will

Should You Add Your Children to Your Financial Accounts When You Need Financial Assistance Later in Life?

A significant number of older individuals in Tennessee add one or more of their children to their bank accounts to help them manage their finances. They often do this as joint owners with right of survivorship in order to have them help to pay the bills and to take care of other matters late in life. This can be an option that sounds very appealing. However, doing this is a major problem and can cause devastating financial consequences that are completely unintended.

When someone adds another person as a joint owner on the account, any judgments that the other person obtains against them, could lead to collection efforts against your bank account. Once the other person is an owner, they are an owner of your account for all purposes. For instance, if one of your children gets into a serious car accident and severely injures or kills someone else, but they have insufficient insurance coverage to pay for the damages, then the injured party could obtain a judgment against them. They could then execute against your account to pay the judgment.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE WILLS AND ESTATES HERE

insurancedefense

There is No Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress on Solely Property Damage Loss Cases in Tennessee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Richard Lane, et al v. Estate of Gary K. Leggett, No. M2016-00448-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 1176982 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017) discussed whether a Plaintiff can recover for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress for a claim that involves only property damage. In this case, the Plaintiff owned a business in White House, Tennessee. The Defendant rear-ended a vehicle and left the roadway at a high rate of speed, causing his car to run into the building that contained the Plaintiff’s business. The vehicle struck a gas meter which resulted in a significant fire and caused a complete loss of the Plaintiff’s business. The Plaintiff was not actually at the property at the time of the loss, but he returned shortly thereafter and witnessed the fire at his business.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

will

Can an Appointed Executor Contest the Will They Offered For Probate in Tennessee?

A really interesting question was addressed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals recently on whether an executor who submitted a Will for probate and was appointed as executor can subsequently contest the terms of the Will. The Tennessee Court of Appeals in the case of In Re: Estate of Ellra Donald Bostic, No. E2016-00553-COA-R3-CV, 2016 WL 7105213 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2016) dealt with the specific question of whether an appointed executor can contest the Will that is being probated.

The Court noted that the legal doctrine that applies is “estoppel”. The reason is because “executors, as fiduciaries, owe a duty of undivided loyalty to the Estate and must deal with the beneficiaries in the utmost good faith.” In re: Estate of Wallace, 829 S.W.2d 696, 705 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992).

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE WILLS AND ESTATES HERE

productsliability

Piercing the Corporate Veil in Tennessee – When Can a Judgment Against a Corporation be the Personal Responsibility of the Shareholders?

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently decided a case (F&M Marketing Services, Inc. v. Christenberry Trucking and Farm, Inc., E2016-00205-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 417223_(Tenn. Ct. App. 2017)) involving a request to pierce the corporate veil of a Defendant after the Plaintiff got a substantial judgment against that Defendant for breach of contract. The total judgment in this case was $375,524.29. After the initial judgment was entered, the Plaintiff learned that the Defendant had no assets to satisfy the judgment. As a result, the Plaintiff petitioned the trial to hold the primary shareholder of the Defendant personally liable for the judgment against the Defendant corporation. The Tennessee Court of Appeals did a good job discussing the circumstances when an individual shareholder can be found personally responsible for a judgment against a corporation in Tennessee.

The Court noted that the most important case outlining when it is appropriate to pierce the corporate veil in Tennessee is the FDIC v. Allen, 584 F. Supp. 386 (E.D. Tenn. 1984) decision.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

insurancedefense

Does Employer’s Admission of Vicarious Liability for Actions of Employee Insulate the Employer from Other Causes of Action?

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently dealt with an issue that has not been previously discussed by Tennessee Appellate courts in Melanie Jones, Individually and on behalf of Matthew H. V. Shavonna Rachelle Windham, et al., No. W2015-00973-COA-R10-CV, 2016 WL 943722 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2016).  The question deal with the situation where an employer and employee are both sued due to the actions of the employee in causing an automobile accident (while working for the employer).  The employer, in the Answer to Complaint, admitted they were vicariously liable for the actions of the employee.  The question, therefore, was whether the plaintiff could still proceed with other claims against the employer including negligent hiring, negligent retention and negligence per se for their own independent negligent actions when they had already admitted vicarious liability for the actual accident.

For some reason, the plaintiff wanted to pursue various individual cause of actions directly against the employer in this case.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

will

When is a Surviving Spouse Required to Make Election to Obtain Elective Share Against the Estate in Tennessee?

A surviving spouse has the ability to obtain an elective share (see prior post describing the details of an elective share under Tennessee law) of a decedent’s property by filing a notice with the court.  The surviving spouse is required to file a petition for an elective share within nine months after the date of the death of their spouse.  T.C.A. § 31-4-102(a)(1) provides as follows:

(a)(1) The surviving spouse may elect to take the spouse’s elective share in decedent’s property by filing in the court and mailing or delivering to the personal representative, if any, a petition for the elective share within nine (9) months after the date of death.

Additionally, an extension of the 9-month time period is allowed if there is litigation pending about the title of certain property such that an elective share determination could not be made with sufficient information.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE WILLS AND ESTATES HERE

will

What Happens When an Insured Under a Life Insurance Policy and a Beneficiary Die Simultaneously in Tennessee?

Sometimes an individual who has a life insurance policy dies at the same time as a beneficiary.  Obviously, this does not happen very often, but it does happen on occasion.  Most often, when this occurs, it is simply just impossible to determine who actually died first.  In Tennessee, we have a statute that addresses this exact situation.  T.C.A. § 31-3-105 provides that when an insured and beneficiary under the policy die simultaneously, then the proceeds of that policy are distributed as if the insured under the policy had actually survived the beneficiary.  The actual language of the statute is as follows:

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE WILLS AND ESTATES HERE

productsliability

Misrepresentation of Licensed Contractor Status in Tennessee Can Cause Significant Liability

Tennessee law is clear that any person, firm or corporation who misrepresents that they are a licensed contractor is subject to significant penalties.  It is also against Tennessee law to act in the capacity of a “contractor” in Tennessee when one is not properly licensed.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 62-6-136 discusses this issue in subsection (A) as follows:

(a) It is unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to represent itself as a licensed contractor or to act in the capacity of a “contractor” as defined in §§ 62-6-102, or 62-37-103, and related rules and regulations of this state, or any similar statutes, rules and regulations of another state, while not licensed, unless such person, firm or corporation has been duly licensed under § 62-6-103 or § 62-37-104.

A licensed contractor is specifically defined in this statute.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

workerscompensation

The Admissibility of Expert Testimony of a Vocational Consultant in Workers’ Compensation Cases on the Subject of an Employee’s Disability

The Supreme Court of Tennessee Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel recently decided a matter involving the relevancy and admissibility of the testimony of a vocational consultant regarding an injured employee’s total disability. Miller v. State, No. E2015-00034-SC-R3-WC, 2015 WL 7013864 (Tenn. Workers Comp. Panel November 5, 2015) involved an Employee for the University of Tennessee. While moving a sign during his shift as a parking lot attendant, the Employee injured his neck.

An MRI and CT scan revealed a herniated disc and spinal cord compression. Employee had surgery for his neck shortly after the accident. After surgery, Employee had pain in his right arm and hand. His treating physician stated that he had a residual nerve injury which could not be confirmed by diagnostic testing. A different physician performed an independent medical evaluation (“IME”) a year later. The IME physician was unable to state whether the Employee’s upper extremity issues were related to the work injury. However, he assigned a 15% permanent partial impairment rating to the body as a whole for the injury and found that the Employee had little hope to get back to meaningful employment.

Thereafter, the Employee underwent a functional capacity evaluation (“FCE”). The therapist who conducted the FCE found the Employee was able to perform “light physical demand” work. After seeing the results of the FCE, the IME physician stated he had no problem with Employee working light physical demand type of work.

A vocational consultant evaluated the Employee at the request of the Employee’s attorney. The consultant assessed that all of the Employee’s previous jobs were unskilled and required heavy physical labor. He further found the Employee to read at a 5th grade level.

The vocational consultant reviewed the results of the FCE. Based on these assessments, the vocational consultant disagreed with the FCE and found that Employee was not capable of light work or even sedentary-type work. The vocational consultant further found the Employee to be totally disabled and opined that Employee sustained a 49% vocational disability as a result of his work injury.

The University objected to the admission of testimony of the vocational consultant which interpreted the results of the FCE and which opined on the Employee’s permanent disability. The trial court overruled the objection. The trial court then ruled that the Employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of his work injury.

The University appealed partly on its contention that its objection to the vocational consultant’s opinions should not have been overruled by the trial court. The University argued that it was outside a vocational consultant’s expertise to place medical restrictions on an injured worker.

While the appellate court agreed, it found the consultant to be qualified to offer an opinion on vocational disability. The vocational consultant was found to have accepted the conclusions of the FCE regarding Employee’s abilities to perform various tasks before engaging in his analysis of whether the Employee had a vocational disability. Thus, he did not venture outside his area of expertise in assessing the Employee’s medical condition. Once he accepted the FCE’s conclusions, his further assessment was based on data from government and private sources regarding the physical exertion requirements of various jobs. It was the use of these sources, along with using the data from the FCE, which provided the vocational consultant the basis of his opinions regarding the Employee’s vocational disability.

Therefore, the appellate court held the vocational consultant’s testimony to be relevant and admissible. Thus, the trial court was found to not have abused its discretion by overruling the University’s objection to the vocational consultant’s testimony.

insurancedefense

“Reasonable” Medical Expenses in Tennessee (Amount Billed or Amount Paid?) – The Law After West and Dedmon for Personal Injury Litigation

A very important Tennessee Court of Appeals opinion was issued on June 2, 2016. In this case, Jean Dedmon v. Debbie Steelman, No. W2015-01462-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 2, 2016), the Court discussed whether the amount an insurance company actually pays for medical services in a personal injury action, is, as a matter of law, the “reasonable” amount of medical expenses. In order to recover medical expenses under Tennessee law, in a personal injury action, the plaintiff must prove the medical expenses were reasonable and necessary. The reason the Dedmon decision is so important is because of the West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corp., 459 S.W.3d 33 (Tenn. 2014) decision. In the West case, the Tennessee Supreme Court, when interpreting the Tennessee Hospital Lien Act, essentially found that a hospital’s non-discounted charges reflected in their lien, were not reasonable because they do not reflect what is actually being paid in the marketplace. The Court found that, under the Tennessee Hospital Lien Act, the amount actually paid for the hospital charges were the reasonable charges for the services provided, not the amounts billed which were, as a matter of law, unreasonable.

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