FACT CHECK: Brunner says Missouri is "fourth best place to get sued"
COLUMBIA – Republican candidate for governor John Brunner has made tort reform one of his main priorities – while in Moberly, he recently spoke about the state of lawsuits in Missouri.
He said “Missouri is fourth in the nation as the best place to get sued”.
That ranking caught KOMU 8’s interest, so we decided to look into the state of lawsuits in Missouri.
“Best” or “Most likely?”
Brunner called Missouri the fourth “best” place to get sued. After that statement, he said “At this time, Missouri is pro lawsuit, pro litigation, and regulations, both state and federal, are out of control. Tort reform and fighting back against regulations are critical for growth.”
Because Brunner was referencing the need for less lawsuits and litigation, it seems likely his statement was highlighting a negative aspect about lawsuits in Missouri.
In this case, Brunner’s statement that Missouri is the fourth “best” place in the nation to get sued seems to point more toward the likelihood of being sued in Missouri, not towards any positive aspect or outcome of litigation. KOMU 8 News’ calls to John Brunner and his campaign for further clarification were not returned.
Lawsuits in Missouri
Brunner said Missouri is the "fourth best place in the nation to get sued" - but is the climate for lawsuits in Missouri really that hot? According to a survey conducted by Harris Reports, Missouri ranks 42nd when it comes to state liability systems’ fairness and reasonableness.
Missouri wasn’t the fourth “best” or most likely place to get sued, but one could say it was the ninth worst place to get sued, according to the Harris Reports poll.
The poll was requested by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an advocacy group affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It surveyed in-house attorneys and senior executives at companies with yearly general revenues totaling more than $100 million.
Participants were asked to rank states according to issues such as:
- Toughness of requirements for filing lawsuits
- Judge impartiality and competence
- Jury fairness
Missouri ranked particularly badly on the issue of “treatment of class action or mass consolidation suits”, receiving 46th place in the country.
However, the Harris Reports Poll doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story about lawsuits in Missouri.
Because it only asks the opinion of legal counsel at large corporations, or those companies with more than $100 million a year in revenue, it doesn’t answer the question of how smaller businesses perceive the legal climate in Missouri.
Attorney Wally Bley said part of the issue both with Brunner's statement and the poll conducted by Harris Reports is lawsuits include more than just business issues.
"Civil suits are every kind of case filed that is not a criminal case, so every collection case, divorce, other family law matter, business disputes, and every other conceivable dispute gets lumped into civil cases," Bley said.
Brunner’s statement that Missouri is the “fourth best place to get sued” is not exactly the same as the 42nd place ranking given by Harris Reports for fairness and reasonableness handling lawsuits, but it’s pretty close.
Missouri may not be a great environment for businesses with more than $100 million in annual revenue looking to avoid lawsuits. But for smaller businesses, the question of the state of Missouri’s liability system remains unanswered.