By Perry Cooper
Mississippi residents still won’t be able to bring class actions in state court after the state supreme court May 17 rejected a petition to add a class mechanism to the state civil procedure rules.
Mississippi and Virginia are the only states that don’t allow class actions in state court. Most states have adopted versions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.
“Mississippi has a hostile climate toward plaintiffs in civil litigation,” plaintiffs’ attorney Don Barrett told Bloomberg Law. “This latest decision evinces this sad fact.” Barrett is with Barrett Law Group P.A. in Lexington, Miss.
But a defense attorney doesn’t think a rule is necessary. “I don’t think we’ve missed anything by not having state class actions,” David W. Clark told Bloomberg Law. Clark is with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Jackson, Miss.
The federal Class Action Fairness Act has allowed more class actions to be filed in or removed to federal court, Clark said. That has allowed Mississippi plaintiffs to filed class actions in federal courts in the state.
“The Mississippi Supreme Court reached the result that is best for Mississippi and its justice system,” defense attorney Stephanie M. Rippee of Watkins & Eager PLLC in Jackson told Bloomberg Law.
Mississippi plaintiffs’ attorney Richard T. Phillips petitioned the state high court to add a class action rule “to afford citizens of the State of Mississippi a procedure by which the contract and other legal issues which arise today may be resolved in a viable and practical manner” in state court.
The absence of a class action procedure denies state courts of “the ability to address the rapidly increasing number of disputes and issues involving state law which arise from contracts and other transactions,” Phillips, partner at Smith Phillips Mitchell Scott & Nowak LLP in Batesville, Miss., said in his petition.
The Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure mirror the federal rules, but where the federal rules have Rule 23, the Mississippi rules says “Rule 23. Class Actions [Omitted].”
The en banc supreme court denied the petition 7–2.
Mississippi used to have a procedure for mass joinder of tort cases. But Clark, who called the procedure “unfortunate and improper,” said law reforms and state supreme court rulings “corrected that in 2004.”
Virginia also doesn’t have a Rule 23 parallel. The state Multi Claimant Litigation Act provides a means to join, coordinate, consolidate, or transfer six or more civil actions. And there is precedent for allowing representative actions for injunctive relief.
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