The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content

My readers know that I am not a big fan of injustice, whether it be today, tomorrow, or yesterday. I recently came across an article I missed and wanted to share it with my readers who may have missed it, as well.

A wrongful death case was filed by the mother of a boy who died of smoke inhalation in his own apartment. Unfortunately, the apartment building lacked adequate fire detection. A Mississippi jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff that included $6 million in non-economic damages.

A State law that went into effect in 2004 limits non-economic damages awards to $1 million. However, Coahoma County Circuit Judge Charles Webster ruled that the limits were unconstitutional, stating that the legislature had no authority to interfere with the judicial branch of the government. In his ruling, Webster said,

“The Mississippi Constitution guarantees every citizen a remedy for an injury done to his lands, goods, person and reputation with that remedy to be determined by a jury. The issue is not whether the limits imposed under the statute are reasonable. Rather, the issue is whether the Legislature has the authority to impose any limits, reasonable or not.”

The apartment complex appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court saying that tort law “does not interfere with a party’s right of trial by jury because the fact finder still determines whether the alleged injured party is entitled to recover damages. The statute simply limits the amount to be recovered as opposed to eliminating the right of recovery altogether, which is clearly within the power of the Legislature to do.”

A week before the court was to hear oral arguments in the apartment fire wrongful death case, a Stay of Appeals was issued. While I was unable to find a reason behind the Stay or the final decision in this case, there are a few important facts that the American people must know.

First, tort reform is not about restricting access to the courts, it is about denying litigants an opportunity to achieve justice once they get there. Tort reform not only undercuts the constitutional rights of citizens, it also limits the accountability of wrongdoers, especially corporate wrongdoers, and boosts their profits at citizen expense. Tort reform does not create jobs or improve healthcare; it chisels away the legal right of any citizen to file a claim against the wrongdoer and seek fair and just compensation for his/her injury. Ultimately, under-compensated victims look to public assistance for support and we, the taxpayers end up providing that support. Isn’t this, simply, corporate welfare for the wrongdoers? Why do our legislators support such laws?

Multi-billion dollar insurance companies and Goliath corporations benefit from these justice-restricting laws. These companies pour millions, if not billions, of dollars into the campaigns of legislators and judges who support these anti-citizens laws. When wrongdoers get a free pass from the legislature, the taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab. The Constitutions (state and federal) are undermined every time one of these dangerous laws is rushed through the legislature, behind and on the backs of the public. Why does this happen? How does this happen? Because big business and big insurance pool their money to influence politicians into doing their bidding. After all, when money talks, your elected representatives listen, and you are hurt in the crossfire.

Our ancestors struggled, some even died, so that all of us could have a voice in government affairs. “We the People” is not a slogan. The words are not merely throw away words at the beginning of our constitution. They are its essence. So is separation of powers and so are three distinct branches of government. Our rights are being eroded, under our very noses, by those who we put into office. It is high time that we stop surrendering the keys to the doors of our country’s courtrooms and to our system of justice. Only through the courts can we send a strong message to corporate wrong-doers. We can’t do that if our elected officials continue to surrender justice and common sense in exchange for corporate capital. Call your elected officials and asked them where they stand on justice for their citizens. If they stand with the corporate wrongdoers, exercise your right to vote them out of office.

Comments are closed.

Of Interest