News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2005
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EDITORIAL

State juries responsible for federal crackdown

A person harmed as the result of a negligent corporation deserves compensation. But in many cases state juries award cash prizes that go far beyond reason.

Jackpot justice involves an attorney filing a lawsuit that has little or no merit, getting the case to trial or settlement and walking away with a substantial chunk of a company's assets.

Jackpot justice is an industry in some regions of Mississippi. The mentality is to stick it to the rich corporations, even if there is no guilt.

Congress is about to make major changes in how the courts handle certain civil cases. Moving some class action lawsuits to federal courts, Republicans hope, will stop this legal crapshoot.

The legislation already passed the Senate and the Republican House assures quick passage.

Lawyers who file these suits claim their clients will be denied justice because of the higher degree of difficulty of sustaining these cases in federal court.

And getting cases to overly sympathetic juries will be even more difficult.

Democrats say the legislation hurts consumers and helps corporations. But it is more likely to put many of the lawyers who rush to court with marginal cases out of business without adversely affecting plaintiffs who have solid cases.

Under the bill that President Bush promises to sign, class action suits filed in Morgan County would be heard in state court only if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs were from Alabama. Otherwise, the case would go to federal court.

That provision is to stop lawyers from using a handful of local plaintiffs to file suit so they can get cases into select state courts, where high verdicts come easily.

The legislation isn't ideal, but it does address serious problems in the nation's justice system. The role of courts is to dispense justice. It is not to be the Lotto for pain and suffering.

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