Missouri's Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Matt Blunt made much ado this year over the proliferation of liability lawsuits against doctors and businesses. They responded with a new law aimed at limiting the number of lawsuits and the amount of money that victims can win, which took effect Aug. 28.
Now, just two weeks later, the governor and many of those same legislators are poised to enact a new law that allows parents and guardians to sue anyone who intentionally causes, aids or assists a minor to get an abortion without their consent -- even if that abortion occurs in a state where no consent is required. The proposal specifically allows the lawsuits to seek punitive damages -- one of the same categories capped in the recently enacted tort law.
Critics are fuming over what they view as a striking inconsistency.
"Right on the heels of tort reform, they're trying to create an entire new class of frivolous lawsuits," said Ray Hartmann, president of the eastern Missouri chapter of American Civil Liberties Union.
The Senate approved the new proposal 26-6 last Thursday. The bill now awaits a vote in the House, which is expected to pass it overwhelmingly.
Scott (R-Lowry City) said it takes some "pretty creative" logic to contrast the tort law limiting lawsuits with the abortion legislation allowing them. "I suppose if lawsuits are going to protect life, it's worth the risk of expanding lawsuits, though I think it's a red herring," Scott said.