Part of the job is done
Oct. 9, 2002
After weeks of wrangling marked by hollow and increasingly shrill arguments by the Mississippi trial lawyers lobby, the Mississippi Legislature has finally adopted good, solid reforms that should help keep physicians on the job. The reforms in the area of medical malpractice that passed on Monday and were signed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on Tuesday are welcome in a state that clearly needs to retain high quality health care.
Limiting malpractice actions to the county where the cause of action occurred, caps on non-economic damages and providing a measure of immunity for physicians who prescribe legal prescription drugs are all positive elements of the new plan that will become effective on Jan. 1, 2003. So is a joint and several liability section that tends to limit the percentage of damages to the percentage of fault.
Taken as a whole, these changes in medical malpractice laws are constructive.
And, now, the full attention of the Legislature should immediately turn to comprehensive reforms in the general civil justice system.
We have maintained from the outset that the debate in Mississippi is larger than lawyers versus physicians. It is far more than trial lawyers against pharmaceutical companies.
This state remains engaged in a battle between a distorted civil justice system and good business practices. Its reputation as a lawsuit mecca is well deserved and the time has come to do something about it.
Lawmakers now have that opportunity. As the debate over general civil justice reform unfolds, we hope it will be marked not by contentious political maneuvering but by an honest concern for fairness in civil justice.
And one last note. Eight members of the Legislature from this area voted for medical malpractice reform and they deserve our appreciation. They are state Sens. Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian; Terry Burton, D-Newton, Gloria Williamson, D-Philadelphia; and Billy Thames, D-Mize; and state Reps. Tommy Horne, D-Meridian; Greg Snowden, R-Meridian; Billy Nicholson-D, Little Rock; and Eric Robinson, R-Quitman.
Three area legislators opposed medical malpractice reform. They were state Reps. Charles Young, D-Meridian, and Reecy Dickson, D-Macon, and Sen. Sampson Jackson, D-DeKalb.