Does state advocacy for tort reform work?

By John K. Drake, MD

The results in Mississippi are encouraging
In the not-too-distant past, my home state of Mississippi had the repeat distinction of being ranked “worst in the nation” in the annual State Liability Systems Ranking Study produced by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. The American Tort Reform Association included several Mississippi counties and judicial districts in its annual “Judicial Hell Holes” report. Even the news program “60 Minutes” reported on the widespread abuses of the tort system in Mississippi.

Although physicians were disproportionately affected by this problematic judicial environment, the problem spread beyond the medical community. Out-of-state businesses were dragged into the “judicial hell holes” of Copiah, Jefferson, and Claiborne counties as plaintiffs’ lawyers began to recognize the potential for large monetary awards based on jury verdicts. As businesses fled the state, Mississippi led the nation in percentage of jobs lost from 1999 to 2001. The Mississippi Insurance Commissioner reported that 71 insurance companies stopped doing business in the state. Medical liability insurance became prohibitively expensive and essentially unavailable.

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