Tort Reform: The Verdict Is In

August 5, 2011 By Derek Jumper
FBT Nashville Office Newsletter

When the 107th General Assembly convened this January, the Republican Party controlled the legislature and Governor’s office for the first time in modern Tennessee history. Newly-elected Governor Bill Haslam was determined to make Tennessee more attractive to businesses, and key among his initiatives was tort reform. By session’s end, the General Assembly delivered to Governor Haslam his tort reform measure, which he signed into law on June 16, 2011.

The Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, better known as the Tennessee Tort Reform Bill, goes a long way toward constraining the amount juries may award an injured plaintiff. Foremost, the law caps noneconomic damages at $750,000, and caps punitive damages at twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. Also, the new law addresses forum shopping by limiting where a plaintiff may file a lawsuit.

Key provisions of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011

Economic Damages:

Punitive Damages:

Venue and Appeals:

Conclusion

By all accounts, Tennessee’s tort reform measure will be attractive to businesses, as the law should prevent outrageous verdicts and limit frivolous lawsuits.  But many argue that the bill is a solution in search of a problem - that jury verdicts in Tennessee were not out of control. And there is also the specter of unintended consequences. For instance, intent will now be central to many claims, an area the plaintiff’s bar will certainly exploit. Before all is done, the Tennessee Supreme Court will no doubt have its say - which may be an issue for a future eNewsletter update.

Practices

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