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Justice Bivins Calls for ‘Yes on 2’ at TN Farm Bureau Federation Conference

Press release from the Vote Yes on 2 Campaign; August 22, 2014:

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins, speaking at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Annual Presidents Conference on August 14, urged those in attendance to Vote YES on 2 when they go to polls this fall. The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation is also urging the passage of Amendment 2.

Amendment 2 keeps the best parts of our current system by continuing to trust the Governor to appoint the most qualified persons as appellate judges, while adding a new layer of accountability by having our elected representatives in the legislature confirm or reject the Governor’s appointees. Most importantly, Amendment 2 protects the right of Tennesseans to vote to keep or fire the judges at the end of their respective terms.

Justice Bivins said Amendment 2 brings important new clarity and accountability to the process of selecting Tennessee’s Supreme Court and appellate court judges. But he warned that failure to pass Amendment 2 could open the door to costly statewide judicial races, full of negative advertising largely funded by out of state special interests.

“You got a taste in these past weeks with the negative advertisements and the mailers.” Justice Bivins said. “But you saw only the tip of the iceberg of what can happen.”

“Our Farm Bureau policy supports an independent and qualified judiciary,” said Lacy Upchurch, President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. “Our grassroots members have directed us to work to ensure partisan politics and campaign fundraising do not influence the selection and retention of judges. We support the Yes on 2 efforts and believe passage will provide a judicial system of which we can all be proud.”

Amendment 2 enjoys strong support from a diverse and bipartisan group of top leaders from across the state, including Governor Bill Haslam, former Governor Phil Bredesen, former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, former Governor Winfield Dunn, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, large majorities in the State House and Senate, and many more.

Amendment 2 has also been endorsed by other leading organizations including the Tennessee Bar Association, the League of Women Voters, Fraternal Order of Police, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Business Roundtable.

Election Day is November 4, 2014, and early voting on the constitutional amendments begins October 15, 2014. For more information, visit VoteYes2.org.

Alexander Announces First Round of Democrat, Independent Supporters

Press release from the Campaign for Lamar Alexander for U.S. Senate; August 10, 2014:

First round of Democrats and Independents includes former Congressman John Tanner, seven former or current mayors, former UT football Coach Johnny Majors, an Olympic Gold Medalist and numerous civic and political leaders from across the state

NASHVILLE – The Alexander for Senate campaign today announced the first round of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” a list of Democrats and Independents statewide who are supporting Lamar Alexander’s re-election to the U.S. Senate this fall.

“Every time I’ve run for office I’ve done my best to earn the support of Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, because it is my job to represent all Tennesseans once I am elected,” Alexander said. “My goal is to get results, and that means working with people who know how to help solve problems for Tennessee and for our country.”

During his 2008 re-election campaign, Alexander announced two rounds of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” totaling more than 50 members. This year’s first round includes 30 members.

Former Congressman John Tanner, a Democrat who represented the 8th Congressional District from 1989 to 2011 and was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1976 to 1988, joined the group this year. Tanner said he is supporting Alexander after years of working together on roads, the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority and other issues.

“There are times in this business when friendships and loyalties should be more important than politics, and this is one of those times,” Tanner said. “Lamar Alexander has always been a friend and loyal to my old district, helping us do everything we needed to do to be successful and bring jobs to rural West Tennessee.”

This year’s list is geographically balanced across East, Middle and West Tennessee and also includes seven current or former mayors, an Olympic gold medalist, former University of Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors and numerous civic and political leaders. The list includes:

East Tennessee

  • Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan
  • Etta Clark, Eastman executive from Kingsport
  • Jim Hall of Chattanooga, aide to former Gov. Ned McWherter and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration
  • Jack Fishman, Morristown-based business man, civic leader and newspaper publisher
  • Former University of Tennessee President Joe Johnson
  • Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey
  • Johnny Majors, former University of Tennessee football coach
  • Former State Senator Carl Moore of Bristol
  • Former Knox County Mayor Tommy Schumpert

Middle Tennessee

  • Steve Bogard, Nashville songwriter
  • Dave Cooley, deputy and chief of staff to former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Aubrey Harwell, prominent Nashville attorney
  • State Senator Doug Henry, longest-serving member of the Tennessee General Assembly
  • Patsy Mathews, political activist and widow of former U.S. Senator Harlan Mathews
  • Linda Peak Schacht, Nashville university professor and former aide to President Jimmy Carter and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd
  • James Pratt, former staffer to former U.S. Senator Jim Sasser
  • Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell
  • Fate Thomas, Jr. of Nashville, who recently resurrected the Sure Shot Rabbit Hunter’s Supper, a gathering for Middle Tennessee politicians founded by his father, the late Sheriff Fate Thomas
  • Anna Windrow, Nashville business woman, former aide to former Lt. Gov. Frank Gorrell, former Senator Jim Sasser and former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Emily Wiseman, former executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging

West Tennessee

  • Laura Adams, executive director of Shelby Farms Park
  • Former State Supreme Court Judge George Brown, the first African American to serve on the court, appointed by then-Gov. Alexander
  • Brenda Duckett, Memphis business woman and community education activist
  • Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist
  • Bishop William Graves of Memphis, former senior bishop of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and former member of the Tennessee Valley Authority board
  • Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton
  • Cato Johnson, Memphis hospital executive
  • Former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris
  • Rochelle Stevens, Memphis business woman and Olympic gold medalist
  • Former Congressman John Tanner

The Alexander campaign is chaired by Congressman Jimmy Duncan, with co-chairmen Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher, and Fleischmann.

The campaign’s Honorary Co-Chairmen include former U.S. Senators Howard Baker (1925-2014), Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, as well as former Governors Winfield Dunn and Don Sundquist.
Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Statewide Committee to Elect Lamar Alexander are all 13 living former state Republican Party chairs.

Carr or Lamar? Mindblowing Upset or Run-of-the-Mill Blowout?

Just hours before election day the GOP primary contest between incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Tea-Party-backed state Rep. Joe Carr is still a tough call. Both candidates claim the winds of momentum are blowing in their favor, and there’s fair reason to conclude at this late hour that anything can still happen.

Although a poll released last week by the Alexander campaign showed the longtime politician besting his closest opponent by more than two-to-one, Carr contended at a “Beat Lamar” rally in East Ridge over the weekend that the race is “very, very, very close.”

According to Carr, he’s recently been contacted by four members of the Tennessee General Assembly working on his behalf, who have all told him that from what they’ve seen, he’s winning, and that “two out of three voters” are in his corner.

Carr, a three-term Republican state representative from Lascassas, is challenging the political powerhouse of Alexander, a two-term U.S. Senator, former Tennessee governor, former U.S. Department of Education secretary and two-time candidate for president.

Both campaigns have touted their recent endorsements as evidence of their conservative credentials, as well as their penchant for getting things done.

Carr has recently picked up the endorsements from national Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin. Conservative commentator and radio host Laura Ingraham and has long had the support of the Beat Lamar PAC.

Alexander’s endorsements run deep. He was backed recently by two former chairmen of the American Conservative Union — Al Cardenas and David Keene. Keene is also a former president of the National Rifle Association.  Additionally, Alexander has been supported by many Republican leaders in the state, such as Gov. Bill Haslam and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.

In his criticism of Alexander, Carr has done his best to tie the incumbent to the policies of the Obama administration, such as Obamacare and immigration reform.

Much of Carr’s attack on his opponent’s Conservative credentials focused on Alexander’s support of what all seven Republican members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation called “amnesty.”

Alexander has defended his vote for the legislation, arguing that voting against the bill was really a vote for amnesty.

Meanwhile, although campaigning for a third term, Alexander has paid little attention to Carr, other than one mailer sent out in Middle Tennessee — Carr’s own turf — criticizing the state-level politician over a vote for Common Core in relation to the state applying for “Race to the Top” funds.

Carr has said that he was not proud of having made that vote, and in a interview with The Murfreesboro Post last year characterized it as “a choice between a really bad vote and a really bad vote.”

And, although Alexander has been a recent vocal critic of the Obama Administration’s handling of the immigration crisis, according to The Washington Post, Alexander said that he hasn’t heard much talk about immigration from his constituency.

“We have a chance to have a Republican majority in the United State Senate. I’d like to be a part of that majority, send a message to President Obama, fix the debt, fix our borders, return education decisions back to the states and replace Obamacare,” Alexander said to reporters Wednesday, at a campaign event in Chattanooga with Haslam and Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

With Signing of Lawsuit Damage Limits, Haslam Caps Legislative Priority List

Gov. Bill Haslam effectively cleaned his plate of his first legislative package as governor Thursday, signing a tort reform bill that has been touted as a way to create a better climate for jobs in Tennessee.

Haslam signed the bill in a formal setting at the Capitol, making it a clean sweep on his personal legislative agenda. Haslam had previously signed three education reform bills, one at the Capitol on teacher tenure changes, one in Memphis on charter schools Wednesday and one in Murfreesboro last week on his plan to apply Hope scholarships toward classes taken in summer school.

Haslam offered no jobs package of legislation per se, stating from the start that he did not think the state could legislate new jobs — a point with which Democrats took great issue. But the closest measure to a jobs bill was Haslam’s tort reform effort, which met forceful opposition, foremost among trial lawyers who employed lawyer/actor Fred Thompson to do their high-profile lobbying on the issue.

The bill passed 21-12 in the Senate and 72-24 in the House in a Legislature with a heavy Republican majority in each chamber. The Legislature adjourned May 21, but a strong contingent of key Republican lawmakers joined the governor for the signing ceremony on Thursday.

“This was obviously one of our key pieces of legislation,” Haslam told reporters after the ceremony. “I honestly think this will help encourage a better business environment.

“I think we did it in a way that protects victims’ rights but also sets up a predictable landscape for business, and that was our goal all along.”

One interest group, the free-market Tennessee Center for Policy Research, had estimated 30,000 jobs a year could be created with tort reform, translating into 577 jobs a week. Throughout the legislative session, however, it became difficult to get lawmakers or other proponents to put a number on potential job creation. Haslam refused to do so on Thursday. But Haslam said that growth would be genuine.

“I’ve seen supporters of this had a number that they thought it would create. I don’t know how you quantify it. But I do think it’s real,” Haslam said.

The law, formally the “Tennessee Civil Justice Act,” places a cap of $750,000 on non-economic damages in civil cases, although it creates exceptions in cases that involve intentional misconduct, destruction of records or activity under the influence of drugs and alcohol. That cap is extended to $1 million in catastrophic cases, which the law specifies as paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation, substantial burns or the wrongful death of a parent leaving minor children.

The law places a cap on punitive damages at two times the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Opponents of the bill had insisted that such decisions should be left in the hands of juries. People who had settled cases that involved severe personal suffering had been brought in to legislative hearings to help make the case against the bill. Thompson in particular had given stirring testimony about the need to leave such decisions in the hands of jurors.

Haslam made special mention Thursday of his legal counsel, Herbert Slatery, and his work on the matter.

“People on both sides of the issue were giving him a strong piece of their mind,” Haslam said of Slatery. “But he kept coming back to ‘What’s the right thing to do?'”

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said Thursday he had seen seven years as a legislator waiting for the day to come when such a bill would be signed. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said it was more like 10.

“Ten years is the length of time we’ve toiled in this vineyard to bring true tort reform to the state of Tennessee,” Norris said. “It wasn’t until Governor Haslam came along with his vision and his focus that we were able to get it across the line.”

The law is particularly welcome in the medical profession.

“For the doctors in the state, this has been a long time coming,” said Don Alexander, CEO of the Tennessee Medical Association. “They need stability in their practices, when the largest expense is their professional liability. Now they know how to at least gauge and know exactly what to set aside to pay. They can limit their coverage a little bit more.

“This is going to make an environment in Tennnessee much more attractive to doctors to come to Tennessee.”

Alexander said that previously doctors who were trained in the state would leave the state because of a liability environment that has been “kind of toxic.”

With tort reform and education legislation completed, Haslam is likely to draw more attention now to his efforts to combat unemployment more directly.

Now that steps have been made ostensibly to create a better climate for business, the issue of job growth will get more scrutiny under the first-year governor. Haslam has made job growth in the state his top priority and has said his legislative agenda was designed for that purpose. Nevertheless, further discussion of education reforms is also expected, including issues of school calendars and the length of school days.

Mike Morrow is a correspondent for TNReport.com, an independent nonprofit news organization supported by readers like you.

Tort Reform Bill Passes Senate

The Senate delivered for Gov. Bill Haslam on one of his primary legislative objectives Thursday, passing a tort reform measure that includes caps on non-economic damages in jury awards.

The vote was 21-12, with Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, the only Republican voting against it. Faulk explained that he is a conservative and that that means believing in personal responsibility and less government, so he could not support legislating the change in the judicial system.

The measure, HB2008, still needs another trip through the House because of a minor Senate amendment before it goes to the governor, but there was a celebratory spirit among the Republican leadership and the Haslam administration outside the Senate chamber after the vote.

The bill is the second major legislative victory for Haslam, following his successful initiative on tenure reform for teachers. The House passed the tort reform bill earlier this week 72-24.

The legislation has been characterized as a jobs bill, with proponents saying it will help create an environment that would be attractive to businesses looking to relocate or expand in the state. It has been difficult to pin down lawmakers on how many jobs might be created because of tort reform.

“I believe this legislation will be an important piece of the puzzle — the mosaic as it were — that will make Tennessee more attractive for new and expanded business. I do sincerely believe that,” Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, the Senate majority leader who carried the bill for Haslam, said after the vote.

“How many jobs? Nobody can say. There’s no crystal ball for that. We’ve joined the majority of states in the nation that have put a number of these reforms in place. At least on the global scale we can remain competitive.”

The Senate used well over three hours of debate before the vote. Norris and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, did most of the talking for the bill, while Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, and Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, made most of the arguments against it.

Herron was especially passionate, suggesting that caps on non-economic damages on someone who has been harmed for life could be calculated to be less than what lawmakers get in their per diem serving in the Legislature.

As advocates for the bill told individual stories related to the bill, Berke called the bill “legislation by anecdote,” which Norris said was not the case. Kelsey argued that the bill could bring certainty and predictability into the system of awards in civil suits.

The bill caps non-economic damages at $750,000. It does not cap economic damages. It also caps punitive damages at $500,000 or two times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater — although those caps would not apply in cases where the defendant’s act resulted in a felony conviction, or if records in the case have been intentionally falsified or concealed, or if the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the act.

Another key element of the bill is the establishment of a cap of $1 million in cases that are considered to be “catastrophic” in nature. That figure had been the point of adjustments throughout the legislative process. One Democratic amendment offered Thursday would have raised the caps on non-economic damages to $1.25 million and catastrophic damages at $2.25 million but was defeated.

The bill spells out which conditions are to be considered catastrophic, including spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia; amputation of two hands, two feet or one of each; third-degree burns over 40 percent or more of the body as a whole or third-degree burns on 40 percent or more of the face; or the wrongful death of a parent leaving a surviving minor child or children for whom the deceased parent had custody.

Several other attempts by Democrats to alter the bill failed, including one that would have tied caps to increases in the consumer price index and one that would have added brain damage to the list of conditions spelled out in the catastrophic category.

Herbert Slatery, Haslam’s legal counsel, said the administration seeks a better environment for businesses.

“As the governor said, the long-term impact hopefully will be to create a more predictable structure in which businesses can quantify what the risk is going to be,” Slatery said after the vote. “It’s one really important factor in how they decide to expand in Tennessee or relocate in Tennessee. It’s just a very, very important factor.

“I think that kind of structure and predictability will allow them to assume what we really want them to assume, and that’s the risk of placing capital in the marketplace. If they will invest their capital and sign guarantees and things like that to expand their businesses, and take the business risk without having to worry so much about the legal side of it, at least they will know what the risk is — more now than they did. Then they will expand and relocate, we hope.”

Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey was also in the hallway outside the Senate chamber following the vote.

Slatery’s presence in the hall was noticeable for the absence of former U.S. Sen Fred Thompson, who had been a high-profile lobbyist against the measure. Thompson was in Washington on Thursday, where he joined a group advocating for a totally different type of reform — creating a popular vote tally to determine the outcome of a presidential election.

Thompson was named a national “co-champion” of the National Popular Vote campaign, saying in a formal statement, “This is an idea whose time has come.”

Democrats had lawyerly spokesmen, however, in Herron and Berke, among others, against tort reform in Tennessee.

“Those who have done the worst will pay less of a price,” Herron said after the vote. “Those who have been hurt the most will pay more of a price.”

Herron is still looking for the problem that brought on the legislation.

“When you look and see where Tennessee ranks in terms of site selection and business rankings, we’re right at the top of the list, right now, already,” Herron said.

Norris emphasized the need to compete with other states.

“Competitiveness is important. But holding the system together and improving it along the way are also important, and I think these changes will do that,” Norris said.

“And if they don’t we’ll revisit them and fix them.”

Norris was asked what he would say to a victim who had been seriously wronged.

“That if there were not caps in damages there might be no system from which they could recover at all,” he said.

As the debate went long in the Senate, stacks of pizza were delivered to the lawmakers, with a list of other items on the calendar creating a work session that ran close to six hours. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, made special mention of the length of debate on tort reform.

“It was an excellent debate,” Ramsey told the members. “That was four hours we spent on one bill, but it deserved four hours.”

Said Slatery, Haslam’s counsel, “I thought it was a very valuable exercise and was well-evaluated.

“I was proud of how the system worked.”

Haslam’s Tort Reform Plan Advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee kept Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform bill on track Tuesday, passing the controversial bill 6-3 along party lines.

The committee considered several amendments and adopted those that were considered friendly by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, the bill’s sponsor. Norris is carrying the bill for the administration as majority leader in the Senate.

While committee members discussed the amendments, no testimony was taken from people in the audience who had interest in the legislation, unlike the previous week when dramatic testimony included remarks by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who is lobbying for trial lawyers against the bill.

The amendments approved Tuesday did little to change the thrust of the bill, SB1522. They dealt with issues such as proper venue in a case, allowing for ordinary alteration of records and clarifying other language in the bill. The committee moved to lump four acceptable amendments into one for the purpose of simplification.

Technically, the committee approved the first amendment to the measure that represented the basic changes requested by the Haslam administration from the original version. The latest version of the bill provides for non-economic damages in civil cases to be capped at $750,000, with a $1 million cap applicable in catastrophic cases.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, offered an amendment that would raise the caps on non-economic damages to $1.25 million, rather than the $750,000, and would have raised the $1 million cap in catastrophic cases to $2.5 million.

“I know this would put our state higher (in the level of caps on damages) than some other states, but after a great deal of consideration and listening to the testimony last week, I feel this is an appropriate move,” Overbey said.

The amendment failed, as did two proposals from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams.

Barnes attempted to amend the legislation with a provision that would tie figures in the bill to the consumer price index. Another amendment by Barnes attempted to replace a reference to spinal cord injuries to include language that covered serious brain injuries in the catastrophic case category. Norris said the topic of brain injuries had been given a lot of considerations in talks over the bill.

“It was weighed. It was evaluated, and in the negotiations it was not considered to be a prudent thing to include in this legislation. Because of that, as the sponsor, I consider it to be a hostile amendment,” Norris said.

Haslam initially proposed legislation that had caps on non-economic damages in all cases at $750,000. Later, provisions for catastrophic cases were added that carried a $1.25 million cap, but that figure was later brought down to $1 million as it currently stands.

The tort reform bill is one of the main pieces of legislation proposed by Haslam, who is in his first year in office. It stands alongside education reforms such as teacher tenure changes and loosening limits on charter schools as Haslam priorities. Thus far, Haslam, a Republican, appears to be getting basically what he wants from the Republican-controlled legislature.

The House Judiciary Committee has also passed the tort reform bill. The bill will move to a floor vote in both chambers, after being scheduled by the House and Senate’s calendar committees.

Those voting for the bill Tuesday were Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the committee chairman, and Overbey. Those opposing the bill were Barnes, Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, and Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis.

Ramsey: Keeping Non-Economic Damages Cap at $750K Preferable

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said this week he believes Republicans in the Senate prefer the original version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform bill, and that the legislation will likely move through the Senate simultaneously with that in the House.

Ramsey said he anticipates Senate activity on the bill next week. He said his prediction would be that the Senate would adopt part of the governor’s bill, but not the current House version as amended.

“I think the majority of our caucus likes the governor’s original bill without the amendment,” Ramsey told reporters. “I think the bill to begin with was a compromise.”

A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed a version of the tort reform measure, which is one of the main legislative efforts on Haslam’s agenda, and it is headed to the full House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The thrust of the legislation, HB2008/SB1522, is to put caps on monetary awards for victims in civil suits. Haslam says the caps will create a more stable business climate for the state. He believes the bill will help create jobs, his top priority as governor.

Ramsey also sees the bill as a way to help create jobs, but he has refused to speculate on a specific number of jobs that could come from the action.

Haslam originally offered a proposal that put caps on non-economic damages in such lawsuits at $750,000. But the legislation immediately became the subject of negotiations behind the scenes among various parties involved.

The administration offered a subsequent version of the legislation that would raise the cap in “catastrophic” cases to $1.25 million. But by the time the subcommittee took up the bill Wednesday, the $1.25 million had been reduced to $1 million.

Herbert Slatery, Haslam’s legal counsel, attributed the changing figures to “the legislative process.”

The $1 million would apply to the most severe cases, such as those that involve amputations or spinal cord injuries that leave victims with paralysis. The $750,000 cap remains in the bill for most cases, and Ramsey’s comments suggest the Senate would like to keep the $750,000 in all cases, as Haslam first proposed.

Advocates for reform say there should be some level of predictability of how big awards could be in cases where victims are harmed. Opponents say such figures should be left to the judicial system, and that legislated caps significantly take away the opportunity for justice in such cases.

The issue has become a matter of emotional appeal, with opponents of the caps offering examples of people who have suffered serious losses. Testimony in committee hearings has included people affected by such cases.

Opponents of the bill have used the star power and persuasiveness of actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson to head the lobbying effort against the bill. Thompson has appeared before lawmakers but did not address the subcommittee on Wednesday.

Haslam has emphasized that caps will not apply in cases where intentional misconduct comes into play.

The bill includes caps on punitive damages that are two times the amount of compensatory damages in a case, or $500,000, whichever is greater.

It is possible other amendments will be offered on the legislation.

“On any kind of issue, you can argue extremes on both sides,” Ramsey said. “You kind of look at what’s reality in real life, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”

The legislation defines “catastrophic loss or injury” as cases that involve spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia; amputation of two hands, two feet or one of each; third-degree burns over 40 percent or more of the body as a whole or third-degree burns up to 40 percent or more of the face; or wrongful death of a parent leaving a surviving minor child or children for whom the deceased parent had lawful rights of custody or visitation.

Fred Thompson Joins State Lawyer Org’s Lobbying Arm

Press Release from the Tennessee Association for Justice (formerly the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association), Jan. 25, 2011:

Nashville—Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson joins the Tennessee Association for Justice legislative team this session. Senator Thompson will assist TAJ in their efforts to ensure that Tennesseans maintain a full measure of justice in Tennessee courts.

“We are sworn to protect the Constitution and ensure citizens’ rights are protected from unreasonable government intrusion.” said TAJ President Phillip Miller. “Senator Thompson understands the importance of this issue and worked as an advocate throughout his career to protect civil justice.”

As a recognized Tennessean, Senator Thompson identifies with the citizens of this state and relates to their concerns and needs. He will play an integral part in guaranteeing that their rights are protected.

“We put our trust in Tennesseans at the ballot box, and we should continue to trust them in the jury box,” stated Randy Kinnard, TAJ Past President. “It is our hope Senator Thompson will help us convey this message so our citizens can continue to exercise their right to trial by jury.”

The Tennessee Association for Justice will continue working with Tennessee’s elected officials on both sides of the aisle. Fred Thompson knows that justice is a right for all Tennesseans and should not be a partisan issue.

The Tennessee Association for Justice advocates for accountability and the constitutional rights of all citizens and works to protect civil justice in Tennessee.

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