Articles Posted in Tennessee Law

There’s an expression to the effect that sometimes one can “win the battle, but lose the war.” This can happen in the legal field, including in an east Tennessee medical malpractice case. A recent appellate case from Coffee County is illustrative. A widow won her medical malpractice case against a negligent hospital in the trial court, but the appellate court found an error in an additur to the verdict by the trial court judge.

The war continues, with the next step being a retrial, during which both parties will be allowed to present their respective evidence to a different pool of jurors.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was the widow of a man who passed away in 2012 while a patient at a hospital owned by the defendant. The man was admitted to the hospital for treatment of kidney stones. By the next morning, his life was in peril; he was not breathing and had to be resuscitated. Unfortunately, the man suffered a brain injury during this time and died a few days later after life support was removed. The widow filed suit in the Circuit Court of Coffee County, alleging that the defendant was vicariously liable for the hospital staff’s negligence and seeking to recover damages for her husband’s injuries and wrongful death. Included in the plaintiff’s complaint were allegations that the defendant failed to establish appropriate procedures for the management of a patient-controlled analgesia pain pump (PCA pump) and failed to educate its employees on the potential effect of opioid therapy on sedation and respiratory depression.

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When someone is hurt on another person’s property, the injured person may file a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. The burden of proof is always on the plaintiff in an east Tennessee slip and fall case, however, and being successful at trial can be a very challenging task.

A seasoned personal injury attorney can help the injured person navigate the difficulties and potential pitfalls of a premises liability case seeking compensation for injuries suffered in a fall or other accident on a landowner or business’ property.

Facts of the Case

In an east Tennessee car accident in which someone is seriously hurt, the proper party to bring the action is usually obvious:  the accident victim himself (or herself). When someone is killed in an auto accident, however, there can sometimes be a dispute about who should be allowed to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. The resolution of this issue can hinge on several factors, including the relationship between the deceased and those who seek to file suit. In some situations, other case-specific factors may also need to be considered.

Facts of the Case

In a recent consolidated action, one of the would-be plaintiffs was the surviving spouse of a woman who died in a car accident. As the husband of the deceased, this plaintiff insisted that he was the appropriate individual to assert a cause of action for the wrongful death of his late wife. The accident victim’s daughter also filed a wrongful death action, and the cases were consolidated. The Circuit Court of Sumner County held that the husband was the proper plaintiff and dismissed the daughter’s case. The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the daughter was the rightful plaintiff because there were allegations that the husband was at least partially to blame for the “road rage” incident that caused the wreck. After the daughter’s claim was reinstated by the appellate court, the husband appealed the case further to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

A common issue that arises in east Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits is that of comparative negligence. This is because, under Tennessee’s “modified comparative fault” law, a plaintiff who is 50% or more at fault in an accident cannot recover compensation from the alleged wrongdoer.

Tennessee’s rule is harsher than that of some sister states that, instead, follow the rule of “pure comparative fault,” in which the plaintiff recovers at least some compensation as long as he or she is not 100% at fault (although the amount received is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff).

Facts of the Case

Ideally, an east Tennessee personal injury lawsuit would proceed as follows:   the plaintiff files the complaint, the defendant files an answer, the case is tried, a judgment is entered, and the case is over. Unfortunately, things do not always work out that way.

A case recently considered by the Tennessee Court of Appeals definitely did not proceed in the usual fashion. It involved two separation actions in general sessions court, two appeals to circuit court, and yet another appeal to the court of appeals. Perhaps not surprisingly, the case still isn’t over.

Facts of the Case

If you have never actually seen a lawsuit being tried in court (or been called for jury duty), you may not be familiar with the jury selection process in an east Tennessee medical malpractice, wrongful death, or personal injury case.

Sometimes, potential jurors are excluded “for cause” – that is, because they know one of the parties or attorneys personally or because they do not believe that they will be able to be fair to both sides for some other reason. Each party is also afforded a certain number of “peremptory” challenges that may be used to exclude jurors without the need for a reason or explanation. The only limitation on peremptory challenges is that they may not be used to discriminate against a particular gender, race, or ethnicity.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent case heard by the Tennessee Court of Appeals were the parents of an infant who died during childbirth in 2009. The parents filed suit against the defendants (a hospital, a treating physician, and others) in the Circuit Court of Tipton County, asserting claims of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and vicarious liability for the death of their child.

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All personal injury and wrongful death cases have a filing deadline called the “statute of limitations.” Failing to file a claim within this time frame usually means that the plaintiff will be unable to pursue compensation, regardless of the merits of his or her case. Some types of cases, including Knoxville medical malpractice cases, may have additional requirements.

Under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, a person who seeks to pursue a legal action for medical negligence must also provide pre-suit notice to the defendant(s) who will be named in the lawsuit. Medical authorization forms are also to be sent to the defendants. Failing to comply with these requirements can result in the dismissal of an otherwise valid claim.

Facts of the Case

When someone falls in a store or in another place of business, there may be multiple parties who could potentially be named as defendants – corporations, subsidiaries, parent companies, holding companies, land management companies… the list goes on and on.

When an east Tennessee premises liability lawsuit is filed against multiple defendants, some of those parties may be dismissed, either voluntarily as part of the plaintiff’s litigation strategy or by the trial court on motion of the defendant(s). In cases of a voluntary dismissal, the plaintiff may have the option of refiling the claim within a certain time period.

Additionally, when a defendant asserts fault by a non-party as part of a comparative fault defense, the plaintiff may be able to amend his or her complaint to add those individuals or businesses as party defendants.

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Under Tennessee law, a would-be Knoxville medical malpractice claimant must provide pre-suit notice and file a certificate of good faith along with his or her complaint. These requirements apply to any claims alleging health care liability.

However, it is not always clear whether a given claim is a “health care liability” claim.

Facts of the Case

When someone is killed or suffers catastrophic injuries as a result of the negligence of a government official – including prison guards, police officers, and sheriffs’ deputies – that injured person (or the deceased person’s family) may be able to seek monetary compensation.

An experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney can help you determine whether liability may lie in a particular situation and, if so, help you get started on the process of holding the responsible party accountable for the consequences of their actions or inaction.

Facts of the Case

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