Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Published on:

wheelchairIf you have recently gone to an amusement park, played a group sport, or rented a mountain bike, you likely signed a waiver before you were allowed to participate in any of those activities. That waiver informed you of your rights and asked you to assume the risk of the activities you were undertaking so that others could not be held liable for any injuries that you might experience. Sometimes, these types of waivers will also ask individuals to waive their right to certain claims, like negligence claims, before participating. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looked at whether it was permissible for a transportation operator to require that its clients waive any right to negligence claims.

In this Tennessee personal injury case, F.C. was 77 and recovering from a total knee replacement when he needed to visit his doctor for a follow-up appointment. Since he could not drive, his hospital, HealthSouth, arranged for a transportation service to pick him up, take him to his appointment, and take him back home. The transport van was owned by a company called MedicOne. Prior to using MedicOne’s services, F.C. was required to sign a waiver that specifically released MedicOne from any claims arising from negligence by MedicOne or its related parties. F.C. signed the waiver. After his appointment, while F.C. was being picked up, he fell when getting back into the MedicOne van and re-injured his knee. F.C. later sued MedicOne for negligence because it failed to use reasonable care in transporting F.C. In its Answer and a later Motion to Dismiss, MedicOne pointed to the waiver signed by F.C. and the release provision that released MedicOne from any potential claims. The trial court agreed and dismissed F.C.’s claims. F.C. appealed.

On appeal, F.C. argued that the waiver in the MedicOne agreement was unconscionable and invalid because MedicOne was a professional provider of transportation services, and professionals generally cannot require their clients to waive negligence claims. Under Tennessee law, exculpatory clauses in agreements with professionals can be invalidated when the professional is providing a service that is valuable and necessary to the public, and, as a result, the professional holds an unfair bargaining position. For example, Tennessee courts have held that doctors cannot require patients to release the doctor from liability for claims that may arise while medical services are being conducted, since the patient is at an unfair disadvantage while seeking the assistance of the doctor. F.C. argued that a similar standard should apply in his case to invalidate MedicOne’s agreement.

Published on:

prisonPrison settings are a common place for negligence claims to arise. Since prisons are responsible for the individuals who are in their care, it is easier for a plaintiff to establish that the prison owed a duty to protect the plaintiff from harm. However, even when an accident or injury occurs in a prison, a plaintiff must still be able to show that the harm that occurred was foreseeable. This is because prison officials are not strictly liable for any and every bad act that may occur; they may only be held liable for those that they could have anticipated but failed to prevent. A recent case before the Court of Appeals in Tennessee illustrates these limits on accountability.

In this Tennessee personal injury case, W.C. brought claims against the State of Tennessee after he was seriously injured in a knife attack by another inmate at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. W.C. was attacked by his cellmate, C.M., with a handmade knife. W.C. sued Tennessee for negligence, arguing that state officials should have known that C.M. was likely to injure someone because he had previously made a handmade knife at the prison and had previously been reported for dangerous activity. W.C. argued that despite such knowledge, the State failed to do anything to protect other prisoners from C.M. In response, the State denied having any knowledge of any violent tendencies by C.M. After discovery was conducted, the State moved for summary judgment on W.C.’s claims, arguing that there was no evidence of prior knowledge.

The State presented evidence that C.M. had previously received two separate security assessments, had no apparent history of violent charges, and wasn’t considered to be a security threat. W.C. and C.M. had been cellmates for almost three months and had no issues. They got along well, and W.C. never reported any threats from C.M. nor any fears of C.M. hurting him. Indeed, prior to the assault, W.C. stated that he did not feel at all threatened by C.M. Based on this evidence, the Tennessee Claims Commission granted the State’s motion for summary judgment. W.C. appealed.

Published on:

haircutIf you are injured in a car, truck, or pedestrian accident, there are multiple categories of damages that you may seek to recover in a personal injury lawsuit. First, you may claim expenses that you have incurred as a result of your accident, such as medical bills or repair costs for your car or other property. Second, you may seek pain and suffering damages for the pain you experienced during and after your accident, as well as any suffering that may continue to linger long after the accident is over. Third, you may also have lost earnings and lost future earnings. These damages arise when you are unable to work or forced to reduce your workload as a result of your accident, or when your accident leaves you permanently injured in a way that affects your ability to work and make money down the road.  A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looks at how lost future earnings are calculated in Tennessee.

Continue reading

Published on:

staircasePremises liability and negligence claims arise when property owners have knowledge of circumstance or conditions on their property that could potentially cause harm, but they do not do anything to address those risks. While knowledge or awareness of a risk can be broadly interpreted, courts have consistently held that property owners should not be held liable for conditions that they could not have anticipated would cause harm. Thus, when a stair breaks unexpectedly, without reason, the owner of the stairs usually will not be at fault. Similarly, as discussed in the case below, when a restaurant owner has never had problems with the safety of a handrail before, and a fall occurs, the restaurant owner will not be held responsible unless he had some indication that the injury and fall could happen.

Continue reading

Published on:

penWhen a litigant appeals a decision by a lower court in a personal injury or wrongful death action, the appeals court must review the record that was before the lower court, the evidence presented to the judge or jury, and the reasoning behind the court or jury’s decision. In order to conduct an adequate review, the appellate court must have enough information from the lower court to fully understand what happened and how the court reached the outcome that it did. When a lower court fails to do so, the appellate court may be forced to overturn or vacate the decision, as it did in a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case.

Continue reading

Published on:

hiding faceWhen a party is injured by the negligence of another party, that individual typically has claims for the pain and suffering and other damages that they experienced. Additionally, in some states, like Tennessee, those who knew the party, were closely related to the person injured, or witnessed the injury that occurred may also have their own claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Since NIED claims could potentially open a defendant up to many claims by many different parties, they are typically construed quite narrowly and require plaintiffs to show that they were immediately affected by an “injury producing event.” In a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the court considered whether an injury producing event had to occur instantly or could be the product of prolonged negligence over time.

Continue reading

Published on:

spaWhen a plaintiff wins a lawsuit, the jury must typically decide the amount of damages that the plaintiff should be awarded, based on the evidence that the plaintiff has presented at trial. When a plaintiff so requests, juries can award damages for both economic injuries that were suffered (such as costs incurred or wages lost) and noneconomic injuries, such as pain and suffering. While parties may attempt to quantify noneconomic injuries to make it easier for juries to decide what should be awarded, the jury has discretion in determining how much money they think is appropriate. When a jury awards a plaintiff an amount of money that seems far too low or far too high, parties may appeal to the court for relief, asking the court to add to the award or reduce the award, based on the evidence presented at trial.

Continue reading

Published on:

prisonAt the heart of every negligence case is the question of whether the alleged defendant actually owed a duty to the plaintiff who was injured. Without the presence of a duty, the defendant simply cannot be held responsible for any accident or injury that might have occurred. In Tennessee, individuals generally do not owe a duty to prevent another individual from harming themselves or to prevent a harm that they had no part in creating. This is often known as the no duty to aid doctrine. However, as with most general rules, there are some exceptions. Recently, the Tennessee Court of Appeals considered whether a special exception applies to prisons when they are in custody of a prisoner, or even after the prisoner is released.

Continue reading

Published on:

fireIn most negligence cases, a plaintiff must show how a defendant breached a duty and how that breach caused his or her injuries. But in certain scenarios, a plaintiff may be certain that a defendant caused the injury but uncertain how the breach occurred or why it caused the injury it did. For instance, a plaintiff may own a shop that sells safes on the second floor of a building, when a safe falls out of the window of the store and onto a passerby. The passerby does not know how or why the safe fell but can be reasonably certain that it is something that should not have happened and is likely a result of the store owner’s negligence. This is the type of scenario in which the res ipsa loquitur doctrine can be applied. The res ipsa loquitur doctrine means “the thing speaks for itself” and applies when a plaintiff lacks direct proof of a defendant’s negligence but is entitled to an inference that the defendant was negligent. In a recent case before the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court considered but rejected an argument based on res ipsa loquitur.

Continue reading

Published on:

fireWhen a plaintiff is injured as a result of a defendant’s actions, many different types of damages can be claimed. A plaintiff may seek reimbursement for medical expenses or lost wages, or the value of property destroyed or damaged. In certain situations, plaintiffs may also recover for the emotional distress that they suffered as a result of their accident or injury. While emotional distress damages are typically allowed when a personal injury has occurred, a recent Tennessee Court held that they were not allowed as a result of property damage.

Continue reading