House subcommittee approves Haslam's tort reform legislation

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 6:11pm

Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform legislation cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday, winning approval from the House Judiciary Subcommittee by voice vote.

The bill caps jury awards and imposes other new restrictions on lawsuits for injuries and deaths caused by negligence or wrongful actions.

It wouldn’t limit compensatory damages in lawsuits, including medical expenses and loss of pay or earning capacity. But it would place a $750,000 cap on most so-called noneconomic damages — such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of companionship, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.

The administration agreed to amend the bill Wednesday to raise the cap to $1 million for certain catastrophic cases — spinal cord injuries, amputations, severe burns and the death of a parent leaving young children. The amendment also lifts the cap for wrongdoers who are committing felonies or who are drunk.

The bill also would limit punitive damages, which are intended to punish wrongdoers, to twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Republicans pushed the proposal through the subcommittee without much discussion. Lawmakers heard from both sides during hearings over the past two weeks. The bill now goes to the full House Judiciary Committee as early as next week. It has yet to advance in the Senate.

Haslam contends tort reform will create jobs by making the state’s business climate more predictable. Businesses backing the bill claim it would add 122,422 jobs and $16 billion in output to the state’s economy over the next decade.

The bill is titled the “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011.” But Mary Mancini of the trial lawyer-funded group Tennessee Citizen Action said, “It should be called the “Miscarriage of Justice Act of 2011. I don’t know how any legislator can look into the eyes of a victim’s family member and tell them how much they think their loved ones’ lives are worth.”

“It’s common knowledge that damage awards act as a deterrent and make large corporations think twice about repeating egregious acts that lead to abuse, neglect and death,” Mancini added. “This bill takes
away the right of victims to have their day in court and the right of juries to hold accountable any responsible parties.”

Filed under: City News

5 Comments on this post:

By: Moonglow1 on 4/7/11 at 6:51

Moonglow1: ok this will create jobs. Quantify that statement. How exactly will jobs be created. What types of jobs will be created. What salary range will these jobs be paying. About 122, 000 jobs over the next decade? How many jobs next year or the year after? One job? Two jobs? I have an idea. Publish the names of the legislators who voted for this insane bill. Vote them out of office. If they are business owners who would directly benefit from this legislation boycott them. And isn't it something? If you lose a child, your child's death is worth only $1 mil. How can these mean legislators put a cap on something so terrible only to save the corporations money. You know $1 mil for a catastrophic case is pennies on the dollar to a large corporation. Your life is worth nothing to these theo-nut Tea Party people in power who certainly are not fighting for the interests of the middle class. This is what happens when 1 percent of the people own 40 percent of the wealth. Stop them now Recall efforts now.

By: pswindle on 4/7/11 at 8:05

I now know why Haslam wanted to be governor. He has changed or trying to change every law so that his businesses can reap in the profits. When will TN wake up. The people of TN will be the losers for many years to come.

By: OHSMAN74 on 4/7/11 at 9:08

This good legislation will let compensation go to those with serious injuries - promptly - rather than to the lawyers. Accidents and human error are a fact of life. When catastrophic injuries occur, those responsible will know how much they owe for the unquantifiable "pain and suffering" damages: $750K or $1 million, not a trivial sum. Those responsible can go ahead and pay this, AND further agree to pay for medical expenses, lost income, and other economic losses (which are NOT capped), so that there is less need for a trial and years of litigation, and less need to pay a lawyer a third of the recovery. It allows life to move forward as well as possible for those involved - on both sides. It removes much of the uncertainty, which is a good thing for everyone - except the lawyers.
Moonglow, how much is a "child's death worth"?? $1 million isn't enough, nor is $5 million, nor is $100 million, etc. That's the problem. Money can't replace the child; it doesn't equate. $1 million is a reasonable amount, and lets everyone move forward with life as well as possible.

By: revo-lou on 4/7/11 at 10:34

{OHSMAN74 on 4/7/11 at 10:08

Moonglow, how much is a "child's death worth"?? $1 million isn't enough, nor is $5 million, nor is $100 million, etc. That's the problem. Money can't replace the child; it doesn't equate. $1 million is a reasonable amount,}

Well, since you made that determination, is there anything else that should be brought before you relating to the loss of others? I mean, really, do we even need the courts anymore? Why don’t we just assign a number to the hard cost, add the million, and just be done with the whole situation. companies can just add that sum to the cost of doing business, relax any standards, rules and regulations and just have at it thanks for showing us what idiots we have now running our once great state.

By: Moonglow1 on 4/7/11 at 5:37

Moonglow1: I am positive you are following the Transocean news. Remember them. The BP gulf catastrophe where 12 people died. Well Transocean paid their executives bonuses for their excellent "safety" record this year. Apparently the BP oil catastrophe was excluded from their safety statistics. Well now because of adverse publicity about the high dollar bonuses for these executives the money will now go to the families of those who died so tragically. So you tell me? Should companies get away with this behavior.