Without confronting massive matters of jurisdiction, bias and fault, the Mississippi Supreme Court is resolving lung injury claims one by one.
Last year the Court overturned judgments of $15.2 million and $2.6 million, on grounds that let them reject and ignore deeper objections of defendants.
In the bigger case, Justices ruled that Jones County Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum allowed irrelevant evidence and prejudicial testimony against Phillips 66.
Thereby they excused themselves from ruling on Phillips 66’s claim that Landrum’s very words in jury selection showed his bias.
The Court specifically rejected Phillips 66’s claim that widespread litigation of asbestos and silica claims in Jones County produced bias in the jury pool.
In the smaller case, the Justices held that Warren County Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick should have repaired a defendant’s clumsy jury instruction instead of rejecting it.
Thereby they excused themselves from ruling on three challenges on fault allocation, three on post mortem procedure, and an assignment of cumulative error.
Similarly cautious two years ago, they decided not to decide whether Ruby Kelley could allege wrongful death as beneficiary of David Bozeman.
They ruled that she couldn’t sue as personal representative or interested party, but she could sue if Judge Patrick recognized her as common law wife.
Mississippi doesn’t recognize common law marriage, but that didn’t matter because Alabama recognizes it and they lived in Alabama.
The Justices directed Patrick to hold trial solely on their marital status.
“Our decision should not be read to imply that Kelley is in fact Bozeman’s widow,” Chief Justice Bill Waller wrote.
These cases, and countless others like it pending in Mississippi courts, trace back to mass X-ray screenings around the turn of the century.
Lawyers filed single complaints for dozens or hundreds of plaintiffs, from Mississippi and elsewhere, against dozens of defendants.