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McClay v. Airport Mgmt. Servs., LLC

Supreme Court of Tennessee, At Nashville

September 4, 2019, Session; February 26, 2020, Filed

No. M2019-00511-SC-R23-CV

Opinion

We accepted certification of the following questions of law from the [*3]  United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee regarding the constitutionality of Tennessee's statutory cap on noneconomic damages, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102: "(1) Does the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-102 violate a plaintiff's right to a trial by jury, as guaranteed in Article I, section 6, of the Tennessee Constitution?; (2) Does the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-102 violate Tennessee's constitutional doctrine of separation of powers between the legislative branch and the judicial branch?; (3) Does the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-102 violate the Tennessee Constitution by discriminating disproportionately against women?" Upon review, we answer each of the District Court's questions in the negative.

OPINION

Factual and Procedural Background

The certified questions of law at issue in this appeal arise from a personal injury action brought in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ("District Court"). Plaintiff Jodi McClay filed suit against Defendant Airport Management Services, LLC, seeking damages for injuries she sustained in a store at the Nashville International Airport in August 2016. A jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff in the amount of [*4]  $444,500 for future medical expenses and $930,000 for noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering, permanent injury, and loss of enjoyment of life. The District Court entered judgment against Defendant in accordance with the verdict. Defendant then moved to apply the statutory cap on noneconomic damages in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-39-102, which generally limits noneconomic damages in civil liability actions to $750,000. Plaintiff responded to Defendant's motion by arguing the statutory cap on noneconomic damages is unconstitutional. The District Court then certified the following questions of law to this Court:

1. Does the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-102 violate a plaintiff's right to a trial by jury, as guaranteed in Article I, section 6, of the Tennessee Constitution?

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2020 Tenn. LEXIS 84 *; 2020 WL 915980

JODI MCCLAY v. AIRPORT MANAGEMENT SERVICES, LLC

Subsequent History: As Corrected March 10, 2020.

Prior History: Tenn. R. App. P. 23 Certified Questions of Law. Rule 23 [*1]  Certified Question of Law from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. No. 3:17-cv-00705. Eli J. Richardson, Judge.

McClay v. Airport Mgmt. Servs., LLC, 2019 Tenn. LEXIS 229 (Tenn., June 19, 2019)

CORE TERMS

cap, damages, non economic damages, common law, right to trial, right to a jury trial, courts, jury trial, cause of action, constitutional right, remittitur, trial court, trial by jury, violates, enacting, cases, fact-finding, jury's verdict, inviolate, additur, modify, constitutionally protected, plaintiff's right, new trial, injuries, state constitution, question of fact, alteration, abolished, abrogate

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation, Inferences & Presumptions, Torts, Pain & Suffering, Emotional Distress, Award Calculations, Types of Losses, Punitive Damages, Measurement of Damages, Statutory Requirements, Governments, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Prospective Operation, Lost Income, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Courts, Common Law, State & Territorial Governments, Legislatures, Verdicts, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages, Measurements, Judicial Precedent, Separation of Powers, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Gender & Sex

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation, Inferences & Presumptions, Torts, Pain & Suffering, Emotional Distress, Award Calculations, Types of Losses, Punitive Damages, Measurement of Damages, Statutory Requirements, Governments, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Prospective Operation, Lost Income, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Courts, Common Law, State & Territorial Governments, Legislatures, Verdicts, Types of Damages, Compensatory Damages, Measurements, Judicial Precedent, Separation of Powers, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Gender & Sex