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Tennessee Supreme Court Remands Lower Court Ruling on Non-Economic Damages

Another ruling came down on the state of Tennessee’s cap on non-economic damages from the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Back in March of 2015, Judge Neil Thomas, a circuit judge in Chattanooga, held in Cain v. Clark,that Tennessee’s cap on non-economic damages violates the plaintiffs’ right to due process and equal protection under the Tennessee Constitution. He also held that the cap was a constitutional violation of the right to trial by jury because a jury of one’s peers should be able to make the determination of what damage amount to allot.

In a swift reaction, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that Thomas’ ruling was premature in striking down the cap, in October. The Court then remanded Thomas’ ruling back to the lower circuit court, so Cain v. Clark will be going back to trial court.

Since 2011, the Tennessee Civil Justice Act (aka “Tennessee Tort Reform Bill”) has limited non-economic damages in personal injury civil litigation to $750,000. Non-economic damages are those that claim intangible harms such as pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish. They encompass damages that cannot be directly tied to the economic harm your physical injury has caused you (ie. medical costs). The law was originally put in place to protect businesses from fraudulent claims.

What Is The Difference Between Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress And Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress damages, the most common of the non-economic damages, differ if the infliction of emotional distress was intentional or unintentional (merely negligent). The tort claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress is brought by someone who suffers an injury or witnesses an injury/traumatic event to a loved one, caused by the defendant’s negligence or carelessness.

In these cases: 1) the defendant’s conduct must have caused some kind of physical contact (called the “impact rule”); 2) the plaintiff must have been in the zone of danger of the negligent conduct; and 3) the harm/injury must have been foreseeable.

The zone of danger rule requires that the victim was close enough to the defendant’s negligent conduct that s/he could have been injured. Instead, s/he witnessed the harm to a loved one.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when: 1) the defendant acts intentionally, recklessly, or maliciously; 2) the defendant’s conduct was outrageous and extreme; and 3) the defendant’s conduct was the cause of severe emotional distress.

With intentional infliction of emotional distress, the victim does not have to suffer physical injuries to get damages. However, with negligent infliction of emotional distress, you or the loved one within the zone of danger must have suffered physical injury to obtain damages.

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At Calhoun Law, PLC, we will explore all possible claims of non-economic damages and access how best to best compensate you for your injuries. Contact our Nashville personal injury lawyers today if you have suffered emotional trauma due to someone else’s bad behavior.

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