Governor Haslam has signed a law that states that non-economic damages should be capped in injury (tort) cases In Tennessee at $750,000 in most cases. Now in Tennessee juries are trusted to sentence a man to death, but apparently they are not trusted by the Governor to determine the proper amount of compensation for victims of someone else’s wrongdoing in an injury case. There is not even a "three strikes and you’re out" rule for really bad people and corporations that are repeat offenders!
Whether you agree or disagree with jury limits doesn’t really matter, as the Tennessee Legislature and Governor Haslam can pass whatever legislation they want, and apparently they wanted to limit the amount of non-economic damages that can be received from someone injured by a wrongdoer. The new law is flawed in several aspects in my opinion.
First there is the hypocrisy in allowing "unlimited" damages against those that commit intentional acts. That sounds great but the Governor and legislators know that NO INSURANCE POLICY IN TENNESSEE WILL PAY FOR AN INTENTIONAL ACT. It is EXCLUDED from the policy. Thus an an injured victim will likely get less money, not more, if you prove the defendant acted intentionally. It sounds good on a stump speech, but in reality this section of the law gives nothing and takes away everything form the injured. The Governor could have easily required insurance companies to cover these acts, but chose not to do so.
The second level of the legislature’s and Governor’s hypocrisy is that juror’s WONT BE TOLD that there are limits in place. They believe that they helped someone, when in reality the government took it away and made them sweat out determining the amount of non-economic damages above $750,000 in the jury room for NO PURPOSE.
The final part of this tragedy is that the Governor will allow some catastrophically injured Tennesseans to receive more than others. There is a special category for "catastrophic loss," which would raise the cap for non-economic damages in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns, some severe multiple amputations, or the death of a parent of minor children. Now this new law excludes parents of adult special needs children, children taking care of the elderly (don’t worry, they can go to a state run nursing home), victims with brain injuries, twenty year olds who have to wear diapers, or a bag, to catch excrement and waste fluids, chronic pain, etc…
Shouldn’t we let a jury, on a case by case basis, decide if these cases are catastrophic after hearing the all facts? Shouldn’t we let a jury decide that if you kill enough Tennesseans, you are going to get put out of business? Do parents taking care of special needs adult children, really deserve less than parents taking care of minor children? The Governor and legislature chose to take away these choices from the jury. Some Tennesseans are now more different than others and none of us are as special as corporations.
Many of my clients are brain injured, and catastrophically so, even if they are able to walk and talk. Their lives, as they knew them prior to the wreck, are over. In many case their personalities have changed. They died, but their life goes on. I find it arbitrary, and frankly an abuse of power, that the Governor has decided who can be catastrophically injured in advance of knowing all the facts. That Nashville knows better than a jury of 12 Tennesseans. I guess I trust the people of Tennessee more than those in office now. Voter’s of Tennessee, your governor and your legislature just called you too stupid to do what is right in a jury box. (they also called the Judge, lawyers in the case, the Courts of Appeal and the Tennessee Supreme Court too stupid to get it as well, but hey, they were on a roll.) Voters you need to remember this come November.