2022 Q3 State Updates #2: Missouri and New Jersey

update #2

The 2022 Q3 #1 State Update can be found here.

Missouri Considers Shrinking its Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Legislators in both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly are currently debating bills to shrink the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims from five to two years. Only Maine and South Dakota have longer statutes of limitations for personal injury claims at six years.

“One of the contributing factors to Missouri’s troubling legal environment is the absurd amount of time plaintiffs have to file a personal injury claim,” wrote state Rep. Alex Riley in an op-ed published March 15 by the Missouri Times. “We adhere to a statute of limitations in order to ensure that the administration of justice is brought about in a timely manner and to provide a sense of finality to civil litigation. Now, although Missouri does a lot of things the right way, our state’s statute of limitations is one of the longest in the U.S., allowing for five years to bring a claim. With only three states having a longer statute of limitations, and the vast majority being three years or less, Missouri has become an outlier leading to uncertainty amongst litigants.”

Similar statute of limitations bills failed to pass each year since 2018, and the American Tort Reform Association chastised the state in its 2022 Judicial Hellholes report for failing to pass last year’s version, HB 992.

“In 2021, the legislature failed to pass a significant reform bill that would have addressed several problems within the state’s civil justice system,” wrote the authors of the annual report on jurisdictions the tort reform group says are among the most unfair and out of balance in the nation. “HB 922 is legislation that originally would have reduced the statute of limitations in actions for personal injury cases from five years, which is among the longest in the country, to three years and, after being amended, included several other affirmative civil justice reform provisions.”

In addition to the state’s “exceptionally long five-year statute of limitations,” the American Tort Reform Association ranked the city of St. Louis as this year’s No. 7 Judicial Hellhole due to uncertainties that still surround a 2020 law. That law was intended to restrict Missouri’s standard for punitive damages in medical liability cases to those in which the plaintiff showed “by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” Despite the new law, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a circuit court’s application of a lesser standard for the award of punitive damages in a March 2021 medical malpractice case.

EMPRO to Enter New Jersey Market This Summer, Reports $29M in Surplus Growth

EmPRO Insurance Co. announced plans to expand into the New Jersey market last month. The New York-based insurer of medical liability has applied for admitted status with the New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance with the goal of issuing policies beginning this summer.

EmPRO attributes its first planned expansion outside New York to recent success. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, administered by its attorney-in-fact PRIMMA LLC, EmPRO reported the two companies grew their surplus by $29 million last year, achieved $16 million in underwriting gains and posted a 78.9% combined ratio for the year ended Dec. 31, 2021.

“EmPRO will continue to be successful as long as we continue to grow,” said Bruce Shulan, PRIMMA president and chief executive officer. “Because the market for medical professional liability insurance in the State of New York is contracting as more physicians join large groups or become a hospital employee, and the competition between admitted carriers and risk retention groups continues to increase, we have to be open to expanding our business into contiguous states.

“After New Jersey, we plan to enter Pennsylvania on a very calculated basis. After that, likely Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts — the Northeast market. Again, these moves will be done on a very calculated basis. And our expectation is that we will gradually begin to underwrite other professional liability lines as well.”

When PRIMMA took over as PRI’s attorney-in-fact on July 1, 2017, the insurer had a negative surplus of $341 million. PRI reported a $33.1 million negative surplus at year-end 2021. According to PRIMMA, results for EmPRO and PRI were buoyed by consistent investment income, a 90% retention rate and a $4 million growth in broker-generated policies.

“We continue to see increasing submission rates at EmPRO,” Shulan said. “Most notably, we’re seeing an increase in submissions from fairly sophisticated physician groups and facilities. Business that left us several years ago, or declined to approach us for a quote, is coming back. It’s clear that PRI’s economic improvement, coupled with the successful implementation of EmPRO, is creating substantial interest.”

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