Now that the Republicans have gained control of the Mississippi House or Representatives, they are seeking more tort reform. They are doing this even though the doctors' own insurance company say they no longer need any more! Yes, you read that correctly. The CEO of the doctors' insurance company, Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi ("MACM") was quoted in a Clarion Ledger article as follows: "It would be hard for me to argue more tort reform is needed," Mike Houpt said. "We're content with what we have." Yet the Republicans want to lower the caps on damages AND institute a "loser pays" system which would make the loser of a lawsuit pay the other side's cost. Whose agenda are the Republicans pushing?
The "loser pays" idea is simple. Over the course of a lawsuit, each side spends money on such things as depositions, expert witnesses, copying, etc. Costs can easily reach $10,000 in the most "simple" car wreck cases. "Loser pays" would require the "loser" of a lawsuit to pay the other winner's costs as well as their own. So who is this designed to hurt? To a huge company like State Farm, $10,000 is nothing. To the average Mississippian, $10,000 is more than most folks have in savings. There is not way the could afford to pay this which means they would not file a lawsuit for fear of having to pay this kind of money.
Now, keep in mind that the doctors are "content" with what they have. This is the same group who claimed they were being forced out of Mississippi just 10 years ago. Now things are going so well that the doctors are receiving refunds on their insurance premiums and their insurance company is making a huge profit. I wonder if the quality of health care in Mississippi is going up as well? Are the number of deaths and serious injuries due to medical negligence going down? Oh well, who really cares about that. As long as the doctors are making money and forcing us to wait an hour to see them on every visit then things are fine. But, I digress.
The Republican party is not looking out for Mississippi citizens. If they were, they would fight like hell to make sure that anyone who harms a child or an elderly person or who leaves a family without a mother or father (or both) would have to fully compensate that person or their family. Instead, they are looking out for big businesses and insurance companies. Always have, always will. If your child is harmed don't expect the Republicans to care because they will be supporting the people who harmed him/her.
Sound harsh? Well it's not. Tort reform does not protect us from so-called "frivolous lawsuits". Tort reform is designed to protect big business and insurance companies from legitimate lawsuits. "Frivolous lawsuits" scare no one. If any defendant can show me one "frivolous lawsuit" which has ever gone to trial, received a verdict, and then been affirmed on appeal I will have my partner eat his hat. Big business needs protection when their products or actions seriously injure, maim, or kill innocent people and the Republicans are paid handsomely to help them.
I am against frivolous lawsuits and I don't know any lawyer worth his salt who is not. Lawyers I know would never take frivolous lawsuits because they cannot risk losing money in such cases and they would likely be sanctioned for filing them. See, defendants already have a "loser pay" system for frivolous lawsuits. Mississippi law allows a party to ask a judge to have the other side pay in the event the case is found to be frivolous by the trial judge. I have no problem with these rules. The problem is that even if a person loses a case, that doesn't mean the case was frivolous. The "loser pay" provision automatically requires the loser to pay. This means even "non frivolous" cases are being treated as "frivolous".
There's an old saying that goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Well, the Republicans simply don't heed this saying when it comes to taking away Mississippians rights to a jury trial. They continue to trample on our rights and will continue to do so as long as we allow them to do so.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.