Articles Posted in Legal Information

Justice Programs will present its annual seminar program in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis in a few weeks.   Former Justice Penny White and former Judge Joe Riley and I started this seminar over a decade ago.  Famed mediator Howard Vogel joins us as a participant this year.

I will be speaking about torts, comparative fault, and preparation for taking meaningful depositions.   Other topics are listed on the Justice Programs website.  Fifteen continuing legal education credits (which includes four ethics / professionalism / dual credits) will be awarded for those that attend the entire program

Hundreds of people attend this program every year, many coming year after year.  Please join us in

As I mentioned in my February 17, 2013 post about Tennessee personal injury and Tennessee wrongful death court filings, the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Court has released statistics about the Tennessee’s justice system. Among the data produced is the amount of money awarded in tort trials for the year ended 2011-12. 

The total amount of damages awarded by judges and juries in all personal injury and wrongful death trials in the state in the year ended June 30, 2012 was $128,312,921.

Damages of $1 to $99,999 were awarded in 158 of the 204 cases tried to judges in juries in year in which damages were actually awarded.  (There were 520 trials in all – no damages were awarded in 316 of them.  Damages of $100,000 to $999,999 were awarded in just 29 cases.   Damages of $1,000,000 and more were awarded in 17 cases.

What to know more about the explosion of personal injury and wrongful death jury verdicts in Tennessee? A report released by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts revealed that the following Tennessee counties did not award one penny in damages in any tort case for the year ended June 30, 2011: 

District 1 – *Johnson, *Unicoi

District 3 – Hamblen, Hancock, *Hawkins

There were ten jury and non-jury awards  of $1,000,000 or more in Tennessee tort cases in the year ending on June 30, 2011.   

The number of million dollar verdicts was exactly the same as it was ten years earlier, a year when there were 50% more trials. 

These are the counties with million dollar verdicts or judgments: 

Tennessee jury verdicts were down substantially in 2010-11, according to data released by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. 

Total damages awarded  in tort cases in state court were only $32,051,326, down by a little over 60% from a year earlier, when the total damages awarded  was over $91,000,000.  These numbers include jury and non-jury cases.

The average verdict or judgment  was $168,691,  down over 600% from a year earlier, when the average verdict was over $400,000.  The average verdict includes only those trials in which the fact-finder returned an award of money damages.  It does not include defense or no-money awards. 

The number of jury trials in Tennessee tort cases continues to decline, according to data released by the Tennessee Adminstrative Office of the Courts. 

In the one year period ending June 30, 2011, there were only 222 jury trials in tort cases in Tennessee state courts.  Ten years ago, the period ending June 30, 2002, there were 412 jury trials in tort cases.  Looking at the ratio between cases filed and cases tried to a jury, jury trials are down over 50%. 

Is this trend due to mediation?  I doubt it.  True, there are lots of mediations in tort cases today, but mediation has been around for more than 20 years and was a firmly entrenched part of tort practice in Tennessee well over 10 years ago.   

New data out from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts puts data behind what those of us who practice tort law knew:  tort filings are down in Tennessee. 

The AOC’s Annual Statistical Report shows that tort filings for the one year period ending June 30, 2011 were 10,576.  Ten years ago, in the one year period ending June 30, 2002, there were  12,166 tort cases filed in the state.    

Total tort case filings in the six counties with the largest population were as follows: 

The Tennessee Bar Association published my  column, Day on Torts, on September  1, 2011.  The title of this column  is "Who Should Get Burned by Bruce’s Torch?".

An excerpt:

Independent contractors are not considered employees. The general rule is that one who employs an independent contractor is not liable for the negligence of the contractor. This rule “is so riddled with exceptions that it is only applied when the courts cannot find a good reason to ignore it,” and a case on the court’s Sept. 1 oral argument docket provides another opportunity for common sense and sound public policy to trump the general rule.  [Footnote omitted.]

As mentioned in the last three posts (herehere and here), the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts has released the 2009-2010 Annual Report of the Judiciary.  The Report Contains statistical data about our court system.

As mentioned in our earlier posts, there were 263 jury trials and 325 non-jury trials in tort cases in Tennessee last year.   The Report tells us which the number of jury and non-jury trials in each county and the number of cases in which damages were awarded in each county. Unfortunately, the Report does not tell us whether the damage awards were in jury or non-jury trials.  

Here is some data from the larger counties: