Is Mississippi’s Cap On Non-Economic Damages Constitutional (Customer-Supplied)

Mississippi law currently caps non-economic damages – compensation for intangible harms such as severe pain and suffering or emotional distress – at $1 million. Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages has come under fire by those who have been subjected to it. Some believe it is unconstitutional. One woman, Lisa Learmouth, is taking her case against Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages to court.

The facts of Sears and Roebuck v. Learmouth

Lisa Learmouth sued Sears in federal court after she was injured in a car accident involving a company vehicle. A jury awarded her $4 million in damages, but the award was reduced by the trial judge to comply with Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages. Learmouth’s attorney appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit arguing that the cap was unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit referred the case to the Mississippi state Supreme Court with the direction to decide the constitutionality of the law. The Mississippi court sent it back to the Fifth Circuit and now the Fifth Circuit has requested the parties to re-brief the issue.

Learmouth’s attorney argues that the legislature does not have the authority to impose limits on damages and that damages in a personal injury case are to be determined by the judge and jury, not the legislature. The law is a violation of the separation of powers and takes away Learmouth’s right to have a trial by jury.

Other state’s positions on non-economic damage caps

Mississippi is not the only state to have imposed a cap on noneconomic damages and this case is not the first case to question the constitutionality of those caps. The result of these other cases is mixed. States such as Minnesota and New Mexico have upheld caps on non-economic damages because the caps serve a legitimate state interest. Other states such as Illinois, New Hampshire, and Washington have struck down caps citing violations of equal protection, abuse of due process, and an infringement of the constitutional right to a trial by jury. The constitutionality of such laws may ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Obtaining damages for your injuries

Proving damages, especially non-economic damages, is complex. If you or someone you love has been injured because of someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area who will fight for the compensation that you deserve. Whether your injury was caused by a car accident, a slip and fall or a defective product, you have a right to compensation for your injuries – both tangible and non-tangible.

About the Author
Jefferson D. Gilder is a Partner at Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman and was admitted to the Mississippi and Tennessee Bars in 1990. Mr. Gilder is admitted to practice in all courts in Mississippi and Tennessee including Federal Court, the Fifth and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Gilder's areas of practice include personal injury, criminal, medical malpractice, civil rights, and product liability. Mr. Gilder spent his first ten years as an attorney practicing with his father, Robert G. Gilder, at Gilder Law Firm in Southaven, Mississippi before forming Gilder, Howell & Assoc., P.A. with Jamie W. Howell, Jr. in June of 2000. This firm although as another legal entity has now combined their resources and experience with Chatham – Pittman, to form Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Jefferson through our contact page.