Clarion-Ledger Whining About ‘Tort Reform' ... Again | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Clarion-Ledger Whining About ‘Tort Reform' ... Again

Gov. Haley Barbour's media partner in "tort reform" is now whining about Mississippi's position on the U.S. Chamber's state legal climate ranking, now asking the question they should have asked long ago before taking this political propaganda as gospel: "Does this ranking really mean anything?" With all due respects, the Ledge was played as a bunch of dumbasses on the "tort reform" issue -- see the JFP's cover story, "Hoodwinked!" that explains how -- and maybe they'll start figuring it out sometime soon. Meantime, a snippet of today's edit-whine:

Despite adopting sweeping tort reform measures, Mississippi still lags near bottom in its legal climate affecting business, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, prompting the question: Does this ranking really mean anything? What happened to the chamber's praise for the state?

For a case study in how to break the power of the trial lawyer lobby, take a look at Mississippi, where this morning Governor Haley Barbour will sign into law one of the most comprehensive legal reform bills in the nation.This is no small achievement for a poor state that rarely appears on the top half of any list of economic measures. Only two years ago the U.S. Chamber of Commerce publicly warned members to stay out of the state until it had reformed its system of "jackpot justice." Doctors have fled or quit practicing, 71 insurance companies have pulled out, and a recent study by a local business group predicted the loss of 10,000 more jobs by 2009 without some legal reform.Then there's the Toyota plant that got away - and which helped clinch public support for the legislation. Mississippi lost a bid for an $800 million assembly plant because - as Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America, wrote Governor Barbour in April with sarariman-like understatement - "the litigation climate in Mississippi is unfavorable." He added that, "Reform of Mississippi's tort system would, in my opinion, substantially improve your business climate and improve the State's prospects in attracting new economic development." The new law, which takes effect September 1, caps pain-and-suffering awards in civil lawsuits at $1 million, and it reconfirms a $500,000 limit for medical malpractice awards that was enacted two years ago after a titanic legislative struggle. Punitive damages are capped on a sliding scale based on the net worth of the defendant. Most important is a provision limiting the venue shopping whereby out-of-state plaintiffs flocked to four Mississippi counties dubbed "judicial hellholes" by the American Tort Reform Association. Now lawsuits must be filed in the county where the plaintiff lives or the disputed act actually took place. The law reforms joint-and-several liability, also known as "deep-pocket" liability. Defendants will now pay only their share of the damages rather than also be responsible for the rest of the damages when impecunious defendants cannot pay. Last, there's a provision indemnifying retailers that unknowingly sell faulty products.

None of this could have come about if Mr. Barbour had not won election last November by promising to enact tort reform; he has also been effective in making the connection between reform and jobs. When the legislature recessed last month after failing to enact a bill, he immediately called a special session and kept everyone in Jackson until they had a law. The next challenge will come in November, when four of the nine state Supreme Court seats are up for grabs. Watch for tort lawyers to pour money into the state in support of judicial candidates who might be relied upon to find parts of the new tort law illegal under the state constitution.Meanwhile, the state's businesses are celebrating their climb up from the bottom. In a fitting grace note, the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform is running ads in the state today stating that "Mississippi is now open for business."

In its latest ranking, the chamber put Mississippi 48th among the 50 states, rising only two places, ahead of Louisiana and West Virginia, from previous years.

Of course, this is a big improvement from 2002, when business groups listed Mississippi as a "judicial hellhole."

But it falls far short of assurances by Gov. Haley Barbour that Mississippi should now be considered a leader.

For more background, also see:

Face-Off: The Battle for Tort Reform
Tort Reform: Let's Punt
Full Archive: JFP's Coverage of Tort Reform

Previous Comments

ID
105574
Comment

Sounds like the Ledger is'nt the only ones whining.

Author
ReadsomeKierkegaard
Date
2006-03-29T14:38:33-06:00
ID
105575
Comment

Criticizing their pitiful coverage of this issue and providing real facts and a trail of research is not whining, ReaK. Nice user name, by the way.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-03-29T14:48:54-06:00
ID
105576
Comment

Lots of former supporters of tort reform on the coast and elsewhere suddenly are against tort reform. Too bad Katrina came afterward. My tax lady who vehemently complained last year about tax breaks for the poor had a relative suffer a terrible accident. I bet she's not for tort reform now.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-03T14:52:06-06:00
ID
105577
Comment

Got an interesting book today...going to start reading it tonight. It's called.... "The Chain Gang: One Newspaper Versus the Gannett Empire" by Richard McCord.... maybe what's between the covers of this book is why a certain newspaper is preaching tort reform.

Author
thabian
Date
2006-04-04T17:01:57-06:00
ID
105578
Comment

Let us know what you learn.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-04T17:07:04-06:00
ID
105579
Comment

Hmmm, you start to wonder if the Clarion-Ledger is starting to understand the errors of its previous reporting: Mississippi ranked as the worst among the 50 states in disciplining doctors, according to an annual ranking of state medical reports by a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group. According to the state-by-state ranking released today, Public Citizen ranked Mississippi the worst and Kentucky the best. ... The three-year state disciplinary rates ranged from 1.62 serious actions per 1,000 physicians in Mississippi to 9.08 actions per 1,000 physicians in Kentucky, a 5.6-fold difference between the best and worst states. Overall, there were 3,255 serious disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards in 2005, down 1.2 percent from the 3,296 serious actions taken in 2004. Also, I see they're posting news past 4:59 p.m. on their Web site. I didn't think news happened if it's not between 8 and 5 over there.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-27T19:42:41-06:00

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