What Are the Exceptions to Tennessee’s Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Cases?
Since 2011, Tennessee law has limited the amount of “non-economic” damages a personal injury victim can recover for their pain and suffering. In most cases, this noneconomic damages cap is $750,000. But the cap does not apply in all cases. The law includes an exception for cases where the defendant “intentionally falsified, destroyed or concealed records containing material evidence with the purpose of wrongfully evading liability.”
Judge: Defendant’s Discovery Violations May Lift Damages Cap
This issue came up in an ongoing federal lawsuit in Nashville, Trimboli v. Maxim Crane Works, LP. The plaintiff in this case was seriously injured in a construction accident. Here is a brief summary of what happened: Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas hired Aptus, a bridge construction and demolition company, to remove an inactive natural gas pipeline mounted to the Old Hickory Bridge in Nashville. Aptus required the use of two cranes to complete the project.
Aptus obtained the necessary cranes from Maxim Crane Works. The plaintiff, an Aptus employee, in this case was working in the basket of one of the Maxim cranes. While working, the basket “suddenly and unexpectedly fell 15 to 20 feet before lurching to a halt,” according to court records. The fall managed to shatter both of the plaintiff’s legs.
The plaintiff subsequently sued Maxim, alleging its failure to comply with federal safety regulations caused the accident. Maxim then counter-sued Aptus, alleging the latter was required to indemnify it under the contracts leasing the cranes. Aptus’ workers’ compensation insurer also intervened to protect its right to recover any benefits previously paid to the plaintiff.
During pre-trial discovery, both the plaintiff and Aptus accused Maxim of deliberately concealing witnesses and evidence. The judge agreed this happened. Specifically, the judge said Maxim “withheld the identity of an employee with highly relevant information far longer than it should have, and it misled the court and the other parties about its handling of physical evidence following the.” Maxim then compounded the problem by allowing individuals to give “false deposition testimony” and file affidavits containing “false claims.” There was also evidence that Maxim “deceived” federal safety regulators.
The judge imposed sanctions against Maxim, requiring it to pay the legal costs incurred by the plaintiff and Aptus. Additionally, the judge said the plaintiff could cite Maxim’s discovery misconduct at trial as grounds to not apply Tennessee’s cap on non-economic damages. The judge did not say at this time that the exception to the cap applied. But he did find that Maxim would need to prove “it lacked the intent required in order for the damages cap to be lifted,” without disputing the underlying misconduct actually occurred.
Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Personal injury cases often involve complex questions of fact and law. An experienced Nashville personal injury lawyer can guide you through this process and zealously represent your interests in court. Contact the offices of Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.