Gov. Bill Haslam’s No. 1 jobs bill — a sweeping measure to limit business liability in civil lawsuits —cleared the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote Tuesday on its way toward almost certain passage in the legislature.
Senators began hearing testimony in the afternoon on the companion bill. Senate sponsors said they would delay any vote until next week.
Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said tort reform “will bring jobs to Tennessee, period. How will it do that? It will do that by providing certainty and predictability for businesses that want to locate in Tennessee while ensuring at the same time that plaintiffs who are injured will be compensated for their quantifiable economic damages 100 percent. It’s this certainty and predictability that will bring businesses to Tennessee and, therefore, will bring jobs to Tennessee.”
The bill wouldn’t limit compensatory damages in negligence or malpractice 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 proposal would limit punitive damages, which are intended to punish wrongdoers, to twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
After negotiations with both sides in the legislative fight, the Haslam administration agreed to amend the bill to raise the cap to $1.25 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.