By: REBECCA ADELMAN
The Tennessee Supreme Court agreed in June to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of a Tennessee law that requires judges to override jury awards in civil lawsuits. Hudson News Shop, the ubiquitous pit stop for frequent fliers found in airports across the country, had bad news to report in 2006. While in one of their shops in Nashville, Tennessee, a California resident’s foot was injured when a decorative piece of trim around a freestanding beverage cooler fell on it.
While the resident still caught her flight home, she would later sue, in a case that would last until 2018 and include a $444,500 economic damage award and a $930,000 non-economic damage award. After the verdict, the Defendant asked that the state’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages be applied, limiting recovery to $750,000. The plaintiff objected, making the same argument – which found favor with the Sixth Circuit only sixth months ago – that such a cap violates a plaintiff’s right to trial by jury and violated the doctrine of separate powers.
The District Judge noted Tennessee’s high court remained silent on the constitutionality question and asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to break that silence before he rendered a decision. The court agreed to do so and specifically directed the state attorney general’s office to participate. A hearing date has not been set yet. It may be December before we get an answer to cap or no cap.