Where the school secretary sued the employer of a school bus driver for reckless infliction of emotional distress after the driver caused a school bus accident killing six children, and the secretary alleged that the employer ignored multiple warnings regarding the driver’s unsafe practices,  the Court of Appeals ruled that the claim against defendant employer should have been dismissed because “the secretary [was] not a person who falls within the reasonably foreseeable scope of the particular substantial and unjustifiable risk consciously disregarded by the employer and, therefore, [could not] recover under a reckless infliction of emotional distress claim.”

In Bibbs v. Durham School Services, L.P., No. E2020-00688-COA-R10-CV, 2022 WL 1042733 (Tenn. Ct App. April 7, 2022), plaintiff was the school secretary at an elementary school, and defendant was the employer of school bus drivers for that school. In November 2016, school bus driver Johntony Walker lost control of the bus he was driving and had an accident, killing six children and injuring many others. Plaintiff alleged that defendant had ignored numerous warnings about Walker’s dangerous driving practices, including over one thousand notifications from the monitoring software that Walker was speeding while driving the bus; Walker being at fault for two accidents in a 34-day period just a few months before this accident; knowledge that Walker would “slam on his brakes to make the children hit their heads;” video of Walker talking on the phone with a headset while driving; evidence that Walker had fallen asleep while driving twice; evidence that Walker would intentionally swerve the school bus; and evidence from just five days before the crash showing that Walker had twenty-five speeding incidents, including five times when he was exceeding the speed limit by at least twenty miles per hour.

Plaintiff asserted multiple claims in her complaint, but the only claim at issue on appeal was her claim for reckless infliction of emotional distress. Defendant had filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied, ruling that plaintiff had satisfied the elements of that claim. On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that dismissal should have been granted.

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A new decision of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Southern Steel & Concrete, Inc. v. Southern Steel & Construction, Inc.,  No. W2020-00475-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 14, 2022), summarizes Tennessee’s law on alter ego issues.

Here is some key language from the opinion (all of the language in bold is quoted from the opinion):

           In Oceanics Schools, Inc. v. Barbour, 112 S.W.3d 135, 145 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003),this Court provided a “blueprint of factors” to be considered when addressing an alter ego issue. Boles v. Nat’l Dev. Co. Inc., 175 S.W.3d 226, 245 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005). We explained that blueprint as follows:

A provision of the GTLA allowing for the recovery of attorney’s fees by a governmental employee who was the prevailing party in a GTLA suit was constitutional and did not deprive plaintiff of her right to access the courts.

In Taylor v. Miriam’s Promise, No. M2020-01509-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 1040371 (Tenn. Ct. App. April 7, 2022, plaintiff filed suit against twelve defendants after she placed her child for adoption at birth but subsequently changed her mind. Two of these defendants were Kellye Reid, a licensed social worker, and Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC), the employer of Ms. Reid. Plaintiff alleged that Ms. Reid had her “execute legal documents while under the influence of medication and falsely led [plaintiff] to believe that she could change her mind,” and that CRMC was vicariously liable for Ms. Reid’s actions.

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Where plaintiff had previously gotten a default judgment as to defendant’s liability in a car accident case, and plaintiff had subsequently filed an amended complaint seeking increased damages but defendant was not served with the amended complaint, the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling that the judgment based on the amended complaint was void and plaintiff had not proven “exceptional circumstances to deprive the defendant of Rule 60 relief.”

In Higgins v. McCord, No. M2021-00789-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 1, 2022), plaintiff filed this negligence suit against defendant after the two were involved in a car accident. Plaintiff’s initial complaint was filed in May 2009 and sought $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Defendant was served with this complaint but never filed an answer or other responsive pleading, and a default judgment as to liability only was entered in December 2009.

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Where plaintiff filed an exhibit with its HCLA complaint that did not comply with the certificate of good faith requirements, summary judgment for defendant should have been granted.

In Estate of Blankenship v. Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, No. E2021-00714-COA-R10-CV, 2022 WL 951256 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 30, 2022), plaintiff filed this HCLA suit alleging that decedent died while a resident of defendant nursing home due to defendant’s negligence. Plaintiff’s complaint stated that Exhibit 7 to the complaint satisfied the HCLA certificate of good faith requirement. Exhibit 7 was a “one-paragraph letter” from a nurse practitioner (NP) which stated that the NP was competent as an expert under the HCLA, that she had “reviewed the medical issues,” and that she had “determined that violations of the standards of care occurred during [decedent’s] residency” at defendant nursing home.

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Where the trial court did not provide sufficient reasoning for its grant of summary judgment in a misrepresentation case, summary judgment was vacated and the case was remanded to the trial court.

In Smith v. Walker, No. W2021-00241-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2022), plaintiffs purchased a home from defendants. Shortly after the purchase, plaintiffs discovered the home was contaminated with mold, and they filed this action asserting claims for breach of contract, negligence, gross negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and intentional misrepresentation.

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Where plaintiff was injured while mowing a common area of his neighborhood, but plaintiff did not have permission to mow in the common area and permission was required by the neighborhood covenants, summary judgment in favor of defendant in this premises liability case was affirmed.

In Walker v. Rivertrail Crossing Homeowner’s Association Inc., No. W2020-01201-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 852904 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 23, 2022), plaintiff and his wife lived in the Rivertrail neighborhood and were members of the defendant homeowner’s association (HOA). Plaintiff’s home was adjacent to a common area that included a retaining wall at the edge of the neighborhood property, and plaintiff complained to a member of the HOA board that the ivy covering a portion of this common area was an eyesore. The board member told plaintiff to submit his concerns in writing to the HOA, but plaintiff failed to do so. Instead, plaintiff attempted to cut the ivy using his riding lawnmower, and when he encountered a trough that was covered by ivy and not visible, he was thrown from the mower and injured.

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Where plaintiff filed a products liability claim based on a hip replacement device she had received, but her hip replacement occurred more than ten years before her suit was filed, dismissal based on the statute of repose was affirmed.

In Jones v. Smith & Nephew Inc., No. W2021-00426-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 767709 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 14, 2022), plaintiff had a hip replacement in January 2009 in which a metal-on-metal device was implanted. This device caused plaintiff significant issues, which resulted in her having to have a second surgery to replace the original replacement device in November 2019.

Plaintiff filed this products liability suit in November 2020, asserting that defendant, who manufactured, marketed, and sold the original replacement device, “actively and intentionally misled the public, medical community, health care providers, and patients into believing these products were safe and effective.” In an amended complaint, plaintiff asserted that the statute of repose found in the Tennessee Products Liability Act (TPLA) would not bar her action because “the injuries suffered by [plaintiff] often take considerably longer than ten years to manifest themselves, in a fashion similar to injuries from exposure to asbestos.” Defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on the statute of repose, which the trial court granted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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Where plaintiff gave her husband permission to sign her name to an indemnity agreement in conjunction with obtaining insurance bonds, and plaintiff’s husband had the opportunity to read the indemnity agreement and discover its contents, summary judgment on plaintiff’s negligent misrepresentation claim against the insurance agent who allegedly stated that the indemnity agreement did not include plaintiff’s personal property was affirmed.

In King v. Bradley, No. E2021-00261-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 678568 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 8, 2022), plaintiff’s husband and step-son owned a commercial electrical contracting business. In conjunction with a work project, the business was required to obtain performance and payment bonds. Defendant was the insurance agent who assisted in obtaining these bonds, and in conjunction with getting the bonds, plaintiff, plaintiff’s husband, plaintiff’s step-son, and the business were required to sign an indemnity agreement. Plaintiff was not present when the indemnity agreement was to be signed, but she gave her husband verbal permission over the phone to sign her name. According to plaintiff, she told her husband that she did not care what he signed her name to “as long as we’re not putting up our personal stuff.” Plaintiff asserted that defendant was asked whether any personal property, as opposed to business property, was covered by the indemnity agreement, to which he responded that it was not. Plaintiff’s husband signed the indemnity agreement without reading it or having an attorney review it.

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The Tennessee General Assembly has approved changes to the rules of civil, appellate, and criminal procedure.  The new rule changes are effective on July 1, 2022.

The rule changes are reflected in the following sections from BirdDog Law‘s rule books:

Rules of Civil Procedure

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