Tort Reform Bill Heads to Governor, With Promise of More Debate in 2012

The state House of Representatives signed off today on one of Governor Bill Haslam’s key priorities: tort reform. But the House was cajoled into agreeing with a Senate amendment-for now.

The bill generally sets a ceiling in civil cases on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life–things that can’t be easily totaled up on a calculator.

The House thought the caps shouldn’t apply in the kind of lawsuits that are filed after criminal proceedings are done, like if someone was convicted of arson, then sued by the victim for damages inflicted by that fire.

The Senate disagreed. It eliminated that exemption and sent the bill back to the House.

Before voting, Representative Jeremy Faison of Cosby wanted assurance that the bill’s sponsor would come back next year and pursue the exemption in a new bill.

“I just wanted to make sure, and make sure on record, that you are committed, come January of ’12, to pick this up, and make sure that we take off caps for felony actions.”

With the clock winding down on this year’s legislative session, the House agreed to the Senate change in a vote that fell largely along party lines.

The bill has been promoted as a jobs-creating measure by the governor and businesses.

Web Extra:

The bill is HB 2008 McCormick, Dennis /SB 1522 Norris

Republicans have maintained that the bill would improve the business climate of the state by allowing companies to calculate a worse case scenario of what non-economic damages they could be assessed in a court case.

Advocates have claimed the reforms would bring in 577 jobs a week.
Opponents say there is no statistical proof for such a claim.

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