Center for America

Speaker's Resource: 9. Mississippi, p3



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Key Reference Citations (KRC)


Chapter 9:

Legal Reform in Mississippi



Elections Matter

  • In a related sense, a key to success was the development and maintenance of general public support in favor of tort reform.  This support was built gradually and reached a peak during the 2004 session.  (KRC: WTTW, The Development of Public Support in General, page 16)

The Development of Public Support

  • A related part of developing and maintaining public support was the crafting of the message.  (KRC: WTTW, The Development of Public Support in General, page 16) 

  • Just as the public can understand the basic unfairness of joint and several as opposed to several liability, when it is explained to them in plain English, the public can also understand how an unpredictable and unfair legal system can hurt the availability of healthcare and jobs and can impact a state’s economic future.  (KRC: WTTW, The Development of Public Support in General, page 16) 

Using the Doctors as the Tip of the Spear

  • Though hotly denied by the plaintiffs bar, doctors themselves said and felt lawsuit abuse was driving their insurance rates up so high they had no choice but to quit medicine or leave Mississippi.  (KRC: WTTW, Using the Doctors as the Tip of the Spear, page 17)

  • Because healthcare is so important in people’s lives, doctors became the “tip of the spear” in the tort reform fight.  If there was a press conference, we always tried to have a number of doctors in their “white coats” there.  (KRC: WTTW, Using the Doctors as the Tip of the Spear, page 17)

  • What is also true, however, is that the medical crisis provided an opportunity to use doctors as a catalyst to jumpstart the broader issue for all Mississippians.  (KRC: WTTW, Using the Doctors as the Tip of the Spear, page 17)

United We Stand

  • Maintaining a unified front of the various groups supporting tort reform behind the consensus package was essential to success.  Achieving and maintaining such unity, however, was easier said than done.  As an example, some business groups were willing to sacrifice damage caps in order to have venue reforms.  Others suggested other trade-offs.  Then there is also the challenge of a business group that wants more than is politically feasible, and they threaten to “walk away” unless the bill is further strengthened.  Whenever this type of horse-trading starts among pro-tort reform advocates, the result is usually that the opposition can win the war by giving in on some minor points to divide the general effort.  (KRC: WTTW, United We Stand, page 17) 

  • To achieve and maintain unity, the key in Mississippi was strong political leadership in the State Senate.  On high profile issues, elected officials have the greatest personal risk if failure results due to either overreaching or not being aggressive enough.  The leadership of the State Senate accepted this responsibility and made it clear to both the business and medical communities that the goal was comprehensive tort reform, that anything short of such comprehensive tort reform would not be satisfactory, and that nothing was worse than a watered down bill that satisfied some groups at the expense of others.  (KRC: WTTW, United We Stand, page 18) 

  • In 2002, the Governor initially limited the special session to tort reform medical/health related actions only, with no promise of expanding it.  The very real fear existed that medical reform would pass, and then there would not be enough pressure on the Governor to compel him to expand the special session to consider tort reform for general business.  In response to the Governor’s limited call, the Senate reacted by amending the Governor’s bill to include all legal actions, not just medical/healthcare actions.  The Senate argued that the amendments were germane, and thus disallowed, despite the limited nature of the Governor’s call.  The House leadership, who opposed tort reform, asserted that the legislature did not have the authority under the call to consider non-medical actions.  The Senate eventually lost on this issue, but not before the disagreement stalled the special session for several days, with the taxpayers picking up the bill for the stalemate.  Because of the resulting stalemate and media attention, the Governor, who was trying to avoid saying he did not support general tort reform, was pressured to publicly and unequivocally state he would expand the call to include all legal actions after the legislature addressed the medical liability issues (which the Governor claimed to be the real crisis).  (KRC: WTTW, United We Stand, page 18) 


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