2019 Missouri venue and joinder rule changes
On July 10, 2019, Governor Parson signed Missouri Senate Bill 7 into law. Missouri joinder rules previously allowed non-resident plaintiffs to bring claims by joining a single resident in the lawsuit. However, the new Rules will significantly limit that opportunity. The revisions set forth in this Bill apply to actions filed after February 13, 2019, with the exception that lawsuits may continue to trial in a venue as filed if (1) the plaintiff is a Missouri resident; (2) the case is pending in a Missouri court as of February 13, 2019; (3) there is proper jurisdiction; and (4) the trial date was set before February 13, 2019 and will begin on or before August 28, 2019. The following is a brief summary highlighting the most important changes.
Regarding joinder and venue, the general assembly expressly adopted the holding of State ex rel. Johnson & Johnson v. Burlison, No. SC96704.
It is no longer sufficient to join claims when they arise out of separate purchases of the same product or service, or separate incidents involving the same product or services. If a party is improperly joined, it is not grounds for dismissal; however, the party can be severed at any time.
In a tort action, plaintiffs can only be joined if each plaintiff can independently establish proper venue. If all defendants in a lawsuit are nonresidents of Missouri, the claim may be brought in any county so long as there is personal jurisdiction for each defendant. If a plaintiff was first injured outside Missouri and the defendant is an individual, venue as to that individual plaintiff is proper in the county where the defendant has his or her principle place of residence. If a plaintiff’s principle place of residence was in Missouri on the date of injury, venue as to that individual plaintiff is proper in the county where plaintiff resided on the date of injury. There is a rebuttable presumption for individuals that the county where he or she is registered to vote at the time of injury is the principle place of residence. Proper venue is the employer’s principle place of residence if any count alleges conduct in the course and scope of defendant’s employment. A corporation’s principle place of residence is the county where it has its registered agent.
For purposes of venue, domestic and foreign insurance companies will be deemed residents of the county where they maintain their registered office. Foreign insurance companies that do not maintain an office in Missouri will be deemed a resident of Cole County. For any claims against insurers regarding insurance contracts, venue is proper in the county where the insurer resides; if the insured was a Missouri resident at the time the insurance contract was issued, venue is also proper in the county where he or she resided when the insurance contract was issued. For claims regarding uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, venue will be determined differently. If the accident occurred in Missouri, venue is proper in the county where the accident occurred. If the accident did not occur in Missouri, venue is proper in Missouri either in (1) the county where the insurer resides or (2) the county where the insured resided on the date of injury.
If a lawsuit is filed in an improper venue, the claim will be transferred to a county where proper venue can be established. If proper venue cannot be established in any Missouri county, the claim will be dismissed without prejudice. If a motion to transfer venue is denied in error, it must be reversed, for which no finding of prejudice is required.
Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Schalie Johnson at email@example.com.