Circuit judge rules Tennessee's tort reform limits are unconstitutional

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas III rules that the ballot language written on the petition for the domestic partner referendum stands on July 7, 2014.

A Hamilton County circuit court judge ruled Monday that Tennessee's $750,000 cap on certain civil jury awards is unconstitutional, possibly triggering a Tennessee Supreme Court review of Gov. Bill Haslam's 2011 tort reform initiative.

"I must admit, when [the law] passed, I wondered by what authority" it was done, Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, an attorney and former Hamilton County General Sessions judge, said Monday.

"I've never studied [the statute]," Carter added. "That was all done before I got here. I'd be interested at looking at it. But I haven't studied it."

Monday's ruling is the latest step in the complicated and long-running fight over tort reform, which in Tennessee was last tweaked in 2011 as part of the Civil Justice Act. That act decreed that doctors and other businesses are limited to personal injury lawsuit payouts of $750,000.