Articles Posted in Miscellaneous

Where plaintiff could have discovered fire damage to her home by simply moving the refrigerator or looking in the HVAC return, the statute of limitations on her misrepresentation claims was not tolled under the discovery rule of the doctrine of fraudulent concealment.

In Eldridge v. Savage, No. M2016-01373-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2017), plaintiff purchased a home from defendant in 1994. At the time, defendant told plaintiff that the home had been damaged by a fire started by the previous occupants, and plaintiff noticed “that the home’s kitchen cabinets were caramel color due to being heat scorched, and observed that the home had at least one burnt floor joist in the basement.” Plaintiff also had the home inspected by a professional home inspector at the time of the purchase.

After living in the home for 16 years, one of plaintiff’s children developed respiratory issues, which eventually led doctors to recommend that plaintiff clean the home with bleach in case environmental conditions were causing the child’s issues. During this cleaning, plaintiff discovered that the home had “extensive fire damage behind the refrigerator, behind the cabinets, in the walls, and charred flooring was also discovered beneath the linoleum that [defendant] installed.” Plaintiff further found that “the HVAC return was filled with soot.”

Where a defendant knew of decedent’s past suicide attempt, knew she was suffering from depression, and knew he had just ended his relationship with her, the trial court was wrong to grant summary judgment on a negligence case related to him showing her an unsecured gun in his home to which she had access.

In In re Estate of Cotten, No. M2016-02402-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 15, 2017), the personal representative of decedent’s estate brought suit against defendant for negligence based on “the defendant’s alleged acts of displaying and failing to properly store and prevent accessibility to the firearm with which decedent ultimately committed suicide.” Decedent was married and had a son when she met and began an affair with defendant. Decedent was a nurse at Skyline Hospital, and defendant was a psychiatrist there. Decedent divorced her husband in 2012, but she retained equal co-parenting time of her son. Two years after beginning the relationship, decedent moved in with defendant, at which time defendant admitted “observ[ing] that Decedent suffered crying spells and appeared to struggle with the loss of her job and eviction from her previous residence.” Decedent began seeing another psychiatrist at the hospital and was given medication for depression. Defendant was aware of decedent’s treatment.

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When a restaurant manager who was working in a locked back office was raped after a robbery, the injuries did not arise out of her employment and she was not limited to a workers’ compensation claim.

In Doe v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., No. W2016-01817-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2017), plaintiff brought suit after being raped in the restaurant’s office. Plaintiff was a hospitality manager at defendant restaurant, and on the night of the incident “she was in the restaurant’s office performing closing procedures with the door to the office locked.” She answered a knock on the door, and a masked man entered the office, had her open the office safe, took the money from the safe, then moved her to a chair, restrained her and raped her. The man was later identified as a restaurant employee who had left work that evening, “jammed the emergency door to prevent it from closing,” and changed in his vehicle before committing the robbery and rape.

Plaintiff brought suit against defendant restaurant for various tort claims, including intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent hiring, intentional misrepresentation, misrepresentation by concealment, vicarious liability, and constructive discharge. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that “[b]ecause Plaintiffs’ claims arose out of and in the course of her employment, workers’ compensation [was] Plaintiffs’ exclusive remedy against P.F. Chang’s.” The Trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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A plaintiff cannot claim invasion of privacy based on information that she herself has already disclosed in a public filing.

In Graham v. Archer, No. E2016-00743-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 10, 2017), the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of an invasion of privacy case. A pro se plaintiff had previously filed an HCLA case against defendants, which was ultimately dismissed. In that case, plaintiff alleged that defendants had failed to provide her with requested medical records, and the defendants responded with affidavits “demonstrating that they had complied with or attempted to comply with each of [plaintiff’s] requests for medical records.” These affidavits were the basis for plaintiff’s subsequent invasion of privacy suit. Plaintiff argued “that, by filing the affidavits, the defendants disclosed her name, address, telephone numbers, and the identity of, and contact information for, her physicians,” constituting an invasion of privacy.

The trial court dismissed the case, finding that plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy for this information because it was contained in pleadings she herself had filed in the HCLA case. That holding was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

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In Jones v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, No. W2016-00717-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 12, 2017), the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a negligent misrepresentation claim.

Plaintiffs were the borrowers on a valid and enforceable mortgage, which was held by defendant. Plaintiffs were in default and had received a notice of foreclosure stating that “they were in arrears in the amount of $9,000.00.” Plaintiffs allege that plaintiff husband spoke with a representative from defendant by phone and offered to pay $7,800 by the end of the week, and that the representative “informed him that if he sent a payment of $6,000.00 he would qualify for a six-month repayment plan that would stop the foreclosure sale.” Plaintiff husband stated that he attempted to wire two separate payments totaling $6,000 to defendant, but that the transfers were declined. The foreclosure proceeded, and plaintiffs filed this action.

Plaintiffs asserted various contract-based claims as well as a claim for negligent misrepresentation. The trial court dismissed all the claims pursuant to defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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In Ramsey v. Cocke County, Tennessee, No. E2016-02145-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 23, 2017), plaintiff sued the county, the police department, and the county emergency communications district for wrongful death after her daughter committed suicide. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “the decedent’s suicide was foreseeable and that the special duty exception to the public duty doctrine applie[d].”

According to plaintiff, she called 911 around 8:30 p.m. one night because her daughter was exhibiting “unexplained serious mental and behavioral” issues and was indicating that she was going to commit suicide. Plaintiff asserted that she told the 911 operator that her daughter was threatening suicide and asked for police assistance, but that the operator refused to send police because “it was not their policy to respond to domestic family issues.” Plaintiff called again around 9:15 and was denied police assistance a second time, and plaintiff was transferred to an officer who allegedly affirmed that it was “not their policy to send responders in situations like this.” Because the operator had refused to dispatch an officer, plaintiff stated that she drove to the police department, but that the doors were locked and she could not find an officer. When plaintiff returned home, her daughter had committed suicide.

Plaintiff filed suit for wrongful death, and the defendants disputed plaintiff’s version of the facts. Defendants denied that plaintiff requested an officer or that she told them that her daughter was contemplating suicide. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that they “did not owe plaintiff a duty of care pursuant to the public duty doctrine” and that the suicide was “an intervening and independent cause which supersedes any liability and is the proximate cause of the death of the decedent.” The trial court granted the summary judgment, finding that the suicide here was an intervening cause, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

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In Montpelier v. Moncier, No. E2016-00246-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 1, 2017), the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of an abuse of process claim.

The background of this case was fairly unique, as it involved attorneys suing another attorney due to defendant attorney’s actions in an underlying case. Plaintiff attorneys had removed the underlying case to federal court and filed a notice of removal with the state court. Within 24 hours after the notice of removal was filed, defendant attorney served a Rule 11 motion on plaintiffs in the state court case. The Rule 11 motion, however, was never filed with the court, but only served on plaintiffs.*

Plaintiffs filed this abuse of process claim based on the Rule 11 motion served by defendant. Plaintiffs asserted that defendant was using Rule 11 improperly to attempt to fee-shift and that he committed an “intentional abuse of process” by refusing “to file the Rule 11 motions until he first determines how the underlying ‘offending’ pleading is decided.” Plaintiffs argued that defendant used his Rule 11 motion as an “open-ended threat of obtaining money from his adversaries and their attorneys unless they withdrew facts and claims,” and that he “primarily sought to increase the burden and expense of litigation[.]” Further, plaintiffs argued that the proper place for defendant to have filed this particular Rule 11 motion was federal court, but that defendant could not comply with the proper filing because he was disbarred from the federal court.

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In Fletcher v. CFRA, LLC, No. M2016-01202-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 8, 2017), the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment, finding that defendant restaurant owner was not vicariously liable for the actions of its employee.

Defendant owned an IHOP restaurant, and that IHOP hired a dishwasher who was on parole for “aggravated battery and felony firearms convictions.” Plaintiff ate at the restaurant with a friend very early one morning. When plaintiff was leaving the restaurant, the dishwasher believed he had not paid for his meal and followed him to the parking lot. There was no physical confrontation in the parking lot, and plaintiff paid the bill. The dishwasher’s shift had ended, so he called his girlfriend to pick him up from work. According to both the dishwasher and his girlfriend, after they left the IHOP parking lot the car that plaintiff and his friend were driving began following them. They drove to an apartment complex with plaintiff still following, and a physical altercation ensued. There was conflicting testimony about what exactly happened, but at some point the dishwasher jumped into the car plaintiff had previously been riding in and ran over plaintiff two times, severely injuring him.

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In Haynes v. Lunsford, No. E2015-01686-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 2, 2017), the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for a real estate agent and agency on a misrepresentation claim where plaintiffs had access to the same information as defendants.

Plaintiffs contacted defendant real estate agent, who worked for the defendant agency, about buying a log cabin. While looking at MLS with defendant, plaintiffs found the cabin they eventually purchased. Defendant was not the listing agent on this cabin. Defendant and plaintiff visited the cabin together and both felt it looked new and “smelled great.” Plaintiffs had a home inspection done prior to the purchase, which revealed some “common cracks” but did not mention mold. Plaintiffs did not “take any action to make sure the basement was moisture free” before the purchase.

Before the closing, defendant sent plaintiff all the documents in her possession, including the MLS listing, the CRS property report, seller’s disclosure, the home inspection report, and the seller’s warranty deed. The deed showed that a bank was the grantor, which defendant admitted could mean that the property had been involved in a foreclosure. Plaintiffs closed on the cabin and moved in, and five months later they “began smelling a mildew type odor.” Six months after the purchase, an inspector found moisture in a wall, and some months after that, mold spores were found.

Plaintiffs brought suit against defendant real estate agent and the agency she worked for, alleging that “the cabin was presented to them as ‘new’ and ‘just recently built.’” Plaintiffs’ complaint included claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, failure to disclose adverse facts, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiffs asserted that “the cabin had a moisture and mold problem about which the defendants knew or should have known,” and that “defendants had a duty to disclose the moisture and mold problems to plaintiffs[.]”

The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that there was “no evidence whatsoever that Defendants…were aware of mold being present in this house,” and that “plaintiffs had the same information that [defendants] had about the home.” The Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling.

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In Blackwell v. Sky High Sports Nashville Operations, LLC, No. M2016-00447-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2017), the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether parents in Tennessee may “bind their minor children to pre-injury waivers of liability, releases, or indemnity agreements,” affirming the existing common law rule such agreements were not enforceable against a child when signed by a parent.  The Court also discussed whether a minor had the right to seek recovery of medical expenses in a personal injury case.

Mother took her son to defendant trampoline park, and on their first visit mother was required to sign a “Customer Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk.” This form purported to waive liability for any injury on behalf of both mother and son, and it contained a choice of law provision naming California law as governing the agreement as well as a forum selection provision stating that litigation would be brought in California. The release stated that it would be effective until the son was eighteen. At a later visit, son was injured, and son and mother both brought this action against defendant trampoline park in the Davidson County Circuit Court.

Defendant filed a motion to enforce the contract in the trial court, arguing that the claims had been waived and that the case had to be brought in California and governed by California law. Mother voluntarily dismissed her claim against defendant, and the trial court subsequently denied defendant’s motion to enforce the contract. The trial court found that “neither the forum selection clause nor the choice of law provision were valid because their enforcement would cause a great hardship for Son to prosecute his action in California and, Tennessee, rather than California, has ‘a more significant relationship to the facts surrounding this case.’” The trial court also held that the liability waiver did not operate to waive son’s claims, as “such a contract is not permissible in Tennessee.” In a lengthy decision, the Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed all three of these holdings.

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