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LNL – Miss. damages cap also...

LNL – Miss. damages cap also being challenged in federal court in Seattle

By: Magnolia Tribune - January 27, 2010

Miss. damages cap also being challenged in federal court

SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) – A Mississippi law capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits is being challenged in a federal court in Seattle by a plaintiff who recently won $3.2 million.

A federal judge found the G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., liable for a stroke suffered by Melvin Eason that put him in a near-vegetative state. His daughter, Bridgette Jeffries, alleged the staff miscalculated the dosage of an anti-clotting medication used to treat his venous thromboembolic disease.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik wanted to award Eason and Jeffries $1 million in non-economic damages, but lowered it to $500,000 because of the Mississippi law, passed in 2002.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that the cap on damages discriminates between slightly and severely injured victims of medical malpractice.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is defending the constitutionality of the caps in that case. He could do the same in the Eason case.

A group of Mississippi medical organizations filed an amicus brief Monday. It notes that in the year the tort reform measure was passed, the state had the lowest number of physicians per 1,000 residents. The law has since had a positive effect on the state’s economy, the brief says, and should be upheld.

“Plaintiff invites this Court to strike down (the tort reform law) based on provisions of the Mississippi Constitution,” the brief says. “The Mississippi Supreme Court, however, has traditionally respected the legislature’s authority to decide broad tort policy rules.

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