Court asks for briefs in Learmonth’s damage cap case

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Published: February 14,2011

Tags: courts, damages, tort reform

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has asked parties in a federal lawsuit to file briefs by Feb. 28 on whether a state law that limits non-economic damages in civil cases is constitutional.

The issue was raised by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in January. The 5th Circuit asked the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the law before it rules in a case involving a traffic accident.

The law on non-economic caps puts a $1-million limit on what juries can award someone for such things as pain and suffering. The limits on damages were adopted by Mississippi lawmakers after years of contentious wrangling over tort reform.

Lisa Learmonth sued Sears and Roebuck Co. after she had been involved in a collision with one of the company’s vans near Philadelphia, Miss.

A U.S. District Court in Mississippi jury found Sears liable for her injuries and awarded Learmonth $4 million in damages, of which the parties agreed $2.2 million were for non-economic damages. The judge reduced the non-economic damages to $1 million.

In its appeal, Sears asked the 5th Circuit for a new trial, which the appeals court panel denied. Learmonth appealed the judge’s decision to reduce the non-economic damages, an issue that the 5th Circuit panel referred to the Mississippi court.

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