Search Site
Menu
The Tennessee Civil Justice Act: Justice for Victims after Tort Reform?

On January 18, 2002, six-year-old Billy Meals was riding along in the back of his father’s car, seatbelt on, when a drunk driver crossed a line and hit the Mealses’ car head on.  Billy was paralyzed from the waist down: his father and grandfather, both of whom were in the car, didn’t survive the crash.  The family sued, and a jury awarded Billy’s family 43.8 million dollars for their losses — 6.5 million of which was placed on the shoulders of the Ford Motor Company, whose faulty seatbelts may have kept Billy alive, but couldn’t keep him walking.

Ford, of course, appealed — and won.  Their share was reduced to 1.93 million.

Then the Mealses appealed, of course — and they won.  On September 6, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the first appellate decision and reinstated Billy Meals’ original award, holding that is was within an appropriate range of damages.

It’s a tragic story, and no one wants Billy Meals, now 14, to suffer any more than he already has.  But this case is about more than just a large verdict: it’s in direct opposition to the Tennessee Civil Justice Act (TCJA) Governor Bill Haslam signed into law in 2011.  The Act places a limit on non-economic and punitive damages that a plaintiff can recover in a civil suit.  If today’s standards had applied, Billy Meals would technically only be entitled to 1 million dollars for all non-economic damages, past, present and future.

What this means for Tennessee victims moving forward

Because the car accident that took Billy’s ability to walk (and the lives of his father and grandfather) happened in 2002, 9 years before the law was enacted, his case doesn’t fall under the boundaries of the TCJA.  But for injury victims whose accidents and injuries occurred in the last two years, or will take place in the future, the cap could have long-lasting implications — most of which will not be helpful.  As the law applies only to punitive and non-economic damages, plaintiffs should still be able to recover their medical bills, their lost wages (including potential future lost wages) and — in Billy’s family’s case, for example — any burial costs. 

But how does one put a monetary cap on the ability to walk?  To speak with your father?  To deal with the day-in, day-out reminder of the life you once had — or in Billy’s case, the life you could have had?  Would 1 million dollars really compensate(for his or her whole life) the next-six-year old who is made a paraplegic like Billy Meals was?

 

When your family is hurt, contact the family who cares. Call Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin today at 423.212.5042 to schedule your free initial consultation, or contact us online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us

Please fill out the form below and one of our attorneys will contact you.

Quick Contact Form

Our Office
  • Bristol Office
    777 Anderson Street
    Bristol, Tennessee 37620
    Phone: 423-797-6022
    Fax: 423-764-1179
TESTIMONIALS
  • "Myers Massengill II has represented me for the last four years in my original divorce case and in subsequent returns for other issues..." "  -Shirley Schultz

  • "When we were in crucial need of both knowledge and competency due to a legal situation, Mr. Myers Massengill of this firm spent the time we needed..."  -Geoff Stunkard

  • "Throughout my two years working with Mr. Massengill, I was treated with the utmost respect and courtesy..."  -Debbie Compton

  • "Mr. L. Carter Massengill handled my case with the utmost courtesy, efficiency and professionalism... "  -Karla Jolene Leybold

  • "Mr.Carter Massengill and staff most respectful and nicest people to help quickly resolve your legal issues and with a positive outcome..."  -Brandon Thorpe

  • "Carter's assistance in navigating the complicated path through the Disability appeals process was instrumental in her approval. We can't thank him enough."  -Scott S.

  • "Thank you for helping me win my case. "  -Jenna.

  • "I am very pleased with the service from Myers and his staff. Very professional and personable at the same time . I felt like my case mattered to them . I would highly recommend their services (and a special thank you to Pam ..you guys have been so helpful)"  -Rhonda.

  • "Carter Massengill did an excellent job helping me with my disability. He did a great job along with his assistant Sandra. Honest and helpful people to deal with. I would definitely recommend him."  -Patty.

  • "Attorney Carter Massengill is hands down one of the most trustworthy and genuine individuals you will ever meet. Rest assured that you are in good hands and that he is going to do everything in his power to take the best care of you and your case, along with expediting the process as quickly as possible. It's rare that an attorney possesses such great attributes in the sense that he is easy to talk to and when he says he is going to get something done, he does it! His office staff is the best. They know their clients and have excellent communication skills. It helps when you are going through a difficult situation. They are a great team and you would be very fortunate to have them represent you! We were able to settle out of court for exactly what we were asking for and this was with me having pre existing pain from fibromyalgia. I am extremely blessed to have hired such a wonderful attorney."  -C.M.

AWARDS & AFFILIATIONS
DISABILITY VIDEO
PERSONAL INJURY VIDEO