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Archive for August, 2012

Miss. Supreme Court punts issue of damages cap

August 23rd, 2012 No comments

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals almost two years ago asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to decide if the state’s cap on noneconomic damages was constitutional.

Thursday afternoon, state justices declined to do so. The question arose out of a personal injury lawsuit against Sears and Roebuck Co.

Plaintiff Lisa Learmonth was awarded $4 million by a federal jury, but that award was modified to conform with the tort cap. Learmonth’s attorneys appealed that modification to the Fifth Circuit, who kicked the issue to the state court for clarification on the cap.

In an 7-1 ruling (Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. did not participate) justices said that deciding the constitutionality of the $1 million cap on noneconomic damages arising from civil suits would “require engaging in speculation[,] conjecture[,] supposition[,] and
guesswork regarding what amount the jury [may have] awarded in economic damages and
what amount it [may have] awarded in noneconomic damages.”

Justice Jess Dickinson was the lone dissent. In his separate opinion, he said the court’s refusal to settle the cap question based on whether the federal court’s calculations used to arrive at the modified award were factual was to disregard simple math.

“The court deducted all claimed and proven economic damages in the amount of $1,781,094.40 from the total award of $4 million, to arrive at the noneconomic award of $2,218,905.60,” Dickinson wrote. “In third grade, I was asked: “If a farmer has ten apples and sells six, how many apples does he have left? Neither my answer of four apples, nor the district court’s mathematical calculation – according to the majority’s logic – was ‘factual.’”

The entire opinion can be read here.

Bulldogs continue winning streak over Rebels with Pontotoc’s Tailgate Challenge

August 20th, 2012 No comments

It’s football season, which means it’s tailgating season.

Things are already getting serious in Pontotoc. The Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce and the Pontotoc Main Street Association held the first Rebel/Bulldog Tailgate Challenge Saturday on the town’s courthouse square.

The Challenge was essentially a barbecue cooking contest, with teams split into supporters of either Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Teams competed in four categories — ribs, chicken, pork and vegetables. Scores from each team were accumulated and applied to either Ole Miss or State. State won, and received a trophy for doing so. No word yet if there’s a billboard planned to mark the victory.

Moving on, there is a new industry organization that caters to businesses that cater to tailgaters. That could potentially be a wide range of places — grocery stores, gas stations, home improvement places, even furniture stores. The Tailgating Industry Association works like other trade organizations: Members pay a fee and the association markets, promotes and otherwise tries to make its members money.

The Association’s website doesn’t have a list of members, but it does list a fee schedule: Manufacturers and suppliers with less than $2 million in annual revenue pay $500 annually. That number increases based on annual sales, and is capped at $2,500. Media outlets can join for $250. (The Mississippi Business Journal will not be joining.)

Check out the TIA’s website here.

 

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Toyota executive: Company fully recovered from last year’s tsunami

August 14th, 2012 No comments

The senior vice president for Toyota Motor Sales USA said Tuesday morning that the automaker is having a much better go of it than this time last year.

Bob Carter, speaking at the J.P. Morgan Auto Conference in New York, said overall sales were up 26 percent for July and 30 percent for the year, mostly because Toyota can again meet its demand as its Japanese facilities get back online after last year’s tsunami. To add to that, Carter said, the company is growing because several new versions of old products are selling well.

Sales of the new Camry, for example, were 39 percent higher in July than for the same period in 2011. It’s still the best-selling car in America, holding a 60,000 unit lead over the second place Honda Accord.

Carter didn’t offer any new numbers associated with the Corolla – though he did mention the plant in Blue Springs – there was some news that could potentially have an impact in Mississippi. For a few months now, rumors have flown – and have not exactly been denied by Toyota executives – that the Blue Springs facility could eventually build the Prius to go with the Corolla.

Combined sales of the new Prius v and the original Prius liftback have set retail volume records every month from last November until July, maintaining 43 percent of the hybrid market share.

Overall, Toyota expects sales of 2 million units in 2012, which would mean an 18 percent jump from last year.

 

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Texas-based KBR still involved with Kemper plant, spokesperson says

August 7th, 2012 No comments

Word started circulating Monday that Mississippi Power Co. had ended its relationship with KBR, a Texas-based engineering and construction design/build firm involved in the Kemper County coal plant.

That’s not the case, a KBR spokesperson told the Mississippi Business Journal Tuesday morning.

Marianne Gooch said KBR is winding down its involvement in the construction phase of the plant, but will still provide engineering and start-up services. The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in May 2014. Employees in KBR’s construction division will leave the job site by this Thursday, Aug. 9, Gooch said, but will have the opportunity to catch on with other construction companies MPC and its parent Southern Co. are using to build the $2.88 billion plant.

KBR owns a portion of the Transport Integrated Gasification technology that will be used at the Kemper facility.

The coal plant has been the subject of a legal challenge from the Sierra Club, which currently has the issue in Harrison County Chancery Court for a second time. The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted in late June not to take any action on rate increase requests associated with the plant until the litigation concludes. The Mississippi Supreme Court last week denied MPC’s request to institute interim rate increases while the appeals process moved forward.

A MPC spokesperson did not immediately return cell phone and email messages Tuesday morning.

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PSC to look into ROE rates for Entergy, Miss. Power

August 7th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted 3-0 Tuesday morning to examine the formulas used to calculate return on equity for Mississippi Power Co. and for Entergy Mississippi.

Return on equity (ROE) is the amount of net income returned as a percentage of shareholders equity. It is used to measure a corporation’s profitability by revealing how much profit a company generates with the money shareholders have invested in, for example, things like new facilities and new infrastructure.

For utility companies, ROE is set as a percentage. The latest figures the PSC has approved for Entergy’s ROE is 11.63 percent; for MPC that figure is 10.62 percent. That’s about in the middle range for comparably sized utilities in the Southeast.

Each company uses multiple formulas to calculate its ROE, and takes the average of those formulas. For instance, MPC uses three formulas to calculate its ROE. The results generally end with a ROE of somewhere between 9 percent and 11 percent.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to hire consultants and to begin a series of hearings designed to examine the formulas. If the PSC decides it wants to change anything, it will have to be done in an entirely separate docket.

The hearings will likely last several months. It was unclear Tuesday if the first hearing would be a part of the regular meeting scheduled for September 11.