For the first time in its history, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned members against doing business in a state, saying that all companies face ``significant risks'' from the legal system in Mississippi.
Mississippi tire dealers, however, weren't generally aware of the Chamber's action and, once they knew about it, said they aren't concerned about it.
The Chamber accused Mississippi of having a ``deeply flawed legal system that targets out-of-state businesses with frivolous lawsuits and outrageous verdicts.'' It quoted a legal analysis by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wiley, Rein & Fielding, stating that the state's practices in product liability lawsuits are so outrageous that they deny due process to defendant companies.
That analysis, according to the Chamber, said the state's legal system ``ranked at the bottom of a recent Harris Interactive poll of more than 800 general counsels.''
James M. Wootton, president of the Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, said in the news release that Mississippi's punitive legal system-and its ``love affair with lawsuits''-costs the state an estimated $193 million annually, or $264 per family in the state, as well as more than 7,500 jobs a year.
Saying ``businesses are being unjustly and unfairly targeted by a legal system that is gravely tilted toward the interests of plaintiffs' lawyers,'' Chamber President Thomas Donahue unveiled a $100,000 newspaper campaign bent on informing Mississippians about their state's unfair legal practices.
Mississippi tire dealers contacted at random by Tire Business said they had not heard of the Chamber's statements or felt any effect on business they could attribute to them.
``We've had some kind of slump this year, but I don't know if we can blame it on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,'' said Mike Waltman, manager of Alignment Tire & Brake in Meridian, Miss. ``It might be the economy, it might be something else. But I think people who trade with a dealer will keep trading with the same one.''