Sunday, October 14, 2012

Two updates on the constitutionality of damages caps

On October 5 the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute that places a cap on damages in Miller v. Johnson.  Go to Torts Today for more details.  

Meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit has asked for supplement briefs in a case addressing the constitutionality of Mississippi's $1 million cap on non-economic damages.  The Mississippi Press has more information. (Thanks to TorsProf blog for this link).

One interesting thing is the vast difference in amount used to determine the cap in the two states.  In Kansas, the limit is $250,000 while in Mississippi it is $1 million.  As everyone knows, I am not a supporter of caps on damages but I have to say that a $1 million cap is pretty generous when compared to the vast majority of similar statutes around the country. 

This reminds me of the silliness of the argument tort reformers often make when supporting the use of caps.  They argue that the legislature should be allowed to set he limit for recovery because it is not possible for jurors to determine the value of "pain and suffering."  "How can you put a price on pain and suffering?" they ask. 

It is a funny question, since their proposal is to allow the legislature to do just that... and under circumstances where it has not had a chance to examine the evidence needed to do so...

Having said that, though, it should be clear that the amount of the cap, although relevant for the public policy discussion, has little to do with the issue of the constitutionality of the statute.

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