Mississippi’s Caps on Damages is good for who? Big Business and Insurance Companies

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On June 14, 2011 I attended oral argument at the Mississippi Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages. The case was Learmonth v. Sears Roebuck Co. Non-economic damages are pain and suffering, worry, anxiety, etc. The cap is limited at $1 million. There is no cap on economic damages like medical bills, loss of wages, etc. Now, $1 million is a lot of money and it’s hard to argue otherwise. However, some people who are injured do not have “economic damages” to recover so their only claim would be “non-economic damages”.

For instance, let’s consider a 30 year old lady who has given up her job and wants to stay home and raise her family. Suppose she suffers a horrific eye injury in a car accident which leaves her blind. She will not need future medical care and treatment and she has no lost future earnings. Her life expectancy is 77 years so she will have to live 47 years with no vision. Under our current law, her non-economic damages are capped at $1 million. What about a child who gets the same injury? What about a person who is retired?

In yesterday’s argument, the attorney representing Sears contended that the cap was working good. He was asked by one Supreme Court Justice “who is the cap working for? the injured person or the business community”. Indeed. In a follow up question, the attorney was asked to point out one case in which so-called “runaway verdict” was affirmed by either the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. After a long pause, the attorney could not identify one and conceded that if a jury verdict is “excessive” Mississippi’s appellate courts have routinely reduced the verdict.

So why the need for a cap? Caps on damages do not deter “frivilous lawsuits” because those lawsuits are dismissed long before a jury verdict. Defendants are not scared of “frivilous lawsuits”. What they are scared of are valid lawsuits where their actions have caused a harm or death to an innocent person. Caps on damages are there to protect businesses, doctors, and insurance companies against these type of lawsuits.

Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins has been helping Mississippians for over 16 years. For more information on Chuck, go to the Coxwelll & Associates website.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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