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Once again, Mississippi at the bottom

MBJ Editorial

Once again, Mississippi’s out-of-control civil justice system and its corollary, an anti-business reputation, have made it into the national spotlight.

A survey conducted by HarrisInteractive and released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week found that Mississippi ranks at the bottom of states on the critical issue of litigation fairness.

After surveying 800 corporate general counsels and senior litigators, the poll found that:

• Mississippi ranks 50th in the overall ranking.

• 50th in overall treatment of tort and contract litigation.

• Dead last in punitive damages.

• 50th in timeliness of summary judgement and dismissal discovery.

• 50th in scientific evidence.

• 50th in judges’ impartiality and competence.

• 50th in juries’ predictability and fairness.

And perhaps most troubling, 78% of survey participants said a state’s litigation environment does affect important decisions, such as where a business might locate a new plant or decide to expand. So, despite the best efforts of development professionals, local business and industry leaders and incentive programs, Mississippi still suffers from the same old stigma that has plagued our economic revitalization efforts for decades: bad image.

Whatever the reality of “jackpot justice” might be, its reputation is killing us. Our state enjoyed a historic economic rebirth in the 1990s, and while we remain hopeful and excited about the future, unless progress is made in resolving our serious tort reform issues we can never expect Mississippi to be much more than “dead last” in the nation’s consciousness — once again, whatever the reality might be.

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