Jurors expand suit over ’60 Minutes’

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

Oh, the irony. A billion-dollar lawsuit filed over a &uot;60 Minutes&uot; story about jackpot justice by former jurors in Jefferson County has grown to include a seeming conspiracy theory.

The lawsuit has been expanded to include Viacom and 3M &045; the former is the owner of CBS and the latter a manufacturing company with pending asbestos cases in Mississippi. As the lawsuit tells it,

the two companies were part of a plot to portray Mississippi as a haven for negligent lawsuits and high-dollar verdicts.

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The plaintiffs in the case, all former jurors whose names were not publicized until they filed the lawsuit, allege defamation of character.

They want $750 million in actual damages and $5.9 billion in punitive damages. Talk about high-dollar verdicts.

Even if this case never comes to trial, it’s already generated more publicity &045; in mainstream and alternative media &045; than the &uot;60 Minutes&uot; piece, which was a somewhat thoughtful, if shallow, examination of Mississippi’s problems with frivolous lawsuits.

The state Legislature, after much prompting from the business community and from doctors, finally passed tort reform legislation this year. We have our fingers crossed that it will be successful &045; and will survive the inevitable legal challenges. Perhaps the legislation will help a state which is losing doctors to high insurance costs and losing its reputation after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned companies not to move here.

In any case, this lawsuit can’t help the state’s image.

A cursory Internet search for stories about the jurors’ suit reveal that the information shows up on sites that vary from CNN.com to something that bills itself as &uot;Uncle Stupid.&uot;

And the &uot;60 Minutes&uot; piece was damaging?