Federal appeals court rules state’s tort cap does not violate separation of powers
Wednesday morning, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mississippi’s $1 million cap on non-economic damages arising out of civil litigation does not violate the state’s constitutional separation of powers.
The question arose out of a personal injury case in federal court in Aberdeen. Plaintiff Lisa Learmonth was involved in a wreck with a Sears van and was awarded $4 million by a jury. The award was modified by the presiding judge to conform with the cap. Learmonth’s attorneys appealed that modification to the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the cap established by the Legislature infringed on a jury’s right to decide how much should be awarded to whom. The Fifth Circuit kicked the issue in 2011 to the Mississippi Supreme court, asking justices to decide if the cap was constitutional.
The state court last August passed on deciding the issue, saying in a 7-1 decision that doing so would be to engage in speculation. The Fifth Circuit asked for briefs on the issue in October, which led to Wednesday’s ruling.
Gov Phil Bryant issued a statement.
Gov. Bryant Comments on Tort Reform Ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
“Today is a good day for businesses across Mississippi because the Fifth Circuit has upheld an important protection against unpredictable and excessive damage awards. The Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling reinforces the rule of law and bolsters our continued push to make Mississippi the most job-friendly state in the nation.”