Miss. judge rules tort reform unconstitutional

John O'Brien Apr. 27, 2012, 7:40am


CLARKSDALE, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - While Mississippi's cap on non-economic challenges is still seeking the approval tort reformers were looking for, a state judge has ruled the cap is unconstitutional.

Coahoma County Circuit Judge Charles Webster ruled April 20 that a 2004 law that limits awards on non-economic damages like pain and suffering to $1 million, according to The Associated Press. He made the ruling in a case involving the death of a child in an apartment complex fire and upheld a jury's $6 million award of non-economic damages.

The issue is already before the state Supreme Court, which was asked about the constitutionality of the cap by a Mississippi federal court, the report added.

"Rights guaranteed by through the constitution may be changed, limited and/or removed. However, they cannot be changed, limited and/or removed by legislative enactment. There is a process by which such might occur -- it is through amendment to the constitution," Webster wrote.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit certified the question of the cap's constitutionality to the state Supreme Court in a 2011 decision involving an automobile accident. Lisa Learmonth collided with a van owned by Sears, Roebuck and Company, causing serious injuries.

A federal jury awarded her approximately $2.2 in non-economic damages, part of a $4 million total award.

The ruling would not be necessary had the state Supreme Court ruled on it in a 2010 decision involving a man who was shot at a convenience store.

Ronnie Lee Lymas had asked the court to rule the cap unconstitutional in his case against Double Quick convenience stores. However, the court ruled the company was not liable in the shooting, and therefore any ruling on the cap was unnecessary.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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