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Loss of Consortium Plaintiff Required to File Notice Before Complaint with Claims Commission.

Where plaintiffs included wife’s claim for loss of consortium in their complaint with the Tennessee Claims Commission, but the wife had not given notice of her loss of consortium claim to the Division of Claims Administration within the applicable statute of limitations, dismissal of the wife’s claim was affirmed.

In Kampmeyer v. State of Tennessee, No. M2019-01196-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2020), plaintiffs were a husband and wife. The husband had been injured in a car accident allegedly caused by a TDOT vehicle and trailer parked in a roadway, and within the one-year statute of limitations, the husband filed a “Claim for Damages in the Division of Claims Administration” (the DCA). Because the DCA made no decision on his claim within 90 days, the claim was transferred to the Claims Commission.

Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint with the Claims Commission, including husband’s claims as well as a claim by wife for loss of consortium. The State “moved to dismiss [wife’s] loss of consortium claim on the ground that she did not file a notice of claim with the DCA within the one-year statute of limitations.” Because the complaint was filed within one year from the date of the accident, plaintiffs argued that wife’s “loss of consortium claim should not have been dismissed but should have been transferred to the Board of Claims for processing[.]” The Claims Commission agreed with the State and dismissed wife’s claim, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

“In Tennessee, the Claims Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over specified categories of monetary claims against the State, including but not limited to the negligent operation or maintenance of any motor vehicle by a state employee and dangerous conditions on state maintained highways.” (internal citation and quotation omitted). Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-402(a)(1), “[a] party bringing a claim against the State must give written notice of the claimant’s claim to the DCA as a condition precedent to recovery,” and that notice must be given within the applicable statute of limitations. Once notice is filed, the DCA has 90 days to either “honor or deny the claim,” and if neither occurs the claim is automatically transferred to the Claims Commission.

In this case, it was undisputed that the wife did not file notice of her loss of consortium claim with the DCA. The issue, then, was whether the failure to file notice was cured by the inclusion of her claim with the Claims Commission complaint, which was filed within one year of the accident. In its analysis, the Court noted that “a loss of consortium claim is a distinct claim” and is “a separate claim from that of an injured spouse.” (internal citations omitted). Further, the Court pointed out that the statutory requirement that notice be filed with the DCA is unambiguous. Based on these premises, the Court ruled that the wife’s claim was barred, reasoning:

Without notice of [wife’s] claim, the DCA was not afforded the opportunity to investigate or settle her claim before [plaintiffs] filed their complaint with the Claims Commission. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 9-8-402(b), a claim is barred unless the notice is given within the time provided by statutes of limitations applicable by the courts for similar occurrences from which the claim arise. Because [wife] failed to file separate notice of her claim with the DCA within one year of the motor vehicle accident, we conclude that [her] claim is barred.

(internal quotations omitted). Dismissal of the loss of consortium claim was thus affirmed.

When a claim falls within the jurisdiction of the Claims Commission, it is imperative to follow the applicable statutory requirements. Failure to do so can result in an otherwise meritorious claim being barred.

NOTE: This opinion was published less than one month after oral arguments in this case.

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