Gov. Haley Barbour has joined the state’s leading medical associations in asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to reconsider a decision, which could reverse the progress made by tort reform.
In an amicus brief, Barbour stated that the court’s “decision, coupled with two more recent decisions of this court, will erode part of the progress Mississippi has made regarding tort reform. This slow erosion risks returning our state to an era when healthcare professionals stopped practicing because of sky-high insurance premiums (or no available insurance at all), and when job-creating business avoided Mississippi for fear of liability. Our state has made too much progress to return down that path.”
According to the Governor’s Office, the case before the Supreme Court, Price v. Clark, 2007-CA-01671-SCT, involves pre-suit notice requirements contained in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, and in tort reform legislation passed earlier this decade. Under the laws in question, a potential plaintiff must give either 60 or 90 days notice to a defendant before filing suit. This notice period allows defendants to investigate claims, and allows parties to settle disputes outside of court, without the costs associated with trial. Both defendants and plaintiffs benefit from a system that encourages the speedy and low-cost resolution of meritorious claims.
In its July 23, 2009, decision, the Supreme Court held that a lawsuit filed without giving adequate notice should be dismissed, but effectively extended the period of time during which a lawsuit could be filed. This extension will increase “litigation and insurance costs…while doing nothing to expand the public’s access to justice.”
Barbour said in his amicus brief this result “contradicts the Legislature’s clear intention in adopting (these) statutes, and risks resurrecting problems from the pre-tort reform era.”