JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Attorney General's office says taxpayers spent more than $24 million in 2019 on lawsuits against the state.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports  that the $24.2 million paid in 2019 by the Legal Expense Fund is down from the $28.8 million paid in 2018.

Many of the large layouts stem from employee discrimination and harassment cases brought against the Missouri Department of Corrections. 

The total spent in 2020 could skyrocket because the state hasn't paid out $113.7 million to 13,000 current and former correctional officers who won a class-action case in Cole County over unpaid overtime. The bill for that case has grown by at least $12 million while the state appeals.

Former Attorney General Josh Hawley in 2017 began reporting a monthly tally of how much the state pays in legal expenses to people who have sued the state in an effort to be more transparent with taxpayers.

The Attorney General's report says the state could be liable for as much as $462 million due to contested demands against the Legal Expense Fund, but the amount would be much lower if the state wins the cases.