Tennessee Caps Medical Malpractice Damages

October 17, 2011

Insurers in Tennessee will payout fewer damages in medical malpractice cases after a new cap on damages took effect earlier this month. The new law also states insurers may no longer be sued under the state’s consumer protection law.

Tennessee lawmakers earlier this year enacted the “Tennessee Civil Justice Actor of 2011,” which was a centerpiece of Governor Bill Haslam’s agenda to crackdown on civil lawsuits.

The new law places a cap of $750,000 on non-economic damages such as pain and emotional suffering and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages in medical malpractice and personal injury cases. The law also places a $1 million cap on catastrophic cases which would apply in instances where a person became paralyzed, burned, blinded, suffered an amputation or otherwise died leaving behind minor children.

The law also excludes insurers from paying punitive damages in product liability actions unless the seller had substantial control over the design and manufacturing of the product or had actual knowledge of the defect in the product at the time it was sold.

Another law change removes insurers from the provisions of the state’s consumer protection act.

The Tennessee Supreme Court in a 1998 case, Myint. v Allstate Insurance Co., ruled that insurers could be sued under the state’s consumer protection act. Prior to that case, insurers could only be sued under the state’s insurance code. The new law in effect reverses Myiant v. Allstate and once again places lawsuits against insurers under the state’s insurance laws.

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