Tennessee’s Punitive Damages Cap Declared Unconstitutional

T.C.A. § 29-39-104, a Tennessee state statute which caps punitive damages at 2x awarded compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Friday. In the opinion, Judge Eric Clay says, “On cross-appeal, plaintiff argues that the statutory punitive damages cap, T.C.A. § 29-39-104 … violates two provisions of the Tennessee Constitution: the individual right to a jury trial and the doctrine of separation of powers”. He continues, “Upon our assessment of Tennessee law, we find that the punitive damages bar set forth in § 29-39-104 violates the individual right to a trial by jury set forth in the Tennessee Constitution… Our review of historical evidence from Tennessee and North Carolina demonstrates that punitive damages awards were part of the right to trial by jury at the time the Tennessee Constitution was adopted.”

The full opinion is available at


Update: A petition for re-hearing en banc was denied on March 28, 2019