insurancedefense

$4.72 million verdict in Tennessee sexual harassment jury trial in Knox County

In February 2022 attorney Jason Lee went to trial in Knox County Chancery Court in a sexual harassment case that was filed in 2019.  This case required significant discovery, depositions and motion practice. The Defendants failed to accept responsibility for what they did to our client and never offered any money to try to settle the case with the Plaintiff.  As a result, we had no choice but to go to trial.  A 12-person jury heard the case for five days and returned a verdict totaling $4,721,132.00.  This included damages under the Tennessee Human Rights Act for sexual harassment (including sexual quid pro quo and sexually hostile work environment) and back pay.  It also included damages for the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and a very significant punitive damage award.  If you have any issues of sexual harassment in Tennessee, and you need an attorney, call our office at 615-540-1005 to discuss your situation. You can also email attorney Jason Lee at jlee@burrowlee.com.

productsliability

Court of Appeals Decision Reverses Trial Court Dismissal of Sexual Harassment Case in Matter Handled by Attorney Jason Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a sexual harassment case by the trial court in a matter that was handled by Attorney Jason Lee (Kelly L. Phelps v. State of Tennessee, 634 S.W.3d 721 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2021)).  The trial court ruled that the sexual harassment case could not proceed because the sexual harassment was not “in the workplace” due to the fact it occurred at a work Halloween party, after hours.   Burrow Lee, PLLC decided to appeal this ruling because the sexual harassment and sexual assault events were still significantly tied to the workplace and a narrow interpretation of Tennessee Law on this issue was not appropriate.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed with the legal position we set forth in argument and by briefing.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals ultimately ruled, in a very important and extensive sexual harassment opinion, as follows:

Considering the totality of the circumstances, we hold that there is a sufficient nexus between the workplace and the harassment for a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that the sexual assaults perpetrated against Plaintiff, and the work situation that followed in the next few months, “affected a term, condition, or privilege of [her] employment.” Campbell, 919 S.W.2d at 31; Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-401(a)(1). A number of applicable actors favor this conclusion: the close proximity in space and time to the traditional workplace; the pressure applied to employees to attend; the roster of attendees at both parties, showing a great majority or entirety of employees; the sponsorship by Defendant of the party, including its provision of alcoholic beverages and encouragement to buy and drink them; Plaintiff’s testimony that the after-party was a “continuation” of the State sponsored party; and, as the trial court found, the “evidence that Josh Walsh sexually abused women at Paris Landing State Park prior to the Halloween party” and the “genuine dispute as to whether Defendant knew about all of Walsh’s behavior before the Halloween party.” See, e.g., Hawkins v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 517 F.3d 321, 341 (6th Cir. 2008) (“An employer’s responsibility to prevent future harassment is heightened where it is dealing with a known serial harasser and is therefore on clear notice that the same employee has engaged in inappropriate behavior in the past”). We vacate the trial court’s summary judgment against Plaintiff on her THRA discrimination and sexual harassment claims.

The entire Tennessee Court of Appeals ruling can be found here: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/phelps.kelly_.opn_.pdf

The YouTube video for the oral arguments on appeal can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhwHSuV9paI

employmentlaw

$170,000.00+ settlement reached in significant Sexual Harassment case

Attorney Jason A. Lee settled a longstanding sexual harassment case that has been in litigation for several years.  His client was sexually assaulted at a work event and then the employer mishandled the sex harassment investigation.  We had to litigate this case hard due to the failure of the employer to take responsibility for their actions.  The client review for this work was the following:

I was sexually assaulted by a supervisor during my employment for a large corporation. I made a claim afterward and filed all the proper paper work with HR. I was left in the dark feeling discouraged and unheard after months of working in what became a hostel work environment. I felt the need to reach out for some legal advice to see if this was proper protocol not really realizing legal advice was exactly what I NEEDED! Making the choice to contact Jason Lee was one of the best things I’ve ever done. There are no words that can truly express my gratitude for the trust he instilled back into me after everything I experienced. We had our first conversation over the phone and immediately I was 100% convinced that Jason’s compassion and knowledge would give me the strength to fight for what I know is right. Within days he started working and things started changing. Finally I started feeling heard! Let me just say never did I imagine how hard he would fight for me, but over the last few years he has stood in my corner so here I am praising the rock I needed to stay strong through it all, Jason Lee was that rock! The whole process was one of the scariest thing I have dealt with in my adult life, and Jason was always informative, compassionate, and sensitive to how I felt about every step. Myself being a woman reporting sexual harassment and my own experience calling a Male attorney made me very uneasy at first but Mr. Lee brought back trust for me that I thought was lost.

I know it can be very intimidating for anyone to just take the first steps in reporting sexual harassment but I would like to think I made a difference by standing up for myself and hopefully helping others along the way.

Forever I will be grateful for making that phone call to get some advice! I would recommend calling Jason to anyone seeking sexually harassment help he is professional, and easy to talk too, you won’t regret it.

Reach out to Attorney Jason Lee if you have any questions on sexual harassment or sexual assault.  Let him help you through the situation.

productsliability

$110,000+ settlement reached in sexual harassment case

Attorney Jason Lee was able to resolve another sexual harassment case against a large Tennessee Employer.  This case was resolved after extensive discovery and depositions of the parties in this case.  Our client wrote the following review about the work of Attorney Jason Lee on this sexual harassment case:

I was totally over my head when it came to wondering if I even had a case. I was so embarrassed by what had happened to me, I didn’t even know if I could talk to anybody about what happened. I called Jason, the first thing he did was ask me if I was okay. He was very gentle with the way he asked his questions. That put me at ease. That’s how it was through this whole ordeal. He answered every question, he made sure I understood every step of the process. I would recommend Jason 100%. He is a great attorney. He’s also a great person, who truly cares about his clients. I am so thankful to have had him on my side. If you come a crossed his name, don’t pass him up.

Contact Attorney Jason Lee to discuss your sexual harassment case to see if he can help you.

insurancedefense

Over $10 Million Recovered For Clients in Last Four Years

Attorney Jason Lee has now received awards or settlements of over $10,000,000 for our clients in the last four years.  Almost all of these cases are sexual harassment cases.  We are proud of our record in fighting for women in sexual harassment situations. We do not take cases to quickly settle them.  We take cases to fight for women who have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed and then do what it takes to hold the party responsible for their actions (usually the employer and/or the person who committed the sexual assaulted).  This sometimes means that we will spend hundreds of hours on your case and even take it to trial (the last sexual harassment trial we had resulted in a $1,600,000+ verdict for our client).   Jason Lee has now exceeded the $10 Million dollar threshold for recoveries in these plaintiff cases and he would like to help you.  Give Jason Lee a call at 615-540-1004 or email him at jlee@burrowlee.com to discuss your sexual harassment case with a free consultation.

employmentlaw

$220,000 + settlement in sexual harassment case

Attorney Jason A. Lee recently settled a large sexual harassment case before the lawsuit was even filed. There was a repeated and consistent amount of sexual harassment from a very high-level official in a company in middle Tennessee against women who worked for him. Our client was treated inappropriately by being touched in a sexual manner and by being asked to use her sexuality for the benefit of her employer as well as for the benefit of her boss. HR at the employer failed to take any appropriate action to protect our client and other women who worked at the employer. As a result, we provided them a lawsuit that we were going to file. They quickly asked for mediation and then settled the case at mediation for a very substantial sum.

Sometimes our strategy is to approach companies before the lawsuit is filed in order to try to resolve the case without the need of litigation. This often does not work, so we file the lawsuit and simply proceed through the Court system. Give attorney Jason Lee a call to discuss your sexual harassment case if you need help. He is available to help you.

productsliability

$160,000 + settlement in sexual harassment case

Attorney Jason A. Lee recently settled a sexual harassment case in litigation involving a large regional service provider company.  His client was treated inappropriately by being touched and by being consistently made a sexual object at work.  The employer ignored her reports and did nothing to protect her from the sexual harassment.  There were multiple Defendants involved in the case and they decided to resolve the case before depositions, for a very substantial sum.  The client review for this work was the following:

In June of 2019 I reached out to Attorney Jason Lee. I was scared, mad, confused and extremely discouraged about my work atmosphere. It was hard to admit and say, but I knew I needed help and I knew what was happening to me was so WRONG. I was being sexually harassed for over six and half years at my place of employment by several individuals. I contacted Jason for help. This was the best decision I have ever made! I was overwhelmed with the continual sexual inappropriate words and actions directed towards me daily at my place of work and when I reached out to Jason for help and direction, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I RECEIVED! Jason listened to me and my entire story from start to finish and HE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT TO DO! He represented me faithfully! He believed in me and my case and FOUGHT FOR ME! His knowledge of the law and specifically sexual harassment cases is EXTENSIVE AND EXPERT LEVEL 100 PERCENT. Jason will guide you in truth, he’s always honest with you and keeps you extremely informed of your case. Jason left no room for error and he was DILIGENT in never backing down and fighting for me! Jason always returned my calls and emails – PROMPTLY, he was never rushed on the phone and took all the time I needed to explain matters I may not understand. Attorney Jason Lee fought for me, believed me, stood by my side when I was shaky and he pressed on to victory. My case duration was about a year and I received a very nice settlement. I’m beyond grateful I chose Attorney Lee his experience and wisdom regarding sexual harassment cases and especially mine is beyond compare.

Reach out to Attorney Jason Lee if you have a sexual harassment situation in your employment.  Let him help you through the situation.

employmentlaw

Tennessee Caps on Damages for Sexual Harassment Cases

Tennessee sexual harassment cases that are brought against an employer are governed by the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The underlying basis for claims against an employer for sexual harassment fall under the provision in T.C.A. § 4-21-401 that provides that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or discharge any person or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin…”. Sexual harassment cases fall within this section and I have previously discussed the Tennessee law standard for a sexual harassment case in my prior blog post here.

It is important to note that there are specific caps on damages for Tennessee sexual harassment claims (as well as other discriminatory causes of action brought against employers under the Tennessee Human Rights Act).

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

workerscompensation

Court Awards Attorney’s Fees Against Employer/Insurer for Failure to Timely Initiate Benefits

In Thompson v. Comcast Corp., et al, 2017-05-0639, State File No. 63224-2016 (filed January 30, 2018) the Court awarded attorney’s fees when an employer/insurer failed to timely initiate benefits. To gain insight on how the Court reached it’s determination it is important to consider the factual circumstances.

During the course of the litigation and through the Expedited Hearing, wherein attorney’s fees were awarded, numerous disputes arose. The claimant was treated by Dr. James Johnson who gave the opinion the claimant sustained a herniated disc. Dr. Johnson also gave the opinion this condition/injury was primarily caused by the injury which was the subject of the claim. Subsequently, Dr. Johnson indicated the claimant had a disc bulge and there were inconsistencies which ultimately prompted Dr. Johnson’s deposition.

Prior to Dr. Johnson’s deposition the doctor referred the claimant to pain management which was refused by the employer. Prior to the deposition of Dr. Johnson, the claimant’s attorney obtained a letter from Dr. Johnson which indicated the claimant’s need for treatment arose primarily out of the injury which was the subject of the claim and a referral for pain management was reasonable and medically necessary as a result of the work injury.

The deposition of Dr. Johnson took place. He testified the claimant sustained a compensable injury, had an anatomical impairment rating and needed pain management all as associated with the work injury. Despite this the employer still refused the claimant a pain management panel. Immediately prior to the Expedited Hearing the employer offered the claimant a panel of pain management physicians from which the employee could choose a doctor for a one time evaluation. This was refused. It was asserted by the claimant’s attorney that this was not in compliance with statute.

The Trial Court found the claimant would have the opportunity to choose his own pain management physician, indicated the claimant was entitled to medical care as referenced, asserted the employer had wrongfully failed to initiate benefits and, as a result, awarded reasonable attorney’s fees (not determined at that time) and referred the claim to the penalty unit for further investigation.

The matter was appealed. On appeal the Appellate Court determined the claimant had not developed a patient/physician relationship with any physician and could not, therefore, choose his own physician. The claimant had to choose a pain management physician from a panel to be provided.

The main issue within the appeal, however, was associated with the attorney’s fees. The Appellate Court interpreted T.C.A. § 50-6-226(d)(1) which states in pertinent part:

[T]he court of workers’ compensation claims may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and reasonable costs, including reasonable and necessary court reporter expenses and expert witness fees, for depositions and trials incurred when the employer:

. . . .

(B) Wrongfully denies a claim by filing a timely notice of denial, or fails to timely initiate any of the benefits to which the employee is entitled under this chapter, including medical benefits under § 50-6-204 or temporary or permanent benefits under § 50-6-207, if the workers’ compensation judge makes a finding that such benefits were owed at an expedited hearing or compensation hearing.

The Appellate Court addressed the fact the Trial Court concluded that the employer had “wrongfully denied” the claimant’s right to pain management. As a result, the Appellate Court basically had to two tasks. Those tasks were to interpret the statute and to further address whether or not it was appropriate to award attorney’s fees under at Expedited Hearing level.

With respect to the interpretation of the statute, the Court determined the statute provided two circumstances under which attorney’s fees could be awarded. Those were:

1. When the employer/insurer, “wrongfully denies a claim by filing a timely notice of denial;” or

2. Fails to timely initiate any of the benefits to the employee is entitled under this Chapter. . .

The Appellate Court indicated the two phrases referenced were separated by a comma and the word “or.” As a result, the Court determined there were two circumstances in which attorney’s fees could be awarded. The Appellate Court determined:

Thus, we conclude that the word ‘wrongfully’ modifies only the first phrase. An employer can be held liable for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs when it ‘fails to timely initiate any of the benefits to which the employee is entitled under this chapter.’

In essence, the Appellate Court determined that when the failure to initiate the benefits is wrong (as determined by the Court) and (as in this case) the basis of the failure to initiate benefits is sufficiently egregious, the Workers’ Compensation Claims Court “may” award attorney’s fees. To reach this conclusion, however, the Court pointed out the numerous failures of the employer/insurer in initiating benefits. The Court noted:

Parties and their lawyers cannot rely on their own medical interpretations of the evidence to successfully support their arguments, and they face significant risk if they choose to do so.

As such, we conclude this case exemplifies one of the extreme limited set of circumstances where an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs is appropriate at this interlocutory stage of the case. Regardless of the ultimate resolution of the case, employee’s entitlement to a panel of pain management specialists as recommended by the authorized treating physician, and the employer’s five month refusal to offer such a panel will not change. Moreover, the work employee’s attorney undertook to secure that panel will not change. Had employer taken one or more of the actions described above to support its denial of a panel, such action or actions may have mitigated against an award of attorneys’ fees and costs at this interlocutory stage of the case.

Comment: Since the inception of the modification to the Workers’ Compensation Act many employees have had to proceed pro se as there was limited monetary incentive for attorneys to represent the employee. Many Judges have been of the opinion this has been a significant shortcoming in the changes in the law. Based upon a comment made by Judge Hensley in the Dissenting Opinion I am of the opinion the ruling in the Thompson decision, in part, was to modify the potential fee issue and provide some incentive for attorneys to again become involved. With respect to this Judge Hensley indicated:

I am not unmindful of the benefits of a policy to facilitate and encourage attorneys to undertake the representation of injured workers. Indeed, such a policy promotes and adheres to the Workers’ Compensation Act’s purpose of securing benefits to those workers who fall within its coverage.

It is worth noting this decision was only recently rendered. There may still be additional appellate consideration to this issue. Either party may appeal this to the Supreme Court and that Court, at its discretion, may accept further consideration of the issues in contention in this matter.

productsliability

Tennessee Tort of “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress”

Tennessee has the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress which is an important cause of action that allows a plaintiff to recover damages when the conduct of the defendant is outrageous. There are very specific requirements for a plaintiff to be able to prove this cause of action in court. In order to support a claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the following elements are required:

The elements of an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim are that the defendant’s conduct was (1) intentional or reckless, (2) so outrageous that it is not tolerated by civilized society, and (3) resulted in serious mental injury to the plaintiff. Regarding the first element, the law is clear in Tennessee and elsewhere that either intentional or reckless conduct on the part of the defendant will suffice to establish intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE