JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Gov. Haley Barbour signed a new law Wednesday that limits large jury awards, touting it as a big step forward in eliminating the ``outrageous'' verdicts that have become so common in Mississippi.

Barbour said the law will make the state more business-friendly by making it less prone to eye-popping jury awards. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year called Mississippi a ``judicial hellhole'' because of the jury awards.

``Every defendant will know the scales of justice are going to be balanced,'' Barbour said at a Capitol ceremony.

Barbour, a Republican, was elected last year on a promise to reform the civil justice system. The legislation was approved after a monthlong special session that ended June 8.

The measure caps pain-and-suffering awards at $1 million in most lawsuits and puts a cap of $500,000 in medical malpractice cases.

But trial lawyers and consumer advocates say the bill limits compensation for people who are hurt by faulty products or others' negligence.

``It's a great step backward for consumer safety and for Mississippi families,'' said Kathy Nester, a member of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. ``The governor has made it clear that he places corporate profit above the safety of Mississippi families.''