OF JUDGMENT: 03/01/2013
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ISADORE W. PATRICK,
COURT ATTORNEYS: TOMMIE G. WILLIAMS MARC A. BIGGERS F. EWIN
HENSON, III ROBERT S. UPSHAW CLINTON M. GUENTHER RICHARD C.
WILLIAMS, JR. RICHARD L. KIMMEL HUGH GILLON PATRICK M. TATUM
JAMES LAWRENCE WILSON, IV STEVEN CAVITT COOKSTON PETER L.
CORSON CHARLES CAMERON AUERSWALD TOMMIE GREGORY WILLIAMS, JR.
WILLIAM LOCK MORTON, III
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GLENN F. BECKHAM HARRIS FREDERICK
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: HENRY DEAN ANDREWS, JR. TIMOTHY W.
PORTER PATRICK MALOUF JOHN TIMOTHY GIVENS
The issue presented in the instant case is whether the
defendant is entitled to a setoff for money already paid to
the plaintiff for the same injuries alleged to have been
caused by the defendant. It is not, as treated by the
dissent, a case about apportionment of fault amongst
different tortfeasors. As described by Illinois Central, who
as appellant framed the issues for appeal, "This case
is about whether, once those damages are assessed by
a jury, a railroad company under the [Federal Employers'
Liability Act] is entitled to a credit or reduction of that
verdict for sums that have already been paid by others to the
Plaintiff for the same injuries and damages." In
Illinois Central's answer, it raised an affirmative
defense that "it is entitled to apportionment or set off
liability and/or damages for any negligence of or damages
caused by third parties, including but not limited to other
employers and manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of
products to which plaintiff claims the decedent was exposed
as alleged in the complaint." However, Illinois Central
later clarified its position that it was not attempting to
have negligence apportioned, and the circuit court echoed the
clarification by stating that Illinois Central had not
"tried to use a third, an empty chair for any other
The Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming the Warren
County Circuit Court's denial of Illinois Central
Railroad's request for a setoff of a jury verdict awarded
to Bennie Oakes through his representative Clara Hagan. We
hold that the Court of Appeals misconstrued the primary case
it relied upon and ignored other federal precedent;
therefore, we reverse the Court of Appeals' judgment and
the circuit court's denial of Illinois Central's
motion for a setoff. We remand for proceedings consistent
with our opinion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On February 13, 2009, Clara Hagan filed a complaint, as the
representative of Bennie Oakes, against Illinois Central in
the Warren County Circuit Court. The complaint, brought under
the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act,
sought to recover damages for "personal injuries and/or
death sustained by Bennie Oak[e]s, deceased, while [Oakes]
was employed by [Illinois Central] and while engaging in
Oakes had been an employee of Illinois Central from 1952
through 1994 and "was exposed to asbestos on a daily
basis." The complaint contained allegations that:
As a result of his exposure to asbestos containing products
and materials, [Oakes] has developed asbestosis, lung cancer,
shortness of breath, reduced lung function, cough, chest
congestion, and is at increased risk to develop one or more
of the following diseases: mesothelioma, asbestos related
pleural disease, mixed dust pneumoconiosis, sleep
interruption, aggravation of preexisting and co-existing
disease, throat cancer, laryngeal cancer, colon, stomach, and
other asbestos related cancer.
to the complaint, due to Illinois Central's negligence in
exposing Oakes to asbestos daily, Oakes incurred injury and
The first trial occurred in 2011 but resulted in a hung jury.
The jury in the second trial found in favor of Hagan and
awarded $250, 000 in damages; however, the jury also
apportioned fault, with Illinois Central being twenty percent
at fault and Oakes being eighty percent at fault. Therefore,
the circuit court adjusted the damages accordingly, and the
total award was $50, 000. Illinois Central filed a Motion for
Entry of Judgment and Setoff to have the damages reduced
further based on its discovery that Hagan had received more
than $65, 000 in payments from asbestos trusts for
Oakes's injuries and death. The circuit court denied
Illinois Central's motion and entered the judgment of
$50, 000 plus eight percent interest.
Illinois Central appealed, and the case was assigned to the
Court of Appeals. Writing for the Court of Appeals, Judge
Greenlee framed the issue on appeal as "whether setoff
against a jury verdict is required in [Federal Employers'
Liability Act] cases where the claimant has already settled
with separate tortfeasors." Illinois Cent. R.R. Co.
v. Oakes, 2016 WL 7647571, *1 (¶ 4) (Miss. Ct. App.
Dec. 13, 2016). The Court of Appeals held:
Because an injured railroad employee can recover all his
damages from his railroad employer if the employer's
negligence caused any part of the employee's injury, and
because the collateral source rule does not allow for a
defendant to avoid payment of damages based on compensation
to the plaintiff from a third party that was not a party to
the action, we find that an allowance of setoff for
recoveries from nonparty tortfeasors is inconsistent with the