This week the Super PAC supporting Thad Cochran, the misnamed Henry Barbour-Brian Perry-led group, Mississippi Conservatives, is sending out a false and libelous mailer intended to mislead Mississippi voters about Senator Chris McDaniel’s record on tort reform, accusing him of hypocrisy. The PAC alleges that McDaniel supported tort reform and caps on damages while in the state legislature, and then argued that such limits were unconstitutional in a 2012 court case.
On the PAC’s website, they allege that McDaniel “sought to have a portion of Mississippi’s comprehensive tort reform ruled unconstitutional – specifically the $1 million cap on noneconomic damages. On September 13, 2012, Chris McDaniel represented a client in a motion in Tanner v. Eagle Oil and Gas to hold the caps on non-economic damages unconstitutional. McDaniel and his firm represented the plaintiffs on this case in Jasper County (docket #111-0013) with a final judgment of $36 million ($26 million of it in noneconomic damages). In response, the judge ruled the damage cap was unconstitutional. Before appeal, the case was settled out of court.”
Here are the facts: McDaniel was NOT the lead attorney in the case. In fact, it wasn’t even his case. It belonged to another attorney in his firm, Gene Hortman, who made the claim of unconstitutionality, not Chris McDaniel, who was simply asked by Hortman to assist him. McDaniel did not participate in any of the legal arguments, discovery, or any major aspect of the case.
Though the PAC hurls a derogatory name at him, Senator McDaniel is not a “personal injury lawyer” and has demonstrated throughout his time in the state senate that he will not do the bidding of the trial lawyer’s strong-armed lobby, like Thad Cochran does. He has consistently voted in favor of bills to reform the system by punishing those who repeatedly file frivolous lawsuits and to limit attorney fees.
Even Sam R. Hall, a former Executive Director of the Mississippi Democratic Party, defended Senator McDaniel’s record on tort reform in a February blog post. “McDaniel supports the tort reform measures already enacted in Mississippi,” he wrote, “and has spoken in favor of additional tort reform measures.” Hall also called the attacks on McDaniel’s record as an attorney “disingenuous” and “stale.”
But for further proof, Here’s Senator McDaniel’s record on tort reform in the Mississippi Senate:
Voted for the Sunshine Act (HB 211), 05/02/12, which enacts conditions required of the Attorney General before entering into a contingency fee contract for legal services, requires public notice of contracts entered into and contingency fees paid, and places incremental restrictions upon the amount of contingency fees that can be paid out of a specific recovery amount.
Supported SB 2439, 03/07/12, a bill to provide liability protection for businesses engaged in agri-tourism.
Supported SB 3073, 02/05/09 (was absent for final vote), a bill the required a certificate of merit for lawsuits filed against licensed professional realtors, homebuilders, engineer, home remodelers, surveyors, etc.
Supported the Tort Claims Act, SB 2998, 02/27/08, a measure to provide immunity in tort claims to physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants providing medical services to Medicaid recipients.
In addition, Senator McDaniel has spent the better part of his law career in defense of small businesses facing civil lawsuits. He is also a member of several organizations and a recipient of major awards, further evidence of his defense bar roots:
Mississippi Business Journal Top 50 Lawyers in Mississippi
BIPEC Business Champion
NFIB Lifetime 95% Pro-Business Ranking
Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association
Mississippi Claims Association
Fifth Federal Circuit Bar Association
Republican National Lawyers Association
Senator Cochran, on the other hand, has sided with Democrats and trial lawyers throughout his time in Washington, voting numerous times to kill attempts to limit attorney fees or to institute any kind of tort reform legislation.
Let us review his unsavory history of opposing tort reform measures:
Voted against a bill that would cap the liability of businesses from damage caused by Y2K-related computer problems (Roll Call #165, 06/15/99).
Voted against a bill to cap plaintiff attorneys’ fees in tobacco litigation at $4,000 per hour. Sen. Cochran was one of eight Republicans to join the Democrats in voting no. (RC #160, 06/16/98).
Voted to kill an amendment (Senate Amendment 2701) to limit attorney fees in tobacco litigation cases (RC #158, 06/11/98).
Voted for an amendment to lift the $8 billion annual liability cap for future lawsuits on the tobacco industry. (RC #145, 05/21/98) (USA Today, 06/11/98).
Sen. Cochran voted for a Democratic amendment that would exempt many lawyers from caps on the amount state lawyers could receive in tobacco settlements. (RC #225, 09/10/97) (Houston Chronicle, 09/11/97).
Voted with Democrats for an amendment (Senate Amendment 618) that would weaken product liability reform by applying caps on punitive damage awards for product liability only to cases in federal, not state, courts. (RC #147, 05/03/95) (Associated Press, 05/04/95).
Voted with Democrats multiple times to kill the Common Sense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act of 1995 which would have capped damages in product liability cases. (RC #151, 05/04/95) (RC #152, 05/04/95).
Voted with Democrats against an amendment (S.AMDT 599) to restore to rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the restrictions on frivolous legal actions that existed prior to 1994. This rule would discourage frivolous lawsuits by imposing sanctions on attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits. (RC #136, 04/26/95) (Associated Press, 04/27/95).
Voted with Democrats to kill a John Kyl amendment (S.AMDT 609) that would have put a $ 500,000 cap on awards for patients’ pain and suffering, in addition to the cap for punitive damages. (RC #140, 05/02/95) (Associated Press, 05/02/95).
As you can see, Senator Cochran has been in the back pocket of trial lawyers his entire career, along with almost every single Democrat on the planet. And as a result he has made out like a bandit with the trial lawyer lobby, a major Democratic group, raking in more than $54,000 dollars in contributions since 2009 and nearly half a million since 1989. He has been a trusted and reliable friend to them.
Yet blazoned across the backside of the deceptive mailer was this phrase: “Mississippians Deserve a Senator We Can Trust.” First of all, how about a PAC we can trust? Because we surely can’t trust Mississippi (NON) Conservatives, who have done nothing but hurl out-and-out lies at Senator McDaniel since it’s inception, so much so that even Factcheck.org pointed many of them out back in February.
So you wanna talk about trust? How about Senator Cochran’s atrocious record of taxing and spending? A record that is so bad he and his friends are resorting to outright lies in order to hide it from the people of Mississippi. That we do NOT deserve!