Governor Barbour

December 18, 2009

Legislature has authority to establish tort reform laws

The Mississippi Legislature has the right to establish laws protecting Mississippians from frivolous lawsuits, Governor Haley Barbour said in a legal brief filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Governor Barbour joined Double Quick Inc., an Indianola-based chain of convenience stores, in asking justices to affirm the constitutionality of tort reform measures.

In an amicus brief filed late Thursday, Governor Barbour says the Legislature acted within its constitutional authority to establish Mississippi statute 11-1-60(2), which capped non-economic damages in lawsuits. The limit on lawsuit awards and other tort reform initiatives have cleaned up Mississippi’s image as a "judicial hellhole" with outrageous monetary awards.

Mississippi's tort reform measures, passed in 2004, have resulted in lower insurance premiums for doctors and helped attract new business to the state. This is the first time during his six years in office that the Governor has filed an amicus brief in the Mississippi Supreme Court during the main phase of an appeal, and only the second time he has done so at any stage.

"Judicial repeal of the non-economic damage caps . . . would destroy the positive progress made in recent years, crush current economic development and drive away desperately needed jobs in one of the gravest economic times in this Nation's history," Governor Barbour noted in the brief.

The case before the Supreme Court, Double Quick Inc. v. Ronnie Lee Lymas, et al., 2008-CA-01713, involves the constitutionality of $1 million cap on non-economic damage caps enacted in 2004.

Placing a sensible limit on pain and suffering and other indeterminable damages was a public policy decision supported by an overwhelming majority of the State’s elected representatives, the brief states. This limit is necessary to ensure predictability and fairness in the civil justice system.

To read the legal motion, click here.
To read the legal brief, click here.