• 54°

Study adds fuel to ‘tort reform fire’

The state’s so-called “jackpot justice” system was back in thenews last week.

Mississippians for Economic Progress, one of the groups pushingtort reform in this state, released an economic study showingconsumers pay almost $80 million more for goods and servicesbecause of the state’s legal system.

The Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis groupbased in Waco, Texas, performed the study. It shows Mississippi islosing over 9,000 jobs a year because the state’s civil judicialsystem is “out of balance.”

The study found the highest award of punitive damages inMississippi before 1995 was $9 million. Since then, a jury inMississippi has awarded punitive damages as high as $2 billion.

According to the study, the current court system costs $192.7million more than it should because of a lack of tort reform. Thatcost will rise to $266.7 million in 2006 if tort reform is notestablished in Mississippi, the study says. The cost of goods andservices increases more in Mississippi because companies are tryingto cover money that could be lost in civil court cases.

Mississippi’s judicial system is casting a long, dark shadowover the entire state. Mississippians have worked hard to overcomethe stigma of this state’s past, which saw abuse of some of ourfellow citizens because of their race. Now, there seems to beanother form of bigotry at work here — one fueled by greed. Thisis fast becoming a state where businesses and physicians oftencan’t get a fair shake when they end up in court.

Mississippians for Economic Progress said the study was releasednow in hopes of keeping judicial reform a hot issue amonglawmakers, who refused to cap damage awards during therecently-completed session.

We hope it works. But, as long as some of the state’slawyer-legislators — including one who represents Lincoln County– are actively recruiting clients for possible big-money cases,we’re not betting on it.