As expected, Republicans are moving forward with “Loser Pays” legislation in the Mississippi Legislature. But there is a major twist. Only some losers pay. With the Republican party controlled by big business, can you guess which ones?

Here is Representative Gary Chism’s - House Bill 562. The title tells a lot: “An Act to Provide for the Payment of Costs and Expenses Incurred by a Prevailing Defendant in a Civil Action…..”

The key provisions of the bill are:

  • defendants may recover the “expenses which may include time spent in preparation of defense and other legitimate expenses to the court for approval of payment from the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney to the defendant in the event that the decision is in favor of the defendant.”
  • “If the plaintiff’s attorney has a payment arrangement of a set fee or an hourly fee as his remuneration from the the plaintiff, then the attorney will have no obligation to the defendant.”

This means that big corporations that can afford to pay their lawyers by the hour can sue whoever they want without risking the loser pays provision. The poor and middle class who can only sue if an attorney will take the case on a contingency fee run the risk of having to pay the big corporation’s legal fees if they lose. This would obviously force losing plaintiffs into bankruptcy.

And what happens if somebody does take on the big corporation and wins? No loser pays. The corporation gets away with just paying what it owed to get the plaintiff back to even.

Rep. Chism’s proposal would turn the American civil justice system on its head in Mississippi. Not only will it kill the legal profession, it gives corporations a license to disregard safety rules whenever they want. This bill would make Mississippi the most dangerous place to live in the United States.

It will be interesting to see if the defense bar and Mississippi Bar as a whole has the guts speak out against this bill.