Suit May Prove 60 Minutes Point
CBS's 60 Minutes, which Nov. 24 reported on the whopping awards given by civil juries in Jefferson County, Miss., may get a chance—reluctantly, no doubt—to see that system in action.
Two former jurors in that county are suing the program, along with sources included in the story, for $6 billion, contending that they were defamed in the story about "jackpot justice." Anthony Berry and Johnny Anderson each sat on juries that reached $150 million verdicts: Berry in an asbestos case, Anderson in a diet-drug case.
Said correspondent Morley Safer in his introduction, "Plaintiffs' lawyers have found that juries in rural, impoverished places can be mighty sympathetic when one of their own goes up against a big, rich, multinational corporation."
The report detailed how the county has been targeted by lawyers and plaintiffs and how tort litigation there—often seemingly frivolous and speculative—has threatened the livelihoods of medical professionals and pharmacists. The state's wide-open tort laws make such suits easy to file there.
At one point, an unidentified local florist turned millionaire by a tort settlement, suggested that jurors make huge awards believing that they're going to get a piece of it under the table. The florist, since identified as Beau Strittman, has told local reporters that he was joking and thought the cameras were off.
CBS declined to comment on the lawsuit.