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.
Decision of the Court
The federal district court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit with prejudice based on the settlement but reserved ruling on the remaining issues. The court first noted that one of the defendants had argued that the joint motion to dismiss was inherently deficient because it did not include a certificate of consultation; the court agreed that the motion could be denied on this ground but found that, in the expeditious and economical resolution of the litigation, the best course of action was not to disqualify the motion.
Noting that the plaintiff had represented to the court that he had settled all of his claims and was asking for dismissal, the court agreed to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. As to the motion of two of the defendants to be substituted by their insurance company as the crossclaimant, the court found that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(c) had not been met. However, given that these defendants had stated that they were no longer the real parties in interest and that their insurer was now the “sole real party in interest” insomuch as it has fully settled the claims on their behalf, the court found that it was appropriate to give the insurance company some additional time in which to maintain the crossclaim if it so chose.
Talk to an East Tennessee Injury Attorney
At the Hartsoe Law Firm, we handle Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, including those resulting in fire and burn injuries. For an appointment to get started on a claim that you have against a negligent individual, business, or governmental entity, call us now at 865-524-5657. Please be mindful that claims not filed within the statute of limitations are usually dismissed, so it is important that you contact an attorney about your case as soon as possible.