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DSCN8654 morguefile pippalouIn Corley v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, a Tennessee woman injured her knee when she slipped on water that was spilled on the floor of an Antioch department store. As a result, the woman filed a premises liability and negligence lawsuit against the store in the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. Following trial, jurors issued a $525,000 verdict in favor of the woman and stated the department store was 90 percent responsible for her harm. In response to the jury verdict, the store filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or new trial.

Before considering the department store’s motion, the Middle District of Tennessee stated a motion for judgment as a matter of law may only be granted in situations where “reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion.” The court stated there must be a lack of disputed facts and it must be clear that the moving party is entitled to judgment in his or her favor in order to prevail.   In addition, the federal court said a motion for a new trial is appropriate where jurors reached a “seriously erroneous result” that was against the weight of the evidence, excessive, or somehow unfair.

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car-accidents-by-vward-5-145316-m freeimages victorwardIn Powell v. Clark, a passenger was hurt in a Tennessee motor vehicle collision that was caused by another motorist. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver did not carry liability insurance when the traffic wreck occurred. Following the accident, the injured passenger sought to recover uninsured motorist (“UIM”) accident benefits. At the time of the crash, her insurance policy included UIM and medical payments coverage of up to $100,000.  In addition, the driver of the vehicle the injured woman was riding in also carried $100,000 in UIM benefits, but only up to $2,000 in medical payments. Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 56-7-1201(b)(3), the driver’s insurer was the primary carrier for purposes of UIM coverage.

After the driver’s insurer paid the injured passenger the full medical payments policy limits of $2,000, the passenger’s insurance company paid her more than $70,000 in medical payments. Next, the injured passenger filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in a Tennessee court. Both insurers were issued a summons and filed an answer in the case. About one month after the injured passenger’s insurer filed its answer, the company was dismissed from the lawsuit.  Additionally, the at-fault driver failed to appear.

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cart07 morguefile citysafariThe Western District of Tennessee has found that a customer is entitled to pursue her personal injury claim against a grocery store at trial.  In Jackson v. Kroger Ltd. Partnership I, a woman and her mother visited a Tennessee grocery store. While shopping, the woman was apparently injured when she slipped and fell on a clear liquid that was on the floor. After the woman fell, a store security guard helped the woman get up off the floor. According to the injured shopper, the security guard told her that he asked another grocery store employee to clean up the spill prior to the incident. The customer later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the grocery store.

Prior to trial, the store claimed that it had no knowledge of the purported spill. In addition, the grocery store argued that the injured woman could not prove how long the liquid was on the floor before she fell or that any of the store’s workers knew the spill occurred. Because of this, the store filed a motion for summary judgment in the case. In general, a motion for summary judgment may only be granted in situations where there are no material facts in dispute and one party is clearly entitled to judgment in his or her favor based upon the law. A court that is considering such a motion must construe any evidence offered in favor of the non-moving party.

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file000555106735 morguefile username polaskiglassIn Bonner v. Deyo, a woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against a driver who rear-ended her vehicle at a stop-light and the owner of the allegedly at-fault automobile. In her complaint, the woman sought damages for head, neck, and other injuries she claimed to have suffered in the collision as well as reimbursement for her medical costs. Her husband also asked the court to award him financial compensation for his loss of consortium. Prior to trial, the parties agreed that the injured woman’s medical and vehicle repair bills were both authentic and admissible. Despite this, the defendants denied a number of material allegations included in the hurt woman’s complaint.

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file9781272921922 morguefile Alvimann.jpgA semi-truck driver was unfortunately killed and three other people were hurt in a recent collision between two big rigs on Interstate 75. According to local law enforcement officials, a fire erupted after two tractor-trailers collided head-on in Campbell County near Caryville. A representative for the Tennessee Highway Patrol stated a northbound big rig that was being driven by a 49-year-old Russell Springs man allegedly crossed the median near exit 134 before striking another truck that was headed in the opposite direction. Apparently, the collision resulted in an explosion and chemical fire that forced officers to evacuate the roadway for several hours. Both trucks were reportedly engulfed in flames following the accident.

The afternoon tractor-trailer crash purportedly closed the Interstate in both directions while a hazardous materials crew engaged in what was initially believed to be a radioactive materials clean-up effort. Thankfully, no such materials were discovered by authorities. Sadly, one of the semi-truck drivers died at the scene of the collision. The other driver and two firefighters who responded to the tragic wreck were reportedly transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment. At least one patient was taken to the hospital via Lifestar helicopter. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the exact cause of the fatal collision is still under investigation.

Due to the many state and federal trucking laws and regulations, a tractor-trailer wreck can involve a number of unique pieces of evidence that do not exist in other traffic accident cases, such as maintenance logs, on-board computer information, and driver logs. In addition, the victim of a Knoxville traffic accident that was caused by a semi-truck driver may be entitled to recover monetary damages for his or her lost wages and benefits, medical bills, any temporary or permanent disability that resulted from the truck crash, pain and suffering, and more. Certain relatives of someone who was killed due to a tractor-trailer driver’s negligent act may also be eligible to recover for their family member’s wrongful death.
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stuck_in_traffic morguefile mr_write.jpgIn Hudson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., a woman was rear-ended by an unidentified driver in October 2010. Following the car accident, the woman reported the collision to her automobile insurance company. She also made arrangements to have her vehicle inspected for damage. About seven months later, the woman sought payment for medical expenses that were apparently related to the car wreck as part of her uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

About three months later, the insurer sent the woman a letter stating the statute of limitations would expire on the one-year anniversary of her traffic accident if she failed to settle her claim or file a lawsuit against the company prior to that date. A statute of limitations is a maximum time limit during which a lawsuit may be filed. If a plaintiff does not file his or her case before the prescribed statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff is normally permanently barred from recovering any damages, regardless of his or her harm. Soon after receiving the letter, the woman finally sought medical treatment for the injuries she allegedly sustained in the rear-end automobile crash. After an initial consultation, the woman’s doctor diagnosed her with a “lumbar torsion” that may have been caused by the motor vehicle collision, and she began receiving physical therapy. Her auto insurer then denied the woman’s personal injury claim because it determined that her physical harm was not related to the traffic crash.

A few days before the statute of limitations expired, the injured woman filed a case against her insurer in Blount County, Tennessee. Several months later, she filed a second case, adding her husband as a loss of consortium plaintiff and the unknown driver as a defendant. She later amended her lawsuit to include a claim for negligence against the unknown motorist who struck her vehicle as well as Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), bad faith, and breach of contract claims against her car insurance company. The insurer then successfully removed the lawsuit from state court to the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division.
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file5031340422169 kellyp42.jpgIn Pyle v. Mullins, a landscaper filed a personal injury lawsuit against a woman following a three-vehicle traffic wreck in Farragut. Although the woman admitted to liability for the crash, a jury trial was held on the issue of damages. Following trial, the jury awarded the landscaper $15,000 in damages for the injuries he sustained in the collision. After the trial court affirmed the jury’s award, the man filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.

On appeal, the man alleged that the jury’s verdict should be set aside because it was based on erroneous evidentiary rulings and instructions. The landscaper also claimed the award was inadequate based on the evidence. After examining the testimony and other evidence offered at trial, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was sufficient material evidence to support the jury’s damages award. Because of this, the court refused to disturb the jurors’ award based on the material evidence.

Next, the appellate court addressed the landscaper’s claim that the trial court committed error when it refused to instruct the jury regarding the woman’s liability for any alleged aggravation of the man’s purported pre-existing injuries. The court stated a trial judge should only provide a requested jury instruction where it is supported by the evidence, is part of a party to a lawsuit’s theory of liability, and correctly states the law. According to the appeals court, the lower court did not commit error when it refused to issue the requested instruction to the jury because there was no evidence offered regarding the issue of the man’s pre-existing injuries.
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harley davidson morguefile efi21.jpgLast month, a 23-year-old man was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash on Chapman Highway in Knoxville. According to a spokesperson for the Knoxville Police Department, the Sevierville man and his 24-year-old passenger were headed north on a Honda motorcycle near East Ford Lane when a sport utility vehicle (SUV) made an unexpected U-turn in front of him. Unfortunately, the driver of the motorcycle could not stop before striking the SUV.

Following the traffic wreck, the man was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased. His passenger was treated for non-fatal injuries at the same hospital. The 60-year-old SUV driver and her 64-year-old passenger were not injured in the collision. Although Knoxville police reportedly do not believe drugs or alcohol played a role in the deadly motorcycle wreck, evidence gathered during the accident investigation will apparently be forwarded to the Knox County district attorney’s office to determine whether criminal charges against the driver of the SUV are merited.

Both the deceased man and his passenger were reportedly wearing a motorcycle helmet at the time of the fatal crash. According to the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safety helmets prevent about 37 percent of traffic accident deaths among motorcycle drivers and 41 percent of motorcycle passenger fatalities across the United States each year. The State of Tennessee enacted a universal helmet law in 1967. This means all drivers and passengers in our state are required to wear a safety helmet when traveling on a motorcycle. The CDC estimates that the lives of about 46 out of every 100,000 registered motorcycle riders in Tennessee in 2010 were saved by wearing a helmet. In addition, helmet use saved the state approximately $94 million in economic costs during the same year. Overall, CDC data states Tennessee is sixth in the nation for lives and economic costs saved as a result of motorcycle helmet use.
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file000612083420 morguefile alvimann.jpgIn Starnes v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, a woman alleged in federal court that she sustained personal injuries when a large bottle of shampoo fell on her head while shopping at a Tennessee department store. According to the woman, the bottle fell because an employee knocked it over while restocking merchandise located on the same shelf in the next aisle. In her complaint, the woman claimed that she suffered neck and shoulder pain, dizziness, nausea, and a variety of other injuries as a result of being struck by the falling bottle.

Before trial, both the woman and the department store filed a motion for a Daubert hearing. When a party to a lawsuit files a Daubert motion, he or she is asking the court to admit or exclude certain expert testimony and evidence. The idea behind this motion is to ensure that the expert testimony offered by each party is based on scientifically valid and widely accepted methodology. A Daubert motion is considered by a judge while outside the jury’s presence. In a federal proceeding, a Daubert hearing is evaluated using Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 702. Still, courts within the Sixth Circuit such as the Eastern District of Tennessee are not required to conduct a Daubert hearing.

After reviewing each party’s written motion, the Knoxville court stated neither party provided the court with a sufficient level of detail. Both parties apparently failed to describe specific testimony challenges or apply Rule 702 to the case. Despite this, the court said oral arguments and exhibits offered the court a sufficient record on which to make its Daubert determination. Next, the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled that testimony offered by two of the woman’s treating physicians should be allowed at trial. The federal court also held that the opinions of an expert witness hired by the department store to review the woman’s medical file were permitted, except for irrelevant testimony that relied on another patient’s medical records.
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file0001977747882 morguefile hotblack.jpgIn Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Simmons, a man filed a wrongful death lawsuit after his son was tragically killed in a four-wheeler accident with a motor vehicle. According to man’s complaint, his son was being supervised by a neighbor’s adult daughter at the time of his death. Testimony offered at trial stated the child began operating the four-wheeler without permission after the woman went inside to retrieve a jacket. While the woman was inside, the boy apparently rode the four-wheeler into a nearby street and struck a car that was being driven by an unrelated man. Unfortunately, the child was killed in the collision.

Following the fatal incident, the child’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner, her adult daughter, the property owner’s insurance company, and the driver of the automobile that was involved in the accident. Although the insurer initially defended the property owner at trial, the company sought a declaratory judgment from the court after claiming the child’s accident was not covered under the policy. Due to his interest in the outcome, the child’s father was allowed to intervene in the action. The trial court held a hearing on the matter and ultimately agreed with the insurance company. The court determined that the property owner’s coverage did not extend to the boy’s fatal collision in the roadway. After the father’s post-trial motions were denied, he asked the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, at Knoxville to review the lower court’s decision.

On appeal, the man argued that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact when it determined the four-wheeler was no longer on the woman’s property at the time of the fatal accident and that the court committed error when it ruled in favor of the insurance company because the policy language was ambiguous. The Knoxville court first stated the trial court’s decision should be upheld unless it is in conflict with the preponderance of the evidence. Next, the court said that an insurance policy is a contract and its terms should be construed according to their logical and plain meaning. After examining the language of the insurance policy, the Court of Appeals dismissed the man’s claim that it was ambiguous. Because the policy interpretation offered by the bereaved father was strained and the trial court properly interpreted the plain language requirements for accident coverage included in the policy, the appellate court refused to overturn the trial court’s holding.
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