President sets stage for tort reform fight

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 12, 2002

MADISON CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL – “Dub Ya” drew a line in the sandWednesday morning. This line was not, however, for terroristorganizations. This line was for trial lawyers — not only inMississippi but across the nation — as he pounded and pounded themfor what he called the “the biggest obstacle to economicgrowth.”

The President was speaking to the choir of Republican faithful,as he received a standing ovation when he chided state and federallawmakers to do something about the litigation crisis in thecountry. Trial lawyers around the state cringed at the comments,because Bush brought to the forefront a critical issue here inMississippi — tort reform.

Trial lawyers were quick to counter the Bush attacks by sayingcitizens deserve the right to determine what compensation isadequate.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

There is no doubt that both sides of the tort reform issue havesome problems and a middle ground needs to be found. But thePresident is correct in his comments, because the current situationis hurting everyone — except the trial lawyers.

A point in fact is a story published in the Clarion-Ledger a fewweeks ago and commented on by the President regarding the decisionof a Rolling Fork pediatrician to leave Mississippi. Dr. KirkKooyer’s departure will leave one of the poorest areas of the Delta– Sharkey and Issaquena counties — without a pediatrician. Itwill also leave residents with only two doctors who can handleemergency calls at the local hospital.

One of the final straws that led to the decision by Dr. Kooyerwas a lawsuit filed against him by one of his patients. The patientadmitted that although the drug prescribed by Dr. Kooyer had neverharmed her, she thought she “might get a couple of thousanddollars” if she joined a class-action lawsuit. She complained toher attorney when she found out she had sued her doctor.

“I am kind of upset,” Hazel Norton of Rolling Fork said. “If werun off all the doctors, what are we, the people, gonna do?”

Ms. Norton was not the only one to look for some “jackpotjustice.” Dr. Kooyer had another patient who received a $125,000settlement after he refused to prescribe fen-phen for theoverweight patient because of possible side affects. The individualinstead went to Arkansas and found a doctor who would give her theprescription. She then sued. Still another fen-phen patient of hiscalled her settlement a blessing even though the drug did not harmher.

It is very hard to take seriously the comments of trial lawyersas they protect the rights of individuals from “irresponsible”physicians and “greedy insurance companies” when the fallacy of thesituation they are defending is shown in the situations listedabove.

President Bush was on the right track as he pounded and poundedtrial lawyers for their own abuse of the system. They are gettingrich while the rest of us suffer higher medical insurance premiumsand higher costs of consumer goods as businesses raise prices tocover their own insurance premium increases.

The Mississippi legislature has been meeting for months todiscuss the issue, and Governor Ronnie Musgrove has promised aspecial session to address tort reform. President Bush drew theline, so now it is time for our own Mississippi Legislature torespond.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602.