Lawmakers can't agree on tort reform

By Staff
From staff and wire reports
Aug. 16, 2002
JACKSON State lawmakers could not reach an immediate agreement Thursday on proposed civil justice changes, giving themselves until Aug. 30 to craft a compromise.
The move disappointed business lobbyists and doctors, who expected to leave the Capitol with a list of proposals. Senators prepared a list of 13 ideas, but House members said they needed more time.
A committee of 13 House members and 13 senators has been studying the civil justice system since May. The panel held public hearings around the state and listened to final testimony Wednesday.
Complex issue
Business groups and doctors say multimillion dollar verdicts are hurting Mississippi. Some doctors are having trouble buying malpractice insurance, and they hope civil justice changes will help.
Trial lawyers say Mississippi's civil justice system works fine and insurance companies are trying to improve their own finances by limiting people's right to sue.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove plans to call a special session on malpractice insurance later this summer. He has said he'll add other civil justice legislation to the agenda if the study committee makes recommendations in time.
The governor would not say Thursday whether he'll wait for the legislative study group to finish its work before he summons the full House and Senate back to the Capitol.
The urgency of the situation to make certain our people have access to quality health care remains,'' Musgrove said in a prepared statement.
Possible solutions
Among the Senate suggestions for changes to the civil justice system is a $500,000 cap on awards for non-economic damages. An early draft of House ideas did not include a cap.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why the House needs more time,'' said Mark Dvorak, executive director of Mississippians for Economic Progress, a group pushing for civil justice revisions.
It seems to me they would have more than enough information by now to make a decision.''
Burton agreed. He said he thinks people are "tired of foot-dragging. And I think the people of the state believe that there needs to be some form or civil justice reform."
But House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said he was not ready to vote on recommendations and he thought the Senate was pressuring the House to meet a Friday deadline.
Watson said the Friday deadline was never approved by the study committee, it was only suggested.

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