U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Non-economic Damage Limits in Lawsuit; Learmonth v. Sears

Lisa Learmonth filed suit against Sears in a case that was litigated in the federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi.  Learmonth was injured in 2005 in a car accident with a Sears employee.  She was seriously injured and filed suit against Sears for her damages.  A jury in the district court found Sears liable and entered a verdict in the amount of $4 million in compensatory damages, including $2.2 million in non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

The verdict was appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which held that Mississippi’s caps law on non-economic damages held firm and thus, the verdict of the jury was reduced to conform to that Mississippi law. The Mississippi law caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $500,000, and in all other civil actions the cap is set at $1 million. The Mississippi law was found by the federal court of appeals to be constitutional.

The lawyers for Sears applauded the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision, saying that caps are good for business in states like Mississippi, which are trying to attract manufacturers and other large corporations.

On the other hand, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, which has opposed caps, commented that the Illinois Supreme Court in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital ruled in 2010 that non-economic damage caps are unconstitutional in Illinois under the separation of powers provision of the state constitution.

One of the arguments against caps is that a jury enters a verdict in favor of a plaintiff that generally represents a situation where an injured plaintiff has sustained significant damages. In other words, the cases that go to verdict for those injured are usually catastrophically injured, and pain and suffering is part of the damages. Preventing juries from awarding damages for pain and suffering actually puts businesses and companies ahead of the needs of individuals who have suffered a loss. It also provides a shield for such businesses and allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their wrongdoings. Kreisman Law Offices opposes the imposition of caps on any case.

Lisa Learmonth v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 09-60651

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Inverness, Calumet City, Skokie, Wheaton, Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Chicago (Rogers Park), Tinley Park and Morton Grove, Ill.

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