A bill that caps damages that can be awarded in a lawsuit for pain and suffering goes too far, according to state Sen. Eric Stewart.
The bill, which was passed by the House and Senate last week, is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Bill Haslam, who spearheaded the bill and is expected to sign it into law.
The bill places a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages that can be assessed in a lawsuit. This is generally regarded as money for pain and suffering.
There is no limit for economic damages such as medical bills. Those damages remain uncapped.
“In my opinion, those numbers are a decision a jury should make,” said Sen. Stewart referring to the monetary amount that can be awarded. “I’m not a lawyer. I look at this at a more personal level and think what if it’s my children who are hurt in an accident. What if it’s your children. We need to fully compensate those who are injured and I don’t feel this bill did that. I think Tennessee somewhat sold out the rights of its citizens under the guise of economic development. I think we stepped over the line a little on this one.”
The bill has been touted as a way for the state to recruit more billion-dollar industries like Volkswagen, Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie because such lawsuit caps are viewed favorably by large companies, some lawmakers say.
Other lawmakers suggested not penalizing the victims, but instead placing a cap on the amount trial lawyers can earn from an injury settlement. The measure was debated on the Senate floor for about four hours, according to Stewart.
“This is a pretty aggressive measure and it puts a cap on everything, car accidents included,” said Stewart.