As discussed here week before last, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a $30 million bench verdict in favor of the State of Mississippi against Sandoz, Inc. for overcharging the State for drugs.Here is the Court’s opinion.

The decision was actually a tie, as explained last week by Judge Primeaux on his blog:

Justice Chandler wrote the plurality opinion, joined by Kitchens, King, and Randolph specially concurring. Justices Dickinson and Lamar wrote dissenting opinions that were joined by Pierce and Coleman. Waller did not participate. If you’re counting, the score is Affirm = 4, Dissent = 4, Abstain = 1. If the vote is tied, the decision is affirmed.

Because it was a tie, Justice Randolph criticized the Court’s lengthy opinions–a combined 53 pages. As Judge Primeaux explains:

Justice Randolph concurred in the result, but he vigorously argued that the court should not have issued an opinion in the case, but rather should have issued an order merely affirming since there was no majority in agreement to issue a statement of the law on the subject. He cites SCOTUS opinions that support his position holding that split decisions have no precedential value, and concludes by questioning why our court clings to its practice of issuing opinions that can be used as precedent in such cases. I have to say that I find his brief concurring opinion persuasive.

Kind of lost in the shuffle was the majority’s conclusion that the statutory punitive damages caps apply to cases where the State is the plaintiff.

My Take:

Without getting into the merits of caps, it seems fair that caps that apply to other plaintiffs also apply to the State.

There is no way for me to opine on whether the Court (and Chancellor) got it right without analyzing the record. For any reader who would like to give me some homework by assigning me the task of reading the record and reporting back: YOU DO IT.

I agree with Judge Primeaux that for those of us unburdened with knowledge of the record, Justice Randolph’s concurrence is persuasive. The beauty of Justice Randolph’s opinion is that you don’t need to know what’s in the record to follow it.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this may not be over. Sandoz will no doubt file a motion for re-hearing and we could see tweaked (or more) opinions months down the road.