“Republican Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t intend to rework Tennessee’s new law limiting payouts in successful lawsuits against doctors and other businesses, despite calls from some members of his own party for changes to be made in the upcoming legislative session,” accoring to AP(8/23, Schelzig). Noting talks “with 100 businesses,” Haslam said the law imposing a $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages has received a positive reception. Rep. Vance Dennis signaled his agreement with Haslam on Monday, saying there were “a handful” of tweaks that could be made. Specifically, Dennis is pushing a bill that will lift the cap in instances where injuries were caused during a felony. Citing the AP story, the Nashville Business Journal(8/23, Subscription Publication) reported in its “Morning Call” blog that House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny has called for the cap to “be lowered to between $250,000 and $300,000 to bring the damages in line with limits for state government.” Matheny said, “If it’s good enough for the government, it’s definitely good enough for our citizens.”
Representative Matheny is referring to the cap on recovery against governmental entities in Tennessee, such as cities and counties and the agencies they operate, including the EPB and Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. He evidently does not understand that the repressive cap limiting the liability of governmental entities in Tennessee is an absolute cap, which includes medical expenses and lost earnings, as well as pain and suffering. In other words, if a person is severely injured due to the negligence of EPB (Electric Power Board), a city agency, his or her recovery is “capped” at $300,000, even it the medical expenses and/or lost earnings exceed that amount. The governmental immunity cap does not just apply to pain and suffering – it applies to all damages. The current law, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-403, is antiquated and extremely unfair. The cap on recovery against governmental entities should be raised to at least $750,000, not the other way around.