American Coatings Association

ACA Submits Amicus Brief in Case before Tennessee Supreme Court


Earlier this month, ACA submitted an amicus brief in the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a case on review: Tamarin Lindenberg v. Jackson National Life Insurance Company. In the brief, ACA and fellow amici make a statement of support for Jackson and the State of Tennessee (an intervenor in the case) for the constitutionality of Tennessee’s statutory limit on punitive damages. ACA maintains that the Tennessee Legislature has the right to set a rational limit on punitive damages — as it has in this case — and that virtually all courts in other states have upheld these statutory limits.  ACA points out that the lone state where courts have ruled these as some sort of denial of plaintiffs’ rights to fair and full trial has paid serious penalties by injuring its business culture.

ACA was joined in its amicus by several organizations representing businesses, healthcare providers, and insurers, along with several prominent Tennessee-based employers that are concerned with the predictability and fairness of the civil justice system. Along with ACA, amici included Tennesseans for Economic Growth, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee Hospital Association, Tennessee Medical Association, State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Medical Association, NFIB Small Business Legal Center, American Tort Reform Association, American Insurance Association, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Beaman Automotive Group, The Bun Companies, Compass Partners LLC, Lee Company, Community Health Systems, Inc., HCA, Inc., and Smith Seckman Reid.

“Amici have an interest in ensuring that the civil litigation environment in Tennessee is balanced, reflects sound policy, and respects due process,” the brief stated. “Limiting punitive damages to the greater of two times the compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, as provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-104(a)(5), furthers these goals. This law, enacted in 2011, prevents unpredictable liability, excessive awards, and punishment disproportionate to conduct at issue. Without a statutory limit on punitive damages, those that do business and provide healthcare in Tennessee are at risk of significant and unwarranted liability exposure. Maintaining the statutory limit is important to the solid reputation of Tennessee’s civil justice system and the state’s continued economic growth.”

ACA and its fellow amici argued that

  • Statutory limits on punitive damages are needed to moderate the drastic and inappropriate expansion in the availability, size, and unpredictability of punitive awards;
  • Tennessee’s statutory limits on punitive damages promote public confidence in the civil justice system and advance sound economic policy;
  • Courts have overwhelmingly found that statutory limits on punitive damages are constitutional;
  • Tennessee’s statutory limit on punitive damages is fully consistent with the jury’s fact-finding role; and
  • Identifying conduct subject to punishment, and setting a maximum penalty, is a public policy decision within the legislative realm.

Through its Amicus and Legal Tracking System program, ACA chooses select prominent cases each year in which it files an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief as a show of support for issues that can adversely impact the industry. Specifically, the Amicus Program seeks to prevent court decisions that establish bad precedent, or to overturn such precedent where it currently exists, and to advance the legal protection of property due process and liberties that rightfully belong to good faith corporate interests and behavior. Since the program’s 2007 inception, ACA has filed some 50 amicus briefs.

In summary, amici urged the court to uphold Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-39-104(a)(5) in that it does not violate the right to jury trial or the state’s separation of powers doctrine.

Contact ACA’s Tom Graves for more information.