Tag Archives: tort

Spin Machines on the Tort Bill

Collected below are some news releases on passage of the tort law overhaul that was given final passage by the Senate today. The releases are from Republicans (who mostly support the bill), Democrats (who mostly oppose), the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (a cheerleader for the bill) and Tennessee Citizen Action (a booing leader for the bill.)

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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 Bill Passes House 72-24

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House on Monday approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s measure to place limits on payouts from successful lawsuits in Tennessee.
The chamber voted 72-24 to pass the bill (HB2008) carried by Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah that would place a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
The bill gained the votes of 63 Republicans and eight Democrats, while 24 Democrats and one independent voted against it. The Senate would have to approve the companion bill before it could head for the governor’s signature.

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Tort Talk Update: Fred’s ‘Gotcha’ Moment & Uncapped Felonies

(Note: The News Sentinel’s business editor asked for an update story on tort reform legislation. This is what he got, also available HERE.)
While some version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform bill appears virtually assured of passage by the Legislature, specifics are being altered during sometimes theatrical debates.
In the House Judiciary Committee last week, for example, Republican lawmakers united to kill most revisions proposed by critics of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011. But they broke rank with the governor on a “bad actor” provision that leaves some intentional wrongdoers facing unlimited liability.
For most lawsuit defendants, the bill (HB2008) would for the first time in Tennessee impose caps on “noneconomic” or punitive damages. The size of those caps – and exactly whom they will cover – has been the most controversial matter of discussion. But the bill contains multiple other changes in state tort law with the Haslam-declared goal of making Tennessee more business-friendly in hopes of attracting more job-creating investments.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee, a recent theatrical highlight was former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s acknowledgement that he became the victim of a “gotcha” moment that left some of his fellow Republicans chortling.
“It was rather comical,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters afterward, adding that it “didn’t help” lawyer-and-actor Thompson’s credibility as lead lobbyist for the Tennessee Association of Justice, which is spearheading opposition to the bill.

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Big Winners in Tort Damages Say It’s Not About the Money

By Sheila Burke
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A mother who won $1.5 million in court for the death of her only child says the March verdict brought her some closure, but she was too emotional a week later to testify to state lawmakers about why she thinks their idea of limiting jury awards is wrong.
A widow worries that nursing homes will have even less reason to make sure that patients like her husband are fed enough and don’t develop bed sores big enough to kill them.
And a businessman is fearful that all it takes is one out-of-control jury to bankrupt him.
State court records show that very few lawsuits in Tennessee ever go to a jury and fewer yet end up with awards higher than the caps Gov. Bill Haslam is close to winning in the General Assembly. Last year there were 14 such trials in the state. Some people who did win awards say they didn’t want the money as much as they wanted a weapon to stop actions like the ones that killed their loved ones.
(Note: The bill, HB2008, cleared House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.)
For LaFonda Bond, going to trial meant finding out how her 22-month-old son Ford could have choked on a piece of food at mealtime at a church-run preschool. She hopes the verdict will send a message to any business that cares for children.

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Haslam’s Tort Bill Clears House Judiciary

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.

Tort Bill Delayed After More Discourse

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.”

Fred Thompson: Changes in Tort Reform Bill Not Enough

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson says a proposed compromise to limit lawsuit damages in Tennessee is a step in the right direction, but there’s still work to be done.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal would place a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages like pain and suffering, and punitive damages would be capped at $500,000.
The administration late last week released changes to the bill that would create a special category for “catastrophic loss,” which would raise the cap for non-economic damages to $1.25 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.
Thompson, hired by the Tennessee Association for Justice to lobby for the state’s trial lawyers, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that brain injuries should be included.
Haslam told reporters earlier Tuesday he considers the most recent version of the measure to be in its “final form.”

Haslam: No More Negotiaton on Tort Reform Caps

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says his revised measure to cap payouts from civil lawsuits isn’t up for negotiation.
The Republican governor told reporters after an education round table at a Nashville high school on Tuesday that he considers the most recent version of the measure to be in its “final form.”
Haslam’s proposal would place a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages like pain and suffering, and punitive damages would be capped at $500,000.
The administration late last week released changes to the bill that would create a special category for “catastrophic loss,” which would raise the cap for non-economic damages to $1.25 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.

New Lobbying Group Created to Push Tort Reform

From the Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence PR firm:
(Nashville, Tenn.), March 21, 2011….Tennesseans for Economic Growth (TEG), a statewide business coalition, has been formed to help support passage by the Tennessee General Assembly this year of Governor Bill Haslam’s tort reform legislation.
The coalition is a non-profit 501(c)(4) membership advocacy organization made up of small, medium and large businesses operating in Tennessee. The group strongly believes that the passage of the Governor’s tort reform bill, as filed (SB1522-HB2008), will continue to improve Tennessee’s pro-business climate and help create and attract jobs to Tennessee.
“Our current civil justice system in Tennessee is seriously flawed because it threatens current business owners and jobs creators with unlimited exposure to litigation,” said Doug Buttrey, who has been named Executive Director of TEG. “This flaw in our civil justice system also puts Tennessee at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses and jobs, especially since our state is one of the few in the Southeast which has yet to rein in lawsuit abuse through tort reform.”

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