Haslam signs tort reform to cheers from state Republicans

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:22pm

Achieving a longtime goal of Tennessee’s businesses, Gov. Bill Haslam signed legislation Thursday to cap jury awards on lawsuits for injuries and deaths caused by negligence or wrongful actions.

To the cheers of Republican legislators in a ceremony at the Capitol, Haslam said his tort reform law — one of the signature bills of his first legislative session — will help entice new businesses to locate in to Tennessee.

“Business recruitment is incredibly competitive, and Tennessee is not only competing against other states but against foreign countries as we go and market ourselves as the best place for business,” Haslam said. “This tort reform legislation will help us attract and retain jobs by offering businesses more predictability and a way to quantify risk.”

The law won’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 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. 

After negotiations with both sides in the legislative fight, the administration agreed to amend the bill 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 proposal would limit punitive damages, which are intended to punish wrongdoers, to twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Democrats fought tort reform during this year’s session, and they expressed skepticism that it would lead to new jobs. They pushed their own package of jobs bills, including one giving a sales tax holiday for businesses, but Haslam and the Republicans refused to consider them.

“I’m looking for Tennesseans any way that we can get them and, if they come as a result of this, that’s grand,” House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “There were many bills in the session that would have had a more direct effect on jobs, but unfortunately, they didn’t pass.”

21 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 6/16/11 at 11:44

This bill will destroy many private citizens that have a life-time need due to businesses and others that cause this type of harm to individuals and families. Haslam now has the bill that can protect his family, big time. TN families are the big looser. I feel so helpless with this new TN. Our only hope is to regroup in 2012.

By: localboy on 6/16/11 at 11:55

Well, at least they didn't cap compensatory damages...

By: cannoneer2 on 6/16/11 at 12:15

Of the Corporations, By the Corporations and For the Corporations....

By: Kosh III on 6/16/11 at 1:07

The party of less government has now absolved their corporate owners of any responsibilty for the evil deeds.

By: revo-lou on 6/16/11 at 2:01

{The party of less government ...}

Now that is FUNNY!!

By: kittykat1960 on 6/16/11 at 5:29

Those corporate owners, or anyone for that matter, who cause harm through truly 'evil deeds' are not protected by the cap (intention to commit harm, altering or destroying records to avoid liability, or being intoxicated to the point of impaired judgment). This part of the law hasn't been reported in the media. Pswindle, why do you feel hopeless? Would it help to know that studies have shown not many noneconomic verdicts exceed the cap in the legislation? Economic damages are not capped so individuals with 'lifetime needs' will be fully compensated. If the law leads to more business locating in Tennessee, thus enhancing our economy to benefit everyone, then that's great and it's accomplished its goal (I assume you've seen the unemployment figures for Tennesse that were released today. Unemployment hurts many more people than will be affected by this new law). If not, rest assured that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn it. In the meanwhile, if you really have a heart for folks who have been damaged, talk to your legislator about capping attorney fees and putting more money in the pockets of those who need it.

By: OHSMAN74 on 6/16/11 at 5:30

It seems to me that being limited to "only" a million dollars for "pain and suffering" type damages- in addition to however many unlimitied millions you can still recover for medical expenses, loss of income, nursing care, etc., - is not much of a restriction and is reasonable.
Also recall that it means that you cannot be required to PAY more than a million for non-economic damages if you are the one who accidentally ran the red light; so we all may benefit by paying lower insurance premiums due to the end of the "lottery" aspect of the tort system. The new law puts no limits on recovery of money for needs, pswindle, so I don't see the "harm to those with need".

I say Haslam and the Republicans did the right thing when the big picture is considered.

By: HokeyPokey on 6/17/11 at 6:38

Next time you visit your friendly family doctor, you might ask why the Tennessee Medical Association fought so hard to get this bill passed and why it's crowing about their "accomplishment:" http://j.mp/TMAVeryHappy


By: HighlyAnnoyed on 6/17/11 at 6:56

How very self-serving of the wealthy Republicans. The said thing is there are average Americans that think the Repubicans care about them. Fools.

By: budlight on 6/17/11 at 7:05

Highly Annoyed, what about the Wealthy Democrats? Do they care about anyone besides their own?

Even now as Weiner steps down, I am fondly remembering the top dog (and I do mean dog) democrat who committed adultry in the oval office. Yet Nancy Peelosie and her ilk did not ask him to step down because he made a "distraction" to the running of the government. His distraction (?) went on for 2 years. So, how do you reconcile that two-faced democrate stand?

Was that self-serving of the Democrats? Ya thank?

By: frodo on 6/17/11 at 7:22

Those who feel entitled just LOVE a lottery, where they always have a chance to get what they think they so richly deserve from those they so bitterly envy. Same mentality that drives the hope for high dollar litigation. This bill is a long overdue stroke of sanity, although sadly it might dampen the goldrush spirits of strike-it-rich attorneys, for whom John Edwards is the poster child. Well done, TN legislature!! Like pswindle says, "let's regroup for 2012" so we can do it even better next time.

By: fanman22 on 6/17/11 at 7:32

Next time you visit your friendly family doctor, you might ask why the Tennessee Medical Association fought so hard to get this bill passed and why it's crowing about their "accomplishment:"

This statement is hilarious. Guess what, if they don't get sued as much, then medical malpractice insurers woin't have to pay as many claims. And if medical malpractice insurers don't pay as much in claims, then premiums get reduced. If doctors are paying less in medical malpractice insurance premiums, they will charge less for their services. If doctors charge less for their services, health insurers will pay less in claims. If health insurers pay less in claims, then people with health insurance see their premiums go down.

I know this is all common sense and logic, of which you have no grasp, but your argument looks stupid considering you are essentially arguing against a bill that attracts new beusinnesses to Tennessee, increasing jobs, and simultaneously drives down the cost of healthcare.

Now that the liberal's argument has been sufficiently destroyed, please return to your daily activities.

By: Funditto on 6/17/11 at 8:11

Does this mean we won't have to watch any more Luvell Glanton or Bart Durham commercials? I'm all for that.

By: HighlyAnnoyed on 6/17/11 at 8:40

budlight - Yes the Democrats are wealthy and self-serving also. Both parties are corrupt to their very cores. You make the simple-minded mistake of assuming I'm a democrat because I criticized the republicans. Do us all a favor and learn to think outside of the 2 party system trap.

By: Radix on 6/17/11 at 8:41

Way to go Haslam and Co. This is the first step to keeping rich attorneys from gaming the insurance companies on a daily basis. Pswindle and others here are so blinded by partisanship they can't see that. Anything Haslam does is for rich republicans, right guys? Sheep. LOL

By: girliegirl on 6/17/11 at 9:20

It states clearly on the label "Do not stand in water while drying your hair." YET...every year people do stupid stuff, die, and then their heirs sue the manufacturer. If the company is based in TN, these stupid acts will no longer be able to bankrupt said companies. Bravo!

By: Funditto on 6/17/11 at 9:27

Somewhere, too it say "first, do no harm." But accidents happen, right?

By: TharonChandler on 6/17/11 at 9:41

06/17/2011; Canibalism, in the USA ?

The United States is Full of improprieties and the leadership is not going in any proper direction for needed 'Change'. It is as if any good people are 'sleeping' or have been mesmerized or that we simply don't have the quality of people whom founded or place on Liberty or whom wrote the 'Declaration of Independence', in 1775; whom fought wars so that we could be free to enjoy liberty at home. In fact many of our best minds and native persons whom could do the work of reform and could share the best human genetics to pass on to the future citizens of Earth are At Risk every day, here; they are at risk of 'Body Snatchers' and 'Wasted Time'.

I, for one am an Excellent citizen and have some of the very best genetic material as could be passed forward yet instead of spending last night with a Wife to Love and some children to teach i spent it in a stuffy room with a bunch of old men; minority men whom have settled for such a life. Worse, while some other men spent the night getting their 'lap danced' by young prostitutes i spent the time alone on a single bed being secretly killed by someone else. I firmly believe that some of those men dug in to my head in the middle of the night. I believe they scraped out some brain matter in the middle of the night, through the Nose while i was rendered unconscious; to feed some kind of canibles here that most people in the world would never even imagine (though some other countries suffer such even more). There has long been availabily of 'human blood' to others whom can afford to pay for it, as it has a special benefit to another human body (especially to an athlete and/ or to an older age person), aside from any medical emergency the donation was supposed to be for. As there has also been the extraction and illegal sale of some special body fluids such as 'Human Growth Hormone'. Also there is 'bone marrow' needed in increasing quantities as the number of unethical 'hip replacements' and medical knee operations problems grow out of proportion to what humans can properly expect to be done. Many such operations are unsuccessful though the demand is not thus educated. This is a problem the Causes homelessness in the USA and there is no proper excuse for the huge numbers of 'Homeless' in the U.S. whether my own theories are true or unjustified. The leadership of the U.S. is very selfishly entrenched and are not even looking toward the proper directions for the changes that must take place if we are to save ourselves and our citizens from being Taken by the Directors of a few multi-national- corporations; taken by medical people whom are Canibles.

The USA is in dire need of Reformed 'Farm Policy' and less monopolized 'land use' here, in dire need of reformed medical Ethics, and obviously in need of a reform in the way the common man can Take Care of Themselves.

cc: to VP Joseph Biden

cc: Gov Tim Pawlenty

By: revo-lou on 6/17/11 at 11:10

{This is the first step to keeping rich attorneys from gaming the insurance companies on a daily basis}

Whew, just in time too! Last I heard, some of those insurance companies were going to have to give up those multi-million dollar buildings they have, .... in EVERY city!

By: pswindle on 6/17/11 at 12:28

Read the this morning's Tennessean, and it tells what the Haslam signed. It is to protect the ones that caused the injury.

By: budlight on 6/17/11 at 2:49

Highly Annoyed, you need to calm down. WHERE, in my response do I mention YOU being a democrap?

And here's the guy with the last laugh:

"Democrat Anthony Weiner's immediate future may be uncertain, but thanks to congressional rules and the salaciousness of his scandal, things are already looking up for the disgraced New York congressman. Upon his official resignation in the wake of a monthlong scandal involving Weiner's risque online communications with multiple women, Weiner will still be eligible for many congressional perks, including access to a sizable pension fund. (House staff have yet to announce they've actually received his resignation letter.)

The conservative National Taxpayers Union (NTU) estimates the 46-year-old congressman's pension to be worth $1.28 million if he retires at age 62 or $1.12 million at age 56. The group's computations assume that Weiner started his pension when he served as a congressional staffer for Sen. Chuck Schumer.
In addition, NTU notes that members also participate in a Thrift Savings Plan, which allows lawmakers to rake in matching contributions from taxpayers. "NTU estimates he may have as much as $216,011.96 in accumulated TSP assets," the organization reported. It's a rule that all former members, even those convicted of felonies, may receive their pension funds."

Anyway, Highly Annoyed, come on down from your high horse and re-read what I wrote. Never once referred to YOU as a democrap!

I was speaking "collectively" of democraps. Didn't call you one or accuse you of being one? However, are you?