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May 25th, 2011

Tennessee Lawmakers Ignore Fred Thompson, Send Major Tort Reform Bill to Governor

Ultimately ignoring the down-home country homilies of actor and former senator turned trial lawyer lobbyist Fred Thompson, the Tennessee legislature passed a major bipartisan tort reform bill last week.

In a news release, the office of a grateful Gov. Bill Haslam, who championed the bill and plans to sign it into law soon, credits the legislation for “revis[ing] the state’s civil justice system to make Tennessee more competitive for new jobs with surrounding states by bringing predictability and certainty to businesses calculating potential litigation risk and cost.”

Coverage from the Commercial Appeal in Mephis summarizes the legislation:

  • The bill caps “non-economic” and punitive damage awards in personal injury and healthcare malpractice lawsuits . . . at $750,000 in most cases and $1 million when victims suffer spinal-cord injuries that lead to loss of use of two or more limbs.
  • Punitive damage awards are capped at two times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater, and the legal standards of proving punitive damages are raised.
  • The bill also substantially alters the state Consumer Protection Act,  prohibiting securities fraud lawsuits, class-actions and some lawsuits filed by individuals under the act.  Instead, the bill requires the state attorney general to enforce key provisions of the consumer protection act at his/her discretion. 

Needless to say, Tennessee’s tort reform package will be a major contender for recognition as a leading “Point of Light” in the next full Judicial Hellholes report.

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