Press Release from the Tennessee Association for Justice, March 24, 2011:
Non-Economic Damage Caps Disproportionately Affect Children, Elderly and People with Disabilities
Nashville— Five year old Amanda Travis went to a Nashville surgery center for a routine tonsillectomy. She never returned home. During her stay nurses administered the wrong dosage of Demerol and Valium as well as the wrong type and dosage of IV fluids—four times the normal amount. Due to vomiting of blood and mucus caused by the medication error and an understaffed facility, Amanda suffered a loss of oxygen, and soon after was pronounced brain dead.
The surgery center altered Amanda’s medical records three times in an attempt to cover up the medical errors which caused her death. It was also revealed that her nurse-anesthetist had a history of drug abuse and later died from a drug overdose during another patient’s surgery.
Non-economic damage awards compensate for real injuries and losses that are not easily measured by a dollar amount like lost wages or medical bills. Losses like paralysis, disfigurement, or a child’s loss of a mother are more significant than medical bills or lost wages. Caps on non-economic damages are unfair and discriminate against individuals who have little to no income, such as women or men who work inside the home, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. Caps arbitrarily limit damages in cases where the injuries are the most severe and often where the conduct is the most reprehensible.
“Since a five year old obviously has no source of income, non-economic damages provided the only recourse the Travis family had to hold those who were responsible for the senseless death of their little girl accountable,” stated Phillip Miller, President, Tennessee Association for Justice. “The government should not be legislating the price of someone’s life when their death unnecessarily occurs as a result of blatant medical negligence. A Tennessee jury, after hearing all the facts, should be trusted with determining the amount a negligent defendant should be responsible for when wrongful conduct takes the life of a little girl.”
Caps on non-economic damages means the lives of children, seniors, women and low wage earners who do not work outside the home are worth less than the lives of a businessmen. Entire classes of low–income or non-earners would be branded as being worth less than their wealthier counterparts. Without non-economic damage awards to these vulnerable citizens, care decreases and wrong doers are not properly held accountable for their negligence.
“We trust our fellow Tennesseans in the ballot box,” said Miller. “We should continue to trust them in the jury box.”
The Tennessee Association for Justice advocates for accountability and the constitutional rights of all citizens and works to protect civil justice in Tennessee.