JEFFERSON CITY — While progress was slow on the final day of the legislative session, several bills were passed and sent to Gov. Eric Greitens for approval.

One of those, House Bill 452, was one of many proposed changes to tort law introduced this session, yet only a few were approved.

The bill would limit the liability of hospitals in medical malpractice lawsuits.

It passed the Senate on Thursday with a revision to limit its scope. The original version of the bill would have held doctors and other hospital staff liable for wrongdoing independent of their employers.

Critics of that bill said it incentivized the creation of employing entities separate from hospitals that would shield them from lawsuits. The bill was revised in the Senate to reduce the extent to which this loophole would apply.

Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, the bill’s sponsor, said during floor debate that if a hospital has a controlling stake in ownership of a staffing company, it cannot avoid liability for its  employees if the subsidiary company also has less than $1 million worth of medical malpractice insurance.

Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, sponsored Senate Bill 237, which is identical to the bill that passed Friday before its revision.

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, asked who would be liable in the event of medical malpractice. Austin said that three parties would share liability — the hospital, the staffing company and the employee.

Another bill that was approved by lawmakers on Friday makes citizens immune from prosecution for carrying small amounts of drugs if they call emergency services because of an overdose.

The measure was part of a much larger bill that included legalization of epinephrine auto-injectors to treat opioid overdoses, a drug take-back program for the Missouri Board of Pharmacy and general licensure, and training requirements for a variety of medical professions.

The immunity from prosecution drew the most debate on the floor, however. While the law would not allow overdose victims or those who contacted the authorities to be arrested for small-scale drug offenses, it would not protect them from warrants or crimes committed unrelated to the overdose.

Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, took issue with the bill’s relaxation of legal repercussions. A reserve police officer, Roden said he had experience with drug addicts and repeatedly referred to the bill as a "get out of jail free card."

Roden said it would have no effect on the habits of addicts around overdose victims.

"I’ll tell you right now, dopers don’t care, they don’t care about their friends when they overdose," he said.

Rep. Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar, said he was aware of potential problems but that the bill was needed.

"It is an effort to try to remove an obstacle to people getting help," he said.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Missouri had 1,066 deaths by overdose, more than 31 others states in the same period.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit; horvitm@missouri.edu.

  • Miranda Moore is a state house reporter at the Missourian. She is a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism who studies investigative and international reporting.

  • Assistant City Editor, foodie, political junkie and graduate student from Louisiana. You can reach me by phone at (318) 758-0799 or by email at johntsadler2014@gmail.com

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