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Tennessee jury verdicts were down substantially in 2010-11, according to data released by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. 

Total damages awarded  in tort cases in state court were only $32,051,326, down by a little over 60% from a year earlier, when the total damages awarded  was over $91,000,000.  These numbers include jury and non-jury cases.

The average verdict or judgment  was $168,691,  down over 600% from a year earlier, when the average verdict was over $400,000.  The average verdict includes only those trials in which the fact-finder returned an award of money damages.  It does not include defense or no-money awards. 

New data out from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts puts data behind what those of us who practice tort law knew:  tort filings are down in Tennessee. 

The AOC’s Annual Statistical Report shows that tort filings for the one year period ending June 30, 2011 were 10,576.  Ten years ago, in the one year period ending June 30, 2002, there were  12,166 tort cases filed in the state.    

Total tort case filings in the six counties with the largest population were as follows: 

According to the 2009 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey, only 46 percent of U.S. doctors use electronic medical records, compared to 99 percent of doctors in the Netherlands and 97 percent of doctors in New Zealand and Norway.

"We spend far more than any of the other countries in the survey, yet a majority of U.S. primary care doctors say their patients often can’t afford care, and a wide majority of primary care physicians don’t have advanced computer systems to access patient test results, anticipate and avoid medication errors or support care for chronically ill patients," said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, lead author of an article appearing in Health Affairs.

The survey also reports that

 It was almost two years ago that I wrote about  Wright v. Wright,  No. M2007-00378-COA-R3-CV  (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 12, 2007).  (Post 1)  (Post 2)   Wright 1 is an opinion authored by Judge Walter Kurtz that reversed a decision to award a plaintiff’s lawyer a one-third contingent fee in a personal injury case brought on behalf of a minor.  The lawyer seeking the fee not only did know how much time he spent on the matter but did not submit an affidavit or any evidence of how much time was spent.  Nor did he introduce into evidence any information relevant to  the RPC 1.5(a) factors that govern fees issues.  Frankly, the lawyer here simply assumed that the trial judge would enforce the fee contract (one-third of the recovery) and did not think about the record.

The case was remanded so that a reasonable fee could be determined.  After discovery and a hearing, the trial judge awarded the plaintiff’s lawyer a fee of $131,000.  (The amount of the settlement of wrongful death case was $425,000.)  The child’s guardian ad litem perfected another appeal, arguing that the fee was too high.

Wright v. Wright, No. M2008-01181-COA-R3-CV  (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 8, 2009) ("Wright 2") affirmed the Trial Court’s award of the $131,000 fee.  The opinion details the extensive work done on the case, and reveals how plaintiff’s counsel was able to settle the case for $425,000 despite the fact that the applicable insurance coverage was only $50,000.  Also important to the outcome:  the child was suing her grandmother, and thus a substantial  judgment (or any judgment) was certainly in doubt.

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