Oral arg. – Miss.S.Ct. – July 19, 2017

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.

Miss. Valley Silica Brief

Dorothy Barnett brief

Watch the argument here.  

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