Final numbers: Lawsuits show five-fold increase
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
Jan. 2, 2003
As the final hours before Mississippi's "tort reform deadline" ticked away Tuesday afternoon, a local doctor worked methodically through a stack of folders at Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
The folders held some of the 75 lawsuits filed in December 2002 five times as many as were filed in December of the previous year.
Court clerks had cleared a work space for the doctor at an unused desk. He said he wanted to see if any of the lawsuits named him as a defendant. They didn't, so he made notes about other doctors who are being sued.
His concern was not surprising.
Medical malpractice made up the largest group of lawsuits filed after Dec. 3, when Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a new tort reform bill into law, and before Jan. 1, when the law took effect.
The doctor, perhaps half-seriously, said he intends to post a list of patients who sue in his office and instruct his staff not to make appointments for them.
From a lawyer's point of view
Mississippi's new tort reform law includes caps on punitive damage awards, limits on where lawsuits can be filed, and protections for "innocent sellers" like pharmacists named in drug liability lawsuits.
Its Jan. 1 effective date did not cause a rush of December lawsuits in Neshoba, Newton, Clarke or Wayne counties. There was a small jump in Kemper County, where five lawsuits were filed Monday and Tuesday.
In contrast, December lawsuits in Lauderdale County jumped from 15 in 2001 to 75 in 2002.
While that is a significant increase, lawyers say it's not fair to characterize their actions as a mad rush to get their last at-bats in a plaintiff-friendly environment before the new law takes effect.
It is, after all, their responsibility to secure the best possible settlement for their clients.
The large majority of the lawsuits filed in December fell into five categories medical malpractice, traffic accidents, complaints against nursing homes, other accidents and product liability.
Here's a look at some of those lawsuits.
Almost 20 were filed against doctors and hospitals. Of these, five alleged that bad care caused someone's death.
In one case involving a traffic fatality, two relatives of the deceased person have filed separate lawsuits against the same defendants. In another accident, a husband and wife are suing Georgia-Pacific in separate suits.
In one case, it appears that a single individual is the plaintiff in one traffic accident lawsuit and the defendant in another.
Ten lawsuits were filed against nursing homes. The plaintiffs in seven of them are represented by a single law firm Wilkes &McHugh of Tampa, Fla.
One plaintiff is suing Dollar General because she was injured during an armed robbery and feels that store officials should have done more to ensure her safety.
The widow of a man who died of electrocution while making home repairs is suing Trane Residential Systems, manufacturer of the home's heating and cooling system.
The survivors of a man who died in a post-July 4 boating accident are suing Dalewood Property Owners Association and several individuals.
Two people are suing grocery stores. One woman is suing a restaurant because she says she found something metallic in the creamed corn.
Four product liability lawsuits involve prescription drugs, one involves Firestone tires and one claims design defects in a KIA Sportage that rolled over.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, an attorney, is representing a couple who is suing Millennium Homes for breach of contract claiming they were charged more than the agreed price for their manufactured home.
The mother of a patient at East Mississippi State Hospital is suing because her son was sexually assaulted by other patients.
One man claims a former friend stole his wife and is suing him for "alienation of affection."