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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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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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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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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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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productsliability

Plaintiff in Tennessee Slip and Fall Case Must Identify Object that Caused Fall

A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision, Hilda Willis v. McDonalds Restaurants of Tennessee, Inc., No. E2015-00615-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 9426271 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015), involved a slip and fall at a McDonald’s in Tennessee and it provided an interesting issue.  In this case the plaintiff was maneuvering around the area where drinks were served at a McDonald’s.  As she left that area she saw a french fry on the bottom corner of the surface next to the service counter.  She stepped over the french fry and claimed that there was a sharp object that she felt through her shoe.  She believes this is what caused her to fall.  When she fell she dropped her drinks therefore there was ice everywhere.  Because of this, there was no ability to actually identify the piece of ice or other object that allegedly caused her to fall.

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insurancedefense

Tennessee Homeowners Must Have Notice of a Dog’s Dangerous Propensities to be Liable in a Dog Bite Case

A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision dealt with an interesting dog bite case question.  In Moore v. Gaut, 2015 WL 9584389 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) the plaintiff was bitten by the defendant’s Great Dane dog while the dog was in the Defendant’s own fenced in back yard.  The plaintiff was actually on the other side of the fence when he approached the dog. When he came close the dog bit the plaintiff on the face.  The trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment because there was no evidence that the dog had any prior propensity for attacks and there was no evidence of any actual prior attacks.

The plaintiff appealed this decision and argued that the large size of the Great Dane as well as the breed of the dog should cause the dog to be characterized as part of a “suspect class” of dogs.  Further, that this, standing along, is enough to establish a genuine material fact as to whether the plaintiff should have known the dog had dangerous propensities.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals was asked by the plaintiff to extend T.C.A. § 44-8-413 (a 2007 dog bite statute discussed below) and basically find that certain dogs are simply part of a “suspect class” of dogs because of their size, weight, strength, and general propensities.

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insurancedefense

Tennessee Supreme Court Modifies Spoliation of Evidence Doctrine By Removing Intentional Misconduct Requirement

Tennessee has long had a doctrine of spoliation of evidence which allows the trial court to draw negative inferences or even provide dismissal against a party who destroys evidence.  Historically, Tennessee courts have required the presence of actual intentional misconduct to invoke the doctrine of spoliation of evidence particularly when providing the remedy of a negative inference or dismissal.  The Tennessee Supreme Court in Lea Ann Tatham v. Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., No. W2013-02604-SC-R11-CV, 2015 WL 6688035 (Tenn. 2015) dealt with an apparent conflict between the case law and Rule 34A.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure that was adopted on July 1, 2006.  The full text of Rule 34A.02 provides as follows:

Rule 37 sanctions may be imposed upon a party or an agent of a party who discards, destroys, mutilates, alters, or conceals evidence.

The question before the Tennessee Supreme Court in Lea Ann Tatham was whether Tennessee Courts should continue to require an intentional misconduct prerequisite for a trial court to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence.  The Tennessee Supreme Court decided this issue and expressed the desire to provide a uniform standard on this issue.

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productsliability

Tennessee Court of Appeals Confirms Forum Selection Clauses are Enforceable in Tennessee Contracts

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently discussed forum selection clauses found in contracts.  These are clauses that select the jurisdiction and court that will handle any disputes involving the contract.  The case of The Cohn Law Firm v. YP Southeast Advertising & Publishing, LLC, 2015 WL 3883242 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) involved a dispute between a plaintiff attorney law firm and an advertising company.  The plaintiff’s attorney sued the advertising company in Shelby County Chancery Court over the dispute.  The defendant advertising company filed a Motion to Dismiss alleging that this jurisdiction was inappropriate due to a forum selection clause in the contract.  The contract between the plaintiff’s attorney law firm and the defendant provided that any lawsuit pertaining to the agreement should only be filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia or the Superior Court of Dekalb County, Georgia. (The Cohn Law Firm at 2).  This contract was signed by the plaintiff attorney.

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Tennessee’s One Year Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Extended to Two Years when Criminal Charges are Brought

The 2015 Tennessee legislature passed Public Chapter No. 388 that extends the typical one year statute of limitation for personal injury causes of action (as well as other cause of actions) in certain situations.  This new law went into effect for all causes of action that accrue on or after July 1, 2015.   This statute basically extends the typical one year statute of limitations for cases involving personal injury, libel, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and compensatory or punitive damage claims under Federal Civil Rights statutes.  In order to take advantage of the two year statute of limitations extension, a criminal charge must be brought pertaining to the incident in question within one year of the incident by (1) a law enforcement officer; (2) a District Attorney General; or (3) a grand jury.

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