Tennessee Legislature Passes Major Tort Reform Legislation


On May 20, 2011, the Tennessee legislature passed sweeping tort reform legislation that includes caps on jury awards for non economic and punitive damages in lawsuits. The Act, referred to as the “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011,” was one of Governor Haslam’s top legislative priorities and is expected to be signed by him in the coming days. This alert summarizes some of its key provisions.

The centerpiece of this Act is the limits that will be placed on non-economic and punitive damages. Generally, this Act places a $750,000 limit on the award of non economic damages in most personal injury lawsuits and health care liability actions. These limits will not apply to catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injuries resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia, injuries necessitating amputation, injuries causing third degree burns over 40% or wrongful deaths of a parent leaving a surviving minor child or children. In these cases, the award of non-economic damages will be capped at $1,000,000. The limitations on the award of non-economic damages contained in this Act will not apply where the defendant had intended to inflict serious physical injury, where the defendant altered or destroyed records with the purpose of avoiding or evading liability and where the defendant’s judgment was substantially impaired by alcohol or drugs.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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