Personal Injury

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Supreme Court Reaffirms Collateral Source Rule

          On June 2, 2016, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Dedmon v. Steelman, et al., an opinion which was a shot heard around the State of Tennessee regarding its possible impact on the collateral source rule in Tennessee in thousands of personal injury cases. The majority opinion was authored by Judge Brandon Gibson, with a concurrence by Special Judge Joe G. Riley.  Since that time, parties and lawyers took sides on the meaning of the case, and so did both federal and state trial courts.  On one side were those courts who found that the collateral source rule remained in force in Tennessee, and that the Dedmon opinion had changed nothing.  On the other side were those courts who found that the amount of medical bills that could be proven by the plaintiff as reasonable was only the amount that was actually paid, or took a hybrid approach, allowing the jury to hear both the full, undiscounted amount of bills as well as the discounted amount.

As more and more parties in settlement negotiations–and more and more courts–took sides, the  bench and bar waited with bated breath once the Tennessee Supreme Court accepted the application for permission to appeal on October 21, 2016.  Almost exactly 13 months later, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Holly Kirby in Dedmon v. Steelman, ____ S.W.3d ____, 2017 WL 5505409 (Tenn. Nov. 17, 2017).  Its holding reaffirmed the collateral source rule completely, reinstating the law in Tennessee prior to Dedmon, and adopting the majority rule in the United States on the application of the collateral source rule in personal injury cases.  It is a landmark decision, and the opinion was more anticipated than perhaps any tort opinion since the Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Balentine adopted comparative fault in 1992.

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Supreme Court Reaffirms Collateral Source Rule

       On June 2, 2016, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Dedmon v. Steelman,  an opinion which was a shot heard around the State of Tennessee regarding its possible impact on the collateral source rule in Tennessee in thousands of personal injury cases. The majority opinion was authored by Judge Brandon Gibson, with a concurrence by Special Judge Joe G. Riley.  The impact of the opinion quickly became a heated topic of debate among parties, practitioners, and the bench.  Some courts found that the collateral source rule remained in force in Tennessee, and that the Dedmon opinion had changed nothing.  Others determined that the collateral source rule had been augmented such that the amount of medical bills that could be proven by the plaintiff as reasonable was only the amount that was actually paid.  Some took a hybrid approach, allowing the jury to hear both the full, un-discounted amount of bills as well as the discounted amount. The entire bench and bar waited with baited breath for the Supreme Court to weigh in… [Read more…]

A Surprising Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury

In Tennessee, lawyers know that the one-year statute of limitations for personal injury matters is an unforgiving deadline.  But, in car wreck cases (as illustrated by the recent case of Bates v. Green) there is at least one circumstance in which a different statute of limitations applies… [Read more…]

Settlement Agreement Enforceable; Attorney Emails Are the Proof

This case is a good example of why attorneys should always demonstrate professionalism in their communications.  You never know when your email to opposing counsel is going to turn up as an exhibit… [Read more…]

Court of Appeals Provides Guidance on Statutory Summary Judgment Standard

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Rye v. Women’s Care Ctr. of Memphis, MPLLC, 477 S.W.3d 235 (Tenn. 2015) established that Tennessee generally follows the federal standard where summary judgment motions are concerned, but left many open questions–particularly regarding the interplay between the Rye decision and the pre-existing Tennessee statutory summary judgment standard.  (See our write-ups here and here.)  But, the Court of Appeals has recently provided some help for practitioners… [Read more…]

Dance Party Results in Injuries But No Liability

The Court of Appeals  recently examined potential liability from a deck collapse during a party attended by “a ridiculous amount” of high school students.  The upshot?  It seems like a determination that having lots of people jumping and dancing on a deck doesn’t make it forseeable that the deck could break and hurt people…  [Read more…]

Wrongful Death Claims Present Challenges for Surviving Family Members

The recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case Nelson v. Myres, offers a succinct and helpful analysis as to who has the priority right to bring a wrongful death claim, particularly in the situation where the surviving spouse may bear some responsibility for the death. [Read more…]

Employer Not Responsible For Injuries to Employee Who Was Sent Home For Suspicion of Drug Use

In a negligent entrustment action, the employer’s ability to control the employee when he leaves the premises is the essential issue. Knowledge of the employee’s incompetency is also important.  Here, the facts didn’t establish that the employer was at fault.  [Read more…]

Jury Verdict Reversed; Personal Injury Claim Reinstated

For personal injury claims, exacerbation of previous injuries are fraught with peril.  This recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case offers a bit of hope… [Read more…]

Tort Law Blog: Is the Common Knowledge Exception Obsolete?

Last month we wrote about the common knowledge exception, and it crops up again this month. Lawyers, be warned: Even if the common knowledge exception applies in a health care liability case so that expert testimony is not required, the failure to file a certificate of good faith may still be fatal… [Read more…]