Friday, February 25, 2011

TORT REFORM WRONG FOR TENNESSEE

TORT REFORM WRONG FOR TENNESSEE


Governor Haslam has announced a number of measures that intended to help grow much-needed jobs in Tennessee.

The need for more jobs in our state is something that Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians can all agree upon. However, there are many paths to accomplish that goal.

I do not believe that tort reform should be included for a number of reasons.

The tort reform that is being proposed is a “one size fits all” $750,000 cap on non-economic damages and a cap on punitive damages of two times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Some have questioned if the governor and majority leader Mark Norris of Collierville are trying to solve a problem that does not exist. After all, precious few cases go to trial in Tennessee, and verdicts are not approaching some never before seen record.

Conservative Fred Thompson has spoken out repeatedly on behalf of victims and the lawyers that represent them recently. He cites the tragic events involving a little 5-year-old girl, who went to a clinic in Tennessee for a simple, run in the mill tonsillectomy. But an incorrect dosage of medicine and a lack of oxygen caused her death. Reportedly, the medical records were then falsified altered in an attempt to cover it up and try to avoid responsibility.

Conservatives are inconsistent in this area. A backbone of the Republican Party is that less-government-is-better. However, any one size fits all approach that favors bureaucrats and regulations to regular folks on a jury should be an abomination to any conservative.

Haslam has touted these changes as creating a “more predictable legal environment for business development and job creation.”

Predictable? The very nature of the unpredictability of jury verdicts and punitive damages is part of what keeps us safe as consumers. Ford never knew a hard a fast amount that people burned alive in Pintos that exploded on impact, and still delayed recalling them back in the 70’s.

Thompson, for one, questions the job-creation claimed by tort reform on other grounds than just being speculative.

“Suppose you created five new jobs, but you had an egregious situation over here where somebody, because of recklessness and negligence, cost a child their eyesight,” he said. “And you put caps on that and said, ‘Oh, no, you can’t get what people used to get for that. It’s not worth as much anymore.’ That’s the trade-off we’re talking about. Even if you could prove jobs, how many jobs is it worth to treat somebody unfair?”

Will that be his legacy as a public servant? I agree that we all need jobs and I applaud Haslam’s attempts to do that. But, I really want Tennessee’s slogan to be something like:

“A Natural Place for Business.”

I am afraid it might, instead, become:

“Come hurt Tennesseans, their lives are cheaper here!”