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§31.17 Waiver of Statutory Damage Limits

The Case: Crutcher v. Maury County , No. M2007-00244-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 2695660 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jul. 9, 2008).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiffs sought entry and recovery of judgment from governmental entity that was in excess of the limits set forth in the statute.

The Bottom Line:

  • "[W]e agree with the trial court that in order to recover for any amount in excess of the limits in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-403, the waiver of limits of liability must be 'expressly contained' in the insurance policy as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-404(a). This conclusion has been reached in three other court of appeals' decisions. See Coburn v. City of Dyersburg, 774 S.W.2d 610, 611 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989); Goff v. Howell, [No. 01A01-9401-CV-00024, 1994 WL 317542, at *3-4 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 6, 1994)] ('As we read [Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-404(a)] that waiver requires two things: an express waiver of the liability limits by the county and the inclusion of that waiver in an insurance policy covering the increased exposure. One of the two is not sufficient'); Cline v. City of Chattanooga, CA No. 976, 1991 WL 25941, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. March 4, 1991) (perm. app. denied August 5, 1991) ('absent an express provision in the liability policy as required by [Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-404(a)], the limits of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-403 must be applied'). We also note that permission to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court was denied in Coburn and Cline." 2008 WL 2695660 at *5.

Recent Cases: Black v. City of Memphis , No. W2007-02562-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 2461816 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 13, 2009) (the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act precludes an award of discretionary costs against a municipality that would exceed the statutory damage cap, even if the governmental entity engages in conduct that prolongs the case and drives up costs).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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