Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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
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The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order entered by the trial court in this case, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(f) is unconstitutional as enacted to the limited extent that it divests trial courts of their inherent discretion over discovery and that the statute can be elided to make it permissive and not mandatory upon trial courts.Plaintiff filed this healthcare liability wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent alleging that Defendant's negligent treatment of the decedent resulted in the decedent's death. During discovery, Defendants filed a motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to section 29-26-121(f), which allows defense counsel to conduct ex parte interviews with patients' non-party treating healthcare providers in a healthcare liability lawsuit. In response, Plaintiff argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it deprives the trial court of its inherent authority over court proceedings. The trial court entered a written qualified protective order allowing the interviews. The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order, holding (1) section 29-26-121(f) impermissibly intrudes on the authority of the judiciary over procedural matters; and (2) the unconstitutional portion of the statute may be elided, and the statute as elided is constitutional. View "Willeford v. Klepper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in the negative questions of law certified from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee regarding the constitutionality of Tennessee's statutory cap on noneconomic damages, Tenn. Code Ann. 29-30-102, holding that the statutory cap does not violate the right to trial by jury, the doctrine of separation of powers, or the equal protection provisions of the Tennessee Constitution.Specifically, the Supreme Court answered (1) the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by section 29-39-102 does not violate a plaintiff’s right to a trial by jury, as guaranteed in Tenn. Const. art. I, 6; (2) the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by section 29-39-102 does violate Tennessee’s constitutional doctrine of separation of powers between the legislative branch and the judicial branch; and (3) the noneconomic damages cap in civil cases imposed by section 29-39-102 does not violate the Tennessee Constitution by discriminating disproportionately against women. View "McClay v. Airport Management Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this healthcare liability action, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend after concluding that Plaintiffs' sole expert witness was not competent to testify on causation and granting summary judgment to Defendant, holding that the trial court's decision was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions of the motion to alter or amend.In Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend Plaintiffs proffered causation testimony from a new expert witness. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court abused its discretion. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the trial court's denial of Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend was an abuse of discretion because the trial court's decision was within the parameters of the court's sound discretion. View "Harmon v. Hickman Community Healthcare Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying a claimant's motion to set aside a default judgment in favor of an insurance company and allow the claimant to intervene as a necessary party, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimant was not a necessary party and the trial court could decide the coverage dispute between the insurance company and its insured without the claimant's participation in the action.The claimant sued the insured for damages arising from an automobile accident. The insurance company sought a declaratory judgment that the company was not required to provide liability coverage to the insured. The trial court awarded the insurance company a default judgment. The claimant moved to set aside the default judgment and allow her to intervene on the basis that she was a necessary party. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the claimant had no interest affected by the dispute between the insurance company and its insured; and (2) therefore, the trial court had authority to grant declaratory relief because all necessary parties were before the court. View "Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Debruce" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal reversing the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant in this wrongful death action, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant was not liable for negligently facilitating the decedent's suicide.While staying alone in Defendant's home, the decedent, who was an adult, committed suicide by shooting herself with an unsecured gun in Defendant's home. The decedent's estate brought this action alleging that Defendant should have known that the decedent was potentially suicidal and that he negligently facilitated the suicide by failing to secure the gun. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence was insufficient for a trier of fact to find that the decedent's suicide was a reasonably foreseeable probability; and (2) therefore, the decedent's suicide constituted a superseding intervening event that breaks the chain of proximate causation, cutting off any liability of Defendant to the estate. View "Cotten v. Wilson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this defamation action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s order granting Plaintiff’s motion to compel Defendants, a media outlet and a reporter, to respond to discovery requests to which Defendants objected on the basis of Tennessee’s news media shield law, Tenn. Code Ann. 24-1-208(a), holding that the trial court erred by granting Plaintiff’s motion to compel.As relevant to this appeal, the court of appeals determined that (1) a showing of malice cannot defeat the fair report privilege, and (2) an assertion of the fair report privilege exempts defendants from part of the protections of the shield law. The Supreme Court affirmed on separate grounds and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) neither actual nor express malice defeats the fair report privilege, the only limitations on the privilege being that a report of an official action or proceeding must be fair and accurate; and (2) the fair report privilege is a defense based upon a source of information that renders the source of the statements the plaintiff alleges to be defamatory unprotected by the shield law. View "Funk v. Scripps Media, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury