Friday, May 10, 2024

Lawsuits allowed for damages due to Tennessee road blockages starting July 1

By Jon Styf, The Center Square, May 10, 2024 – Those who illegally block a roadway in Tennessee can now be sued for any damages they cause.

The wide array of damages can include anything from a FedEx truck being stopped on a bridge and missing a delivery due to a protest or someone suffering a flat tire or vehicle damage due to a road blockage.

Now a lawsuit can be filed for damages if a “person or company suffers a loss because a “defendant intentionally obstructed a highway, street, or other place used for the passage of vehicles or conveyances.”

The bill will go into effect July 1 after Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law Thursday.

Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, said during House discussion of the bill that blocking a roadway is already a criminal misdemeanor, stating that some prosecutors have refused to prosecute the crime.

The bill does not require someone to be convicted of the misdemeanor of blocking a roadway before being subject to a lawsuit for damages.

“Folks that are citizens of this state are injured by these actions,” Barrett said. “There are people who can’t get to the hospital because the only bridge across the river that gets them to the access to the hospitals that they need … if there was an intentional blocking of that bridge, it would put thousands of people in my district at risk of harm. At risk of loss of life. There is a limit of that First Amendment right.”

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