Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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