On Thursday a unanimous Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded a 2010 Jones County jury verdict of $15.2 million in an asbestos drilling mud case. Here is the Court’s opinion in Phillips 66 Co. v. Lofton. I previously wrote about the verdict here and here.

The big appeal issue was statute of limitations. I attended the oral argument and that is the only issue I recall being addressed.

The defendant argued that the statute began running in 1995 or 1996 when plaintiff learned that he had a lung injury, but before he learned that asbestos caused the injury. The plaintiff argued that the statute began running in 2003 when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

The opinion is not real clear on what happened factually. It’s easier to understand if you skip page 7 and start reading the statute of limitations analysis on page 8.    

The trial court submitted to the jury the issue of when the plaintiff should have known about the injury. The jury ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. The Court found this a fact question resolved by the jury in plaintiff’s favor and declined to disturb the jury’s determination. 

After addressing and not finding error on numerous other issues, the Court reversed and remanded because the trial court allowed plaintiff’s counsel to read from non-admitted drilling reports while cross examining a defense witness. The Court found that it was an abuse of discretion to allow plaintiff counsel to read the reports into evidence. The Court remanded the case for a new trial.

Justice Kitchens wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion. Justices Randolph and Pierce did not participate.

Judge Billy Joe Landrum was the trial judge.

Jeff Trotter of Adams and Reese in Jackson argued for defendant at the oral argument and did a very good job. Each side had a squad of lawyers listed on the opinion.

  • Anderson

    Very painful – I had an appeal with a very similar issue regarding irrelevant evidence, and after the COA affirmed in a deeply bizarre opinion, the client got spooked and hired additional counsel, who then made it their job to see to it that the client dismissed the appeal and quit using our firm.
    On the reasoning in this silica op, we would’ve gotten that reversed on cert, 9-0.

  • Sammy Edmondson

    Motion to dismiss on statute of limitations? “Uh—that’s going to be a fact issue, judge. The jury should decide it.”
    Opens a wide door.

  • Anderson

    This seemed to be a particularly gnarly SOL issue – I think it’s always been the case that those can go to the jury.
    SOL’s like any other fact issue: if the plaintiff’s got nothing to show the case fell within the SOL, it can still get bounced early.