Rights to jury trial are ‘distorted’
Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 7:01 pm
By: Bo Bradshaw, Tennessee News Service
Nashville – There are some mixed views of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act, commonly called the Tennessee Tort Reform Bill, which went into effect last October. The law limits the amounts juries may award an injured plaintiff.
Governor Bill Haslam has said it’s good for small business, claiming the new law will prevent outrageous verdicts and limit frivolous lawsuits. But not everyone agrees with that assessment.
Andrew Cochran, a conservative blogger and Tea Party member, believes the law infringes on Tennesseans’ rights to a trial by jury, which is constitutionally protected by the Seventh Amendment.
“We’re seeing, in the past couple of years especially, a rush to immunize all sorts of businesses and nonprofits, and cut off Americans from exercising this God-given right in state courts. It just seems to me the founding fathers never intended there to be a right for a civil jury trial in federal courts but not in state courts.”
Cochran is the founder of the blog “Seventh Amendment Advocate,” and will be part of a discussion about the new tort reform law on Tuesday at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville, with the Tennessee Association for Justice.
At that event, Cochran will present the award-winning documentary “Hot Coffee,” that he says illustrates why tort reform laws violate citizens’ rights. The film explores the famous product liability lawsuit brought by a 79-year-old McDonald’s customer who was burned when she spilled coffee in her lap.
Cochran says the case was viewed by many as frivolous, not realizing that the woman received third-degree burns.
“There are a lot of myths about that case: I mean to begin with, so many people think it was her fault, she spilled it on herself, what’s the big deal, without knowing how horrible the injury really was. I’ve never seen an audience that’s watched the movie that hasn’t come away thinking, ‘Boy, this was completely different than I thought.’”
Andrew Cochran’s blog is at 7thamendmentadvocate.org.