Tort Reform as an Economic Development Tool

By July 23, 2007Briefly Legal

Mississippi has been aggressive in recent years selling itself as a good place to do business, promoting an evolving economic environment made more attractive to investment. The latest pitch comes in the form of a 22-page advertising section in Fortune. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported on the ad campaign here.

The section highlights the $1.3 billion Toyota plant and PACCAR’s $400 million engine-producing facility and other companies, using them as a springboard to advocate Mississippi’s low energy costs, tort reform, available work force, lack of unions and Hurricane Katrina recovery.

Fortune, a bi-weekly business magazine published by Time Inc., has an 830,000 circulation and an estimated 4.1 million readers in North America. Subscribers are wealthy, middle-aged professionals and managers. It’s exactly that audience state developers want when touting their recent successes.

Notice the selling points, how they’re similar to the major attributes CNBC used to rank the top states for business, i.e., the cost of doing business and workforce. (Nevertheless, Mississippi still ranked a low 46th in the CNBC rankings.)

Evolving or not, we imagine there are still many executives who, when asked about Mississippi, think, “Southern, trial lawyers, Katrina, trial lawyers, education? Scruggs,” so the pitch is certainly well targeted. And here’s what the American Justice Partnership’s Steve Hantler has to say about Mississippi in his boardroom guide to litigation in the 50th states. Mississippi ranked 33rd.

Mississippi’s composite ranking is low, but it is a state in transition. Once ranked among the five worst states for liability climate, the state now boasts common sense legal reforms, an emerging rule-of-law majority on its Supreme Court, and a stalwart liability reformer in Governor Haley Barbour. Attorney General Jim Hood, however, is an activist attorney general who sued several insurers in connection with Hurricane Katrina. While Mississippi’s insurance loss ratios are still among the worst in the nation, they should improve with the reforms enacted. Mississippi is clearly a state to watch because of Governor Barbour’s continuing efforts to make the state attractive for growth and jobs creation.

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