One of the worst places, in
term of frivolous lawsuits, was Jefferson County. It became renowned as
the lawsuit capital of the country, with more plaintiffs than
residents. This is the infamous county where one pharmacist was named
in more than 1,000 lawsuits. In one legendary case against a
pharmaceutical company that sold the diet pill Pondimin (part of the
weight-loss combination known as fen-phen, which was later banned), a
Jefferson County jury awarded $1 billion to the family of a woman who
had taken the drug.
But four years ago, Mississippi transformed itself
from judicial hell hole to job magnet, a story that is instructive for
other states trying to attract jobs in turbulent economic times. The
lessons here are especially timely, because the pro-growth tort reform
trend that was once spreading across the country may soon reverse
Almost overnight, the flow
of lawsuits began to dry up and businesses started to trickle in.
Federal Express invested $1 billion in a new facility in the state.
Toyota chose Mississippi over about a dozen other states for a new $1.2
billion, 2,000-worker auto plant. The auto maker has stipulated that
the company would pull up stakes if the tort reforms were overturned by
the legislature or activist judges.
That hasn't happened. About 60,000 new jobs have
arrived in four years "“ not a small number in a workforce of about 1.3
million "“ and a sharp improvement from the 30,000 jobs lost in the four
years before Mr. Barbour took office. Since the law took effect, the
number of medical malpractice lawsuits has fallen by nearly 90%, which
in turn has cut malpractice insurance costs by 30% to 45%, depending on