A bill that would allow lending institutions in Mississippi a measure of relief from the threat of outrageous damage awards faces an uncertain future as it heads to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for his signature, or more likely, veto.
House Bill 1646 would limit the amount of money lenders could be fined if found guilty of fraudulent loan practices, such as illegal fees. The new legislation would put a reasonable punitive system in place and establish guidelines for paying back the overcharges.
Such a measure is needed in light of the current legal climate in Mississippi. It has become increasingly difficult for any business to get a fair chance in the state’s courtrooms. Misleading consumers is wrong, shortsighted and should not be tolerated, but equally outrageous are the frivolous lawsuits and jury judgements.
Serious tort reform in Mississippi — reform that would remedy the anti-business, anti-industry and anti-economic development reputation we’ve been shackled with — isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Plaintiffs attorneys hold enormous influence in the Legislature, and while the medical and business communities have been vocal about the need for reform, legislators haven’t heard a loud enough clamor for change from their constituents.
Until such a time, tort reform bit by bit with legislation like HB 1646 is probably the best we can expect.