Why aren’t more citizens concerned over tort reform?

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

What people do and their convictions is downright fascinating, as is why some people don’t care about certain things. For example, we have the precious privilege of voting in America, but voter turnout is often dreadfully low.

Lots of folks talk about Americans’ apathy and general lack of concern on a number of issues.

But, as a rule, Americans are infinitely passionate about certain beliefs and specific issues. The problem is simply that our beliefs are often so disparate that it is difficult to gauge overall concern.

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Tiny pockets of almost fanatical support exist for nearly every issue.

Look no further than items that have made headlines lately in our area.

A large group of Adams County residents joined forces to express their opposition to a proposed landfill expansion in Adams County. Those concerned citizens made a grassroots effort to lobby against the plan.

We’ve had similar groups rise up from the apathetic masses to express similar concerns over everything from proposed strip clubs to allegations of police brutality.

In each instance, their efforts raised the level of awareness of the community at large to new heights.

Oddly, Mississippi is making headlines in the national news with an issue which few residents seem overly concerned &045;&045; tort reform, or a reworking of Mississippi’s civil justice system.

The system, which allows unlimited non-economic damages, has business leaders worried. Perhaps the group causing the most stir about the issue has been the medical community.

Just last week three clinics in Southwest Mississippi were forced to close after a lack of affordable medical malpractice insurance. Such malpractice premiums have skyrocketed, sometimes several hundred percent.

Doctors blame this on the civil justice system. Their reasoning makes sense. It must be difficult for insurance companies to predict their losses when the system is completely wide open.

But what seems to be lost in the argument is that physicians are not the only people affected.

The civil justice system’s openness affects anyone who owns a business, works in a business or interacts with a business. Unless one lives beneath a rock and lives off the land, the civil justice system crisis affects all residents.

And that begs to ask the question: Where are the concerned citizens groups now?

It’s odd in a way. The most vocal groups have been some business groups and the medical community. But who else is pushing the issue?

It seems few people &045;&045; including our leaders &045;&045; are stepping up to the plate and helping blow the trumpets for tort reform.

Southwest Mississippi is among the first places where a lack of tort reform has begun affecting residents’ lives. Think about it. Aside for the temporary clinic closures, a number of physicians have already left the area. And the doctors who remain are struggling to get insurance coverage. How long will it be before other businesses and industries are facing the same problems?

Few issues stand the chance of affecting our community in such a complete and potentially destructive way as the civil justice crisis.

So what’s the solution?

Perhaps it is figuring out why people can become passionate about some issues and ignore others.

Kevin Cooper is editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3541 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.