In my own words… Lessons learned from Texas
Chip Reno is executive director of STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi.
By Chip Reno
Feb. 3, 2002
Civil justice reform is one of the hottest issues in the state right now. The state Legislature is gearing up to take on this issue, among many others, that directly affect the future of our state.
Last month, as newspapers regularly reported about medical malpractice insurance companies leaving the state and the woes of doctors in Mississippi, there were many who are affected from our out-of-balance civil justice system who went unnamed. Local farmers, cattlemen, small business owners, nursing home caregivers and even not-for-profit agencies feel the pinch of escalating numbers of lawsuits and wild jury verdicts in Mississippi.
STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi has done its homework and found that Texas faced this same crisis and was able to do something about it.
The state of Texas endured several years of similar abuses in their legal system that impacted their business community as well as clogged their courts before the Texas Legislature enacted laws to reform their out-of-control legal system. Doesn't that sound familiar?
In 1995, the Texas Legislature curtailed frivolous lawsuits, excessive punitive damage awards, and "venue shopping" where lawyers try to find the best courts to be able to maximize their jury awards by enacting several tort reform measures into law.
These reforms have saved the citizens of the state over $2.9 billion in insurance premiums from 1996 to 2000. For example, lower rates on auto insurance premiums helped save Texas drivers over $1 billion while reductions in liability insurance rates saved $1 billion for Texas businesses. Texas doctors and their patients got relief as medical malpractice rates were reduced by over $217 million since these laws were enacted.
The former Commissioner of Insurance in Texas, Jose Montemayor, said it best when he said, "Pure and simple, tort reform legislation has created a tremendous savings for Texans." How much clearer does the message need to be for the Mississippi Legislature to take action?
This is proof positive that civil justice reform can relieve the strain on Mississippians and our court system. But don't take my word for it. Anyone who has access to the Internet, either at home or through a local library or community center, can find an articulate analysis of Texas' tort reform efforts and the multi-billion dollar decreases in insurance premiums that are being enjoyed by every citizen of the state: www.tdi.state.tx.us/commish/nr10019a.html
More than six years ago, Texas demonstrated how legal reforms can directly result in savings for the average citizen. Indirectly, Texas has shipped special interest lawyers out of their state and into Mississippi by addressing the type of legal loopholes that still exist in Mississippi courts today. As long as our Legislature allows this to continue, Mississippi, our court system and the health of our citizens and economy remains at risk.
As a group of concerned citizens, we ask the Mississippi Legislature to follow Texas' lead and pass serious legal reform that will help revitalize our economy by making Mississippi more attractive to new businesses, put money back in the hands of the people of our state through lower premiums, and return our courts to their rightful use.
Ask yourself … don't we, the people, deserve such real reforms from our state Legislature?