Dale calls for fairness in justice system
TORT REFORM Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, left, speaks with Meridian Rotarians J.W. Jones, Walter Williamson and Donnie Smith before a club meeting Monday. Dale spoke about civil justice and the need for trial lawyers and tort reform supporters to reach a compromise. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
July 9, 2002
Insurance Commissioner George Dale is calling for fairness in Mississippi's civil justice system, pointing out the insurance industry's negative opinions about the Magnolia State as a place to do business.
Dale, who spoke Monday to the Meridian Rotary Club, praised the nation's legal system as one that gives "the little man" a chance to take on "the big man."
But he warned that if the system "is not objective and it's not fair," then "we've got a problem."
The problem is many plaintiffs' lawyers file suit in rural counties because they believe they can win over less-educated juries, while defense law firms try to have their side heard by well-educated jurors from cities and suburbs sympathetic to business.
Dale said he has been invited to testify on July 18 before a state legislative committee studying tort reform and possible changes to the civil justice system.
Some medical doctors are unable to secure malpractice insurance because of the threat of large jury awards and, as a result, have been considering moving out of state.
Dale, in a meeting later on Monday with editors of The Meridian Star, told how badly the situation has degenerated.
He said an attorney for Singing River Hospital in Jackson County and a number of the hospital's obstetricians and gynecologists told him their insurer was considering not renewing its coverage.
He said the attorney asked him to join in a meeting at the insurance company's regional office in Birmingham, Ala., to help "beg for mercy."
He said the company representatives replied:
According to Dale, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's office and some legislators were also not willing to seek his advice and counsel on the front end of the tort reform issue.
Dale said he made clear to at least one legislator and others serving on the tort reform committee that he would appear before them but only when asked first.
THE GEORGE DALE FILE
Name: George Dale.
Job: State insurance commissioner.
Family: He and his wife, Yvette, have five children.
Source Mississippi Official and Statistical Register