Tag Archives: damages

Legal Challenge to TN Limits on Lawsuit Damages In the Works

How much patients in Tennessee can recover for their pain and suffering could be significantly affected in the coming months if the state’s Supreme Court hears a challenge of a new law that limits medical malpractice awards, reports The Tennessean.
The issue has taken on urgency as fungal meningitis victims start to craft medical malpractice lawsuits and attorneys weigh whether the suits will be filed in Tennessee or in Massachusetts, where injured patients can sue medical facilities for unlimited amounts of money for pain and suffering.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 into law last July. The law does not restrict how much patients can recover in medical bills and lost wages in malpractice suits. But it caps rewards for nontangible injuries, such as pain and suffering, at $750,000. About half of the states limit awards for pain and suffering in malpractice cases, and for years legal battles have been waged throughout the country to overturn the caps. Tennessee could emerge as the latest battlefield.
Trial lawyer David Randolph Smith, a prominent progressive attorney who led the legal opposition to the guns-in-bars law and the English-only ballot measure, filed a federal lawsuit three months ago challenging Haslam’s landmark tort reform law as unconstitutional.
…Recent decisions in other states offer conflicting results.
Earlier this month, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld its $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages.
In August, however, the high court in Missouri struck down caps on liability payouts. The Missouri court’s majority opinion said: “The right to trial by jury … is not subject to legislative limits on damages.”
(Note: The different rulings may turn on differences in state constitutions and the federal court may send the case to the state Supreme Court for a decision on whether the damages limitation violates the Tennessee constitution. A relevant provision is in Article I, Section 6 of the state constitution’s Bill of Rights: “That the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification for jurors.” )

Haslam Tort Reform Bill Gets Final OK

The House agreed to a Senate change in Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform bill today – somewhat reluctantly – and gave the measure final legislative approval.
The Senate version of the bill cut out a House provision that would exclude convicted felons from protection against unlimited non-economic damages in lawsuits for their wrongdoing.
The overall bill limits non-economic damages to $750,000 in most cases, providing the first such restrictions to be imposed in Tennessee.
House sponsor Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, said he disliked the Senate’s move, but wanted to go ahead and concur with the change for expediency in the waning hours of the legislative session. He said Haslam’s administration, Senate sponsors and others have promised to work with him to add the House ban on felons benefiting from the damage caps in a separate bill, though that will likely have to wait until next year.
“Just so everyone well know, we’re giving felons the same protection as anyone else (by agreeing to the Senate amendment),” said Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect.
Vance said he “agrees with that assessment,” but repeated that he is committed to following up later with a bill to block felons from benefiting.
The House ultimately concurred with the Senate amendment on a 68-27 vote, sending the bill (HB2008) to Haslam for his signature.
Note: Haslam issued a news releae applauding the approval of his bill. It’s below.

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Senate Joins House in Approving Haslam’s Tort Reform Bill

(Note: Expands and replaces earlier post.)
By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to limit lawsuit damages in Tennessee passed the Senate on Thursday despite passionate arguments from opponents that the measure would unfairly target victims.
The legislation (HB2008) carried by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville was approved 21-12 after nearly four hours of debate.
The House passed the companion bill 72-24 earlier this week. Minor differences must now be worked out between the two chambers before the legislation goes to the Republican governor for his signature.
Under the proposal, a $750,000 cap would be placed on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, and the cap would be raised to $1 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.
Punitive damages would be capped at twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000 — whichever is greater.

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Haslam’s Tort Reform Bill Clears First Hurdle

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal for limiting damages that can be awarded against negligent businesses and health professionals made its first step through the Legislature’s committee system on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee approved the HB2008 on a voice vote with no discussion and no consideration of amendments other than adopting one prepared by the Haslam administration. The panel had held extensive hearings on the measure at two earlier meetings.
The Haslam amendment, as adopted, makes several changes in the orginal bill. Perhaps most notably, the maximum award of non-economic damages is increased from $750,000 to $1 million and declares that no cap will apply in cases where the defendant intentionally tried to harm the victim.
An earlier draft of the Haslam amendment had proposed raising the maximum level of non-economic damages to $1.25 million.
The bill now goes to the full House Judiciary Committee, where further amendments may be considered.