Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Damage Caps

The Tennessee Supreme Court yielded to the Legislature’s decision to impose a cap on the amount of money that can be awarded to people harmed by the carelessness of others.  The law was passed in 2011.  The law requires judges to reduce jury awards for human losses (called “noneconomic damages by the legislation) to $750,000 in most cases.

The 3-2 decision was authored by Chief Justice Bivins.  There was one concurring opinion and two dissents.  Click on the links below to read them.

Majority Opinion by C.J. Bivins

Concurring Opinion by J. Kirby

Dissenting Opinion by J. Clark

Dissenting Opinion by J. Lee

Justice Lee ends her dissent with these words:

It goes without saying that this Court does not make policy—that is for the
legislature. Smith v. Gore, 728 S.W.2d 738, 747 (Tenn. 1987) (quoting Cavender v.
Hewitt, 239 S.W. 767, 768 (1921)); Estrin v. Moss, 430 S.W.2d 345, 350 (Tenn. 1968)
(citations omitted). Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102 is unconstitutional
without regard to the General Assembly’s purpose in enacting it or the real-life fallout
from it. The majority’s decision that Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102 is
constitutional tells the citizens of Tennessee that their right to trial by jury and their right
to be fairly compensated for noneconomic damages are trumped by the desire to limit the
financial exposure of big corporations and insurance companies in civil negligence
lawsuits. I will not join in sending this message.

I dissent.

I concur.