Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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On appeal from the trial court's denial of a motion to compel arbitration in this wrongful death lawsuit brought against Defendant, a nursing home, the Supreme Court held that Defendant did not meet the requirements for limited statutory immunity from civil liability under either Tennessee's Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 34-6-201 to -218, or the Health Care Decisions Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 68-11-1801 to -1815.After a resident of the nursing home died his estate brought the underlying wrongful death suit. Defendant moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement executed by Plaintiff on the decedent's behalf pursuant to a durable power of attorney for health care (POA) form. Plaintiff objected, arguing that the decedent did not have the mental capacity to appoint an agent when he executed the POA. The trial court concluded that the POA was invalid. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in looking beyond the face of the POA to determine whether Defendant had the mental capacity to execute it. The Supreme Court reversed and affirmed the trial court, holding that the trial court did not err in considering evidence on whether the principal had the requisite mental capacity to execute the POA. View "Welch v. Oaktree Health & Rehabilitation Center LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's vicarious liability claims under the common-law rule, holding that Tennessee's Health Care Liability Act necessarily implied an intent to abrogate the common-law rule under the circumstances of this case. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant-hospital alleging that Defendant, either directly or vicariously through its employees and agents, negligently caused the death of Sheila Warren. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the vicarious liability claims fell within the operation-of-law exception and thus were subject to dismissal. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Act and the common law conflicted, and therefore, the provisions of the Act prevailed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the operation-of-law exception did not bar Plaintiff's claims. View "Ultsch v. HTI Memorial Hospital Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment under the common-law rule governing vicarious liability claims, holding that Tennessee's Health Care Liability Act necessarily implied an intent to abrogate the common-law rule under the circumstances of this case.Plaintiff-patient sued Defendant-hospital alleging that Defendant, acting through its employees or agents, negligently provided medical treatment to her. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the claims were barred under common law. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that the vicarious liability claims fell within the operation-of-law exception and were therefore subject to dismissal. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the claims were timely under the Act and that, given the conflict between the Act and the common law, the provisions of the Act prevailed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly reversed the trial court's summary judgment in this case. View "Gardner v. Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing claims of direct negligence against a defendant physician but allowing Plaintiff to proceed against the physician on a vicarious liability theory as the midwife's supervising physician, holding that the trial court properly declined to compel the defendant physician's testimony.By and through her next friend and mother (Plaintiff), a child born via cesarean section who suffered permanent brain damage and debilitating injuries, sued the doctor who delivered her and the midwife in charge of the birthing process. The trial court dismissed the claims of direct negligence against the physician but allowed Plaintiff to proceed on a vicarious liability theory against the physician as the midwife's supervising physician. A jury found in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to order the physician to opine on the midwife's performance outside of his presence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a defendant healthcare provider cannot be compelled to provide expert opinion testimony about a co-defendant healthcare provider's standard of care and/or deviation from that standard. View "Borngne ex rel. Hyter v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court denying Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend an order of voluntary dismissal, holding that there was no valid order of voluntary dismissal to alter or amend.Plaintiff initiated a healthcare liability action against a physician, a hospital, and two other defendants and then filed an amended complaint naming only the physician as a defendant. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal dismissing all defendants except the physician. The trial court entered an order of voluntary dismissal. The physician sought dismissal under the Governmental Tort Liability Act because the hospital was not a defendant. Plaintiff then filed his motion to alter or amend seeking to set aside the order voluntarily dismissing the hospital from the action. The trial court denied the motion, dismissed the hospital from the action with prejudice, and granted summary judgment for the physician. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's notice of voluntary dismissal and the trial court's order of voluntary dismissal were of no legal effect because Plaintiff removed the hospital from the lawsuit when he filed his amended complaint; and (2) therefore, the trial court correctly denied Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend, albeit for different reasons. View "Ingram v. Gallagher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, which removes immunity for certain injuries caused by the negligent acts of an employee, lifts immunity for grossly negligent and reckless employee actions in addition to merely negligent ones, holding that the Act's waiver of immunity for "negligent" acts includes only ordinary negligence, not gross negligence or recklessness.Steven Lawson hit a "rock embankment" after a mudslide washed away part of Highway 70 on Clinch Mountain in Hawkins County, flipped down the mountain, and died before help arrived. Plaintiff brought this wrongful death action action against Hawkins County, the Hawkins County Emergency Communications District and the Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency, alleging that Defendants' grossly negligent and reckless conduct caused Lawson's death. The trial court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss, concluding that the Act gave Defendants immunity from recklessness claims and that the public-duty doctrine barred any negligence claims. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred by holding that the Act allows a plaintiff to sue a governmental entity for employee conduct that exceeds mere negligence. View "Lawson v. Hawkins County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Melissa Kampmeyer's loss of consortium claim brought after her husband, Steven Kampmeyer, was injured in an accident, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 9-8-402(a)(1) requires claimants to give written notice of their claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management as a condition precedent to recovery.Steven was injured when his car collided with a Tennessee state vehicle parked in the roadway. Steven gave written notice of his claim to the Tennessee Division of Claims and Risk Management, which transferred the claim to the Tennessee Claims Commission. Steven and Melissa then filed a complaint with the Claims Commission. The complaint contained Melissa's loss of consortium claim, which was not in the written notice Steven gave to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Claims Commission dismissed Melissa's loss of consortium claim as time-barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Melissa did not give written notice of her claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management within the one-year statute of limitations, her loss of consortium claim was time-barred. View "Kampmeyer v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of workers' compensation claims determining that Employee's workplace injury did not arise primarily out of and in the course and scope of his employment and granting summary judgment for Employer, holding that the court of workers' compensation claims property granted summary judgment for Employer.Employee was painting the exterior of a house a house while working for Employer on a windy day when he took a break from painting. At one point, he used a portable restroom, not obtained by Employer, located on the street and was struck by a dead tree that had fallen. Employer denied Employee workers' compensation, finding that Employee's injury resulted from an "act of God" and did not arise primarily out of his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of workers' compensation claims properly determined that Employee's injuries did not arise primarily out of his employment. View "Rosasco v. West Knoxville Painters, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a claim for wrongful termination of employment could not be asserted under the Teacher Tenure Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-501 to -515, by classifying a tenured teacher's resignation as a constructive discharge rather than a voluntary quit.After Plaintiff, a tenured teacher, quit her teaching position she sued for wrongful termination under the Teacher Tenure Act, alleging that she was constructively discharged. The amended complaint also asserted other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment against Plaintiff. The appellate court reversed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim under the Act, concluding that the doctrine of constructive discharge could give rise to a wrongful termination claim under the Act. The court of appeals otherwise affirmed the trial court. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) constructive discharge is not applicable to wrongful termination claims under the Act; and (2) the lower courts properly dismissed Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Lemon v. Williamson County Schools" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's award of summary judgment to Defendant in this health care liability case, holding that Plaintiff did not have to present expert proof to establish her negligence claim, and therefore, Plaintiff had no reason to file a certificate of good faith under section 29-26-122 of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, and Plaintiff's claim was not subject to dismissal for noncompliance with this section.Plaintiff alleged that a massage therapist working for Defendant, a salon, sexually assaulted her during a massage. In support of her claims for negligent training, supervision, and retention, Plaintiff presented evidence that Defendant had previously received complaints that the massage therapist had acted inappropriately toward customers. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant on the grounds that Plaintiff had not filed a certificate of good faith. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not waive the common knowledge exception; (2) Plaintiff's claims were within the common knowledge of laypersons and therefore did not require expert testimony about the standard of care in the massage industry; and (3) therefore, Plaintiff did not have to present expert proof to establish her negligence claim and thus did not have to file a certificate of good faith. View "Jackson v. Burrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury