Tennessee Senate Approves Loser-Pays For People Who Unsuccessfully Sue State Officials | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Senate Approves Loser-Pays For People Who Unsuccessfully Sue State Officials

Mar 24, 2016

Correction: This story originally misstated Occupy Nashville protester's complaint against Governor Haslam. He was sued in his official capacity. It's also been modified to add more details about the suit.

A proposal to force plaintiffs to pay if they unsuccessfully sue state officials is making its way to Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

The state Senate approved the measure Thursday. The House approved a separate version earlier this month.

Both call for making people pay legal costs if they sue state officials and lose.

Opponents say that will intimidate people with legitimate grievances out of filing lawsuits. They say government officials' legal bills could run to tens of thousands of dollars — money that would often go to state lawyers and high-priced private firms.

They note the proposal comes as one state lawmaker, Representative Jeremy Durham, has been accused of sexual harassment.

But supporters of the measure say it'll cut down on "frivolous" lawsuits. They cite the 2012 Occupy Nashville case, in which protesters sued the state for ousting them from War Memorial Plaza.

That suit named Haslam as a defendant in his official capacity and two state commissioners individually. A federal judge initially ruled in favor of the protesters, but an appeals court eventually overturned that decision. Had the proposal been in effect, the plaintiffs could have been required to pay at least some of the state's legal costs to defend against their suit.

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