Phillips files motion for class action rule
By John Howell
A Batesville attorney has filed a motion with the State Supreme Court that has triggered a request for public comment about creating a class action rule for Mississippi similar to that in federal court and in all other state courts.
Richard T. “Flip” Phillips filed the Motion to amend Rule 23 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure on April 20, according to an announcement from State Supreme Court Public Information Officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft.
“Mississippi is the only state in the nation in which there are no class actions available to its citizens in the state court system,” Phillips’ motion states. “The absence of a class action procedure in Mississippi denies, as a practical matter, the Mississippi courts, including this the Mississippi Supreme Court, the ability to address the rapidly increasing number of disputes and issues involving state law which arise from contracts and other transactions.”
The deadline for submitting comments is June 15. Written comments may be filed with the Clerk of Appellate Courts at Post Office Box 249, Jackson, Mississippi 39205.
The petition is at this link: https://courts.ms.gov/Newsite2/research/rules/rulesforcomment/2017/2017-04-20%to%20Motion%20to%20Amend%20Rule%2023%20the%20Mississippi%20Rules%20of%20Civil%20Procedure.pdf.
“My concerns relate not to tort law- that creature of U.S. civil litigation which arose to address the social and economic issues of a newly industrializing nation throughout the “American Century” of the 1900’s,” Phillips states in a Jan. 16 letter to the Supreme Court Rules Committee. “My concerns today relate to the absence of a Rule 23 feature (permitting class action) in the Mississippi sate (sic) court system of 2016, and the impact of that absence on the growing inability of Mississippi businesses and citizens, as a practical matter, to enforce important contract rights in our state court system.”
Phillips’ motion states that the usual contractual agreements of the 21st Century are made between an individual and an entity with thousands of identical contracts with other individuals.
“As a result, there are millions of dollars at stake for the contract issuer on the legal question presented by the claim of a single Mississippi individual or business,” Phillips’ motion states. “As a practical matter, what such a defendant does is defend the individual cases in a manner appropriate to the aggregate amount it has at risk on the issue with regard to all individuals or businesses with such contracts throughout the state – thereby rendering prosecution of the issue by a single contract holder economically unviable.”
Consideration of a possible class action rule is part of a larger examination of court rules. The Rules Committee on Civil Practice and Procedure, chaired by Presiding Justice Jess H. Dickinson, is conducting a comprehensive review of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. The Committee in 2015 invited attorneys and judges to submit proposed revisions.
The Supreme Court has rule-making authority over all state courts. The Rules Committee on Civil Practice and Procedure will take into consideration public comments as it works to draft proposed rules for consideration by the entire Supreme Court.