Mississippi Valley Silica Company, Inc. v. ReevesAnnotate this Case
Robert Reeves, an employee of Illinois Central Railroad, sued Mississippi Valley Silica, Inc. for lung injuries that allegedly were caused by his inhalation of silica while employed with Illinois Central. The case was dismissed without prejudice in 2006, and this suit was filed against thirty-two named defendants in 2007. Robert Reeves died in 2010, before the litigation was concluded, and the case then was pursued by his wrongful death beneficiaries. After trial in May 2012 against the sole remaining defendant, Valley, the jury found economic damages in the amount of $149,464.40 and noneconomic damages of $1.5 million, with Valley 15% at fault. The jury also awarded punitive damages of $50,000, and the trial court awarded attorney fees of $257,701.50. Although Valley was found only 15% at fault, the trial court determined that the law in place in 2002, when the original complaint was filed, should have applied. Accordingly, the statutory caps on punitive and noneconomic damages enacted in 2004 were inapplicable and Valley was jointly and severally liable for 50% of the judgment. Ultimately, the court determined that Valley owed the Reeves beneficiaries $824,732.20, plus $50,000 in punitive damages, and $257,701.50 in attorney fees, for a total of $1,132,433.70. Valley appealed. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to identify Valley’s sand as the proximate cause of Robert Reeves’s injuries as a matter of law. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and rendered judgment in favor of Mississippi Valley Silica.