Lawyers’ group targets Lincoln County senator

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002

A Lincoln County lawmaker is among a handful of state senatorsbeing taken to task by a lawyers group for supporting tort reformlegislation.

Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was featured in a full-page adthat appeared in the Oct. 2 edition of the “Lawrence County Press”in Monticello. Her district includes Lawrence and Lincolncounties.

Using a case involving a child that suffered brain damage duringdelivery, the ad accuses the first-term senator of choosing”profits over people” by voting for a tort reform bill shortlyafter the Sept. 5 start of a legislative special session.

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“Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith believes profits are more importantthan people. She ought to be ashamed of herself,” the ad said.

Earlier this week, Hyde-Smith said she was preparing a responsefor the Lawrence County newspaper. She said a slight revision couldbe needed after Monday’s passage of compromise medical malpracticetort reform legislation.

“My response is if they can’t buy you, they buy ads againstyou,” Hyde-Smith said.

The ad was paid for by Lawyers Involved in Mississippi’sBetterment (LIMB), which is a political action committee for theMississippi Trial Lawyers Association, said David Baria,association president.

Baria said newspaper ads citing senators’ support of”anti-consumer legislation” were taken out in several otherdistricts. He mentioned Sen. Terry Burton, of Newton; Sen. VidetCarmichael, of Meridian; and Greenville Sen. Neely Carlton, who wasone of the Senate’s conferees on the tort reform bill.

“We want the voters in their districts to realize what thesesenators are up to,” Baria said.

Hyde-Smith said the ad was “pretty nasty” and called it anintimidation tactic.

“They’re coming after the ones putting up the fight,” Hyde-Smithsaid.

The medical malpractice bill put caps on non-economic awards forpain and suffering and addressed other medical-related issues.

The legislation was passed in response to doctors leaving thestate or stopping their practice because of the inability to getmalpractice insurance coverage at reasonable rates. Hyde-Smith saidthe legislation was important because of health care accessconcerns for citizens.

She said she had “no doubt” the advertisements would continueand would be a campaign issue next year.

“They will not forget this thing,” Hyde-Smith said. “I fullyexpect more of it.”

Hyde-Smith said the political shots were part of the job andthat she understands the game of politics.

“You can’t worry about that. You have to do what’s right becauseit’s right,” Hyde-Smith said.

Baria said the association had nothing else planned, but thatcould change depending on activity during the expanded specialsession for lawmakers to deal with general civil justice tortreform. He said those who support anti-consumer legislation againcan expect something again.

“Any senator can expect we’re going to call them to the carpetif they vote for something that’s as anti-consumer, as was pointedout in that ad,” Baria said.

In addition to the medical case, the ad mentioned Hyde-Smith’ssupport of a bill that would have limited penalties against banksand loan companies involved in fraudulent practices. The ad saidthe state’s civil justice system would be there to protectcitizens, “unless Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith gets her way.”

Hyde-Smith was not deterred by the ad. She said she had receivedmore support after its publication, and she told Baria that afterMonday’s vote on the medical tort reform bill.

“It makes me more determined than ever,” Hyde-Smith said.