On Thursday the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a $150,000 jury verdict in the Humphrey County Circuit Court in City of Belzoni v. Johnson. The case was a 1983 action filed in state court.

Plaintiff claimed that she was sexually harassed by another police officer while she served on the City of Belzoni’s police force. Plaintiff sued the City, the police chief and the harassing officer. The trial was in 2010. The damages verdict was for emotional damages, which the jury instructions defined as “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, and mental anguish.” 

The Court found that Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to support her claims. In addition, the Court noted that Tort Claims Act notice of claim requirements do not apply to 1983 actions filed in state court.

On the issue of Plaintiff’s damages, the Court found that the verdict was supported by Plaintiff’s testimony that the harasser’s behavior affected her confidence, self respect and dignity. She testified that the conduct offended and humiliated her and cause her to suffer chest pains, headaches and unable to sleep.

Justice King wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion.

Steven Panter and Ronald Stutzman represented the Plaintiff. Stephanie Morris and Thomas Morris represented the Defendants.

My Take:

Although the opinion does not read like this was a very significant decision, it could get cited a good bit in cases where defendants complain about verdicts that include damages for emotional harm.