In 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.
A 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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In 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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In 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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Last 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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In 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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In 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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The Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division has dismissed a woman’s personal injury lawsuit that was filed against the United States government. In Solomon v. United States, a woman and her family visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in order to go hiking. While walking down a hill, the woman apparently stepped in a hole that was obscured by leaves. She allegedly fell backwards, attempted to break her fall using her arms, and subsequently became injured. After she exhausted the administrative remedies available to her, the woman filed a premises liability lawsuit against the U.S. government in federal court. The government responded by filing a motion for summary judgment.
First, the Eastern District of Tennessee stated summary judgment is only proper in a federal lawsuit where no material facts are disputed, and one party is entitled to judgment in his or her favor based on the law. In addition, the court stated the party who files a motion for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no factual disputes exist, and all inferences must be made in favor of the non-moving party. If such a motion is granted, the moving party wins the case without proceeding to a trial.
According to the government, it was entitled to summary judgment under Sections 70-7-102 and 70-7-104 of the Tennessee Recreational Use Statutes, since the woman failed to demonstrate it caused her injuries by committing gross negligence. The woman countered that the U.S. was liable for her harm because it failed to properly maintain the trail she fell on or warn her about the risk for injury. Under Tennessee law, a landowner may not be held liable for injuries sustained by a visitor to a property if the visitor is engaged in recreational activities, such as hiking, except where the property owner committed gross negligence or demonstrated a willful disregard for the safety of visitors. The code also states a property owner is not required to warn recreational visitors regarding any hazards.
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The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville has affirmed a jury’s award in a car wreck case. In Miller v. Moretz, a 72-year-old driver was involved in an automobile accident with another motorist. According to disputed testimony offered at trial, the man’s vehicle was either backing up into a driveway or preparing to back up when a collision occurred between the rear corner of his vehicle and the driver’s side of the other vehicle. Following the crash, the elderly man and his wife filed a negligence lawsuit against the other driver over the personal injuries each allegedly sustained in the collision. In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant motorist failed to yield the right of way, failed to maintain a proper lookout, drove at an excessive rate of speed, followed their vehicle too closely, and more. The defendant responded by stating he was operating the vehicle in a prudent fashion. He also claimed the plaintiff failed to yield and violated the legal limitations placed on backing up a vehicle by Section 55-8-163 of the Tennessee Code.
Before trial, the defendant driver filed a motion in limine asking the court to prohibit the plaintiffs from introducing evidence related to his use of prescription medication at the time of the collision. Such a motion is normally considered by a judge while outside of a jury’s presence at the beginning of a trial. It is used to determine whether certain evidence may be introduced for the jury’s inspection. The defendant driver argued before the trial judge that evidence regarding his use of prescription medication should not be used for impeachment purposes because such evidence would have a prejudicial effect on him. Since the plaintiffs’ lawsuit did not allege the defendant driver was somehow impaired at the time of the traffic wreck, the court granted the defendant’s motion and excluded evidence related to his drug use.
Following trial, a jury found the defendant motorist 10 percent at fault for the car accident. Additionally, the jury held the plaintiff driver 90 percent responsible for the crash and valued his wife’s damages at zero. Since Tennessee is a modified comparative fault state, this means the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover any compensation for their alleged injuries. Under modified comparative fault rules, an accident victim may not recover for his or her harm if a jury or judge decides the injured party was at least 50 percent responsible for the accident. The plaintiffs responded to the jury’s verdict by filing a motion for a new trial. Their motion was denied, and the couple appealed their case to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.
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The Eastern District of Tennessee has refused to amend a verdict that was rendered against a plaintiff in a slip-and-fall case. In Griffin v. Wal-Mart Stores East. LP, a 76-year-old woman was allegedly injured when she fell inside a department store located in Eastern Tennessee. Following her injury, the woman filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store. Although the area where the woman fell was apparently dry, an employee who was tasked with cleaning up a previous spill in the area testified at trial that the floor was slippery.
After the trial court ruled in favor of the department store because the business lacked sufficient notice of the allegedly hazardous condition, the injured woman filed a motion to alter or amend the verdict under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In general, such a motion may only be granted if the court made a clear legal error, if new evidence was discovered, if the law changed, or in order to prevent a “manifest injustice” from occurring. According to the injured woman, the court’s holding was erroneous because the department store had actual or constructive notice of the supposedly dangerous condition in the store. The Eastern District of Tennessee stated that surveillance video of the area where the woman fell demonstrated no circumstantial or other evidence the department store was aware of the purportedly slippery floor.
The federal court also dismissed the elderly woman’s claim that the department store had constructive notice of the alleged slip-and-fall hazard because conflicting evidence was presented at trial. The court stated the woman failed to offer evidence regarding the source of the slippery surface despite that a store worker testified the floor she fell on was slick. The federal court added that the video surveillance did not show a spill occurred prior to the elderly woman’s fall. Since the slippery film on the floor was apparently invisible, and the video footage offered at trial showed other shoppers walking over the same area without incident, the Eastern District of Tennessee held that the department store did not have constructive notice of the supposedly hazardous condition that caused the plaintiff’s fall.
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