Though the decision was highly anticipated, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided earlier this week to avoid the hotly contested issue of tort reform. Many hoped the Court would take a stand regarding the constitutionality of the state’s current $1 million cap on noneconomic damages in civil injury cases.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments last year dealing in response to a request from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of the cap on damage awards in a federal case. The Fifth Circuit panel said at the time that the issue was an important one regarding state law about which there is no current controlling precedent.
Rather than settle the matter, the Supreme Court refused to answer the question, saying that there was no case before the Court on the subject. Justice Michael Randolph wrote that the Court was not willing to “answer a certified constitutional question outside the clear context of its application.” Justice Randolph continued, saying that “…The constitutionality of a statute is not to be addressed abstractly, speculatively, or in the manner of an academic discussion, but rather in the context of its clear application.”
There was increased anticipation that the Court might act on the matter given the decision earlier this year (which we wrote about here) by Circuit Judge Charles Webster, of Clarksdale, that the cap on noneconomic damages (often known as pain and suffering damages) is unconstitutional. In his opinion, Judge Webster took a swipe at Mississippi legislators for overstepping their bounds into judicial territory.
Opponents of the cap believe it’s only a matter of time until the measure is declared unconstitutional. They say the cap unfairly harms innocent victims and succeeds only in helping those responsible for terrible injuries. Proponents of the law say it was drafted by a bipartisan group of legislators and fully complies with the state’s constitution.
Source: “Mississippi Supreme Court declines to address tort reform,” by The Associated Press, published at GulfLive.com.
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