No longer a ‘hellhole,’ Miss. a model for lawsuit reform

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 20, 2004

Mississippi, long the poster child for states sorely in need oftort reform, has made strides in that arena. And it hasn’t goneunnoticed.

Last week, the Washington, D.C.-based American Tort ReformAssociation removed five Mississippi counties from its “judicialhellhole” list.

Copiah, Jefferson, Claiborne, Hinds and Humphreys counties madelast year’s list based on the association’s criteria for litigationabuse.

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But in the past two years Mississippi has adopted caps on mostjury awards, and the state’s high court has rejected severalhigh-dollar awards, sending a message to would-be plaintiffs andtheir lawyers.

It is refreshing that our lawmakers, governor and judges haverealized and acted on the need for tort reform. But they mustrealize they can never quit closely monitoring the state’s civiljustice system and clamping down on abuses where they exist.

President Bush is pushing for civil justice reform on a nationallevel, and anything that augments Mississippi’s efforts can onlystrengthen our state’s business climate.

Federal lawmakers should take a hint from our state officialsand begin a serious dialogue on the need for national tort reform,using Bush’s proposals as a springboard.

Mississippi may not yet be perfect, but after years of beinglabeled a “hellhole,” we’re not held up as a model for the rest ofthe country.

Now that’s progress.