published Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

New law restricts some Tennesseans’ ability to sue

NASHVILLE — Tennesseans will find it harder to sue companies that break new state laws unless the statute expressly gives them that right under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The bill is among a dozen or so bills signed into law by Haslam.

The lawsuit legislation, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Collierville, says that in the absence of express permission in the statute, courts cannot construe or interpret such a right.

Kelsey’s proposal doesn’t apply to private rights of action that have been previously recognized by courts. It also doesn’t impair a court’s ability to allow lawsuits if a claim is based on common law.

The law also doesn’t prohibit courts from considering outright negligence. Nor does it impact governments’ ability to collect or recover fees owed for services.

Haslam has also signed into law:

— Legislation that bars state or local government funds for the regulation or enforcement of any changes to the U.S. Department of Labor's hazardous occupations orders for children when it comes to agricultural employment.

— A bill requiring police to arrest drivers involved in accidents resulting in serious bodily injury or death when they don’t have a valid driver license and proof of insurance.

The bill, named the “Ricky Otts Act,” was brought by Rep. Joe Carr, R-Murfreesboro, after Otts was killed by an unlicensed driver suspected of being in the country illegally, proponents said.

— A bill by Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, which adds the offense of promoting prostitution to the list of sexual offenses that require registration under the sex offender registry. It also adds the second offense of promoting prostitution to the list of violent sexual offenses.

— A measure by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, that prohibits a garage keeper or towing firm from getting more than six days of storage-related expenses if they don’t verify ownership of a vehicle within three business days or notify the owner of the vehicle within six days.

It also subjects the garage keeper or towing firm to civil liability for failing to release a motor vehicle upon presentment of payment.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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