Supreme Court set right tone for cases

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 9, 2005

We agree with the Mississippi circuit court judges in several counties who are ordering plaintiffs in asbestos suits to show they live in the state or were injured by exposure to asbestos somewhere in the state.

The judges’ actions are in response to an August ruling by the state Supreme Court on an asbestos case in Bolivar County.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard has told about 8,000 plaintiffs in his court they have about three weeks to give him their addresses and the sites where they were injured by asbestos.

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Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis has told about 4,000 plaintiffs in that court that their cases will be thrown out if they cannot prove state residency or an in-state location of injury.

Circuit Judge Winston Kidd has given the same kind of order to about 1,300 plaintiffs in a Hinds County court but has given them 225 days to submit their information.

The Supreme Court justices said cases should be dismissed if plaintiffs cannot provide the necessary proof and, in addition, that those cases involving Mississippians should be scheduled separately, one case at a time, and should be heard in counties where the injuries took place.

Many thousands of cases have been filed throughout the state. Some attorneys estimate half of the plaintiffs may be from out of state.

The stories about asbestos law suits in Mississippi will continue to evolve.

Asbestos was used widely in construction and other industries for years and later found to have been harmful to the lungs. Those who have been left with serious illnesses as a result of working with asbestos should be compensated for any handicap or loss of livelihood because of it.

However, we believe the Supreme Court set the right tone for handling the cases now in these various courts. The grouping together of people whose claims are not related has no place in the courts of a state that has begun with recent laws to make some progress toward judicial reform.