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Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to limit lawsuit damages in Tennessee has passed a key House panel. Haslam originally pushed for a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages — such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life, but the measure that advanced would raise the cap to $1.25 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children.

The Governor says he wants to create a comfortable environment for businesses. This is an all-too-common scenario in many states – cater to the large corporations at the expense of hardworking citizens. Opponents say damages are the only thing that helps hold companies accountable, and a jury is the best qualified to decide the amount of the award. Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson said,

We let juries put a person to death. I think we ought to let them decide damages.

Many find tort reform an acceptable notion until they suffer an injury or lose a loved one in an accident because of someone’s negligence. It’s only then that they recognize the impact a serious accident can have on someone’s life. Proponents claim that tort reform will save money and protect businesses. Tell that to the parents who lost their five-year-old daughter due to a routine tonsillectomy that went horribly wrong. Besides medical bills and funeral expenses, the parents would have no source of recovery – and a lesser sense of justice served. Lawsuits are NOT trying to drive companies out of business; lawsuits promote a strong justice system that holds wrongdoers accountable. The primary problem is negligence, not lawsuits.

To most plaintiffs, the money is not the goal. Family members of victims said the caps on damages would remove the most important reason they had for filing suit: to deter fraudulent and abusive business practices so that what happened to their loved ones never happens again. How can any legislator can look at a victim’s family member and tell them how little they think their loved ones’ lives are worth?

When running for Governor, Haslam’s website states the following:

As governor, Bill’s priorities for health care will include fighting unfunded federal mandates, emphasizing personal responsibility and preventive care, making sure TennCare never again threatens the fiscal health of our state, passing meaningful tort reform, and leveraging Tennessee’s thriving healthcare industry for job creation.

Politicians like Haslam never explain what they mean by throw away terms like “meaningful tort reform.” When it happens and you are the next injury victim to file a lawsuit, it will hit you like a freight train!

Now Haslam is fighting for caps on damages in malpractice cases. Isn’t that inconsistent with his goal of “emphasizing personal responsibility and preventive care”? Does this mean people should be responsible for their actions unless they are negligent healthcare providers?

When you put an arbitrary cap on someone’s life, there’s no real incentive to hold large corporations accountable for negligence. If these big businesses know what the cap is, they may be more lenient in adhering to safety standards and providing the necessary training and highest level of care. What is more important to you – protecting the insurance companies or protecting your loved ones?

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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