Articles Posted in “Blue Chip” Tort Cases

Coln v. City of Savannah, 966 S.W.2d 34 (Tenn. 1998), is a must-know for anyone handling a slip and fall or trip and fall case in Tennessee. Indeed, it is important reading for anyone handling any type of premises liability case in this state. It is the first Tennessee Supreme Court decision in the field after the adoption of comparative fault.

Be sure to read both the majority opinion and the concurring opinion to see a philosophical divide on the subject as wide as the one between Nietzsche and St. Thomas Aquinas.

In my mind, the Tennessee Supreme Court has unduly complicated the job of a trial judge in the typical premises liability case. I agree with Judge Holder’s concurring opinion – there is no need to undertake a duty analysis is the typical premises liability case.

The McIntyre opinion permitted fault to be assessed against people who were not a party to the action. From the day McIntyre was released it was clear that a defendant could ask that fault be assessed against a prior defendant who settled before trial. Over the years that followed it became clear that fault could be assessed against certain other people that the plaintiff could not have sued.

In Brown v. Wal-Mart, 12 S.W3d 785 (Tenn. 2000), the defendant tried to blame a phantom party. In other words, it tried to blame not only a person who the plaintiff could not sue but a person who it failed or refused to even identify. The Tennessee Supreme Court rejected that effort. Click here to read the opinion.

The effect of this decision is to either force a defendant to identify a wrongdoer or, if it does not, the wrongdoer cannot be allocated fault. It greatly reduces the possibility of a fraudulent defense.

The leading case on the law of damages in personal injury cases comes not from the Tennessee Supreme Court but rather from an opinion authored by Judge Koch on the Court of Appeals, Middle Section.

Judge Koch is an excellent writer. His opinions are exremely through and provide a great place to start legal research on viturally any topic he has written about during his twenty years on the Bench.

The opinion in Overstreet v. Shoney’s, Inc., 4 S.W.3d 694 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999) is another example of the foregoing. If you know this opinion you know 85% of what you need to know about the law of damages in personal injury cases.

Any list of the most important tort cases in the history of Tennessee tort law must include McIntyre v. Ballentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992).
This opinion radically changed Tennessee law by adopting modified comparative fault and abolishing joint and several liability in the vast majority of cases. The opinion also represented a major step by a newly-constituted court to bring Tennessee jurisprudence in step with the rest of the country.
By the way, the plaintiff lost the case on remand.