Debunking the ‘fairy tales’ about tort laws

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

The war of words has begun. As another legislative session looms, the issue of tort reform in Mississippi has popped up again.

It seems as though each year prior to a new Legislature, modifying the state’s civil justice laws becomes a huge battleground.

With massive amounts of money at the heart of the debate, the stakes are enormous. Money abounds on both sides of the issue.

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The latest volley occurred Wednesday as members of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association spoke to a join legislative committee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the state’s insurance industry and the rising costs of insurance in the state.

Of course, the attorneys’ group denied all responsibility for the matter. Lance L. Stevens, a past president of the group, said rising premiums should not be blamed on lawyers.

Instead Stevens said the idea that Mississippi’s legal system needs reform is really caused by a perception issue, created by the media and “fairy tales and anecdotes.”

Fairy tales? Perhaps.

But the reality is more like a horror film. One has to look no further than our neighbor, Jefferson County. The county has developed a reputation as being a great place to earn incredibly large settlements.

And the reputation is nationwide.

“Involved in a lawsuit?” attorneys ask. “Bring it down to Jefferson County, and we’ll get you the cash you deserve.”

Regardless of what the trial lawyers may call it, that situation isn’t a fairy tale. It is reality.

And it is a reality in which everyone does not live happily ever after&160;- unless you’re an attorney or a client.

Tort reform is necessary, and it will save our state – and its residents – money. And that’s no fairy tale either.