Proposed Rules Changes

The Tennessee Supreme Court has asked for public comment on proposed changes to Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, Appellate Procedure,  Evidence, Criminal Procedure and Juvenile Procedure.

The most significant proposed rule change is the change to Rule 8.01.  The proposed rule change says as follows:

8.01 Claims for Relief.–A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (2) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks, including a specific dollar amount if damages are sought. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded.

The proposal to require the statement of the amount sued for at the time the original complaint is filed should be rejected.  There is no reason to require that the complaint state the amount sued for and, as far as I am concerned, the rule should prohibit a statement of the amount sued for in the original complaint.  It is extremely difficult to predict the amount of damages that will be sought at the beginning of litigation.  Some lawyers use them to grab headlines, and unfortunately it is those numbers the public thinks about when evaluating the merits of our civil justice system.   No good can come of this proposal.

Some will argue that insurance companies need a statement of the amount sued for to calculate reserves or to advise insureds of potential excess judgments.  Baloney.  Any insurance adjuster who ever set a reserve based on a plaintiff lawyer’s ad damnum is no longer working in the insurance industry.  Insurance adjusters make reserve decisions in federal court without this information and, to my knowledge, the world has not come to an end.

Please write to the Tennessee Supreme Court and encourage it to reject the proposed change to Rule 8.01.  Here is a copy of the Order seeking public comment; the proposed changes are attached to the Order.

There is a middle ground.   A amendment could be drafted to require the plaintiff’s lawyer to state an ad damnum no later than sixty days before trial.   That would give defendants information they say need but keep early, ridiculous numbers out of the press.