Unfortunately, Tennessee law has recently changed and has placed strict limits on damages available to injured people in civil law suits. The ironically titled “Tennessee Civil Justice Act” became the law in Tennessee on October 1, 2011, and limited potential damages to plaintiffs as follows:
The Act has put a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, except in instances of intentional misconduct, records destruction, or conduct under influence of drugs or alcohol. Non-economic damages are damages awarded to an injured plaintiff for losses such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.
The $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, however, has been raised to $1,000,000 in instances involving catastrophic losses, such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation, significant burns or the wrongful death of a parent who is survived by minor children.
The Act has also placed cap on punitive damages which may be awarded to an injured person. Punitive damages are damages that may be awarded by a jury to punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior and harmful behavior. Punitive damages send a message that certain acts will not be tolerated in a particular community, and may only be awarded when a jury finds that the defendant has acted intentionally, fraudulently, maliciously, or recklessly. The Act has limited punitive damages to 2X the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater, except in instances of intentional misconduct, records destruction, or conduct under influence of drugs or alcohol.
The changes in Tennessee law listed above have effectively taken the power to serve justice out of the hands of juries. The limits on a plaintiff’s ability to recover for the most serious and life-altering damages is truly a serious blow to the notion of fairness in Tennessee courts. In some states these types of law have been found unconstitutional and we are hopeful that this will be the case in Tennessee in the future.
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Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Thomas has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence. Thomas has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Among other victories in the courtroom, Thomas obtained several impressive jury verdicts and settlements
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