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TN malpractice suits face new barriers

The Tennessean, April 26, 2011

Three years after Tennessee started requiring a "certificate of good faith" from medical experts that a malpractice suit has merit, Gov. Bill Haslam and legislators are proposing another tort reform, one that would cap non-economic damages and punitive awards. Critics say the legislation would further restrict people's ability to sue. The caps could have a particularly chilling effect on malpractice suits. Faced with the prospect of receiving less money from their percentage of damages, lawyers will cherry-pick for easily winnable cases, critics say, because of the cost of hiring doctors as expert witnesses. The legislation limits non-economic damages, such as pain and emotional suffering, to $750,000 and punitive awards to $500,000. However, the governor has offered exceptions for severe injuries and the deaths of parents with minor children, raising the cap to $1.25 million in these instances.