Lawsuit abuse reform arrives in Tennessee

June 16, 2011 1:36PM

NASHVILLE, TN – Today Governor Haslam signed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011. This is a successful first step in one of many necessary to make Tennessee competitive for new jobs, says Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR), a key organization that led the grassroots charge to pass lawsuit abuse reform this legislative session. “We’re glad that the governor and legislative leadership recognized the importance of making our state more business friendly to attract more jobs, and we’re pleased that lawmakers passed the bill,” said Owen. “Over the next several months, we will be researching how we can build on this significant first step to make Tennessee the number one choice for employers to locate and expand, without offering inconsistent and costly taxpayer handouts.” Recent government statistics show that Tennessee’s unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, which is higher than the national rate. Unemployment rates range by county from the lowest at 6.6 to the highest at 22.1 percent. With more than 60 of the state’s 95 counties having double-digit unemployment numbers, Owen said lawmakers need to continue to focus on ways to add jobs. “There has never been a more important time to make job creation our top priority,” said Owen. “While the foundation has been laid for a more predictable and balanced civil justice system that’s critical to quality employers, we want to strengthen that foundation because all states are competing for the same jobs. This is a tremendous victory, yet there is more to be done.” Owen acknowledged the role that TCPR and its volunteers played in passing lawsuit abuse reform. “First and foremost, our mission is to educate our fellow citizens, and we believe we successfully did that with our campaign to bring about lawsuit abuse reform. We could not have done this without the countless number of people and supporters who tirelessly worked to help us educate, inform and communicate with Tennesseans about the importance of this issue. We also thank the many other individuals and groups that worked to make this job-creating reform a reality.” Effective October 1, 2011, the Tennessee Civil Justice Act includes several key components that are designed to boost the state’s economy while ensuring that Tennesseans have fair and open access to civil courts. Among the law’s key components are:

  • There is no cap on economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, job loss, property damage, and rehabilitation costs as a result of a tort action. These damages are considered measurable, provable and objectively quantifiable.
  • Subjective, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, or humiliation, are capped at $750,000 cap per occurrence for medical liability actions and per plaintiff for non-medical actions.
  • There are higher caps in place for catastrophic events such as spinal cord injuries, extensive burn injuries, intent to injure and other specific circumstances.
  • Punitive damages are capped at the greater of $500,000 or twice all other damages. The caps do not apply to specific circumstances such as intent to harm.
  • Unless directly involved in the design and/or manufacturing of a product, sellers are no longer liable for punitive damages.
  • Unless the manufacturer withheld or omitted regulatory information, manufacturers are no longer liable for punitive damages as long as they were in regulatory compliance.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan think tank committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee. Through research and advocacy, TCPR promotes policy solutions grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. For more information, visit

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