2018 Scholarship Winner: Hunter Rochester
Hunter Rochester: Snowden School – $1,500.00 – Hunter has plans to attend Mississippi State University to study Engineering.
The Winning Essay:
I am writing to you today because of my concerns with Mississippi Code Annotated § 11-1-60, which places a cap on jury awards for non-economic damages and medical malpractice claims. The $1,000,000 cap for personal injury claims and the $500,000 for medical malpractice claims does not equal to what has been lost by victims of non-economic damages.
On June 13, 2013, the $500,000 cap was upheld by a federal judge in a lawsuit filed by the family of Tiara Clemons. Clemons’s family sued the US Government after Clemons and her unborn child were refused possible lifesaving medical care at the Choctaw Health Center in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Clemons was eventually transferred to a hospital in Jackson where she and the child died. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves upheld the $500,000 cap in the case; however, he strongly disagreed with them. Afterwards, he wrote, “All grief is not equal. All pain cannot be reduced to a one-size-fits-all sum. In Mississippi, though, one’s suffering at the hands of a health care provider is worth no more than half a million dollars, no matter how egregious, and no matter if your suffering leads to your death, your unborn child’s death, and leaves your children orphans. This is offensive.”
Someone very close to me has also suffered at the hands of medical malpractice and Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages. She is currently in the process of suing the surgeon who committed the malpractice, and as such, I cannot disclose much information. However, I still questioned her on her opinion of the caps. She called them “pitiful” and agreed with District Judge Reeves that putting a monetary value on life is abhorrent, especially when it is as low as $500,000.
Finally, these caps directly violate our Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. In an article for the Missouri Law Review titled “Statutory Caps on Damages and the Right to Jury Trial,” Paul Day writes, “The only way to determine an acceptable level of compensation in such circumstances is to allow a cross-section of society to judge what fair compensation is. Infringing on the jury’s determination of such facts, therefore, infringes on the right to trial by jury.” Our founding fathers believed in the sanctity of all human life and that all men deserve the right to a fair trial, criminal or no, hence, they would most definitely disapprove of these limits which seek to place a monetary value on life itself.
Based on these reasons, there is really only one option. These limits must be erased altogether for our citizens’ rights to be upheld. I hope, Mr. Congressman, that you will see the gravity of the situation and help to ensure the betterment of our citizens’ lives by eliminating these caps.