive director of the Consulting Engineers Council of Missouri. "We need some legal screening to get rid off a lot of these issues."

He said that with this measure would produce savings for both sides -- including the person considering a suit. "The plaintiff wins because he does not have to spend a lot of time and money and we don't have to spent that much in defense time and money"

However, the measure is opposed by many attorneys.

"It is going to encourage the practice of paying people to come up with opinions when they do not have all the information in order to get pass the motion they dismiss at the beginning of the case," said Mike Manners, President of The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

He said that in the cross examination "the design professional is going to be asked: It is true that before you ever even look the documents in this case for money you were hired by the plaintiff's attorney, and for money you formed an opinion that the designed professional in this case fail to use reasonable care?"