By The Associated Press
JACKSON — A federal appeals court has asked parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi’s $1 million cap on non-economic damages to re-brief the issue.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans filed the order Friday.
The court noted it has been two years since the original briefs were filed. The court said it wants the briefs to include any new information that has developed since the appeal was filed.
Lisa Learmonth filed suit in federal court after she was injured in a collision with a Sears van near Philadelphia, Miss., in 2005.
A federal jury in 2008 determined Sears was liable for Learmonth’s injuries and awarded $4 million in damages but the panel did not itemize how much of the award was noneconomic damages.
Learmonth and Sears agreed $2.2 million of the verdict was for noneconomic damages. A federal judge reduced that part of the damages to $1 million in line with Mississippi law.
The 5th Circuit asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the $1 million cap. The Mississippi court said absent an itemized damage award it had nothing on which to rule.
Attorneys for Sears have until Oct. 22 to re-brief the issue. Attorneys for Learmonth have asked the court to let them file a response by Nov. 19.
The $1 million cap on noneconomic damages applies to what a jury 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 changes.
Noneconomic damages under Mississippi law do not include punitive damages.
There is no cap on damages for economic losses, such as how much the person could have expected to earn in his or her lifetime or for such things as continuing medical expenses.
The initial limits on lawsuit awards came in 2002. The law was amended in 2004 amid complaints that the initial changes didn’t go far enough.