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Governmental entities such as cities and utility companies enjoy governmental immunity against claims of liability pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-20-101 et seq. However, this immunity is not absolute.

For instance, there is no immunity for a governmental entity when a citizen is injured by a defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition of a street or walkway owned by the entity, if the injured person is able to show that the entity had either actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.

Constructive notice can be established by showing that the condition at issue had been in existence for a length of time sufficient for a property owner exercising due care to have become aware of it.

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Tennessee law requires that the plaintiff in a negligence case prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the defendant breached the duty of care, that the plaintiff suffered an injury or loss, and that the defendant’s breach of duty was both the cause in fact and the proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury or loss.

The question of whether the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff has traditionally been a question of law, meaning that it is up to the court – rather than the jury – to determine whether a duty exists under the particular facts presented in a case. However, the question of whether the risk of a certain harm was foreseeable can be a question of fact.

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Incalculator and coins negligence lawsuits, including those arising from car accidents, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. If the plaintiff is seeking to recover medical expenses as part of his or her damages, this burden usually requires expert medical testimony concerning the reasonableness and necessity of such expenses.

A recent appellate court case shows just how hard defendants – or, in reality, their insurance carriers – will fight against paying an injured party’s medical expenses in some cases.

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After a lawsuit is filed, the parties usually engage in a period of discovery. Sometimes, this involves the defendant asking that an injured person undergo a medical examination by a doctor retained by – and paid by – the defense. Often, this doctor will have an opinion that conflicts with that of the plaintiff’s treating physician (or the plaintiff’s retained expert).

If the parties cannot agree on the details of when, where, and under which conditions the examination will take place, the trial court has broad discretion to enter an order resolving the issue.

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mapWhile some issues of law are controlled by the federal government, many are governed by the law of the individual states. For instance, tort litigation issues such as the statute of limitations, the proper parties to a lawsuit, and available damages are governed by state law.

When the law of two or more states could possibly apply to a legal dispute, the courts are called upon to make a “choice of law” decision as to which state’s law to apply. Situations exist in which a suit would not be viable in one state but would be of significant potential value in another.

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Pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the torts of a servant under certain circumstances. Furthermore, an employer can be held directly liable for the negligence in some cases.

In the recent case of Jones v. Windham, the Tennessee Court of Appeals was called upon to determine whether a woman whose child was struck by a daycare’s van driver could maintain a direct negligence action against the driver’s employers in light of their admission of vicarious liability.

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stairs-shadow-1-1621502The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently vacated a trial court’s directed verdict for defendants in a premises liability action, concluding there existed genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendant homeowners were negligent.

The plaintiff was touring a rental house in Chattanooga owned by the defendants when she tripped on a step between two rooms. She brought a premises liability action in January 2012, alleging that the step was an unreasonably dangerous and defective condition that caused her fall and resulting injuries.

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file9291313200183 morguefile earl53Typically, governmental entities and their employees are immune from liability in Tennessee. Under the law, however, the employee of a governmental entity may be sued for operating a motor vehicle in a negligent manner while performing his or her job duties. In Jones v. Bradley County, a woman was apparently hurt when she collided with a County emergency vehicle that turned left in front of her against a red light in Cleveland, Tennessee. Following the accident, the woman filed a lawsuit against the County under § 29-20-202 of the Tennessee Code. In response to the lawsuit, the County filed a counterclaim against the injured woman alleging that she instead negligently caused the accident in which she sustained her personal injuries.

At trial, the emergency responder stated he activated the emergency lights and sirens on the truck he was driving prior to the traffic wreck. He also stated that he slowed the truck he was driving before entering the intersection where the crash occurred. It was undisputed that the roadways on which the motorists were travelling were both straight and the collision occurred on a clear day.

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5328739422_55bb4420b8_b MSVG Foter.com CC BYIn Naraghian v. Wilson, a woman was apparently injured in a Shelby County, Tennessee rear-end motor vehicle collision. About one year after the crash, the woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the purportedly at-fault driver in the Circuit Court of Shelby County. In her complaint, the hurt woman sought damages from the motorist for her injuries and property damage. In response, the other driver claimed he was not liable for the woman’s harm because she caused the traffic wreck. According to the motorist, he struck the woman from behind after she stopped for no reason at a green light.

During a jury trial, the woman testified that her automobile was hit when she came to a complete stop at a red light. Although she did not seek medical treatment immediately, the woman stated she began suffering from increasing pain in her neck, shoulders, and head. A few days after the crash, the injured woman sought treatment at a local hospital. The hospital apparently performed x-rays, provided the woman with prescription pain medication, and advised her to seek additional medical treatment if her pain continued. The woman eventually sought treatment for her injuries with a chiropractor.

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file000921513512 morguefile Melodi2In Coggins v. Holston Valley Medical Center, a woman and her spouse visited a patient in a Tennessee hospital. While at the medical facility, the woman apparently tripped over a feeding tube that was purportedly placed near the patient’s bed in a negligent fashion. As a result, the woman fell and sustained serious injuries. Later, the injured woman served the hospital with notice that she intended to file a lawsuit against the facility before ultimately filing her complaint.

In response to the woman’s case, the hospital filed a motion for summary judgment. In general, such a motion asks a court to rule that there are no material facts in dispute, and one party to a lawsuit is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. After reviewing the hospital’s motion, the trial court ruled that the woman’s claim constituted a premises liability action instead of a health care liability case. The trial court also found that the woman was not entitled to utilize the pre-suit notice provisions enumerated in Section 29-26-121 of the Tennessee Code to extend the statute of limitations. As a result, the lower court found that the woman’s case was not filed within the applicable one-year statute of limitations. After ruling the lawsuit was time-barred, the trial court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment.

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