Articles Posted in Miscellaneous

A claim that a drug manufacturer failed to properly warn under Tennessee law based on its failure to include a medication guide required by FDA regulations is impliedly preempted by federal law.

In McDaniel v. Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-02604 (6th Cir. June 29, 2018), plaintiff brought suit after her husband died after taking medication manufactured by defendant. Plaintiff claimed that defendant’s “failure to ensure that a Medication Guide accompanied the prescription led to her husband ingesting—and dying because of—a drug that wasn’t meant for him.” Plaintiff’s husband had been prescribed a generic form of a medication intended as a “last resort for patients suffering from ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.” The husband, however, was suffering from non-life threatening atrial fibrillation. Plaintiff asserted that because defendant did not include the required medication guide, her husband “was unaware that only adults with life-threatening heartbeat problems who had unsuccessfully sought alternative treatments should take the drug.” He thus suffered from a serious lung side effect and died.

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A plaintiff cannot bring a separate intentional infliction of emotional distress claim based on a work-related incident for which he has already pursued a workers’ compensation claim.

In Byrd v. Appalachian Electric Cooperative, No. E2017-01345-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 25, 2018), plaintiff alleged that an “interrogation” by his supervisors at work caused him chest pain, anxiety, and other symptoms. He averred that when he reported to work one morning, he was called to a meeting with two supervisors, who questioned him about his recent marriage to another employee’s relative. He stated that he was told he would have to either resign or be terminated per company policy, and that the meeting lasted three hours. At the end of the meeting, plaintiff alleged that one of the supervisor’s spoke with an attorney, who reviewed company policy and determined that there had been no policy violation, at which time plaintiff was allowed to return to work.

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Even when a person chooses to participate in a risky sport, he or she does not “assume the risk of whatever dangerous conduct, however unreasonable, is engaged in by the [other] participants.” Instead, in a negligence case, the reasonableness of the defendant’s conduct will be determined based on the circumstances of the case.

In Crisp v. Nelms, No. E2017-01044-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. March 28, 2018), plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a bicycle rider who died following a cycling accident. At the time of the accident, decedent and four other cyclists were riding in a paceline, which is when the riders proceed in a straight line close together with the front rider setting the pace. Plaintiff alleged that the rider in front suddenly slowed, causing the second rider to bump wheels with the front rider. The second rider then went down, and decedent was unable to avoid the accident, hitting the second rider and being thrown off his bike. Decedent “was rendered quadriplegic by the wreck,” and died a few months thereafter.

Plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the first and second rider, who both filed motions for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The trial court ruled that “paceline cycling is inherently dangerous and that Decedent was at least 50% at fault for his accident.” In its order, the trial court stated that “the ultimate conclusion is that these types of accidents are foreseeable in bicycle racing, especially this type of close racing,” and that “these parties chose to engage in this activity.” On appeal, summary judgment was reversed.

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Where a painter fell off a ladder but could not prove cause in fact or proximate cause, summary judgment on his negligence claim was affirmed.

In Epps v. Thompson, No. M2017-01818-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. March 15, 2018), plaintiff was hired by defendant to paint the exterior of her house. Defendant provided the painting material and two ladders, a folding ladder and an extension ladder, for plaintiff’s use. While using the folding ladder to paint the uppermost eave of the home, defendant fell and was injured. He subsequently filed this suit, claiming the “landowner was negligent for providing him with old ladders that were unsafe.”

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When a potential personal injury defendant dies after an alleged tort, the survival statute will extend the running of the statute of limitations “for a maximum of six months from the date of the death of the tortfeasor or until a personal representative has been appointed.” The fact that a plaintiff may not have actually discovered the death of the potential defendant is not relevant to the tolling of the statute of limitations.

In Putnam v. Leach, No. W2017-00728-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2018), plaintiff was injured in a car accident when defendant crossed the center line and struck her vehicle. The accident occurred on February 2, 2015. Defendant died on January 4, 2016, though plaintiff was unaware of this death. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant on February 2, 2016, and service was returned on February 26, 2016 with a note “indicating that [defendant] was deceased.” Plaintiff’s attorney, however, did not read the note at that time. On July 18, 2016, plaintiff called her attorney to check on the case, at which time the attorney saw the note indicating that defendant was deceased. On October 21, 2016, plaintiff petitioned the probate court to appoint an administrator ad litem, and plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming the administrator ad litem on October 31, 2016.

Defendant administrator filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that plaintiff’s complaint was not timely filed. The trial court granted the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

When an medical malpractice defendant files a third-party complaint based on a contractual indemnity provision, that third-party complaint may not fall within Tennessee’s Health Care Liability Act.

In Johnson v. Rutherford County, Tennessee, No. M2017-00618-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2018), plaintiffs sued various government entities for extreme injuries their son received when attacked by another inmate in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center. In an amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the director of health services at the jail had been warned about the other inmate’s violent tendencies. When filing its answer, the County also filed a third-party complaint against the director of health services’ employer, Rudd Medical Services, which was the “entity that provided medical services to prisoners housed” at the jail. “The County alleged that it had entered into a contract with Rudd for the provision of health care services to inmates, which contract contained a clause requiring Rudd to indemnify and hold the County harmless from any claims based upon…the actions of Rudd employees.”

Rudd filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the third-party complaint fell within the parameters of the HCLA and that the County had failed to file a certificate of good faith. The trial court granted the motion, but the Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal.

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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