State judge declares tort cap unconstitutional; criticizes Legislature

CLARKSDALE — A state judge in Coahoma County has declared a legislatively imposed cap on non-economic damages unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Charles Webster issued the ruling April 20 in a 14-page opinion. He criticized the Legislature for intruding into judicial authority.

Webster’s ruling came in a motion filed by Cleveland attorney Ralph E. Chapman in lawsuit seeking damages stemming from the death of a child in an apartment complex fire.

A Coahoma jury in September returned a verdict for the plaintiffs that included $6 million in non-economic damages. State law that went into effect in 2004 limits awards for non-economic damages to $1 million.

Chapman said today the plaintiffs sought the ruling on grounds the cap is unconstitutional.

The Mississippi Supreme Court is expected to get the case.

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