Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant has been trumpeting the state's tort reform laws as a major economic development according to papers filed in federal court. The governor made the claims in a filing before the court that will decide the constitutionality of the state's $1 million cap on non-economic damages.
The case, which began in 2006, will decide whether the state's cap on damages is unjust. The cap was put into place years ago after legislators complained that verdicts in the state had gotten too large, too fast and led to unfairly large awards for plaintiffs. The updated brief on the part of Governor Bryant filed in support of the measure was meant to inject life into the case after the 5th Circuit told attorneys for both sides that briefs needed to be updated.
The case is not expected to be resolved until sometime later this year. Attorneys have said the complexity of the case and possible further oral arguments may drag the matter out well into the New Year. It's also possible that the 5th Circuit will ask for additional briefs on certain specific legal issues.
The case was started in 2006 after a Mississippi woman was injured in an accident with a Sears truck near Philadelphia, MS. A jury in 2008 found that Sears was liable and awarded the woman $4 million in damages, though the verdict never identified which damages were noneconomic. It was later decided that $2.2 million of the overall verdict was noneconomic; a number that was later reduced by a federal judge to $1 million to align with Mississippi's law.