The panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to Mississippi’s law raised by Lisa Learmonth, a woman who was injured in a terrible car wreck. Learmonth sued Sears, the company who owned the van she was hit by. The jury awarded her $4 million, but never indicated how much of the damages were for economic losses and how much were for non-economic things like pain and suffering. The judge presiding over the case designated $2.2 million for pain and suffering and then proceeded to lower that amount to $1 million based on Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages in product liability cases.
Learmonth argued before the Fifth Circuit that limiting what a jury is able to award an injured plaintiff violates her right to a jury trial under the state’s constitution. She also claimed it violated the notion of a separation of powers given that it allowed the legislature to interfere with a jury’s verdict.
The Fifth Circuit initially asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to decide the issue, something the state high court refused to do. The Court then decided to reject Learmonth’s arguments on its own.
Attorneys for the plaintiff claim that because this was the decision of a federal court applying state law it will not be binding on state court judges who are presented with issues over damages caps in the future. Though this is technically true, legal experts point out that the decision will likely be seen as very influential. This comes as others intend to challenge the $1 million general cap on non-economic damages and the $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
The win is seen as significant for corporations and doctors in the state given that it upholds the idea of capping the potential risk faced by negligent doctors and companies who are later sued for the damage they cause. Plaintiffs’ advocates say the ruling is harmful in that it disregards the constitutional rights of seriously injured Mississippians. Upholding such damage caps succeeds only in denying seriously injured victims from receiving full compensation for their injuries. Rather than protect victims, the caps protect the perpetrators of harm by shielding them from potentially massive civil awards.
If you or some you know has been injured, you need the help of a Mississippi injury attorney knowledgeable of the state’s confusing personal injury law to help protect your rights and recover damages for your injury.
Source: “Appeals court upholds Mississippi damages cap for personal injury cases,” by Terry Baynes, published at ThomsonReuters.com.