On February 15, 2019 a federal court jury in Gulfport rendered a total verdict of $4,170,172 in Woulard v. Greenwood Motor Lines. The case involved an 18-wheeler colliding with a car on I-10 in Jackson County. Here is the Complaint.
Here is the Final Judgment.
The jury apportioned 80% fault to the driver of the 18-wheeler. Economic damages were $2,670,172. Non-economic damages were $1.5 million.
The court applied the $1 million cap on non-economic damages before deducting the 20% fault not apportioned to the defendant.
John Satcher of Jackson and Sean O’Rourke of Webster, Texas represented plaintiff.
Brent Cole, Sterling Kidd and Stephen Kennedy of Baker Donelson in Jackson and Joe Sam Owen with Owen & Galloway in Gulfport represented defendant.
District Judge Sul Ozerden presided.
If the purpose of caps is to protect defendants from huge judgments based on non-economic damages, they should apply to verdicts after apportionment of fault. Here, the judgment for non-economic damages would be $1 million ($1.5 million – $300,000 = $1.2 million).
If the purpose of caps is to lower verdicts as much as possible, then caps should apply before apportionment, as done here.
Unless I’m mistaken, the way the Court applied caps here, if the jury had apportioned 20% fault to the defendant, the non-economic damages judgment would have been $40,000 ($200,000 – $160,000 = $40,000).
That doesn’t seem fair. Particularly since 18-wheelers have to be heavily insured.
At least caps do not apply to non-economic damages. In tort cases, I wouldn’t count on that being the law forever in Mississippi. It’s already not the law in Tort Claims Act cases.