Behrens and Artman Detail Changes to Punitive Damages and Missouri Merchandising Practices Act

For the Washington Legal Foundation’s Legal Opinion Letter, Shook Partners Mark Behrens and Jennifer Artman have authored an article on changes enacted by the Missouri legislature updating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) and the state’s punitive damages law. The changes, which apply to all cases filed on or after August 28, 2020, include a heightened standard for punitive damages—when the law takes effect, punitive damages will be “limited to egregious cases where a ‘defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others,’” they explain.

Updates to the MMPA include the establishment of a “reasonable consumer” standard. “Previously, claimants could seek out and challenge business practices that might mislead the most unsophisticated consumer,” Behrens and Artman note. The MMPA’s “broad language has been exploited, turning the MMPA into a vehicle for lawsuit abuse,” they assert. “The new law will curb that abuse by bringing Missouri’s law in line with other states.”