Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Bowen ex rel. Doe “N” v. Arnold
In 2013, William Arnold was convicted in a criminal trial of one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child for his rape and molestation of John Doe N. In 2011, the child’s mother, Ms. Bowen, filed a civil suit against Arnold, certain Boys and Girls Clubs and certain Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations, alleging that Arnold intentionally molested John Doe N and that the entity defendants were negligent. After the court of criminal appeals affirmed Arnold’s convictions, Bowen filed a motion for partial summary judgment against Arnold, arguing that Arnold was collaterally estopped from relitigating in the civil lawsuit the issue of whether he raped and sexually battered John Doe N. The trial court granted Bowen’s motion for partial summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Court hereby abolishes the mutuality requirement for defense and offensive collateral estoppel in Tennessee and adopts sections 29 and 85 of the Restatement (Second) of Judgments; and (2) applying section 85 of the Restatement (Second) of Judgments to the facts of this case, the trial court properly granted Bowen partial summary judgment against Arnold on the issue of whether he raped and sexually battered John Doe N. View "Bowen ex rel. Doe “N” v. Arnold" on Justia Law
Ellithorpe v. Weismark
Plaintiffs filed this action against Defendant, a licensed clinical social worker, alleging negligence, negligence per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress for providing counseling services for their minor daughter without their consent. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on Plaintiffs’ failure to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”). Plaintiffs responded that their claims were not subject to the THCLA’s procedural requirements because their claims sounded in ordinary negligence. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the THCLA encompassed Plaintiffs’ claims because they related to the provision of “health care services” by a “health care provider.” The Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order and remanded, concluding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the Supreme Court’s analysis in determining if Plaintiffs’ claims sounded in ordinary negligence or health care liability. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding (1) the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, which amended the THCLA, statutorily abrogated the Court’s decision in Estate of French; and (2) Plaintiff’s complaint was subject to the THCLA, which required them to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith. View "Ellithorpe v. Weismark" on Justia Law
Moreno v. City of Clarksville
Claimant filed a complaint against the City of Clarksville as a defendant. The circuit court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Claimant’s claim against the City was time-barred because the antecedent complaint against the State was filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission after expiration of the one-year limitations period, and therefore, the ninety-day window under Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 to file suit against the City, as a comparative tortfeasor, was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, determining that Claimant’s written notice of his claim against the State, filed with the Division of Claims Administration within the limitations period, was an “original complaint” within the meaning of section 20-1-119, and therefore, the lawsuit against the City was timely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the complaint, not the written notice of claim, is the “original complaint” under section 20-1-119, and therefore, the ninety-day window to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor was not triggered in this case; and (2) the tolling provision in the Claims Commission Act is not applicable to toll the statute of limitations for a claim against a municipality filed under Tennessee’s Governmental Tort Liability Act. View "Moreno v. City of Clarksville" on Justia Law
Payne v. CSX Transp., Inc.
A railroad employee with lung cancer brought this action against the railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, alleging that the railroad (1) had negligently exposed him to toxic materials that were contributing causes to his illness, and (2) was negligent per se by violating pertinent safety statutes or regulations. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, concluding that the employee’s cancer and death were caused by the railroad’s negligence and by its negligence per se. The jury awarded $8.6 million in damages but then entered an amended verdict awarding the plaintiff $3.2 million. The trial court granted a new trial based on evidentiary and instructional issues and later entered an order of recusal. A substitute judge granted summary judgment for the railroad after excluding the plaintiff’s expert proof on the issue of causation. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for the original trial judge to enter judgment on either the original verdict or the amended verdict. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plaintiff’s expert proof was properly admitted at trial; but (2) the original judge erred by granting the railroad’s motion for a new trial and committed prejudicial error in assessing the amount of damages to be awarded. Remanded for a new trial as to damages only. View "Payne v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law
Parker v. Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc.
Greg Parker was injured when the shower bench in a hotel where he and his wife were staying collapsed while he was seated on it. The Parkers filed a personal injury suit against Defendant, the owner and operator of the hotel. Defendant raised a comparative fault defense, claiming that D & S Builders, LLC negligently constructed or installed the shower bench. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment after concluding that property owners are generally not liable for an independent contractor’s negligence unless the property owner had actual or constructive notice of it. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that disputes of material fact remained as to whether Defendant had constructive notice of the defective installation of the shower bench. The Supreme Court reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the undisputed facts did not establish any exception to the general rule that property owners are not vicariously liable for the negligence of independent contractors; and (2) the undisputed facts established that Defendant had neither actual nor constructive notice of the defective shower bench installation. View "Parker v. Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law
Spencer v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co.
Plaintiff, an employee of Norfolk Southern Railway Company (the Railroad), was injured while pulling a switch while at work. Plaintiff sued the Railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), alleging that the Railroad was negligent because it knew or should have known that the switch was not operating properly. The jury returned a verdict for the Railroad. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial court’s instruction to the jury on notice was erroneous. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the verdict of the jury, holding that the jury instruction requiring Plaintiff to prove that the Railroad knew or should have known that on the day of the incident the switch was not operating properly qualified as “substantially accurate” in the context of the entire charge, and therefore, a new trial was not warranted. View "Spencer v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. " on Justia Law
Thurmond v. Mid-Cumberland Infectious Disease Consultants, PLC
Plaintiff filed a health care liability action against Defendant-health care providers. Six days before filing his complaint, Defendant sent a pre-suit notice of his potential claim to each Defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, as permitted by Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(1). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff failed to file with his complaint an affidavit of the person who had sent the pre-suit notice by certified mail. The trial court dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals affirmed but noted the harsh results strict compliance produces in cases such as this one where no prejudice is alleged. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the complaint, holding (1) the statutory requirement that an affidavit of the person who sent the pre-suit notice by certified mail be filed with the complaint may be satisfied by substantial compliance; and (2) Plaintiff substantially complied with the statute in this case. View "Thurmond v. Mid-Cumberland Infectious Disease Consultants, PLC " on Justia Law
Becker v. Ford Motor Co.
On July 28, 2012, Michael Becker was injured when a Ford truck driven by his son, Phillip Becker, struck a light pole. Michael and his wife filed suit against Ford Motor Company. On August 26, 2013, Ford filed an answer claiming that the accident was caused by a person other than Ford. On October 1, 2013, the Beckers filed a motion to join Phillip as a party to whom fault could be apportioned and a motion to file an amended complaint. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether, after a defendant asserts a comparative fault claim against a non-party tortfeasor who was known to the plaintiff when the original suit was filed, Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 permits the plaintiff to amend its complaint to assert a claim directly against the tortfeasor named by the defendant. The Court held (1) application of section 20-1-119 is not restricted to tortfeasors who were unknown to the plaintiff when its original complaint was filed; and (2) therefore, the statute permits a plaintiff to file an amended complaint against the tortfeasor named by the defendant within ninety days after the filing of the answer in which the defendant first asserts a comparative fault claim against the tortfeasor. View "Becker v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Cannon ex rel. Good v. Reddy
After Plaintiff filed a health care liability action against Defendant, the General Assembly enacted Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121 and -122, which implemented pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements. Plaintiff subsequently dismissed her original action and filed two successive actions. The second action did not comply with sections 29-26-121 and -122, but the third action complied with the statutes. Plaintiff filed a motion to consolidate her second and third actions. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff’s second action should be dismissed for failure to comply with the notice and certificate of good faith requirements and that her third action should be dismissed based on the doctrine of prior suit pending. The trial court denied the motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted Defendant’s application for extraordinary appeal. During the pendency of the appeal, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her second action. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that Plaintiff’s third complaint was timely filed because Plaintiff properly provided pre-suit notice of her claim prior to filing her third action and was entitled to a 120-day extension in which to refile her complaint. Remanded. View "Cannon ex rel. Good v. Reddy" on Justia Law
Jones v. State
Plaintiff, an employee of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), filed this defamation claim against the State and the TDOC. After Plaintiff was demoted for violating the State's travel billing policy, the TDOC Commissioner responded to media inquires about Plaintiff's demotion. The Tennessee Claims Commission denied the State's motion for summary judgment in which the State argued that the Commissioner had an absolute privilege to make the allegedly defamatory statements to the media. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State was absolutely immune from Plaintiff's defamation claims that related to the Commissioner's statements in response to media inquiries about Plaintiff's demotion. View "Jones v. State" on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law