Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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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

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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

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Plaintiff’s husband collapsed and died after participating in an exercise class at a fitness facility owned and operated by Church. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against Church alleging that Church negligently failed to utilize the automated external defibrillator (AED) on site that the facility, to train facility personnel on the proper use of the AED, and to comply with applicable state statutes. Church filed a third-party complaint against the company that sold it the AED (Seller), alleging that, should Plaintiff recover a judgment against it for failing to comply with statutes, Seller should be solely responsible for the judgment. Plaintiff then filed a second complaint naming Seller as a defendant. Seller moved for summary judgment against Plaintiff and Church, arguing that it owed no duty of care to Plaintiff or her husband. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Seller did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff’s husband or other users of the fitness facility independent of its contract with Church; and (2) Church had no duty to acquire or use the AED it purchased from Seller, and therefore, Plaintiff’s husband was not a third-party beneficiary of Church’s contract with Seller. Remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Seller. View "Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church" on Justia Law

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Defendant drove a car he had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Enterprise) into Plaintiff’s knee. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was insured under a policy issued by IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company (IDS), which provided uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, Defendant’s automobile liability insurer, and Enterprise. Plaintiff also served IDS with a copy of the summons and complaint for the purpose of bringing a claim under his uninsured motorist coverage policy. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of IDS, concluding that the rental car did not qualify as an “uninsured motor vehicle” under the policy. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the rental car was an “uninsured motor vehicle” under the policy. Remanded. View "Martin v. Powers" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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