A recent ruling by a state court could make big waves regarding personal injury damage caps in Mississippi. The mother of a young boy who died from smoke inhalation after a fire in an apartment building that did not have proper fire protection might soon be able to collect $6 million in damages from the building’s owners. The court decision contradicts current law in the state which puts damage caps in place to prevent such high judgments. As a result the opinion is guaranteed to receive significant scrutiny from higher courts.
Coahoma County Circuit Judge Charles Webster said that Mississippi’s cap on noneconomic damages violates that state’s constitution. Since 2004, the state has limited the amount a person could collect for pain, suffering and the loss of a loved one to $1 million.
Judge Webster declared such a limit to amount to legislative overreach. Judge Webster believes that any change to Mississippi trial law must be made to the state’s constitution and cannot simply be the result of legislative action. Judge Webster wrote that, “The issue is not whether the limits imposed under the statute are reasonable. Rather, the issue is whether the legislature has the authority to impose any limits, reasonable or not.”
Whether the grieving mother in this case will ever see such a large sum of money depends in large part on what happens with another case currently before the Mississippi Supreme Court. At this very moment the state high court is reviewing a case concerning a $2.2 million noneconomic damage award. If the Mississippi Supreme Court upholds the award with the damage amount intact then this case will likely be upheld and lead to major changes in personal injury cases across the state. If, however, the state Supreme Court overturns the damage amount in the other case then that decision will serve to overrule Judge Webster’s decision in this case.
The mother’s attorney recognized the novelty of the ruling, but said he doesn’t think it is the last time such a challenge will be made against the state’s damage cap law. The mother’s attorney went on to say that he expects his case to make its way up to the state Supreme Court and that he’s ready for the fight that will surely follow.
Many Mississippi personal injury attorneys view the state’s damage caps as unfair restraints on the will of juries. By blunting the impact that large verdicts can have against wrongdoers, the law is bad for consumer rights. If you have been injured and you have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi personal injury lawyers at Kilpatrick & Philley at (601) 856-7800.
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