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franklin county times

Denial: It's time to stop the greed'

By Staff
June 30, 2002
Pascagoula attorney Richard Scruggs, who has won a lifetime of riches suing American businesses, told a meeting of Mississippi editors and publishers last week that civil justice reform is a "false issue." He said tort reform is not a topic of discussion on the street corners of this state. He said lawyers have been "unfairly attacked and scapegoated" over it. He said he sees no conflict with three trial lawyers serving as the legislative committee chairmen who have slapped tort reform down every time it's come up lately.
Scruggs may be a brilliant attorney who can sway juries and opposition lawyers with emotional arguments. But he's in a state of denial if he really believes no one cares about tort reform. Maybe he should read more letters to the editor.
This issue affects every single business in Mississippi and the people who own them, manage them, buy products or services from them, work at them or one day hope to do any of the above. It affects health care providers and patients. It affects pregnant women in the Mississippi Delta whose health care options are severely limited because doctors are leaving the area because of the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. It affects victims of car wrecks or strokes who may not get the immediate access to the specialized care they may need because the state's once-vaunted trauma care system is falling apart. It affects nursing homes and leaves far too many senior citizens wondering what they will do if lawsuits shut down their primary care network.
The issue of civil justice reform also touches nurses, food service workers, physical therapists, custodians, manufacturers and their employees, truck drivers, construction workers and anyone who makes or sells a product that may become a target of a faulty system.
Tort reform affects economic development and the ability of Mississippians to get better paying jobs in order to better provide for their families.
The current battle for public opinion is not just between lawyers and doctors. The stakes are larger. At a forum sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association last week, it was not Scruggs but another attorney on the other side of the issue who said it best. Ron Aldridge, who represents more than 5,000 small businesses in Mississippi, summed it all up in five words:
We agree. It's time for members of the Mississippi Legislature to restore confidence in our civil justice system by adopting responsible limits on punitive damages and by ending the scurrilous practice among trial lawyers of shopping for favorable jurisdictions.
The concept of such limits is neither new nor unusual. Limits already exist in criminal law where violations carry maximum monetary fines and/or a maximum amount of time in jail. Limits already exist in tax law and traffic law. In fact, our legal world is full of limits in virtually every area except civil "justice." The Legislature should close the gaping loophole, if for no other reason, because "it's time to stop the greed."
This would be a good time to tell Scruggs and members of the state Legislature who are still in denial over tort reform that the issue does matter. This would be a good time to call your local lawmakers and tell them to support tort reform or, in next year's elections, you will vote for someone who will.