Tennessee’s Knoxville Court of Appeals has refused to set aside an order dismissing a personal injury action for failure to prosecute. In Brown v. Juarez, several plaintiffs sued a number of defendants over injuries the plaintiffs allegedly sustained in a 2007 Tennessee traffic collision. About two years after discovery began, attorneys for the plaintiffs apparently ceased all activity related to the case. Three years later, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the civil action due to the plaintiffs’ purported failure to prosecute the lawsuit. The defendants reportedly supplied a hearing notice regarding their motion to dismiss the case at the bottom of the motion and sent it to only one of the two lawyers who represented the plaintiffs. When no counsel for the plaintiffs attended the dismissal hearing, the Circuit Court for Blount County granted the defendants’ motion and dismissed the personal injury lawsuit.
After their case was dismissed, the plaintiffs sought to set aside the court’s dismissal order. The attorney who received a hearing notice on behalf of the plaintiffs admitted that he simply overlooked the relevant information. Still, he claimed the hearing notice was ineffective, the notice should have been sent to both of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and his clients’ failure to attend the hearing was excusable. After the trial court refused to set aside its order dismissing their personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.
The appeals court found that the notice provided to the plaintiffs was sufficient because it was provided to them in a timely manner and pursuant to local rules. In addition, the court held the plaintiffs were provided with sufficient hearing notice because the attorney who received the notice was the primary contact for any correspondence regarding the case and the plaintiffs’ other lawyer appeared to be no longer engaged since he failed to sign their motion to set aside the dismissal.
Next, the Knoxville court addressed whether the circuit court’s judgment should be set aside pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. According to the plaintiffs, their failure to respond to the defendants’ motion was excusable neglect under the rule. After stating the remedies available under Rule 60.02 are extraordinary, the appeals court found that the behavior of counsel for plaintiffs did not rise to the level of excusable neglect. Instead, the appeals court stated the plaintiffs’ lawyer was merely negligent for his failure to read the defendants’ motion in its entirety.
As this case demonstrates, it is critical for anyone who was hurt in a Tennessee traffic accident to have an experienced and competent lawyer on their side. Because an at-fault party may try to dismiss your personal injury claim, you should obtain the assistance of a diligent car accident attorney who can help you protect your rights in a timely manner and assist you with obtaining the damages you deserve based on your injuries.
If you were hurt in a Blount County automobile accident, please call Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657 or contact us through our website. At Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., there is always someone available to talk to you about your case.
Brown v. Juarez, Tenn: Court of Appeals 2014
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