Center for America

State Profiles

 
 

Mississippi

 

Significant Improvements in Civil Justice Fairness and Predictability
 

David Clark,                                                                                                  July 2004

Bradley Arant Rose & White LLP
 

Over the last two years, the Mississippi Legislature and Supreme Court have substantially improved the litigation climate in our state.

In January 2003, the Supreme Court adopted MRCP Rule 35, authorizing independent medical examinations for the first time in state court practice. In May 2003, the Court amended the Rules of Evidence and tightened the requirements for expert witnesses and opinions. These changes will help make the judicial system fairer.

 

In decisions in the last several years, the Mississippi Supreme Court has been applying U.S. Supreme Court rulings that seek to place some reasonable measure or limit on punitive damage awards.

 

In four related cases in 2004, the Court has effectively eliminated the abusive practice of joining hundreds or even thousands of personal injury plaintiffs in a single case in a selected county, even though only one of the plaintiffs lived there. This “mass joinder” procedure—which stretched the requirements of Mississippi’s joinder rule beyond anything allowed by courts in other states or the federal courts-had been utilized by plaintiff’s lawyers to reap large verdicts or extort exorbitant settlements by packing high-verdict, plaintiff-friendly counties with the claims of vast numbers of plaintiffs who had no connection to the county or even the state.

 

No more, thanks to the Mississippi Supreme Court’s 2004 rulings, together with the legislative reforms of the 2004 special session. The outrageous verdicts have slowed, if not ceased; while there had been a spate of enormous verdicts from 1995 through 2001, there were only two verdicts over $10 million in 2002, and none in 2003 or so far in 2004.

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 (Reprinted from a Federalist Society publication)

David W. Clark is a partner in the Jackson office of Bradley Arant Rose & White LLP. He specializes in commercial litigation. He has been recognized by the American Tort Reform Association as a “Legal Reform Champion” for his efforts to reform Mississippi’s tort law and practice.

 
 
   

 

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