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Effects of tort reform in Mississippi

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News Politics: With the 2004 reforms, passed after a mostly partisan fight, Mississippi became one of the first states to cap noneconomic and punitive damages. The Legislature also changed venue and joint liability rules and passed provisions to protect “innocent sellers” and landowners.

State Rep. David Baria, former president of the state trial lawyers association — now the state Association for Justice, said some reforms were still needed in 2004, but that the courts could have mandated some changes and enforced existing rules. He said the plaintiffs’ bar was willing to negotiate others.

Various reports in recent years have shown large drops in medical lawsuits and doctors’ insurance premiums, and in the number of tort cases filed — down to about 3,500 in 2012, compared to more than 10,600 in 2002.

But Baria said the ’04 measures were really focused on caps that prevent those wronged from receiving fair compensation and politics. He said the changes allow businesses to take an “actuarial approach” instead of solving safety issues for consumers. He said the changes have reduced medical malpractice lawsuits, but only because few lawyers will take them on, even if a patient has been obviously harmed through negligence.

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