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Articles Posted in Mississippi

I received the following email regarding my post concerning from Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz, Jr.’s recent dissenting opinion in a wrongful death case:

Dear Mr. Miller,

Thank you for the recent post on your blog concerning the banning of my dissent at the Mississippi Supreme Court. Your comments were right on point and it is indeed incredible that the majority of my court voted to ban my dissent in the wrongful death case. I am currently running for re-election to the court and am opposed by forces that want to implement further tort reform measures. I would appreciate it if you would provide a link to my campaign website in case anyone would like more information about my campaign. The address is Again, thank you for your comments.

The Mississippi Supreme Court – an elected body that has a recent history of siding with defendants in personal injury cases – attempted to bar a dissenting opinion from Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr. in a wrongful death case. Diaz dissented with the majority’s decision to remand Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board v. Kraft.

Justice Diaz argued in his dissent of a wrongful death case that the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits begins at the time of the injury, not on the date of death. “The obvious result is that a wrongful death action may expire before the decedent does,” Justice Diaz wrote.

Justice Diaz is no stranger to the crazy world of Mississippi politics. In 2005, a jury cleared Justice Diaz of all bribery charges. His ex-wife, however, pled guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to two years’ probation. But the logic of his argument – that wrongful death claims start at the time of death – is so manifestly obvious that defense lawyers in other jurisdictions would not even make the argument.

The Mississippi Supreme Court appears to have transformed into a surrogate for big business, according to an editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Over the last ½ years, the Mississippi Supreme Court has reversed approximately 88 percent of all jury verdicts decided in favor of plaintiffs. Incredibly, none have been reversed when the defendant prevailed.

Let me calculate for you the mathematical odds of this being by pure chance: zero. The author points to the obvious: the Mississippi Supreme Court has elected justices that are influenced by campaign donations from big business.

Let’s have a show of hands of lawyers who support electing judges in Mississippi or anywhere? Personal injury lawyers? No hands. How about defense lawyers? No hands. Everyone seems to know that elections and judges are toxic. Yet in Mississippi and throughout most of this country, we continue to elect judges.

Mississippi personal injury lawyer Zach Scruggs denied conspiring to bribe a state judge, but plead guilty Friday to a felony that will cost him his legal career.

I have never written about this story before, so I started giving a brief history but then I figured I would just refer you to the Insurance Coverage Law Blog, which is the most extensive analysis I have ever seen of a defense case since the O.J. trial. This blog breaks down the players, the lawyers, and everyone connected to the case.

I just cannot imagine being a billionaire – which I think Dick Scruggs was – and putting yourself in a position where you will spend five years in jail and your actions led your son to disbarment and a felony conviction so you can get more money in a fee dispute case. I think this is far more mind boggling than Eliot Spitzer, which was mind boggling in its own right.

A truck driver whose wife was tragically killed at a crossing at a Mississippi truck stop failed to allege facts sufficient to defeat a motion for directed verdict, Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision. Plaintiff’s lawyers had alleged that the truck stop operators negligently failed to provide adequate lighting and had placed a propane tank and advertising in its parking lot, obstructing the view of pedestrians and drivers of oncoming traffic. But the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the danger of crossing the public roadway should have been obvious to the truck driver’s wife. Four of the judges disagreed, finding that even though the truck stop did not own the area in question, there was testimony at trial that it was generally known that truckers parked in the area, even those that were not customers at the truck stop. Unfortunately for the Plaintiff, he was one judge short.

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