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Recently, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from an incident where a man totaled his vehicle when a trench underneath a road split and caused the asphalt to crumble. The man and his wife filed a lawsuit against the City, alleging personal injuries and property damage and loss of consortium. In response, the City purported that the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) provided them with immunity from the lawsuit. The plaintiffs averred that the Tennessee Code section 29-20-203 removed their immunity. However, the trial court found in favor of the City, reasoning that the plaintiffs did not establish that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the road’s dangerous condition.

In this case, the inquiry focuses on whether the City maintains immunity through the GTLA. Generally, local governmental entities are immune from Tennessee injury lawsuits, except in cases defined by statute or explicitly permitted by the General Assembly. The dispute at issue arises from section 29-20-203, which removes immunity for injuries resulting from a “defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition” of roadways owned and controlled by the governmental entity. However, plaintiffs asserting this exception must prove that the defendant had “actual or constructive” knowledge of the condition.

In this case, the plaintiffs presented evidence of a work order that shows that the trench at issue was inspected a day before the accident and that the City determined that it needed to be replaced. However, the City argued that regardless of the work order, the plaintiffs did not present any other evidence that the road was defective or dangerous. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that although they did not present opposing affidavits to the City’s motion for summary judgment, procedural rules do not demand this. Instead, when responding, the plaintiffs must present evidence that could lead a trier of fact to find in their favor.

The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security (TNSH) works to serve, secure, and protect people in the state. A part of their duties includes compiling statistics and data regarding the rates of accidents in Tennessee. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that road traffic accidents are a leading cause of death. The TNSH addresses these safety concerns and implements measures to mitigate the dangers to people in the state.

While 2020 saw a .3% decrease in accidents, there has been a nearly 11% increase in Tennessee crashes from 2020 to 2021. According to data, the summer months, specifically July and August, show the highest rate of crashes. The majority of accidents involve a senior driver between the ages of 65 and 99 years old. Further, other leading causes of accidents in the state include drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs and distracted drivers. Moreover, an overwhelming number of Tennessee car accidents involve unbelted occupants.

It is no surprise that these accidents can have a devastating toll on accident victims and their families. Accident victims are often left with significant medical bills related to the incident. At the same time, being unable to work during the recovery process makes it even harder to cover these expenses. While insurance may cover some costs, the coverage rarely covers the extent of an accident victim’s damages. As such, it is critical that Tennessee car accident survivors and their loved ones recoup the compensation they deserve.

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Patients rely on physicians, nurses, and pharmacies to appropriately prescribe, administer, and dispense medications. Tennessee medication errors at any point in this process can have deadly consequences to consumers. Many healthcare providers are taught to double-check medications to ensure that they have the right patient, dose, time, route, and medication before providing it to the consumer. However, despite this training, over a million people suffer medication errors every year.

For example, a nurse’s medical error at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) took the life of a 75-year-old patient. The patient checked into the hospital to receive treatment for bleeding in her brain. Two days after her admission, the patient’s condition began to improve, and the staff was preparing for her release after a final scan. The nurse at issue was supposed to administer a sedative before the scan; however, she accidentally administered a paralyzing medication. The drug left the woman brain dead, and she was taken off life support a few days later.

The nurse explained that while she is responsible for the mistake, the hospital’s procedure made the event more likely to occur. She explained that the hospital permitted nurses to override the medication cabinet safety prompts. As such, since it was a regular practice, the nurse overrode the safety prompts that appeared on screen when she was gathering the medication. The mix-up occurred because the woman searched for the medication’s brand name, but the cabinet was set to search for generic names. Authorities reported that the bottle contained a warning label that indicated that the medication was a “PARALYZING AGENT.” The nurse

A state appeals court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a Tennessee woman suffered while encountering two dogs. The woman and her daughter were walking on a sidewalk adjacent to a Whole Foods Market when two dogs began barking at the pair. The dogs began barking aggressively at the woman’s daughter; in response, the woman picked up some rocks and threw them towards the dogs to distract them so that her daughter could get away. The dogs began to charge at the woman, and as she was running away, she fell into a chair and sustained injuries to her hip and arms.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the company that operated the business the dogs escaped from. They alleged that their owners were liable under Tennessee Code 44-8-413, which mandates that dog owners maintain a duty to keep their dog “under reasonable control at all times and from keeping their dogs from running at large.” Further, the statute explains that those who breach the duty may be liable for civil damages to the injury victim.

In this case, the company argued that the statute did not apply to them because they were not the “owner” of the dog. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs might claim that the business had temporary custody or control of the animals; however, this temporary control is insufficient to impose liability. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the appeals court reversed the summary judgment.

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A state appellate court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Tennessee truck accident. A Johnson City (City) employee driving a tractor-trailer lost traction and struck the victim’s car. At the emergency room, the victim complained of right shoulder pain. Before the incident, the victim underwent two prior right shoulder surgeries, and her treating doctor recommended a third surgery following the incident. The woman filed a lawsuit against the City seeking compensatory damages for her medical bills and recovery. In support of her claim, she provided itemized medical and hospital bills.

Under Tennessee Code 24-5-113(b), this evidence creates a rebuttable presumption of the reasonableness of the bills. Here, the City conceded to its liability but objected to the reasonableness of the undiscounted medical bills the plaintiff presented. The City sought to rebut the presumption through the testimony of two witnesses. One witness was a doctor who offered his opinion on the hospital’s billing practices. The other witness was presented as an expert in medical billing practices. The billing expert was the owner and co-founder of a medical billing software system. The trial court found that the doctor’s testimony violated the collateral source rule and the billing expert’s methodology was not proven or tested.

On appeal, the court reviewed whether the trial court appropriately excluded the City’s evidence to rebut the reasonableness of the victim’s bills. Under the collateral source rule, a plaintiff can still recover the entire reasonable value of their damages, even if a third party paid some of the total damages. The doctor’s testimony sought to establish that the amount billed is not the actual amount paid because of private dealings between the hospital and the parties. The court concluded that the collateral source rule directly prohibits this type of testimony.

Most east Tennessee personal injury and negligence cases proceed under a theory known as “negligence.” In order to be successful in such a case, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant breached a duty of care that was owed to him or her and that, as a proximate result, he or she suffered damages that are compensable under the law (such as pain and suffering, lost earnings, or medical expenses).

It is important to note, however, that not all negligence cases involve physical harm or death to an individual. Property damage, too, can be an element of damages in a negligence case. For example, there may be a separate claim for property damage in a motor vehicle accident case.

Some negligence cases pertain only claims involving property, however. Sometimes, these negligence claims are brought along with other allegations, such as a breach of contract claim. When this happens, the plaintiff may receive additional damages that would not otherwise be available (attorney fees, for instance, are not typically awarded in simple negligence cases under the so-called “American rule”).

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Sometimes, the legal definition and the usual definition of a word are different. Take for instance the word “damages.”

In common parlance, “damages” means physical harm to a person or thing, thus impairing its value and/or usual function. If a car sustains “damages” in a collision, we think of this as meaning that there was an impact to the car that make it less useful (a smashed headlight and a damaged radiator due to a head-on collision, for instance) or less valuable (a $50,000 SUV may be worth only $10,000 in its post-crash condition).

However, there is a separate definition in the law for the word “damages,” namely the amount of money claimed or awarded in compensation for injuries suffered in an accident. This means that, when a jury awards “damages” of a certain amount, the court then directs the party against whom the award was made to pay that amount of money to the injured individual. It is important to note that, sometimes, there are limitations on the amount of money “damages” that can be awarded to the plaintiff in an East Tennessee personal injury case. One example is discussed in the case below.

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The requirements involved in filing an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit can be very complex. It is, thus, extremely important for a would-be plaintiff in such a case to retain an attorney experienced in these matters as soon as possible after realizing that a medical error may have occurred.

There is a limited time for filing a healthcare liability action, and much is to be done in anticipation of the filing of the actual complaint. Seeking legal counsel sooner rather than later can help ensure that all of the necessary steps are completed in a timely fashion.

Facts of the Case

In a recent healthcare liability and wrongful death case originating in the Tennessee Claims Commission, the plaintiffs were the parents of a stillborn infant who was delivered in December 2017 when the mother was at about 29 weeks’ gestation. The delivery occurred at a hospital owed by the defendant state. The plaintiffs’ suit sought to assert claims for negligence and medical malpractice against several resident physicians and physicians who were employed by the defendant state at the time of the delivery. No claim was presented for damages to the plaintiff mother.

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A Knoxville negligence case is based on a simple proposition. If one person owes a duty of care to another and a breach of that duty is the proximate cause of harm, the responsible individual (or business) is liable for the other’s damages.

A personal injury case can take many forms, such as a car accident suit, a medical malpractice claim, a product liability case, or a premises liability lawsuit. These are “typical” negligence cases, but sometimes other, more unusual circumstances can also give rise to a claim for negligence.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a personal injury case filed in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County was a woman who was allegedly injured when a headstone fell over onto her hand while she was setting some flowers on her brother’s grave. According to the plaintiff, the accident was severe enough to fracture several bones in her hand and necessitate her having surgery. The injuries also caused her a great deal of pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s complaint against the defendant monument company asserted that the defendant had been negligent in the construction, placement, and maintenance of her brother’s gravestone. The complaint further alleged that the defendant had either created the unsafe condition that led to her injuries or should have been aware of the unsafe condition.

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In a typical Knoxville medical malpractice case, there is a long list of things that must be done before the case is even filed at the courthouse. It can take weeks or months to complete the necessary tasks in many cases.

Accordingly, it is vitally important to talk to a lawyer as soon as you suspect that you or a family member has been harmed due to a healthcare professional’s error. Waiting too long can seriously jeopardize the outcome of your case, as untimely claims will be dismissed by the court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case, the plaintiff was the next of kin of a woman who died of acute respiratory failure after being a patient at the defendant hospital in January 2018. The plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court of Davidson County in May 2019, asserting a claim for healthcare liability pursuant to the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-26-102 et seq. In his complaint, the plaintiff averred that the defendant was “both directly and vicariously liable” under the principles of respondeat superior for the acts and omissions of its employees and agents. A copy of the complaint was mailed to the defendant on December 21, 2018, along with the notice required under Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121.

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