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Where plaintiff filed suit against several governmental entities, including an emergency 911 board, based on the failure of the multiple entities to respond to and close a road that suffered a mudslide in a timely manner, the public duty doctrine barred plaintiff’s claims against two of those entities. For the claim against the 911 board, however, immunity was removed by plaintiff’s claim of gross negligence pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-108, and the claim fell within an exception to the public duty doctrine, allowing plaintiff to proceed against that defendant only.

In Lawson v. Hawkins County, No. E2020-01529-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2023), plaintiff filed a GTLA claim after her husband was killed when his car rolled down a mountain after a portion of highway on the mountain was washed away by a mudslide. On the night of the accident, a driver called 911 to warn that the road was washed away at 12:58 a.m. A sheriff’s deputy arrived at the scene at 1:13 a.m., who then called 911 again to discuss the situation. Neither the deputy nor the dispatcher suggested closing the road. The 911 dispatcher placed several calls to various agencies, but at around 1:46 am, the deputy called 911 again reporting that plaintiff’s husband’s car had flipped down the mountain. Shortly thereafter, the deputy stated that a second car had gone down the mountain, at which time the dispatcher stated that she would ask a neighboring county to block the road.

The trial court granted defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, finding that the GTLA “gave defendants immunity from claims alleging recklessness and that the public-duty doctrine independently barred any claims based on negligence.” In its first opinion in this case, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the GTLA “did not provide immunity for claims based on gross negligence or recklessness.” On appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that “when the GTLA removes immunity for negligence, it does so for ordinary negligence only.” The case was then remanded back to the Court of Appeals.

On February 17, 2005, this blog offered its first post.  Almost 19 years later, this post represents the 3000th post that has appeared on this site.

That’s right – 3000 posts.

In that time period, both of my older children have finished grade school, high school, and college.  They are living independent lives with excellent jobs. My oldest is living in Minneapolis and the youngest in Atlanta.  My youngest daughter, not born when this blog was launched, is a junior in high school and actively exploring where she wants to attend college.

Where a plaintiff’s negligence claim against a city was based on a Tennessee city’s failure to inspect the LED lights on a crosswalk sign, the city retained immunity under the GTLA and summary judgment was affirmed.

In Packard v. Bentley, No. E2022-00982-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oc.t 23, 2023), plaintiff filed suit against several defendants, including the city of Gatlinburg, after he was hit by a car while using a crosswalk in Gatlinburg. The crosswalk and road were owned by the State, but the city owned a crosswalk sign on the side of the road. After a similar incident many years prior, the city had added LED lights to the sign, but the lights were not operational at the time of plaintiff’s accident.

The city filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on three grounds. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment, ruling that the city retained its immunity under the GTLA in this case.

Where the trial court found in a bench trial that plaintiff was 20% at fault for a motor vehicle accident and the bus driver was 80% at fault, that ruling was affirmed based on the testimony of the witnesses and findings of fact of the trial judge.

In Cook v. Jefferson County, Tennessee, No. E2022-01537-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 12, 2023), plaintiff was seriously injured and totaled his car when he crashed into a bus on a foggy morning. The accident occurred in a school zone, and the bus was stopped across two lanes of traffic, blocking both lanes, as it attempted to turn left out of the school exit.

Defendant presented testimony from an accident reconstructionist who opined that plaintiff had been traveling 15-20 miles over the 25 mile per hour school zone speed limit when he first began braking, and that plaintiff was the cause of the accident. On cross examination, however, the expert admitted that, due to the foggy conditions, plaintiff would not have been able to stop in time to avoid an accident even if he had not been speeding.

Statements made in a meeting between defendant hospital and decedent’s family were not privileged and did not fall under the QIC statute.

In Castillo v. Rex, No. E2022-00322-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct App. Oct. 4, 2023), plaintiff filed an HCLA suit after the death of her husband. Her husband died shortly after he was discharged from defendant hospital’s emergency room. The hospital held a Quality Improvement Committee (“QIC”) proceeding to investigate the care decedent received. Sometime thereafter, representatives from defendant hospital met with members of decedent’s family at a CANDOR meeting, where “Plaintiff was advised that Decedent should not have been discharged because the CT scan revealed a bleed.”

During depositions in the HCLA case, defense counsel instructed a physician not to answer questions about statements made at the CANDOR meeting. When plaintiff requested documents used in preparation for the CANDOR meeting, defendant moved for a protective order “to prohibit further inquiry into the nature and contents of all statements made at the CANDOR meeting as direct or indirect discovery of the QIC proceeding itself.” The trial court denied the motion for a protective order, and on interlocutory appeal, that denial was affirmed.

Where surveillance videos of plaintiff were obtained in preparation for litigation and were thus work product, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to require defendant to only produce those surveillance videos he intended to use at trial for impeachment purposes.

In Locke v. Aston, No. M2022-01820-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2023), plaintiff filed an HCLA action against defendant doctor. After plaintiff nonsuited her first case and in anticipation of plaintiff re-filing, defendant’s counsel obtained surveillance videos of plaintiff. After plaintiff re-filed her case, a discovery dispute arose around the production of these surveillance videos. While the trial court originally ruled that the defendants should produce the videos without limitation, it subsequently amended its ruling and ultimately found that the surveillance videos were work product and that defendant was only required to produce those videos he intended to use at trial for impeachment purposes. On appeal, this ruling was affirmed.

Tenn. R. Civ. P. 26.02(3) governs when material that qualifies as work product is nonetheless discoverable by an opposing party. The Rule requires the person seeking discovery to show that they have a “substantial need of the materials in the preparation of the case and [are] unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means.” By ruling that only the videos that would be used for impeachment were discoverable, the trial court had agreed with defendant that plaintiff did not have a substantial need of surveillance video that corroborated her claim. Thus, substantial need was the primary issue in this appeal.

About eight months ago I started another blog,  Practical Procedure and Evidence.  I blog about issues relating to civil and appellate procedure and evidence that impact civil trial lawyers in Tennessee.

Here are some recent posts:

Where plaintiff filed an action for malicious prosecution and abuse of process based on a criminal theft case, summary judgment for defendant was affirmed. A grand jury indicted plaintiff of the theft charges, which created a rebuttable presumption of probable cause for purposes of the malicious prosecution claim, and plaintiff was unable to prove the elements of her abuse of process claim.

In Christmas v. Kington, No. E2022-00699-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2023), plaintiff and defendant had previously been in a romantic relationship. At two different times, defendant filed civil suits against plaintiff based on the theft of jewelry from defendant’s home, but those suits were both voluntarily dismissed. Defendant also called the local sheriff’s office to report the theft of several pieces of jewelry. Defendant informed the detective that plaintiff’s son had called and informed him that plaintiff had stolen and sold several pieces of jewelry, including a men’s Rolex watch. When defendant went to the store where plaintiff allegedly sold the jewelry, he saw the watch and a few other pieces he recognized.

The sheriff’s office investigated the matter and brought charges, and plaintiff was indicted by a grand jury for theft. Defendant did not testify before any court or grand jury and did not provide documents or records to the grand jury. The criminal charges were eventually dismissed by the State, but nothing in the record indicated that the dismissal was on the merits or based on a lack of evidence.

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