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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8/13/2002 CONTACT: PAM JOHNSON, 948-8631

MISSISSIPPI TRIAL LAWYERS TRAVEL STATE TELLING TRUTH ABOUT TORT REFORM Mississippi Trial Lawyers President David Baria and other MTLA members are holding press conferences across the state today to expose misinformation about Mississippi's civil justice system.

"The public is up in arms over something that was created by big insurance companies and greedy corporations," he said from Jackson's Hawkins Field this morning. "Today, we hope we can tone down the hysteria and concentrate on the facts."

Baria's message asserts that doctors are not leaving Mississippi in droves and that caps on non-economic damages will not lower medical malpractice insurance rates. Both notions have been pushed by the Mississippi State Medical Association during recent weeks as the debate on tort reform has heated up in anticipation of a special legislative session on the issue.

Citing figures released to the Biloxi Sun-Herald newspaper by the Mississippi State Medical Association, Baria refuted the Association's claim that doctors are fleeing Mississippi due to a so-called hostile legal climate.

"The Mississippi State Medical Association's own figures show that of the 81 doctors who have left, only 15 blame the legal climate or lack of medical malpractice insurance as the reason," Baria said. "Mississippi has actually experienced a net gain of 564 doctors over the past five years!"

Baria pointed out that in California, considered a model of tort reform legislation, doctors actually pay over $8,000 more per year on average for medical malpractice insurance than their Mississippi counterpoints.

He provided reporters with a copy of a June 24 Wall Street Journal article that outlines the insurance industry economic downturn which has created the medical malpractice crisis in Mississippi and other states. Also provided was an August 1 Mississippi Business Journal article reporting Mississippi's economy is stable and flourishing, with over $2.7 billion in capital investments reported for the first six months of this year - as opposed to tort reform proponents' claims of economic decline.

Additionally, members of the media were provided copies of a marketing package the Mississippi Medical Association recently distributed to physicians. The package consists of stickers for waiting rooms, bumper stickers, prescription pads, and push cards with the theme that Mississippi's legal climate is to blame for higher healthcare costs and longer waiting room stays.

"We are all concerned that we have good, competent physicians in Mississippi to take care of our families," Baria said. "I call on the Mississippi State Medical Association today to tell the truth - to rely on facts and not scare tactics - so that together we can solve this problem and secure the best health care possible in Mississippi for all of our citizens."

Baria was accompanied by attorneys Lance Stevens, Kathy Nester, and Carlton Reeves. The group is traveling in a twin-engine Baron airplane to Greenville, Tupelo, Meridian, Hattiesburg and Gulfport/Biloxi today. --30--

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