‘Ambitious’ Tort Reform Bill Could Spur Real Improvements in Mississippi

February 27, 2004

An omnibus tort reform bill recently introduced in the Mississippi Senate is reportedly ambitious and wide-reaching enough to set the stage for serious reform in the state.

“This ambitious bill deserves serious consideration by Mississippi legislators,” said William Stander, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “If this legislation passes, Mississippi could set the standard for tort reform and show the way for the rest of the nation.”

S.B. 2763 was introduced this week by Sen. Charlie Ross (R., 20th District), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill has the support of Gov. Haley Barbour (R.) and Lieutenant Gov. Amy Tuck (R.), both of whom made civil justice reform an issue in their campaigns.

The bill outlines several approaches to tort reform, including:

· Specifying proper venue for civil actions;

· Declaring that a product seller other than a manufacturer will not be liable for product defect;

· Prohibiting punitive damages against a defendant for any regulated activity conducted in compliance with federal and state regulations;

· Establishing a $250,000 cap for noneconomic damages for the same injury;

· Prohibiting punitive damage awards from exceeding three times the compensatory damages awarded to a plaintiff;

· Specifying damage limits based on net worth of defendant;

· Revising limitation on joint and several liability for damages caused by multiple persons; and

· Requiring a review of medical malpractice claims by a medical review panel while providing an opt-out provision.

“Passage of civil justice reform is clearly in the best economic interest of the citizens and businesses of Mississippi,” added Stander. “This bill marks one more step toward stemming the tide of frivolous litigation.”

PCI member companies write about 43 percent of all the property casualty insurance in Mississippi.

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