Press Releases

Kelsey Tort Reform Legislation Aimed at ‘Minimizing Doctrine of Joint Liability’

Press Release from Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Oct. 26, 2011: 

(NASHVILLE, TN), October 26, 2011 — State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today introduced three tort reform bills to help job growth.  The bills will help provide more fairness and certainty in Tennessee lawsuits. Specifically, the bills ensure that defendants pay only their fair share of judgments, that the General Assembly does not unintentionally create new lawsuits, and that the ability of trespassers to sue homeowners and business owners is limited.

The three bills comprise Senator Kelsey’s fourth installment of his 12 for ’12 initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to convene January 10, 2012.

“These bills will continue to help job growth in Tennessee by providing predictability and common sense in the law for businesses that want to locate in Tennessee,” said Sen. Kelsey.

SB 2141 provides for the direct apportionment of damages according to fault, minimizing the doctrine of joint liability. “This is a matter of fairness.  If a jury finds you 20% at fault, you should be required to pay only 20% of the damages,” said Sen. Kelsey.

SB 2140 provides that a citizen may only sue under a law passed by the General Assembly when such a right is expressly stated in the law.  The bill does not affect the right to sue on traditional common law theories of recovery.

“This bill makes it easier on judges, who no longer have to figure out whether the General Assembly did or did not intend to create a new way to sue,” said Sen. Kelsey.  “The bill gives fair notice to Tennessee businesses of when they should expect a lawsuit.”

SB 2142 clarifies premises liability, the area of law which defines a landowner’s duty to those who enter his land.

Referring to the case of Hudson v. Gaitan, decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1984, Sen. Kelsey said, “The last couple of decades have seen some changes to our premises liability jurisprudence.  This bill will allow homeowners and business owners to rest secure that they are not responsible for injuries to a trespasser.”

The bill provides exceptions for harms to children and harms to those the landowner knows are entering the property.

Sen. Kelsey views these three bills as a follow-up to last year’s successful Civil Justice Act, which he sponsored along with others in the Senate for Governor Bill Haslam.  The Civil Justice Act addressed current problems with Tennessee tort law.

“Unlike last year’s successful Civil Justice Act, these bills are more preventative in nature.  They will ensure that Tennessee remains open for business for years to come,” concluded Sen. Kelsey.

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