Meaningful results from tort reform panel unlikely

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Although the governor has called a special session on lawsuitreform, we have to wonder if will it be nothing more than a wasteof time. Judging from the makeup of the special joint committee setup last week to study civil justice, meaningful tort reform will beunlikely.

The joint legislative committee established by House Speaker TimFord, a lawyer, and Lt. Governor Amy Tuck, also a lawyer, isdominated by lawyers – 16 of the 26 legislators are from the legalprofession. Excuse the cliche, but it’s kind of like putting thefox in the hen house!

Why not balance the committee between both sides of theissue?

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Our own Rep. Bobby Moak, who is a trial lawyer, made the cut butinterestingly enough Rep. Jim Barnett of Brookhaven, who is aretired physician, did not make the cut. One would have to suspectthat since Barnett has been outspoken on the need for tort reform,there were those who preferred he not have a platform to speak.

One retired physician, Rep. Chester Masterson, R-Vicksburg, didmake the committee. We just wonder why two physicians – the onlytwo in the entire legislature – were not included. Not to singleout Rep. Moak, but drop an attorney and add a doctor. It’s a fairlysimple equation that would not solve the problem but would have aleast looked like an attempt at fairness.

And not to cast questionable motive at our members of the Houseand Senate who happen to also be lawyers, but the fact is that allefforts for years to correct the tort reform issue have died incommittee before bills could not get to the floor of either house.Blocked by committee members who have created a cottage industryout of suing doctors, insurance companies, banks and otherbusinesses over the smallest of issues.

We hope we are wrong, but history shows that anything meaningfulin the form of tort reform from this committee is unlikely -meanwhile the crisis will only get worse.