Lawmakers mixed on effect of Bush's call for tort reform

By Staff
From staff and wire reports
Aug. 9, 2002
Republican state Sen. Videt Carmichael of Meridian said President Bush's call for changes to Mississippi's civil justice system validates what people are saying.
But Democratic state Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford said the Republican president's criticism will make little difference in the kind of proposals lawmakers eventually adopt.
Bush spoke Wednesday to a standing-room-only crowd of about 2,000 at Madison Central High School, making his first presidential appearance in Mississippi.
He won applause by saying junk and frivolous lawsuits'' are hurting businesses and medical practices.
The president said he wants to get rid of frivolous lawsuits,'' Tollison, a lawyer, said Thursday. Nobody would disagree in this debate that we want to eliminate frivolous lawsuits.''
Tollison said Mississippi already has rules permitting judges to toss out lawsuits that are hardly worth the paper they're written on.
We need to do a better job of enforcing them, and that's up to the judiciary branch,'' Tollison said.
Tollison is one of 26 lawmakers on a special committee that has spent the summer examining whether Mississippi's civil justice system needs a tweaking or a full-fledged overhaul.
The committee meets again next week, and is expected to consider a draft of proposals. Ideas could include capping non-economic damages or limiting where lawsuits can be filed.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he will consider calling a special session later this summer on civil justice reform, more commonly called tort reform.
Carmichael said he has an opinion on tort reform, "but I don't care to share it right now" because it is hard to put into words.
Republican state Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian is in Orlando, Fla., for a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council. He said he sat in on the council's civil justice reform subcommittee where tort reform was discussed.
Democratic state Rep. Walter Robinson of Bolton, a funeral director who's also on legislative study committee, said lawmakers need to do all they can to keep doctors in the state.
He said, however, he wants to move cautiously because he doesn't want to limit people's rights to sue if they or their family members are hurt.
You can't put a price on a mama in pain,'' Robinson said. Everybody is thinking about if it's the other fellow that's affected. Sometimes you need to look at it what if it's your family?''

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