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State must clean up this civil court mess

It has been a hot button issue for a number of years, but with alegislature filled with members and supporters of the MississippiTrial Lawyers Association, tort reform legislation often ends uppigeon-holed to the frustration of the insurance, medical andbusiness community.

A pocketbook issue for plaintiff attorneys, the fury of lawyersjumping on the bandwagon in the past year — hoping to snap up apiece of the litigation pie — has swelled so in Mississippi thatit has brought the state to a crisis.

As one local individual put it during a meeting with stateeconomic development officials here this week, “it’s anun-development” issue that is hurting Mississippi’s economicdevelopment efforts.

Just this week another insurance company was added to the listof those leaving the state when it announced plans to pull out ofMississippi. The announcement leaves many doctors across the statewithout malpractice coverage.

In nearby Claiborne County, where plaintiff suits have become acottage industry, some businesses have begun refusing to makedeliveries out of fear of what they call “accident traps” — aprocess we are told where one purposely causes a fender bender inhopes of getting a quick insurance settlement. In the Delta, manyphysicians are simply getting out of the baby deliveringbusiness.

To a growing segment of our population, litigation is the answerto easy financial success. Encouraged by the barrage of “One call,that’s all” television commercials and newspaper ads with theirpromises, “that it will cost you nothing to protect your rights,”suing has become a Mississippi pastime and an economic boon forplaintiff attorneys.

The conventional wisdom to this group seems to be that bigcompanies have big bucks, and a few million here and a few millionthere will not hurt them. Unfortunately, that is not the case.Those multi-million dollar verdicts have to be paid by someone, andguess who that is — the consumer in the form of higher prices orreduces services.

Think those high verdicts do not cost you? Think again!

Several states surrounding Mississippi, tiring of the litigationabuse, have passed tort reform to limit punitive damages and capthe amount of jury awards. To the delight of opportunisticplaintiff attorneys in other parts of the country, Mississippi’sfailure to address the problem has made us a haven for them to plytheir trade.

The Mississippi Legislature needs to address the situation asthey go into session next month. Mississippi has a bright economicfuture, but slowly, one lawsuit at a time, we are forsaking it byrefusing to address tort reform.