Legislative Deadlock

Legislators still could not reach a final compromise Friday on a medical malpractice bill.

The biggest points of disagreement were over where and how malpractice lawsuits may be filed.

The lead house negotiator, Rep. Percy Watson of Hattiesburg, said senators are trying to end massive lawsuits that involve hundreds -- or even thousands -- of plaintiffs.

Watson said he doesn't want to end those lawsuits because he doesn't want to limit people's rights in court.

Negotiators will be back at the capitol Saturday afternoon.

Other members of the House and Senate have gone home for a short weekend and will return to Jackson on Sunday.

The latest Senate offer included a $500,000 cap on pain-and-suffering damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. The house has offered a $600,000 cap.

Once legislators agree on a plan of how to address the growing number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Mississippi, lawmakers are expected to turn their attention to other, more general proposed reforms to the civil justice system, most commonly known as tort reform.

One of the issues expected to be addressed at that time would affect nursing homes.

Over the last few months nursing home officials in Mississippi have been rallying for something to be done about the continued rising costs of liability insurance.

Meridian Community Living Center is among the centers seeking some changes.

"The staff's in danger of losing their jobs if we can't keep the doors open and without insurance you can't do that," said Pam Tolleson,
center administrator.

In fact, officials with Meridian Community Living Center tell us that the costs of liability insurance had become so high, that just this year the facility's parent company had to join other nursing facilities in becoming partially, self-insured.

Meanwhile, with lawmakers now debating one portion of the ongoing
"tort reform" issue, Tollisen said officials from the Mississippi Health Association have released a statement saying that ultimately it appears things will go in favor of healthcare providers.

Members of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association still say tort reform is not needed and instead the real problem is what they call
quote -- "the insurance industry's greed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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