A practical question about tort reform

By By Suzanne Monk/ managing editor
Feb. 10, 2002
Against the background of the tort reform debate in Mississippi, I have been tracking the activities of one out-of-state law firm, Wilkes &McHugh of Tampa, Fla.
I chose these lawyers because they specialize in nursing home litigation, win record-breaking awards and have targeted Mississippi as their next expansion area. So far, three Wilkes &McHugh lawsuits have been filed at the Lauderdale County Courthouse one dismissed, one settled, one still in process.
A Senate bill that would have placed caps on punitive damage awards died in committee this week.
Meanwhile, in Lauderdale County, nursing home owner Guy Howard has one Wilkes &McHugh lawsuit in the courthouse now. He reported Friday that there are two more on the way and one from a firm in Jackson.
Howard says even if he wins, he loses.
I'm not clairvoyant, so I don't know who's right and who's wrong, but I do have a practical question. If you run nursing homes out of business and that is about to happen what do you do with the little old people whose relatives can't take care of them at home?
Quick takes:
Former MFD captain: The district attorney's office on Friday asked that an aggravated assault indictment against Richard Mackey be dismissed. Mackey allegedly struck a neighbor in the head with a pipe wrench. He was arrested in August, and fired from his job at the Meridian Fire Department in September.
The DA's reason for dropping the indictment was "victim and witnesses unavailable." The judge ruled that Mackey can be re-indicted if the victim and witnesses become available in the future.
Meanwhile, Mackey appealed his firing to the Meridian Civil Service Commission; a hearing into the matter had been delayed pending the outcome of his case. What happens next is unclear.
Former police officer: In another appeal, the Civil Service Commission set a May 2 date for a public hearing into Rita Jack's termination from the Meridian Police Department. Jack was fired amid allegations that she stole money and checks from the police station's front desk. She was never arrested and a Lauderdale County grand jury declined to indict her in November.
Public Works: City employee Jeanette McPherson has filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission over the naming of Hugh Smith as an assistant public works director in charge of water services. She says under CSC rules, the job should have been advertised. The mayor says his selection of Smith is tentative pending the commission's approval of an exception to that rule. The CSC voted Tuesday to investigate the matter.
Mock trial: Finally, high school students from this part of the state took part in a "mock trial" contest Saturday at the courthouse. Winners advance to the state finals in Jackson on March 1-2. Hats off to the 18 Meridian attorneys who presided as "judges" at the competition.