A bill already given unanimous approval in the state Senate gives teachers and other school personnel more authority to use in controlling unruly students with less fear of liability, reports Rick Locker.
The bill, scheduled for a House committee hearing Tuesday, requires local school boards to adopt policies authorizing teachers and others to temporarily relocate a student with “reasonable or justifiable force,” if required, or for the students to remain in place until law enforcement or school resource officers arrive.
Senate Bill 3116, sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, also requires principals to fully support teachers in taking action when it is done according to the policy. Gresham said she filed the bill after hearing from teachers concerned about liability or a lawsuit if they try to remove a student during an altercation.
“Teachers should not have to fear they will be found personally liable for standing in a doorway to stop a physical altercation between two students. They should have full authority to remove a student to another location even if it involves the use of force,” Gresham said. “This bill would apply to acts committed on school property, as well as those at official school functions, including sporting events and approved field trips. In addition to teachers, it would apply to administrators, school support staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school resource officers, and others working in the school who interact with students.”
Tennessee schools have one less obstacle to opening buildings and sports fields to their communities, thanks to a law change being applauded by child fitness advocates, according to the Tennessean.
State code signed into law in June and being explained to schools this fall frees schools from liability when they sign agreements to allow athletic leagues, churches and community groups to use school grounds.
“Our taxpayers pay for this equipment, whether it’s tracks or gyms. Meanwhile, communities are looking for low-cost solutions. It’s really a win-win,” said Chastity Mitchell, a senior director with the American Heart Association, which pushed for the change.
Counties surveyed by the association said “loud and clear” that they were afraid of being sued for accidents, Mitchell said.
Now, liability should be less of a concern (in cases of gross negligence, a school could still be liable). And because the association found that existing joint-use agreements vary in their formality, the law includes a phrase encouraging agreements to be written out and to address security, supervision, hours and maintenance policies.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to limit lawsuit damages in Tennessee has passed a key House panel.
The measure (HB2008) was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote Tuesday. The companion bill was to be heard by the same committee in the Senate later in the day.
The Republican governor originally sought to place a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. But the measure that advanced would raise the cap to $1 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.
Haslam has said he wants to create a comfortable environment for businesses.
Opponents of the measure say damages help hold companies accountable and that a jury should award the amount.
UPDATE: The bill also came up for a marathon discussion in the Senate Judiciary Committee, though a vote was postponed until next week. For more, see Joe White.
TNReport, meanwhile, has a story on a conference call debate on tort reform that shows not all conservatives are singing the same song on the issue.
Tennessee lawmakers heard more testimony Wednesday on the governor’s tort reform bill that would cap financial awards in some personal injury lawsuits, but postponed any vote while still more amendments have been filed.
More from WPLN:
Governor Bill Haslam has amended his bill to raise those caps, but lawmakers put off a decision on the changes. Earlier this week, tort reform supporters began promoting a 17-page rewrite of the governor’s proposal, which would set limits on some non-economic damages that might by awarded in a civil suit.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee put off taking up that re-write but listened briefly to Tennesseans who were victims of medical or other missteps and who had to sue companies to recover damages.
Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson has been lobbying against the tort reform measure. He says the new caps offered in the governor’s amendment – higher than the original figures – improve the bill. “If you’re gonna have caps, it needs to be at a reasonable level. The governor’s caps are better than some …they’re not quite what I would prefer.”
Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, serving as a lobbyist, told a House subcommittee Wednesday that enacting Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed tort reform bill would amount to “killing a mouse with a bazooka.”
The lawyer and actor was one of several witnesses testifying both for and against HB2008. No vote was taken, but the panel will consider the bill against next week.
Among those testifying for the bill was Charlie Ross, a Mississippi lawyer who as a state senator led tort reform efforts in that state. He said Mississippi was a “judicial hell hole” before reform with limits on non-economic damages and now is attracting more business investment because of predictability in outcome of lawsuits.
But Thompson said predictability is not in the public interest. He cited examples of a teenage girl dying after being given five times the normal dose of drugs for a tonsil removal and a tractor-trailer that crashed into a parked car, burning to death a mother and her daughter.
“I don’t think anesthetists or the people who change tires on 18-wheelers… ought to have predictability,” he said. “I think they out to think, ‘If I don’t exercise a reasonable amount of care, I don’t know what a Tennessee jury is going to do’.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would give Tennessee cow owners immunity from lawsuits for so-called “bovine activities” has passed the Senate.
The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin was unanimously passed 30-0 on Thursday. The companion bill is waiting to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
Under the proposal, people engaged in “bovine activities” such as riding, training or milking could not sue the beasts’ owners who properly maintain their fences and post warning signs.
The legislation notes the “propensity of a bovine to behave in ways that may result in injury, loss, damage or death to persons on or around the bovine.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Sen. Mike Bell says he’s optimistic about the passage of a proposal that would provide liability protection for employers who choose to allow guns to be carried in their work place.
The Senate passed the proposal 30-1 on Monday and the companion bill is scheduled before the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Bell, of Riceville, says he believes he has the votes in the Republican-controlled House.
The proposal states that an employer allowing a person with a handgun permit to carry a weapon on the employer’s property “does not constitute an occupational safety and health hazard to the employees.”
Bell says he simply wants to protect employers from complaints that may arise from employees.
UPDATE: The House version of the bill was approved in the Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Cattle owners who post an appropriate warning sign would be immune from legal liability if the animals subsequently harm visitors to a farm or livestock sale under a bill also approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
“You can’t predict what a cow’s going to do,” said Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, sponsor of the “bovine liability” bill, SB339. “This would take out some unnecessary liability.”
The measure prompted some discussion, but no criticism. Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, asked Haile about potential dangerous cow activities and he invited her to his farm, saying “you’ll get a much better experience out there than I can relate to you.”
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, asked whether enactment of the bill could mean greater liability for a cattleman who fails to post a sign. A legislative attorney said failure to post a sign would mean the cattle owner remains subject to liability as under current law.
“Couldn’t we just say that, if somebody gets kicked by a cow, it’s their own darn fault?” Campfield asked at one point, suggesting that the requirement of a sign for liability be deleted.
Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said the sign requirement is warranted, giving people notice that “normal rules do not apply” on liability for a cow’s actions and people can then make a decision on whether to proceed with exposure to the animals.