Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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A surviving spouse maintains priority to file a wrongful death action when the decedent’s child has also filed a wrongful death action in which the child alleges that the surviving spouse negligently caused the decedent’s death. The daughter of the decedent in this case filed a wrongful death action alleging that the decedent’s surviving spouse negligently caused the decedent’s death. The surviving spouse also filed a wrongful death action for the decedent’s death. The surviving spouse moved for dismissal of the daughter’s complaint, arguing that the surviving spouse had priority to file a wrongful death action. The trial court agreed and dismissed the daughter’s complaint. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that, under the circumstances of this case, the surviving spouse was disqualified from filing the wrongful death action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly dismissed the daughter’s wrongful death action because (1) the wrongful death statutes do not include an exception to the rule that surviving spouses have the priority to institute a wrongful death action when a spouse’s alleged negligence caused the decedent’s death; and (2) the surviving spouse did not waive his right to file the wrongful death action under the circumstances of this case. View "Nelson v. Myres" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Charity Spires and Plaintiff-Appellee Kenneth Spires married and had one child, Uriah. A month after Uriah was born, Kenneth abandoned Charity and the child. Though the Spires did not divorce, Kenneth never returned to the marital home. Charity died in an automobile accident involving Defendant Haley Simpson. Custody of Uriah was awarded to his maternal grandmother, Constance Ogle, who served as administrator of Charity's estate. Kenneth filed this wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson and her parents. Ogle sought to intervene. While she acknowledged Kenneth was the Decedent's surviving spouse, Ogle argued he should be disqualified from prosecuting the lawsuit because he owed child support arrearages, and because the abandoned the Decedent and Uriah. While Ogle’s motion to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit was still pending, a Chancery Court entered an order of adoption, permitting the Decedent’s brother, Captain (now Major) Dana Trent Hensley, Jr., M.D., to adopt Uriah. The adoption order terminated Kenneth's parental rights as to Uriah. Ultimately the trial court granted the motion to intervene, dismissed Kenneth from the suit and substituted Ogle and Major Hensley as plaintiffs. Kenneth appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that as the surviving spouse, Kenneth was not disqualified from commencing and maintaining the wrongful death action, notwithstanding the child support obligation. Because Kenneth was not statutorily disqualified from bringing the action, the Court of Appeals held that he was the proper plaintiff and that Kenneth and Uriah were each entitled to half of the settlement proceeds under the laws of intestate succession. Based on Kenneth's stipulation that he owed almost $72,000 in child support for four other children, the appellate court determined that his entire portion of the lawsuit proceeds had to be paid towards his outstanding child support obligations through the Child Support Receipting Unit. The Tennessee Supreme Court held the prohibitions in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 20-5-107(b) and 31-2-105(b) were intended to apply only to cases in which the “parent” who seeks to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit was a parent of the decedent child, and the child support arrearage is owed for the support of that decedent child. Neither statute was applicable under the facts of this case. Consequently, the Court reversed and vacated the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals applying Sections 20-5-107(b) and 31-2-105(b) in this case. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Spires v. Simpson" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death case, the court of appeals erred by vacating the trial court’s order and remanding the case for further proceedings without reviewing the correctness of the trial court’s ruling on the decedent’s child’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion. The decedent’s mother, in her capacity as her unmarried son’s next of kind, filed this wrongful death suit, seeking damages. The case was settled and dismissed. Almost twenty months later, the decedent’s alleged minor child filed a Rule 60.02 motion to set aside the order of dismissal and to be substituted as the plaintiff. The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that it was not timely filed. The court of appeals vacated the trial court’s ruling, ruling that the Rule 60.02 motion was not ripe for adjudication until the trial court conclusively established the child’s paternity. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by focusing on issues surrounding the child’s paternity rather than reviewing the correctness of the trial court’s ruling on the Rule 60.02 motion; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the Rule 60.02 motion was not timely filed. View "Hussey v. Woods" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a home inspector owes a duty of reasonable care to a homeowner’s guest. Plaintiff was injured when he fell from a second story deck that had not been properly constructed but had recently been inspected by a state home inspector hired by the homeowner. Plaintiff sued the home inspector, home inspection franchise, and other defendants not relevant to this appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants successfully negated essential elements of the claims of negligent misrepresentation and negligent inspection and that summary judgment was appropriate. View "Grogan v. Uggla" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court’s decision in West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corp., 459 S.W.3d 33 (Tenn. 2014), holding that “reasonable charges” for medical services under Tennessee’s Hospital Lien Act are the discounted amounts a hospital accepts as full payment from patients’ private insurer and not the full, undiscounted amounts billed to patients, does not apply in personal injury cases. Further, the collateral source rule applies in this personal injury case, in which the collateral benefit at issue is private insurance. Therefore, Plaintiffs may submit evidence of the injured party’s full, undiscounted medical bills as proof of reasonable medical expenses, and Defendants are precluded from submitting evidence of discounted rates accepted by medical providers from the insurer to rebut Plaintiffs’ proof that the full, undiscounted charges are reasonable. The Supreme Court thus affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals, which concluded that West did not apply to personal injury cases but that evidence of discounted amounts accepted by the injured’s medical providers may be admissible to rebut Plaintiffs’ expert testimony on the reasonableness of the amount of the full, undiscounted bills. View "Dedmon v. Steelman" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of rear-end collisions involving three tractor trailer vehicles. Plaintiff sued the owners and drivers of both of the other tractor trailers. The owner of the third tractor trailer was later dismissed on a directed verdict. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff. The trial court suggested a remittitur of the jury’s verdict in all four categories of damages awarded. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reinstated the jury’s award for lost earning capacity, suggested a further remittitur to the award for loss of enjoyment of life, and affirmed the remitted award in the remaining two categories of damages. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court’s rulings regarding a pretrial agreement between Plaintiff and the owner of the third tractor trailer; (2) affirmed the trial court’s decision not to give a special instruction on superseding cause; (3) reversed the court of appeals’ remittitur for the award for loss of enjoyment of life because the Court of Appeals had no authority under the circumstances to suggest a further remittitur; and (4) determined that it was unable to conduct a proper appellate review of the trial court’s remittitur decision. View "Borne v. Celadon Trucking Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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At issue was whether a surviving spouse who files a wrongful death lawsuit was acting as a legal representative of the decedent and whether a wrongful death lawsuit filed pro se by the surviving spouse was void ab initio based on the spouse's pro se status. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, affirmed the trial court's denial of summary judgment, and remanded. The court held that the initial pro se complaint was not void ab initio, it served to toll the statute of limitations, and the trial court did not err in allowing the filing of the amended complaint to relate back to the date of the initial complaint. View "Beard v. Branson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Charles Kilburn was injured in a motor vehicle accident and underwent surgery to resolve his neck injury complaints. Charles took oxycodone to alleviate his back pain. Several months after his surgery, Charles died due to an overdose of oxycodone combined with alcohol. The chancery court found that the death was compensable and awarded workers’ compensation death benefits to Judy Kilburn, Charles’s wife. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the chancery court, holding that Charles’s failure to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions ultimately caused his demise, and therefore, his death was no longer causally related to his work-related injury, and his overdose was an independent intervening cause. View "Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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When homeowners’ partially completed house and its contents were destroyed by fire, the homeowners sued the general contractor and the flooring subcontractors for damages, alleging that the fire was caused by the negligence of the general contractor and the subcontractors and that the general contractor had breached the construction contract. The trial court granted summary judgment to the general contractor and to the subcontractors. The court of appeals (1) affirmed summary judgment to the general contractor based on the inapplicability of res ipsa loquitur to establish an inference of negligence; and (2) reversed summary judgment to the subcontractors on the negligence claim and to the general contractor on the breach of contract claim, concluding that there remained genuine issues of disputed material fact. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, holding (1) Plaintiffs could not rely on res ipsa loquitur because of insufficient proof that the general contractor had exclusive control of the cause or all reasonably probable causes of the fire; and (2) Plaintiffs did not produce sufficient evidence to establish that any negligence of the subcontractors was the cause in fact of the fire. View "Jenkins v. Big City Remodeling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff was the secretarial assistant of Circuit Judge Harold Wimberly when Judge Wimberly lost the contested general election to William Ailor. Ailor informed Plaintiff that he would not require her services after taking office. Plaintiff filed suit against the State and Ailor in his individual capacity, alleging tortious interference with her employment relationship. Plaintiff also filed a complaint in the Claims Commission. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the statute providing that claims against the State based on the acts or omissions of state employees shall operate as a waiver of any cause of action which the claimant has against any state officer or employee. The trial court declined to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against Ailor, concluding that Ailor was not acting as a state officer or employee when he made the administrative staffing decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff’s employment automatically ended when Judge Wimberly’s term ended and because she remained employed until the end of Judge Wimberly’s term, as a matter of law, Ailor did not tortiously interfere with Plaintiff’s employment relationship. View "Moore-Pennoyer v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury