Non-economic damage caps before the MSSC
June 14, 2011 1 Comment
The Mississippi Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Sears Roebuck Company v. Lisa Learmonth. In case you haven’t been keeping up, this is a case where the issue of the constitutionality of Mississippi’s non-economic damage caps is squarely before the court. At oral argument, Plaintiff was represented by Kevin Hamilton and Robert Peck. Defendant was represented by Francis Citera.
Attorneys for both sides did an excellent job despite the justices hitting them with a few zingers. Justice Kitchens had a comment that was certainly memorable. He looked Citera in the eye and said “You claim the damage caps are working. Who are they working for? Businesses? Because they sure aren’t working for injured people.” A particularly hard question for the defendant came when a justice asked if the defendant could point out a single recent case that had been wrongfully decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court or Court of Appeals on the issue of damages. Citera pondered for a second and quietly said “no.” The implication being basically “The Court has done just fine without the Legislature getting in our business.”
I was somewhat surprised to see some head nodding coming from a couple of justices I would have expected to view the case differently. I am not placing much weight on the head nodding as a signal though because most every lawyer has experienced a judge/jury nod in agreement with a party’s position and then knock them silly.
So how will the Court rule? It is a toss up, but the Plaintiff had the better arguments this time. Hopefully, the right to trial by jury will prevail over the Legislature’s power grab.
p.s. – Mr. Citera, Hinds County does not consist of a population of 10, 000 residents that have filed 20,000 lawsuits.