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State: Tennessee
Subject Matter: Civil Justice Act Reform
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On Monday, Hamilton County, Tennessee (Chattanooga) Circuit  Judge W. Neil Thomas, III, ruled that the $750,000 cap on damages made part of the recent Civil Justice Act Reform in October 2011 is unconstitutional.  His opinion is attached in Clark v. AT&T et al.  The case was presented on AT&T’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  The lawsuit originated from an automobile accident case and the demand in excess of the statutory cap on-economic damages in the Complaint.  The issue framed by Judge Thomas was whether legislative limits on a jury’s determination of pain and suffering damages in a personal injury case are constitutional.  Judge Thomas reviewed the legislative history of the Act and examined the history of jury trials all the way back to England’s King Henry II, calling unfettered access to a fair jury trial a fundamental right guaranteed in our Constitution.  After making these analyses, he  only concluded that the right to trial by jury is a fundamental interest, and, when strictly scrutinized, there is no compelling State interest for the statute to trump the constitutional right to a jury trial.  The conclusion reached is that since there is no such interest, the Act is unconstitutional.  Judge Thomas also presented the various other states finding constitutional and unconstitutional tort reform acts.

Appeals will follow and we will keep you updated on current developments.  

Information provided by:

Hagwood Adelman Tipton, PC


Document Author: Circuit Judge W. Neil Thomas III
Firm/Company: Circuit Judge W. Neil Thomas III
Document Date: March 2015
Search Tags: caps damages trial by jury
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