The Reality Of Tort Reform | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Reality Of Tort Reform

Photos by Darren Schwindaman and Roy Adkins

On Aug. 31, 1999, 73-year-old McComb obstetrician Edsel Stewart signed a pack of Prudential Life Insurance papers that he believed gave him a million dollars worth of life insurance for his family for $105,000 a year. Getting insurance at that age was no easy feat, and Stewart counted himself lucky for nabbing a "Select Preferred Class H Rating" with Prudential.

Prudential looked over Stewart's health history, his ability to pay an egregious amount of money for the policy, and sent agent James Bateman to Stewart's house with a contract.

Stewart's son, Larry, said his father forked over an initial premium of $20,000 to Bateman and signed the slew of documents, which would appear as evidence later in court. One of the final documents he signed on Aug. 31, 1999, was a statement stating in bold letters: "I believe this contract meets my insurance needs and financial objectives."

God's got a rancid sense of humor. Stewart had a stroke the very next day—Sept. 1. He spent the next month and a half in a coma, and then he died.

Stewart's family said he had signed the documentation and turned over his cash, fair and square. He was in perfect health the day of his signing. Prudential had given Stewart a full health analysis before even handing him the papers to sign, and Stewart had definitely signed them. Nevertheless, the insurance company put up a fight.

Prudential argued the $20,000 payment was no premium, that Stewart handed over the money merely to pay Bateman to put Stewart's estate in order—though nothing in the paperwork alludes to this and Bateman had no license to do such a thing. Prudential also argued that somehow the policy wasn't finalized, and that the beneficiary, Stewart's son, had to sign and approve a "Supplement to the Application" form, which the company refused to offer upon hearing of Dr. Stewart's comatose state.

Then the company argued that the $105,000 policy Bateman brought Stewart was not the actual policy, but a counter offer, based solely on the argument that Bateman also had a $100,000 offer floating around in his briefcase at the time of Stewart's Aug. 31 signature. It did not matter that the figure $105,000 was written down almost 30 times in the stack of papers upon which Stewart had planted his signature.

On Feb, 28, 2006, a Hinds County jury, after seeing all the evidence from both sides, decided that Prudential was being a bad little insurance company and hit them with the $36.4 million jury award—approximately .5 percent of Prudential's net worth, for breach of contract.

No Jury Needed
Prudential appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court judges, aside from Justices James Graves Jr. and Oliver Diaz Jr., sucked down Prudential's argument like a plate of warm peach cobbler.

The court disagreed with the jury, arguing that the "evidence does not sufficiently support the establishment of the requisites of offer, acceptance and consideration," that constitutes a solid policy.

On Oct, 2, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the case in a 6-2 decision, not only reversing a $36.4 million jury award against the company in Hinds County Circuit Court, but ruling in favor of Prudential, forcing the estate of Dr. Edsel Stewert to pay Prudential's court cost for daring to sue them.

The court accepted Prudential's claim that the Bateman's paperwork amounted to a counter offer, which Stewart had been unable to finalize "since he was in a coma." The court also swallowed Prudential's argument against the $20,000 being a premium payment. Bateman testified that the check went to his company, JMB Financial Group, "for two years of estate planning" for Stewart, even though Alston said Prudential "didn't have one scrap of paper in cross examination to show that he was doing this for estate planning."

Graves and Diaz dissented, arguing in their own opinion that "…The jury heard all of the evidence from both parties and decided that a contract existed," that Prudential "makes no argument that substantial evidence in support of its defense was not heard by the jury," and that that "sufficient evidence" was presented to support the jury's finding that a contract existed.

The Stewart family's options are tiny now. Alston is filing a Motion for Re-hearing in Prudential Insurance Company of America and Pruco Life Insurance Company v. Co-executors of the estate of Edsel Stuart, but the motion has no choice but to head back to the same court that reversed the jury's decision in the first place.

Alston said this was the most painful motion for re-hearing he had ever written, but he said it was the most painful, because it is a frantic appeal against a looming behemoth of judicial change that could herald the death of the jury system in Mississippi.

The Supreme Court has a habit of overturning jury awards in Mississippi. Sometimes bad evidence gets into the case, or the jury gets improper instructions, and lawyers always get furious. This issue was different, though. This time, there was no getting around it: The Supreme Court had supplanted almost two weeks of deliberation from a Hinds County jury because seven of the nine justices disagreed with it.

Alston says he is filing the motion for no less reason than "to protect our public from the nullification of the jury system as we know it."

"My sadness," Alston wrote, "stems from the opinion here rendered by this court that is so basically wrong on both the facts and the law and which completely abrogates findings of jurors solemnly made on contested facts, which I have long believed and taught to be sacrosanct."

Stewart's family has invested almost $100,000 in court costs so far, and must now pay for Prudential's court costs as well, thanks to the reversal of the decision. Prudential's home office did not return calls.

For Alston, the momentous question is the precedent the decision sets.

"The jury made a unanimous decision to side against Prudential, and they heard all the facts, and the Supreme Court just decided to substitute what they had in their mind for the opinion of the jury. Otherwise, why have juries, if all you have to do is overturn them? Why doesn't each side write a brief, and send it up to Supreme Court, let them just pull up a card and decide which one they want to side with? It would save Mississippi millions of dollars."

Alston's frustration is not limited to just him. Other attorneys are viewing this development as one of the most glaring examples of the Mississippi Supreme Court's transformation into a de facto tool for big industry.

Lawyers say the Mississippi Supreme Court has become one of the most anti-plaintiff courts in the nation, particularly over the last two decades, as the pro-business lobby manages to replace reasonably progressive judges with their own. The business lobby dedicates huge expenditures to judicial campaigns at every election.

Jackson Free Press columnist James L. Dickerson pointed out in his Oct. 18 column "How Much Justice Can You Afford?" that Mississippi secretary of state records reveal hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to justices' campaigns from the big business that often find themselves before them in court.

Justice William Waller Jr. took in about $300,000 in 2004 from insurance companies, physicians and Prudential business partner American Bankers Insurance. Dickerson reported that Chief Justice Jim Smith took in around $300,000 from similar anti-regulation sources, as did Justices George Carlson and Mike Randolph.

"Not only do I think it's undeniable that the Supreme Court has swung away from plaintiffs, I think a majority of the present members would be pleased by that perception," said Mississippi College School of Law professor Matt Steffey. "I believe a majority of the present judiciary feels that the court was too pro-plaintiff in the past, and should rightfully swing in this different direction."

A Political War
It's not all about supporting your allies in the race for the death of regulation. There's a fair amount of chewing up the other team as well. During the past two years, the threat of legal persecution has been a factor for any judge or attorney still adopting a pro-regulation stance in the courtroom.

In 2003, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton charged Supreme Court Judge Oliver Diaz, along with attorney Paul Minor, of bribery and mail fraud. Diaz allegedly took loans from Minor in return for leverage in a libel case against Minor's father, columnist Bill Minor, a loud progressive voice and one of the first pro-desegregation voices in the state media. A jury acquitted Diaz in 2005, but then Lampton went after Diaz for tax evasion. A jury likewise found those charges insufficient, and cleared the judge a second time, though the trial removed his input from some cases.

Diaz, a former Republican, is an outspoken supporter of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Minor, another big Dem contributor, did not get off as lucky. A U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi jury convicted Minor of using contributions and loans to influence judicial decisions. He is now serving an 11-year sentence.

Two U.S. House Judiciary sub-committees started probing the convictions last week, airing complaints that the Diaz and Minor prosecutions were part of a greater witch-hunt launched against Democrats as part of a united effort by the Bush administration and U.S. attorneys to undercut Democrat funding in some states.

"The public must learn the full extent to which the Justice Department has been transformed into a political arm of the Bush administration," Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif, told the Associated Press.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said the two cases are evidence of politically motivated prosecutions, questioning why an FBI agent who investigated Diaz and Minor was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after questioning why Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs had not been prosecuted for lending Diaz money in the same manner as Minor.

Scruggs is the brother-in-law of GOP Sen. Trent Lott, and contributes to both Republicans and Democrats. Diaz and Minor say Lampton treated Scruggs differently.

"Scruggs was not prosecuted, although he did the same thing which I was convicted of," Minor said in an Oct. 22 letter to House Committee members.

"Scruggs, however, had contributed $250,000 to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and GOP in 2002. … In other words, when the Republican led Justice Department looks at my contributions to Democrats, they see fraud. When they look at Scruggs' donations to Republicans, they see no crime at all."

Minor added that the indictments remained inconsistent regarding other, more conservative, judges who had received loan guarantees from Minor.

"[F]ormer Chief Justice Ed Pittman, who was a sitting Mississippi Supreme Court justice in 2000 was the beneficiary of a loan guarantee from me. Justice Pittman, was not indicted, but Justice Diaz was. Justice Pittman, however, was pro-tort reform. Justice Diaz was perceived by the Bush Justice Department as anti-tort reform," Minor wrote.

Steffey said he was never able to convey to his students Diaz' wrongdoing during the trial.

"I thought the case against Diaz should have never been brought and that they were ill-founded," Steffey said. "They had no evidence of any cases he'd altered. I understand the prosecutors' theory, but when asked to point to an act that was unlawful, I was never able to do it. They say he was being bribed, but then when you ask what their evidence was, they didn't have much of anything to offer."

The transformation of the courts is only one part of a greater effort by anti-regulation forces to alter the mindset of Mississippi's voting population.

Beginning of the End
The stock market tanked in 2001. Insurance companies, which had been able to offer unnaturally low rates to customers thanks to heavy market investments, took a screaming whack on their backsides. St. Paul, one of the biggest medical insurance carriers in the nation, led the pack in terms of market investment. But they dropped into a hole at the end of the millennium. The company jettisoned its malpractice coverage line in 2001 and reported a $980 million loss that same year.

Medical malpractice companies, driven to follow St. Paul's lead during to keep down their own prices, had been investing their surpluses into bonds in the 1990s. But bonds are still stocks, and when interest rates fell at the end of the decade, the companies had to take their losses out on somebody, and it wasn't going to be them.

"What they did was they raised their rates rather dramatically," said J. Robert Hunter, director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, in Washington, D.C.

Anti-regulation associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saw a new weapon, in the form of falling numbers and spiking insurance rates, drop abruptly into their arsenal.

It was time to go after those pesky trial lawyers who dared to sue companies, and then donate money to Democrats.

The chamber announced a campaign against Mississippi's legal system in 2002, spending $100,000 on ads in the state's newspapers to plead its case for "common-sense" legal reforms. That year, the chamber urged Mississippi to reform its "flawed legal system." It also went on the attack, releasing verbose press statements warning companies not to do business in Mississippi, citing "significant risks its members and all companies face," because of a wild horse legal system targeting out-of-state businesses "with frivolous lawsuits and outrageous verdicts."

The Institute for Legal Reform, another division of the chamber, followed up the chamber's effort with an intense get-out-the-vote program geared toward promoting pro-tort reform candidates in Mississippi.

Pro-regulation groups like Public Citizen argued in vain that businesses were the principal plaintiffs choking the courts. American companies actually do a lively business in the national court system, both then and now. Unlike American taxpayers, who usually have no spare change to give to lawyers, companies have both the resources and the wherewithal to push for alleged infringements.

A Public Citizen survey of case filings in both Arkansas and Mississippi during the height of tort reform in the 1990s showed that businesses filed "four times as many lawsuits as do individuals represented by trial attorneys."

The wave of corporate enabling crushed most debate, however. Anti-regulation lawmakers, like Sen. Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, waved the chamber press releases like blood-drenched letters from God. Under the direction of Ross and his corporate backers, the state passed a significant bill in 2002, which then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed.

Mississippi House Bill 2 provided liability immunity to government employees, UMC doctors and members of the Veterans' Affairs Board, as well as immunity for health care providers working at schools and for physicians who volunteer medical services. It also reduced the statute of limitations for actions against nursing homes to two years and required 60 days' notice of any lawsuit against nursing homes, making suits for Grandma's bruises and bedsores harder to come by.

Its biggest change, by far, was limiting non-economic damages to $500,000 until 2011 and $1 million after July 1, 2017.

The Washington Lobbyist
Then came newly elected Gov. Haley Barbour.

Barbour was born of the anti-regulation response to the flurry of environment and consumer protection laws passed by Congress during the height of its progressive movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. Laws like the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as well as the creation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other government agencies, terrified the pro-industry lobby. The damn hippies and Ralph Nader, obviously, were imposing their rancid liberal beliefs upon the government.

Barbour's lobbying company Barbour, Griffith & Rogers catered to the anti-regulation lobby, forging convenient ties between it and the emerging Republican presence in Washington. Barbour carried his philosophy with him onto the Mississippi campaign trail, riding into the governor's office on a platform of ending lawsuit abuse in the last gubernatorial election.

In 2004, under his governorship, the state Legislature passed House Bill 13, the Tort Reform Act of 2004. That bill fossilized the $500,000 cap on pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice cases and placed a $1 million cap on such damages in all other cases. HB 13 also eradicated some liability to sellers and retailers.

Anti-regulation bulldogs, like The Wall Street Journal, labeled the new laws nothing less than a triumph. Insurance companies, which had made very timely statements threatening to withhold some versions of insurance in Mississippi during the height of the tort reform battle, suddenly turned sweet and rosy and returned coverage to various policies in the state.

Insurance rates have dropped in some regard, though doctors have not seemingly transferred those savings onto consumers just yet. Mississippi Assurance Company of Mississippi, which writes about 70 percent of the state's medical malpractice insurance, reported some falling rates.

"In September, our board decided to reduce our annual rates by 10 percent across the board for 2007," Hope said. "The year before that we reduced it 5 percent for 2006. In 2005, we held rates level for the first time in a long time."

Hunter told the Jackson Free Press that he attributes the company's generosity more to the market than tort reform. "Right now we're in a soft market. Rates have dropped double digits over the last few years, and it had nothing to do with tort reform," Hunter said.

Even a congressional report requested by tort-reform bulldogs deflated some of the most rabid U.S. Chamber of Commerce accusations regarding runaway justice and the medical field.

A 2003 Government Accountability Office report, "Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care," took a candid look at three "crisis" states, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. After checking up on reports of doctors fleeing these problem states, the GAO information not only dashed claims of doctors swarming out of the problem states, but also eviscerated the Chamber of Commerce's reasons for the alleged emigration.

"Although some reports have received extensive media coverage, in each of the five states we found that actual numbers of physician departures were sometimes inaccurate or involved relatively few physicians," the GAO reported.

The GAO catalogued higher insurance premiums among some doctors' concerns, but attributed the reasons behind the rising premiums to "interest rates (falling) on the bonds that generally make up around 80 percent of these insurers' investment portfolios."

The GAO also pointed out poor media coverage in tort-reform battleground states, including Mississippi, that left voters ignorant about the facts around the issue.

Getting Away with Murder
Gulf Coast attorney David Pitre said the damage caps come with one hell of a dark side. If your surgeon mistakes his lunch bag for a donor lung during your operation, you'd best be crapping balogna sandwiches before trying to sequester a jury. Getting compensation for any screw-up, no matter how obvious, is no easy fight in Mississippi these days.

"All this anti-attorney rhetoric everywhere has tainted the jury pool against plaintiffs. Trying a case has certainly gotten harder. Also, the cost to prosecute these cases is so expensive. An attorney can easily spend $50,000 to $100,000 on these cases. When you put an arbitrary limitation on the damages, there's a great economic disincentive involved," Pitre said. "If you don't have catastrophic injury or death, then its difficult to find an attorney who is willing to spend the large amount of money it takes to try a medical malpractice case."

Even with Pitre's "economic incentive" intact, with a virtual human artichoke lying on a stretcher, the plaintiff could still ultimately have to turn to government funding to sustain herself in her final years. Malpractice suits can encompass some of the most costly tolls to quality of life, from blindness, to brain damage. Some of the resulting injuries can require a lifetime of intensive care, running thousands of dollars a year. A $500,000 maximum jury award, after attorney fees and court costs, is a mockery to a person sucking sustenance from an $50,000 machine for the rest of their life.

Sen. Ross argued that the benefits of reform were obvious during his failed campaign for lieutenant governor.

"Lawsuits against doctors are down 90 percent, and the reports I'm receiving say doctors no longer feel they need to practice defensive medicine because of a fear of liability," Ross said.

Man, is he ever right. In fact, anti-regulation proponents can now seek solace in the fact that Mississippi now ranks at the bottom in terms of disciplining doctors.

Public Citizen released a June report revealing that out of every 1,000 physicians in the state, only 1.41 percent received any serious disciplinary action, such as license revocation, probation, suspension or surrender.

Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said his organization had never witnessed such an appalling drop.

"Mississippi is the only board in the country, in the 25 years we've been doing this, that has gone from first in the nation—in 1995, 1996, and 1997 in our rankings—to worst. This is unprecedented. In 2006, there were seven disciplinary actions. … The rate for your state is now 1.41 disciplinary actions. In 1997 it was 11.56, essentially eight times higher. … We have never seen that before."

In September, the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure reprimanded two state doctors, Kevin Cooper and Glynn Hilbun, for putting their signatures on 700 silicosis claims when they had not actually made any diagnosis. The board did not demand their license for enabling a mass product liability lawsuit—not even a suspension—and both doctors are free to work in the state even now. The issue would not have even gone public were it not for the well-publicized Texas trial, since the board hides such actions from public view.

Wolfe said he doubted the state board's drop in disciplinary action had much to do with Mississippi doctors' glowing talent.

"It is highly unlikely that this has anything to do with the quality of doctors in the state. It has to do with the dysfunction of the medical board. Something radical happened since 1997. It was first in '95, '96, and '97. It was third in '98, eight in '99, 13th in 2000 and its been downhill ever since," Wolfe said, attributing the malfunction to either medical board funding, a change in directors or interference by the state medical associations.

The Brave New World
Now that the initial tort-reform dust has settled, anti-regulation proponents like Barbour argue that the improvements to the state's health industry have been dramatic.

Doctors, they claim, were now returning to the state after spending the latter part of the last century abandoning it to runaway lawsuit abuse and "jackpot justice."

But information from the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure and the American Medical Association indicates that the number of physicians licensed through the board were on a slow climb up, both now and then—even during the worst of purported court-room abuse.

The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure shows new physicians got licensed by an average of 150 new permits every year between the years of 1996 and 2006.

Despite "improvements" claimed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its clone organization, the Institute for Legal Reform, the same groups still complain that Mississippi still hits almost rock bottom in terms of its lawsuit climate.

Delaware has retained the top spot for the entire six-year run of the ILR/Harris survey cataloging lawsuit climates. Minnesota, Iowa, Maine and Nebraska are other top spots. West Virginia ranked in last place for the second year in a row, but Mississippi, after many painful rounds of lawsuit reform, sits only one spot above West Virginia, and shares the low rung with other bottom-feeders like Louisiana, Alabama and Illinois.

Some changes have definitely come around since the courts altered their policing role for consumer-protection policies, however. The state's health industry is sinking down the tubes, according to some sources.

Last month, information from the American Medical Association ranked Mississippi as last on the U.S. Health System's Performance National Scorecard.

Mississippi and Oklahoma were the only two states that were ranked in the bottom quartile in all five dimensions measured: access, quality, avoidable hospital use and costs, equity, and healthy lives.

AMA information also ranks the state 50th in mortality amendable to health care, and 49th in infant mortality.

The lack of medical oversight is also showing up in outpatient care, where 35 percent of Mississippians are getting inappropriate timing of antibiotics to prevent infections, incubating a breeding ground for antibiotic tolerant super bugs. The same Public Citizen report shows more than half of heart failure patients, 55 percent, were not given written instructions at the time of their discharge.

Pitre noted the irony of one of the people getting stiffed in the Prudential lawsuit. Beneficiary Larry Stewart, a doctor, was a member of a group that marched on the State Capitol in droves in 2004, flooding the halls with white lab coats and demanding tort reform.

"Tort reform is an equal opportunity arrow through the heart of anyone who suffers a loss," Pitre said.

"They say that during Katrina there was a disproportionate amount of tort reform advocates who suffered. Many people in houses on the Coast and who live near the water had a higher standard of living, and for them to find out that tort reform applies to them must have been shocking."

The issue of anti-regulation versus pro-regulation is not a dead topic in Mississippi. This year's elections are rife with campaign materials labeling a candidate as a hero of tort reform or a champion for consumer's rights.

The race for lieutenant governor is one such contest. Republican Phil Bryant has gone out of his way to tie himself to the hyper-pro-reform Barbour.

Bryant commends Barbour at every possible press event, and sought to alienate "those trial lawyers" during at least one campaign forum, where Bryant accused them of ruining the court system, "until we got tort reform."

His Democratic opponent Jamie Franks, however, is campaigning hard on the argument that the state should follow up tort reform with some form of insurance reform to guarantee that consumers see a drop in insurance rates.

Franks had attempted to marry the Legislature's 2004 tort-reform bill language limiting insurance rates, though the Barbour-dominated Senate removed the language.

"We've got tort reform. We've done that, but now we need to see that reform reflected in more affordable insurance," Franks told the JFP. "We gave them what they wanted. Now it's our turn."

Other states are still tweaking recent tort reform endeavors.

In 2006, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a tort-reform law born during the Oklahoma reform upheaval. The court tossed a state law requiring anyone filing a malpractice lawsuit to obtain an affidavit from a medical expert asserting that the case has merit, on the basis that the affidavit was required for medical malpractice cases only.

The court ruled the Legislature had created a "special law" that arbitrarily singled out a class for special treatment. The court also ruled that the law created a barrier to the courts for the poor, who cannot afford to obtain the affidavits as a requirement for filing. Such affidavits may cost $500 to $5,000 to obtain, the court found.

Mississippi, which has no Supreme Court willing to scrutinize impacts on plaintiffs, may take a little longer.

"The (Mississippi) Supreme Court is a damn mess," said one Jackson attorney, who chose to remain anonymous because of his interaction with the court. "The place is bought, and I don't see it going consumer friendly anytime again soon."

Previous Comments

ID
82105
Comment

Rather one sided article in that only one quote is attributed to MACM and this "Hope" person doesn't have a first name. Who is he and what does he have to do with MACM? While there are quotes attributable to plaintiffs attorneys, there doesn't appear to be any by defense lawyers, I think the public should hear a balanced view. Finally, while "tort reform" is something that has changed our state's legal system, there are real differences in the law for some entities-medical tort reform was needed since for the most part, in Mississippi, most doctors work in a small business environment, and this bill did help them. It should also be noted that while a cap was placed on punitive damages, their is not a cap on actual patient damages (loss of income, medical expenses, etc.)

Author
GLewis
Date
2007-11-01T12:37:21-06:00
ID
82106
Comment

GLewis, this story is not about lining up quotes to cancel each other out. It's about laying out facts that have been ignored and not reported for years in this state, including those from nonpartisan organizations like the Government Accountability Office. It is balanced because it is based on real research and the truth, not rhetoric, which is what the rest of the media have trotted out on this issue.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-11-01T12:52:04-06:00
ID
82107
Comment

Tort Reform helps negligent doctors but, does absolutely nothing for the victims of negligence. Barbour told a big lie about doctors leaving the state at such an alarming rate. In any profession, there will be movement. The problem with MD's in MS is that most want to practice in progressive cities/towns and to have a chance at pulling in the big bucks. I'm sorry but if you make an error that screws up a person's life, you should be held responsible and a cap of $250.000 will in no way take care of a person who requires permanant assistance throughout a life span. There seems to be a strong correlation between tort reform and the people who were filing law suites. As long as the money was being awarded to people within a certain "class" it was business as usual.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-11-01T13:00:40-06:00
ID
82108
Comment

How many disbarments and other disciplinary actions occur in MS? EP

Author
**Previously Banned Member**
Date
2007-11-01T14:11:17-06:00
ID
82109
Comment

Disbarment of lawyers is pretty rare here and in other states. Where it's most commonly seen is when the lawyer uses his/her client's funds for personal use. In other words, theft. Felonies will also get you disbarred (i.e. the lawyer involved in the drive-by shooting in Ridgeland a few years ago). But as I said, it's rare. The MS Lawyer monthly magazine publishes all disbarments, sanctions, and reprimands, and honestly, I don't recall seeing much in there lately.

Author
Tanner
Date
2007-11-01T15:13:49-06:00
ID
82110
Comment

Folks, there are so many scams and lies around the GOP's "tort reform" scam that it's horrifying. Back in 2003, we warned and specified the ways that Mississippians (uncluding the media and doctors) were getting "Hoodwinked" by the U.S. Chamber campaign. Check that out, too. And keep an eye out for our next issue.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-11-01T15:18:14-06:00
ID
82111
Comment

Justjess, jury awards aren't limited to 500K. If the "actual damages" are say 3 million, then the jury can tack on an extra 500k if they wish as punitive damages, with the total award being 3.5 million. Negligent doctors aren't the only ones being helped, since the tort reforms came into play malpractise insurance rates have leveled out and dropped a bit depending on specialty. Negligent docs are gonna be weeded out in any event-obtaining insurance is impossible if you have a lot of claims. And for those who say no docs left the state, I can name several who did earlier in the decade-mostly surgeons. The assertion that doctors make more money in the larger cities is false as well, your income basically depends on patient population and your specialty and a whole host of other variables.

Author
GLewis
Date
2007-11-01T15:57:56-06:00
ID
82112
Comment

Tort reform is just a scheme concocted to shield corporations from any accountability because of wrongdoings committed. In order to get people to support it, supporters will use examples of frivolous lawsuits, like the man who sued a dry cleaning business for $65M over his missing pants or the Wisconsin man who sued his cable TV carrier for making his wife fat and his kids lazy, and make it seem as if suing people is all everyone is doing in America in order to make a quick buck. There is no doubt that some people are using the system to align their own pockets by filing frivolous lawsuits, but the real tragedy is that the corporations have been emboldened to do what they want to do and not have to face any real repercussions when harming its consumers.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-11-01T16:06:25-06:00

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