Last week, in Cynthia E. Yebuah et.al. v. Center for Urological Treatment, PLC No. M2018-01652-SC-R11-CV, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the Tennessee statute limiting non-economic damages in a personal injury action to $750,000 does not apply separately to a loss of consortium claim.
In this healthcare liability action, Plaintiff alleged a physician negligently left a part of a laparoscopic device in her body after surgery. A Davidson County jury awarded the plaintiff $4,000,000 in non-economic damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and awarded her husband $500,000 for loss of consortium. The trial court applied T.C.A. § 29-39-102, the statutory cap on noneconomic damages, and reduced the plaintiff patient’s recovery to $750,000 but allowed her husband to receive the jury’s award of $500,000. As a result, the plaintiffs were awarded a total of $1,250,000 in noneconomic damages. The Court of Appeals approved the lower court’s application of the cap, but the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decisions, holding that the statutory cap on noneconomic damages allows the plaintiffs to recover only $750,000 in the aggregate.
This decision resolves the uncertainty in evaluating loss of consortium claims that has existed since the enactment of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act in 2011.