In my own words
Time to stand up for civil justice reform
By By Gene Triggs
Dec. 23, 2001
While our Legislature gazes into the medical services liability crisis this week with a joint committee hearing, we should remember that health care is only one of many ways lawsuits affect Mississippians.
In fact, I believe the most glaring symptom of our out-of-control legal system is the rush of out-of-state lawsuits appearing in Mississippi courtrooms.
As our courtrooms fill with out-of-state plaintiffs and their out-of-state personal injury lawyers, we sit around and ask ourselves why economic well-being seems to elude many Mississippians. As the old expression goes, "Asked and answered."
Lawsuits and their effects on Mississippians are tearing apart our economy and doing something about it should be our top priority. Many of us are beginning to realize that even when we are not personally involved in lawsuits, our jobs, our families' budgets and our health care can be directly affected by them.
A new coalition of unprecedented breadth is taking this issue head-on. Nearly 40 organizations representing small business owners, the health care community, large employers, not-for-profit organizations and other interested individuals have come together as Mississippians for Economic Progress in an attempt to fix Mississippi's broken civil justice system.
In recent years Mississippi has gained the national reputation as a "Lawsuit Mecca." The court system that was originally set up to provide justice to Mississippians who have been truly wronged is being subverted. Many from out-of-state, as well as some from in-state, profit by working the Mississippi "lawsuit lottery," while most of us end up paying the costs.
Lawsuits affect health care as well, as we are seeing highlighted with this hearing. Some doctors can no longer afford to pay for liability insurance, and some have opted either to move out-of-state or to stop providing crucial medical services, such as obstetrics. Fewer doctors means patients traveling further and paying more for medical care.
Mississippians for Economic Progress has taken the important first steps of banding together and providing information to the public on the lawsuit crisis. Just like the rest of us, they want to see Mississippians prosper, and they want to reform our civil justice system to its original purpose of dispensing justice to our own citizens not handing out jackpots to people from other states.
The formation of M.F.E.P. is a welcome, concrete approach to helping all Mississippians. It's time to restore fairness to our court system.
Gene Triggs is the former director of the Mississippi Agriculture &Industry Board, the predecessor to the Mississippi Development Authority, and a retired employee of Mississippi Chemical Company.