The Hunter v. Ura decision that I wrote about several days ago also seems to open the door to prejudgment interest in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Several years ago a case called Myint seemed to suggest that prejudgment interest could be awarded in such cases. Then, several court of appeals decisions held that prejudgment interest could not be awarded, and the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear those cases on appeal.
In Hunter the Supreme Court affirmed the trial judge’s refusual to award prejudgment interest, but affirmatively held that a trial judge has the discretion to award it.
This means that prejudgement interest is alive and that it is the opinion of the Court it is the judge, and not the jury, that can award it.
Prejudgment interest will probably be reserved for those cases in which liability is reasonably certain. The other factors that will be considered by a judge will include the amount of time it took for the case to get to trial, the reason for any delays in getting the case to trial, the reasonableness of the efforts to resolve the case before filing and thereafter, the ability to ascertain the damages in the case, and the amount of available insurance coverage and other sources to pay any judgment.
Lawyers who want to obtain prejudgment interest will have to share information with the defendant so that the defendant can evaluate the case. In other words, the defendant ordinarily needs medical records, medical expenses, lost wage information, etc. to evaluate a case. A plaintiff’s lawyer who withholds this information from the defense is compromising his or her later ability to obtain prejudgment interest unless the circumstances are such that all of the information is not necessary, e.g. a clear liability wrongful death case with $50,000 in medical expenses and policy limits of $25,000/$50,000.