Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Tort Reform in Mississippi

From an article in the Wall Street Journal...

The impasse in the legislature was broken when it came out on national television that plantiffs attorneys were bribing juries. In addition, several pro-trial lawyer judges, including a sitting Supreme Court justice, were defeated in the recent election.

It just goes to show that parasites who tax their host too much can find themselves put at a disadvantage.

...But last week the trial bar suffered a major defeat in Mississippi, and if reform can happen there it can happen anywhere.

The state legislature in Jackson voted to tighten rules on where cases can be tried, cap punitive damage awards, limit the state's joint-and-several liability rule so that companies with little blame can't be soaked as deep pockets, bar advertising by attorneys who aren't licensed to practice in Mississippi and slap a fine on the filing of frivolous lawsuits. That's not bad for government work, especially in a state renowned as the home of "jackpot justice."

...There are lessons here for national reform efforts. The prevailing view is that no reform can get past a 60-vote filibuster by Senate Democrats. But Mississippi proves that a long educational campaign, and a business and consumer movement that sticks together, can create the political climate for change. The battle won't be fast or easy, but the tort bar can be beaten.