Significant Improvements in
Civil Justice Fairness and Predictability
Bradley Arant Rose &
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.
from a Federalist Society publication)