Tennessee Defense

Lawyers Association


  • 25 Jun 2020 8:00 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    On June 22, 2020, DRI and TDLA members Kenneth W. Ward and Hannah S. Lowe (Trammell, Adkins & Ward, P.C., Knoxville, Tennessee) received a favorable ruling from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which overturned a jury verdict in a slip and fall case brought against their clients, Beaver Hollow L.P. (BHLP), the owner of an apartment complex in Johnson City, Tennessee, and Olympia Management, Inc. (Olympia), the management company with which BHLP had contracted to manage the day-to-day operation of the apartments. 

    The plaintiff, a resident of the apartments, was injured in February 2015 after slipping on ice and snow in the parking lot.  The plaintiff sued BHLP and Olympia in the Circuit Court for Washington County alleging negligence against both defendants and seeking compensatory damages.  She was later permitted by the trial court to amend to seek punitive damages as well.  The case was tried over several days in November 2018.  At the end of the first phase of trial, the jury allocated fault 49% to the plaintiff, 50% to Olympia, and 1% to BHLP.  Compensatory damages were found to be $1,251,396.41, which was reduced to $638,212.17 after allocation of plaintiff’s 49% share of fault.  The matter proceeded to a second phase of trial to determine the amount of punitive damages against Olympia (the jury having determined that the plaintiff had established in the first phase entitlement to an award of punitive damages against Olympia only), and the jury ultimately awarded $1,400,000.00 in punitive damages against Olympia. 

    The defendants filed multiple post-trial motions, which were all denied.  On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals found one issue to be dispositive and require that the verdict be vacated and remanded for a new trial: the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict with respect to BHLP, the property owner.  Finding that there was absolutely no material evidence whatsoever in the record to support the jury’s allocation of fault to BHLP, as BHLP could not simply be held liable when the proof showed it was merely a passive owner of the apartments who had delegated complete actual control of the apartments to Olympia, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict as to BHLP.  The failure to grant a directed verdict to BHLP meant that fault must be reallocated, which was particularly significant in this case where the plaintiff had been found to be 49% at fault, as had the jury allocated the 1% to the plaintiff instead of to BHLP, the defendants would have prevailed under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault system as the plaintiff would have been found to be 50% at fault. 

    Having found that the trial court erred in failing to grant a directed verdict to BHLP, and as fault could not be reallocated on appeal, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded for the trial court to enter a directed verdict as to BHLP and for a new trial with Olympia as the sole remaining defendant.  Because the Court of Appeals found this one issue to be dispositive and mandate a new trial in this matter, all other issues on appeal were pretermitted. 

    You can read more about the case, Geneva Jessica Day v. Beaver Hollow, L.P., et. al., Appeal. No. E2019-01266-COA-R3-CV by following this link to the full text of the opinion.    

  • 27 May 2020 8:00 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    TN Supreme Court Order Extends Judicial Emergency and Eases Court Restrictions

    May 27, 2020

    The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an Order that extends the judicial state of emergency and eases restrictions imposed by previous court orders. These changes include allowing jury trials to begin after July 3 with strict protocols; allows eviction cases to be heard beginning June 1; ends deadline extensions; and allows local judicial districts to continue operating under their approved plans for expanded in-person proceedings. The Order continues to encourage remote proceedings via video or audio conference whenever possible.  

    Today’s Order allows jury trials to begin after July 3, 2020, if strict social distancing and capacity protocols can be met and CDC guidelines are followed. The Order also provides for six-person juries in civil cases unless a twelve-person jury is specifically requested by a party.  

    Deadlines in court rules, statutes, and administrative rules that were previously extended until May 31 are extended only until June 5. After this date, the Supreme Court does not anticipate any further extension of deadlines. “The point of extending deadlines was to give judges, attorneys, and litigants time to adjust to this new normal and weather this storm a bit,” Chief Justice Bivins said. “But, extensions cannot go on indefinitely. Judges, of course, can extend deadlines on an individual basis when permissible.”

    The Order also lifts the broad restrictions on evictions. As of June 1, eviction cases may be heard if the landlord states under penalty of perjury that the action is not subject to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

    The Supreme Court issued an order on April 24 that allowed judicial districts to expand in-person proceedings if the Supreme Court approved a plan submitted by the district addressing such issues as social distancing, limiting access to the courtroom, and other strategies designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 as much as possible. The majority of judicial districts are now operating under those approved plans, which are available on the TNCourts.gov website. Judicial districts that did not submit a plan are continuing to operate under the parameters set forth in the March 25 Order. 

    “For now, each court will continue to operate under their approved plan or the March 25 Order,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said. “Our top priority throughout the pandemic has been ensuring courts remain open and accessible for Tennesseans. We have worked diligently with local officials to ensure that emergency orders of protection, bond hearings, custody hearings, and other critical matters can be heard promptly. We have had to balance access to the courts with the health and safety of all participants and workers in the judicial system.

    Over the past ten weeks, courts across Tennessee have continued to utilize technology to keep courts open and accessible. Dozens of courts have held their first remote proceedings via video conference, and proceedings have been live-streamed to YouTube for the first time. For example, the Tennessee Supreme Court held oral arguments via video conference twice, including a live-stream, the Court of Appeals held oral arguments via video conference, and the 20th Judicial District Chancery Court conducted hearings in a school voucher case via video conference over multiple days. In total, over 700 video proceedings have taken place on Zoom licenses managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts since the middle of April. Some counties and individual judges have also purchased their own video conferencing tools that are not managed by the AOC.

    “While there certainly are some challenges, many judges are finding a lot of efficiencies and advantages to deploying remote proceedings in certain circumstances,” Chief Justice Bivins said. “Sometimes great innovation comes out of crisis and that is what is happening across the Tennessee judiciary.”

    As with the previous Orders related to Covid-19, today’s Order applies to all state and local courts across Tennessee, including state circuit and chancery courts, general sessions courts, juvenile courts, and municipal courts.

    The Order is available here

  • 29 Apr 2020 7:00 PM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Thank you to the TDLA Professional Negligence & Healthcare section chair Chris Vrettos with Gideon, Cooper, and Essary PLC for the TDLA Amicus Brief on this case culminating in a favorable result. Please see summary and opinions below.

    The Supreme Court just released its opinion in Martin v. Rolling Hills Hospital, a pre-suit notice case involving deficiencies in the HIPAA authorization.  The Supreme Court’s decision resulted in a reinstatement of the dismissal originally granted to the Defendants by the trial court.

    Just as importantly, the Supreme Court addressed some questions—particular to HIPAA authorization deficiency cases—that up until now had been answered inconsistently by various Courts.  In summary:

    • Defendants wishing to challenge a Plaintiff’s compliance with the pre-suit notice statute should show how Plaintiff’s noncompliance frustrated the purpose of the statute, or denied the defendants a benefit conferred by the statute.
    • One way to do this is to show that the HIPAA authorization accompanying the notice lacked one or more of the 6 core elements required by federal regulations.
    • While Defendants must still explain how they were prejudiced by Plaintiff’s noncompliance, they need not attempt to “test” a deficient HIPAA authorization.
    • Once Defendants have met the burden described above, the burden shifts back to Plaintiffs to show substantial compliance with, or extraordinary cause for failure to comply with, pre-suit notice requirements.
    • Notably, prejudice is relevant to the question of substantial compliance, but it is not its own analytical element in ruling upon a Rule 12.06 motion regarding Plaintiff’s failure to comply with pre-suit notice requirements.

    Majority Opinion: click here

    Separate Opinion: click here

    TDLA members Ashley Cleek and Brandon Stout with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell in Jackson, TN were attorneys for the appellants, Rolling Hills Hospital, LLC, and Universal Health Services, Inc.

    TDLA Members: If you would like to submit a request for TDLA Amicus Brief consideration, please email office@tdla.net

  • 24 Apr 2020 12:00 PM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Please see Tennessee Order regarding modification of In-Person Court Proceedings and Extension of Tennessee Deadlines. Click Here

  • 30 Mar 2020 9:00 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    On March 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court declared a state of emergency for the Judicial Branch of Tennessee government and activated a Continuity of Operations Plan for the Courts of Tennessee. On that same day, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 21, sections 3.01(c) and 4.02(c), to the extent these provisions limit lawyers to a maximum of eight (8) hours of Distance Learning, for the required continuing legal education hours for 2019. On March 24, 2020, the Court continued the suspension of in-person court proceedings through April 30, 2020, and the extension of deadlines through May 6, 2020.

    In furtherance of the Judicial Branch’s obligation to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19, the Court temporarily suspends Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 21, sections 3.01(c) and 4.02(c), to the extent these provisions limit lawyers to a maximum of eight (8) hours of Distance Learning, for the required continuing legal education hours for 2020, and the required continuing legal education hours for those lawyers seeking reactivation or reinstatement in 2020 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 30 and Rule 21. Effective immediately and through December 31, 2020, lawyers may earn all or any portion of the required continuing legal education hours for 2020, or for purposes of seeking reactivation or reinstatement in 2020, through approved Distance Learning completed through December 31, 2020.

    Order may be seen by clicking here.

  • 25 Mar 2020 6:00 PM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Tennessee courts remain open, limitations on in-person court proceedings extended through April 30, 2020. Read more: click here

    Please continue to check the court websites for updated information during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • 16 Mar 2020 7:00 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Many courts in our region have suspended in-person court proceedings to help cope with the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation. TDLA has compiled them for your reference.

    Tennessee: click here

    Kentucky: click here

    Mississippi: click here

    Alabama: click here

    Georgia: click here

    Arkansas: click here

    North Carolina: click here

    As this is an ongoing situation, please visit the courts website for the most current information.

    The CDC has the following guidelines for coping with COVID-19 at your workplace: click here

    Stay well and safe!

  • 12 Mar 2020 9:30 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Dear SEWL Attendees and Presenters:

    We value the health and safety of those who were planning to attend the Southeastern Women Litigators Conference; therefore, in response to the Coronavirus concerns raised by the employers of our speakers and attendees as well as the information issued by the CDC, we are postponing the first Southeastern Women Litigators Conference that was set for March 26, 2020 at the Atlanta Zoo. The Zoo is allowing us to reschedule the conference this year without any cancellation fees. As soon as we have identified the rescheduled date, we will let you know in order that you can confirm your attendance for the new date. If your schedule does not permit you to attend, we will refund your registration fee.

    Please be safe!

    Thank you,
    Karen Karabinos
    Chair, Southeastern Women Litigators Conference

  • 02 Mar 2020 9:00 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Update from Chris Vrettos and Drew Reynolds, chairs of the TDLA Healthcare & Professional Negligence Section:

    The Supreme Court has just reached its decision in Willeford v. Klepper regarding the ex parte interview statute.  The Court struck down the statute as enacted as unconstitutional. However, the statute remains constitutional if “elided” to make QPOs permissive, rather than mandatory. 

    More info: click here and here

  • 27 Feb 2020 7:45 AM | Mary Gadd (Administrator)

    Please see the link below regarding the Tennessee Supreme Court decision holding that statutory caps on noneconomic damages does not violate the Tennessee constitution.

    Thanks to Sean Martin with Carr Allison and his team for providing the TDLA Amicus Brief on this issue to the court.

    TN Supreme Court Majority Opinion may be seen by clicking here.

    Summary of the decision: click here

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software