Negligence can arise in many different contexts – automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and even situations in which someone slips and falls on business premises. Slip and fall (or “premises liability” cases) are often hotly disputed, as the landowner typically seeks to avoid liability for the accident by casting blame on the injured party. However, some east Tennessee premises liability cases are successful, resulting in an award of monetary compensation to the plaintiff, so it is important to talk to a lawyer if you think you may have a claim.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a visitor who reportedly slipped and fell in an icy parking lot at the defendant hospital. The plaintiff had been at the hospital for some 12 hours on the day of her fall (for the birth of a grandchild); at the time of her arrival, the parking lot appeared wet but did not contain snow or ice. As the plaintiff returned her car that evening, she walked between two parked vehicles, slipping on a patch of ice that had apparently refrozen during the evening hours and fracturing her patella.

According to the plaintiff’s allegations in her complaint against the defendant, the defendant was negligent because it failed to remedy the dangerous condition created by accumulated ice in its parking lot, insomuch as it did not take affirmative steps to prevent melted snow from refreezing prior to the time of the plaintiff’s fall. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the circuit court granted. The plaintiff appealed.
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Under current Tennessee law, claims that were once referred to as “medical malpractice” cases are now referred to as “healthcare liability” actions. Although the basic idea is the same – a doctor, nurse, or hospital breached the standard of care owed to a patient, proximately causing injury or death to a patient – the rules are more complex than they used to be.

Timing is important, as there should be strict compliance with the applicable statute of limitations and statute of repose, and there are now several pre-suit requirements (including consultation with an expert medical witness) that must be met if the plaintiff is to ever have his or her day in court.

Of course, even when all of the procedural “i”s are dotted and “t”s crossed, most medical negligence defendants will still seek to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed if at all possible.

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Slip and fall accidents are common in grocery stores and supermarkets. In a Knoxville premises liability lawsuit arising from such an incident, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in establishing the defendant’s negligence. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached a duty of care that was owed to him or her and that he or she was injured as a proximate result.

In some cases, the plaintiff may alternatively allege that the defendant’s conduct rose to the level of recklessness – a more serious allegation that can possibly result in punitive damages. Not surprisingly, most defendants will staunchly resist such an allegation. It is the trial court’s job to determine whether or not the facts of a given case are such that a plaintiff’s recklessness claim may proceed.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant grocery store after he allegedly slipped and fell in water left behind by a floor-cleaning machine. In his complaint for compensatory and punitive damages, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was both negligent and reckless. More specifically, he asserted that the defendant had used a machine that left water behind while it operated, that the defendant failed to schedule routine maintenance on its cleaning machines, that the defendant’s conduct created a hazardous condition that was not readily observable by its customers, that the defendant failed to post warnings about the dangers caused by the cleaning machine, that the defendant failed to develop or implement policies to prevent the risk of harm to customers, that the defendant had acted recklessly in failing to properly maintain its fleet of floor cleaners because the defendant routinely failed to replace the “squeegee” parts of the machines (which had a life of two to three months) until they were worn out and leaving water on the floor, and that the defendant was aware of – but consciously disregarded – the risk of injury. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss or strike the plaintiff’s punitive damages claims.

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In an east Tennessee personal injury lawsuit for damages suffered in an airplane accident, car crash, or truck wreck, the plaintiff may seek compensation for several different elements of damages.

Typically, these damages include past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of earning capacity. If the plaintiff is married, his or her spouse may also seek monetary compensation for loss of consortium.

A recent case explored the distinctions between some of these potential elements of damages.

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In an east Tennessee automobile accident case, an injured party may receive compensation for his or her medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by a negligent driver.

If the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault in the accident, his or her judgment for compensation will be reduced in proportion to his or her fault. For example, if the court finds that the plaintiff’s total damages are $100,000 but he or she was 10% at fault, the net judgment will be $90,000.

It is important to note that this rule only applies to cases in which the plaintiff is found to have been less than 50% at fault; if the plaintiff is 50% or more to blame for an accident, he or she will not recover any compensation.

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In a Knoxville personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident or other vehicular collision, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant is legally liable for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages stemming from the accident.

In litigating his or her claim, the plaintiff will likely pursue the discovery of evidence from a variety of sources, including governmental entities. While the law of evidence provides a basic structure for the resolution of these issues, some matters must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

A recent, rather unusual case arising from an accident in military vehicle is illustrative.

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When someone is hurt by the negligence of a corporation, the injured person may have multiple options as to where to file his or her claim. Generally speaking, most such claims are filed in a state court in the county in which the accident occurred.

However, in some cases, the plaintiff may prefer that his or her claim be filed in federal court, providing that there is diversity of citizenship between the parties and that personal jurisdiction exists.

The defendant in a federal case may resist jurisdiction and/or venue for one reason or another. In such an event, the district court in which the action is initially filed must decide whether it does, in fact, have diversity jurisdiction over the case and whether venue is proper in that particular court.

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In a typical Knoxville wrongful death case, a family is seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one whom they believe died as the result of the negligence of an individual, corporation, or governmental entity. Damages may include funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, lost earning capacity of the decedent, and related losses. Under Tennessee law, a family may also seek compensation for the loss of a nonhuman family member, i.e., a pet (or a farm animal), in some situations. However, the amount of monetary damages available in such a case are typically very limited unless the animal itself was very valuable.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent case were the owners of a 10-year-old cat who allegedly died due to the negligence of the defendant veterinarians, who placed a feeding tube into the animal’s trachea rather than her esophagus, thus sending food into her lungs (instead of into her stomach, where it was supposed to go) and causing her to aspirate. The plaintiffs asserted a wrongful death action against the defendants, seeking compensation for their loss.

Many people labor under the mistaken impression that pursuing fair compensation is easier when the defendant in a car accident case is the victim’s own uninsured motorist insurance company. This is simply not true. As the case set forth below illustrates, an insurance company can likely align itself with the negligent motorist that caused the collision – not its own insured – and fight tooth and nail to pay out as little as possible on a claim, even when liability is clear.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was involved in an accident with the defendant driver in Shelby County, Tennessee, in January 2016. The man was joined in the suit by his wife as co-plaintiff. The plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier was served with a copy of the complaint pursuant to the Tennessee Uninsured Motorist Act. The defendants did not dispute that the driver was liable for the accident in question; rather, the primary issues before the court were the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and their impact on the plaintiff’s earning capacity.

Every negligence lawsuit requires that the plaintiff prove certain elements, such as the existence and breach of a legal duty, proximate causation, and damages. However, a Tennessee medical malpractice claim requires even more specific proof, including expert testimony as to the applicable standard of care and the defendant’s alleged deviation therefrom.

In addition, lobbying efforts from medical associations and those who provide liability insurance to physicians and hospitals have resulted in there being additional “hoops” that a plaintiff must jump through in order to file a claim seeking compensation for a doctor or hospital’s mistake.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case filed in the Circuit Court for Green County was a woman who asserted a health care liability action against the defendants, a regional hospital and three doctors. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint due to the plaintiff’s failure to file a certificate of good faith along with her complaint. After the defendant’s motion to dismiss was filed, the plaintiff filed the certificate. The defendants then filed a purported “motion for summary judgment.” In response, the plaintiff filed a motion for voluntary dismissal (nonsuit) of her complaint. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion and dismissed her complaint without prejudice (which would arguably allow her to refile the action within a certain time period, while still being considered filed within the statute of limitations). The defendants appealed.

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