Ask Andy: Lawmakers kill bills limiting Tennessee consumer protections - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

Ask Andy: Lawmakers kill bills limiting Tennessee consumer protections

One word:  Wow!

You folks really responded to my report on some lousy legislation brewing in Nashville. 

Because of your response, Tennessee lawmakers killed two bills that would have forever changed how Tennessee consumers could collect damages when they been ripped off.

Today, Tennessee Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, and her co-sponsors tabled Senate Bill 847 (SB0847) and House Bill 1206 (HB1206).

If they had passed, they would have:

* Eliminated "non-economic damages," like pain & suffering, emotional distress and injury to reputation.

* Required consumers to prove "out-of-pocket" loss.

* Defined "out-of-pocket loss" as "...any amount of money equal to the difference between the amount paid by the consumer for the goods or services and the actual market value of the good or service that the consumer received (legislative bill summary)."

I asked you to read the bills for yourselves (see links below), then contact your Tennessee legislators and let them know what you think.

"Kathleen" of the White Station neighborhood in East Memphis didn't hold anything back:

"I strongly encourage you to withdraw the bills from consideration for a vote. They do not protect consumers who might be deliberately defrauded.  We've seen on the news lately how much fraud, greed, and feelings of entitlement have changed our country for the worse."

Sen. Black told me on the phone that she was trying to craft legislation that would ease the burden of frivolous lawsuits on Tennessee businesses.  She used a great hypothetical about someone buying a teeth-whitener that promised whiter, brighter teeth in five days, but didn't live up to its claim. 

She said the customer should be entitled to the out-of-pocket cost of that teeth whitener, but not necessarily lost wages for not getting that big break in a commercial because "her teeth weren't white enough."

But she took a second look at the bills' language and decided it went too far.

"I'm not comfortable with where it is at this point," Black said on the phone.  "We're still working to get something we can live with that will help businesses control (liability) costs and still protect consumers."

Germantown lawyer and certified fraud examiner Kevin Snider (http://www.kevinsnider.com/) employs his own scenario to show how the legislation would have been a big mistake.

Snider uses a hypothetical situation of someone buying a $50,000 NEW car from a Tennessee dealership, only to learn later that the dealership failed to reveal that the car was previously wrecked -- not NEW at all -- and its book value is really $40,000 (I know -- EXPENSIVE hypothetical here).

Snider said since the legislation would have redefined out-of-pocket loss as the difference between actual market value and the amount the consumer paid, the consumer in his scenario would be out most of the value of his purchase.

"Instead of you being able to sue for the $50,000 that you paid (or financed) for this particular car, you may only be able to sue that dealership for the $5-10,000 difference and be stuck with a wrecked car, even though you were defrauded by the dealership," says Snider.  "This type of proposal is absurd."

Anna Richardson, a research analyst for the Tennessee Senate Commerce, Labor & Agriculture committee, says the proposal was "...supplying a statutory definition of what is 'damages' and what must be proven so that there won't be any confusion."

Tennessee Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, says the bills have been moved to the last committee calendar of the legislative session.  He says that is a procedural move that will effectively kill them.  

But that doesn't mean lawmakers can't bring them up again! 

You can reach any of Tennessee's state senators or representatives right here:

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/

You'll find their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  Also, here's a link to the legislature's official summary of Senate Bill 847 and House Bill 1206 (same language):

http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0847

Read it, judge it for yourself and let me know what you think, either in the comments below or by e-mail at awise@wmctv.com.

 

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