Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Finds Caps on Non-economic Damages to be Unconstitutional

On Monday, March 9, 2015, Judge Neal Thomas issued a 24 page opinion in Clark v. Cain, 12C1147, Hamilton County Circuit Court, finding that Tennessee’s caps on non-economic damages (T.C.A. § 29-39-101) are unconstitutional. The decision affects only the pending case, but if it goes up on appeal, it will have statewide impact. In 2011, the Tennessee legislature passed a law limiting damages for pain and suffering in personal injury and wrongful death cases to $750,000, or $1,000,000 in cases of catastrophic injury. However, Article I, Sec. 6 of the Tennessee Constitution provides:

“That the right of trial by a jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification for jurors”

Judge Thomas reviewed the history of trial by jury in England, the British colonies and the United States and concluded that the legislative branch cannot take away the right of citizen juries to determine the amount damages. The opinion was issued after the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a pretrial ruling on the issue.

Below is a link to the article published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/mar/09/judge-rules-tennessees-cap-jury-damages-unconstitutional/292361/

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