Who We Are
The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys is a statewide membership association of approximately 1,300 attorneys. Our members are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals to pursue justice when they are injured. MATA provides our members with legal education seminars, facilitates the sharing of resources, compiles research on key legal topics and represents our membership in the Missouri General Assembly by advocating for their clients’ right to seek justice through the Missouri Courts and Workers’ Compensation system.
Protection of the Civil Justice System
Long before the creation of the United States, citizens of England could petition the King to force a neighbor to compensate them for damages. They could sue over anything from damage to a reputation to a physical damage to their house. The reason the courts are open to these types of suits is to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands; to stop bad behavior; to encourage responsible behavior; and to compensate injured people for the harm done to them.
Generally, lawsuits happen because one person or corporation acted irresponsibly and hurt another person or corporation. The court system is the neutral third party who looks at all the facts of an individual case and decides what is fair.
MATA works to protect access to this system by advocating against caps on damages, systems that block access to the courts for certain types of lawsuits, and immunity for corporations or public entities when they have harmed someone.
Protection of the Workers' Compensation System
Workers’ Compensation began as a part of the civil justice system. Employees hurt on the job used to sue their employer in court. The employers and employees both found this system to have major drawbacks. In 1926 organized labor unions and business groups got together and created a no-fault system (meaning neither party had to prove the other had done something wrong) for compensating injured employees.
Today, Workers’ Compensation cases are heard in front of special judges called administrative law judges. These judges only hear workers’ compensation cases.
MATA works to protect access to workers' compensation for employees by keeping the compensation schedule fair and the process efficient.
Protection of the Nonpartisan Court Plan
Most judges in Missouri are elected in their county. Missouri selects some circuit judges and all appellate judges though a system called the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan. Here is how it works:
Attorneys in Missouri can apply to sit on the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals.
A commission made up of lay people selected by the governor, attorneys voted on by all the licensed attorneys in their district, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court reviews applications and conducts interviews of the applicants.
The Commission sends a panel of three nominations to the Governor for his consideration.
The Governor has 60 days to choose a nominee, or if the Governor does not choose, the Commission makes the appointment.
The judges must stand for a retention election the year they are appointed and every 12 years thereafter.
Judges are required to retire at the age of 70.
This system is a good balance between political appointments and direct elections. The Missouri Plan avoids contentious, politically-motivated debate and stalling tactics over the appointment and also prevents the overly-political high-dollar election campaigns that exist in other states.
MATA supports the current plan and opposes any drastic changes.
Solvency of the Second Injury Fund
The Fund is a safeguard for employers from the cost of injuries they did not cause and for employees from the cost of their injuries when employers do not have insurance.
The Second Injury Fund was created after the Second World War as a way of encouraging employers to hire disabled employees. The fund is still a way of encouraging the employment of disabled people since employers know they will not have to cover the cost of the existing disability should the employee be hurt while at work.
When a workplace injury is combined with a previous injury, the employer pays for the injury that happened on the job, the employee pays for the previous injury, and the Fund pays for the additional disability resulting from the combined injuries.
Today the fund covers any person who has a previous disability and then is injured at work. It also covers the cost of injuries when the employer did not have insurance.
In 2005, the legislature lowered the percentage of workers’ compensation premium that employers put into the Fund from a calculated amount based on Fund obligations to a maximum of 3%. This hard cap on the amount of income for the Fund has led to financial difficulties in the last few years.
Second Injury Fund surcharges are a reasonable cost for the protection they offer.
MATA believes the Fund is an important part of the Missouri economy. It protects small employers from the cost of a permanently injured employee, and protects employees from irresponsible uninsured employers. The Fund should be allowed to adjust the surcharge on workers’ compensation premiums to cover its expenses.