Trial lawyers: Doctors aren't leaving in droves
By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Aug. 14, 2002
Four trial lawyers chartered a private plane Tuesday to tour the state and give their point of view about tort reform: Doctors are not leaving Mississippi in droves.
They disputed claims by insurance companies, the state Medical Association and President Bush that the state's legal climate is hostile and making it hard for doctors to find malpractice insurance.
Baria led the delegation, which traveled in a twin-engine Barron that stopped in five cities for separate news conferences. Stops included Meridian, Greenville, Tupelo, Hattiesburg and Gulfport.
Trial lawyers have been at odds with doctors and business leaders for months over whether to change the state's civil justice system, a move commonly called "tort reform."
A 26-member legislative committee has spent the summer studying the issue. The panel is expected to meet again today and Thursday and could consider a tort reform proposal.
Such legislation could limit non-economic damages in lawsuits and restrict where lawsuits can be filed. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he may call a special session on the issue this summer.
Meanwhile, the Mississippi State Medical Association issued a statement Tuesday that said the number of medically-licensed physicians in the state dropped to a record low in July.
John Cook, the association's president, said Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure figures show 5,567 doctors in 2000, 5,710 in 2001 and 5,637 in 2002.
Last week, President Bush threw his support behind tort reform in Mississippi during a speech in Madison. The president called for limiting damages to $250,000 in cases of gross misconduct.
But Baria said insurance companies and the American Medical Association have made Mississippi heath care providers pawns in a "public relation scheme designed to line their own pockets."
Lance Stevens, a member of the trial lawyers association, said the state's crisis was created by insurance companies to recoup money lost in the stock market and from years of writing underinflated premiums.