Articles Posted in Tennessee Law

Under Tennessee medical malpractice law, an individual who seeks to recover fair compensation (including acts of negligence resulting in a loved one’s alleged wrongful death) must provide pre-suit notice to those against whom the lawsuit will eventually be filed.

Generally speaking, failure to provide this notice can result in dismissal of the plaintiff’s lawsuit based on failure to comply with the state’s health care liability statute. However, there are exceptions to this general rule, as the appellate court held in a recent case.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was the husband of a woman who died in April 2016, following an emergency craniotomy that was performed due to stroke-like symptoms the woman suffered shortly after being released from a hospital where she had sought medical treatment for an apparent aneurysm.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant medical providers in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County, alleging that the defendants had failed to adequately and timely treat the decedent, thereby causing her various personal injuries and, ultimately, her death. Pursuant to the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121, the plaintiff attempted to provide pre-suit notice of his intent to bring a health care liability action against each defendant named in his complaint and filed his complaint within the 12o-day extension of the statute of limitations provided by the statute.

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The so-called “Opioid Epidemic” is big news these days, as more and more claims are being filed against the makers of pharmaceutical products like hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, OxyContin, Roxicodone, and Opana by both individuals and government officials.

Here in Tennessee, several attorneys general have sought to assert claims against those who make these and other opioid drugs, but of course the manufacturers have done their best to resist these efforts if at all possible.

Earlier this month, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a decision in one such matter, holding that a case previously dismissed by a state court judge could go forward against certain pharmaceutical companies under a state statute that provides a civil remedy against those who participate in the illegal drug trade. If you or a loved one is suffering from the use of such medications, a Tennessee personal injury attorney may be able to determine whether you have a claim.

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A Knoxville medical malpractice case is never easy. Doctors and their insurance companies fight incredibly hard against a finding of liability, and, even if a case makes it to a jury trial, jurors can be reluctant to find that a doctor is hospital has been negligent. This much is to be expected.

However, it may come as a surprise to an average Tennessean that many medical malpractice cases are dismissed annually based not on a finding that the plaintiff failed to prove negligence but because of some technicality in the voluminous amount of paperwork that must now accompany a malpractice claim.

This is one of the many reasons that it is critically important to contact an attorney as soon as you suspect you or a family member has suffered from an act of medical malpractice; the sooner you can get started on your case, the more likely you are to be able to jump through the many “hoops” that have become part of our law through the endless lobbying efforts of the medical establishment and their insurers.

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A Tennessee personal injury case can involve multiple defendants, some of whom may point to finger of blame at one or more of the others. In some situations, the plaintiff may be able to settle his or her claim(s) against one or more of the defendants, leaving the defendants to continue to fight among themselves about how much each rightfully owes. When this happens, it is not usual for a liability insurance company to be substituted as a real party in interest.

Facts of the Case

In a federal district court case in which a decision was issued earlier this year, the plaintiff was man who was reportedly electrocuted while working at a fair and music festival in Memphis in 2016. The accident happened when a ride that was plugged into the same generator as the ride upon which the plaintiff was working became energized by an overhead powerline, causing electricity to flow through the first ride, through the generator, through the second ride, and into the plaintiff’s body.

The plaintiff brought suit against four different amusement companies in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Two of the defendants brought crossclaims against a third defendant, seeking indemnification and a defense. That defendant sought summary judgment on the crossclaims, urging that its contract with one of the two defendants did not obligate it to indemnify the two defendants for their defense costs in the case. The plaintiff and the two defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss the crossclaims based on a settlement agreement. As part of the settlement agreement, the plaintiff had the right to purchase an annuity; the first two defendants paid $2,075,000 to fund the annuity. The other two defendants did not contribute to the settlement payment.

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Generally speaking, a Tennessee personal injury lawsuit must be filed within the one-year statute of limitations for negligence cases if it is to survive a motion for summary judgment. This seems like a straight-forward rule, but this is not always so. For example, in some cases, exposure to a product may cause serious injury or even death, but these effects may take many years to manifest themselves.

Tennessee also has a statute of repose that places additional limitations on the plaintiff in a personal injury or wrongful death case, including one stemming from injuries caused by exposure to asbestos. In some situations, an injured person may have been exposed to multiple sources of asbestos over a multi-year period, creating further issues that must be hashed out during the litigation process.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who developed mesothelioma after working at a chemical plant in east Tennessee for approximately 20 years. He (along with his wife) filed multiple product liability claims against the defendants (an asbestos manufacturer and others), asserting claims for the defendants’ respective alleged involvement in the male plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
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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 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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