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franklin county times

Leveling the playing field

By Staff
June 20, 2004
Flanked by a bevy of interested parties, Gov. Haley Barbour signed the historic Tort Reform Act of 2004 last week. Lawmakers, community leaders, small businesses, the medical community, manufacturers, the financial services sector and others who fought a long battle for the passage of legislation that the governor believes will effectively ends lawsuit abuse in Mississippi were all present.
On the same day as the signing, MassMutual Financial Group, a nationwide life insurance company, announced it is re-entering the market for Mississippi municipal bonds due to the recent passage of comprehensive tort reform. Barbour had met with corporate leaders and media outlets in New York and Washington including a speaking engagement to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has ranked Mississippi last for a fair legal climate three years in a row to officially announce the new civil justice legislation that makes Mississippi a more attractive place for industries to locate.
Passage of the tort reform bill is a good omen for Mississippi and, hopefully, will help attract more businesses to the state and help the ones already here think about expansion.
Here are some of the key features that will be extolled in new ads being prepared for national publications:
Strong venue reform, which should help limit the venue shopping that has been used by plaintiffs and their lawyers to get friendly juries;
Reasonable limits on non-economic damage awards ($500,000 for the medical industry and $1 million for general businesses);
Strong joint and several liability reform; strong innocent retailer provisions; and sensible protections against punitive damages for medium and small businesses.
Already, The Wall Street Journal is speaking out about Mississippi as a case study in how to break the power of the trial lawyer lobby. The newspaper called the law one of the most comprehensive legal reform bills in the nation.
The new takes effect Sept. 1.

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