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A judge in Mississippi has ruled that a "cap" on pain and suffering damages is unconstitutional in the state of Mississippi. It's not the first time a cap on "noneconomic" damages has been ruled unconstitutional, as it has happened in other states. Quite frankly, if it's unconstitutional in one state it should be unconstitutional in every state, including Michigan, which has a cap on "noneconomic" damages in medical malpractice cases.

The brave jurist was Coahama County Circuit Court Judge Charles Webster. His 14-page opinion issued on April 20, 2012 criticized the Mississippi legislature for intruding into judicial authority. The judge's ruling arose from a case involving the death of a child in an apartment complex fire. Mississippi citizens that made up the jury concluded the plaintiffs in the case deserved a $6 million award for "noneconomic" damages. Unfortunately, the Mississippi legislature had decided to pass a cap on "noneconomic" damages in 2004, meaning the jury's deliberations and good faith judgments would be of no consequence.

Other states have already declared similar caps unconstitutional, including Illinois and Georgia, which brings to question why these "caps" on "noneconomic" damages continue to have life when their fairness and constitutionality are severely disputed. For one, they are premised on disingenuous arguments. Ask someone who has lost a loved one as a result of someone's negligence, if their suffering is purely "noneconomic": ask them about the hours of counseling they've had to undergo, about the cost of moving out of town because the painful memories are too much to bear, and about the decrease in work productivity as they struggle with deep depression.

These caps call pain and suffering damages "noneconomic" damages because it's an attempt to call them "phoney" damages or "shouldn't be taken serious" damages. Ask anyone whose daughter or son was killed due to someone's careless behavior if those are damages to be taken seriously or not.

Second, essentially every state in the nation contains a constitutional provision that maintains the right to a trial by jury in civil cases. That includes the right to have your damages decided by that jury. If you erode the right of the jury to determine a case's facts (which includes damages), you erode the right to trial by jury. These are real damages that should be decided by real jurors, not a whimsical operation of law that tarnishes our state's Constitutional integrity.

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