When Mississippi made sweeping changes over two years to its laws governing lawsuits, its backers promised prosperity and easier access to health care.
A little more than 10 years down the road, its results are mixed and its detractors haven't shut up about the law's caps on damages, which they say clearly violates the U.S. and state constitutions.
After the American Tort Reform Association labeled the state's 22nd Judicial District a "Judicial Hellhole," then-Gov. Haley Barbour and his backers at the Chamber of Commerce embarked on a campaign that ended with a shake-up in the state's highest court and some of the nation's most-stringent restrictions on lawsuits.
"It didn't change anything but make the profits go up for the doctors, hospitals and insurances," said Chuck McRae, one of the two Supreme Court justices profiled in a documentary who were defeated with the help of chamber money. "People like me don't take medical-malpractice cases anymore."
He said by the time an attorney pays expenses for doctors to testify as expert witnesses and other costs of investigation, there isn't any money to be made under the cap. He said chances of winning are slim anyway. He said in a survey about two years ago of 26 recent malpractice cases that went to the state Supreme Court, 23 were decided in favor of the doctor.
Vulnerable People at Risk
Plaintiff lawyers say the most vulnerable Mississippians are the most at risk.
"Where the tort reform passed has really hurt Mississippians is in those cases of children, the elderly, people on Social Security disability because the caps we're talking about are for non-economic damages, for pain and suffering," said Edward Gibson, a Bay St. Louis attorney and president of the Mississippi Association for Justice. "So where you have somebody in a nursing home and the liability is clear that the nursing didn't take care of them properly, there's not going to be any future wage loss or future medical care. There are absolutely cases of the elderly where the case is declined because the cap on damages makes the prosecution of their case economically unfeasible."
In other words, if you don't have a clear-cut case for economic damages, such as lost wages, forget it.
Read the original article at The Sun Herald.