The trial in the products liability case against Ford Motor Company that I mentioned in this post two weeks ago is scheduled to resume on Monday.
If Republican Gary Chism’s “Loser Pays” legislation passes, this will be one of the last products liability cases ever tried in the State of Mississippi. Chism, who works for insurance companies even when he is not in the legislature, wants losing plaintiffs to pay defendants theie attorney’s fees and expenses incurred in a trial.
When a products liability case like the one against Ford makes it to trial, the plaintiff has already avoided a mine field of summary judgment motions and the court has ruled that there is a genuine issue of material fact that needs to be decided by a jury. In other words, the defendant’s case is not a slam-dunk.
In the current trial, Ford has six lawyers from three different law firms in the courtroom and another three support staff. In addition, both sides must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in expert witness fees. Under Chism’s loser pays system, a defense verdict in a trial like this would most likely force the plaintiff and her attorneys into bankruptcy.
If any plaintiffs attorneys were foolish enough to file a case against a big corporation or insurance company, the defendant would try the case even with a small chance of winning in the hopes of putting the lawyer out of business and scaring other lawyers from ever suing the company again.
If Chism’s bill passes, Mississippians will have no recourse to hold manufacturers responsible for dangerous products. Corporations could ignore public safety rules with impunity.
- A crib manufacturer sells a crib that it knows has a defect where babies get their heads caught between the rails and choke? No accountability in Mississippi.
- A drug manufacturer puts a drug on the market that it knows causes heart attacks? No accountability in Mississippi.
- A maker of household cleaning products releases a product that blows up in high heat and humidity conditions? No accountability in Mississippi.
- Ten students killed in a school bus crash caused by a bad axle installed by the manufacturer? No accountability in Mississippi.
Don’t say these cases are different. They aren’t. They wouldn’t be viable under Chism’s system, because the defendant always has a chance to win no matter what.
These are just four of innumerable examples of what can happen if the legislature passes Chism’s bill. Mississippi’s public policy would be “Profits over People.”