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.

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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

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.

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

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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

productsliability

Sexual Harassment and Sexually Hostile Work Environment Claims in Tennessee – General Overview

Sexual Harassment and Sexually Hostile Work Environment claims are both recognized in Tennessee under state law and federal Law (pursuant to Title VII).  These are very significant claims often involving the harassment of a female by a male supervisor or co-worker.  The standards for an employer’s liability are different under each of those scenarios (this will be discussed in a subsequent blog post on this topic).  It is important to note that Tennessee courts often look to federal law for guidance on interpretation of Tennessee’s own discrimination statutes, because they are so similar.

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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE

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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

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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

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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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READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT TENNESSEE DEFENSE LITIGATION HERE