At 10:30 the Court will hear the case of Mississippi Valley Silica v. Dorothy Barnett.
Howard Barnett worked as a saw operator and crane operator at Mississippi Steel and Iron Company from 1960-1970. He claimed he was occupationally overexposed to respirable silica from sandblasting activities that took place nearby and that he developed silicosis.
A Hinds County jury heard the case against Mississippi Valley on a theory of failure to warn. The jury awarded economic damages of $165,615.73, noneconomic damages of $1,034,384.27, and loss of consortium damages of $500,000. However, the jury awarded nothing for the wrongful death claims. They found Mississippi Valley 35% at fault, Southern Silica 35% at fault, and Mississippi Steel and Iron 30% at fault. They then awarded punitive damages against Mississippi Valley in the amount of $500,000. In its final judgment, the trial court apportioned 35% of each element of compensatory damages to Mississippi Valley, without first capping the total noneconomic damages at $1,000,000. It thus held Mississippi Valley liable for $595,000 in compensatory damages, plus an additional $500,000 punitive damages award, for a total judgment of $1,095,000.
On appeal the COA affirmed the damages award but reversed the award to Dorothy of $212,312.50 in attorneys’ fees without any supporting findings of fact.
Mississippi Valley Silica filed a cert. petition which was granted. It argues that the trial court erred in the following ways (i) the award of survival damages to the
Plaintiff Dorothy Barnett ; (ii) the expiration of the applicable statute
of limitations; (iii) the duty to warn a bystander, such as Howard Barnett under the Mississippi Products Liability Act; (iv) the insufficiency of evidence regarding product identification, causation, and breach of duty; (v) and punitive damages.
Watch the argument here.