Tennessee Court Discusses Dismissal of Car Accident Case for Failure to Prosecute

Some people who are involved in car accidents are tempted to avoid the expenses of retaining an attorney by representing themselves in a civil lawsuit. Few non-attorneys truly understand the nuances of the law, though, and self-represented parties often receive unfavorable outcomes due to their failure to comply with substantive and procedural requirements. This was demonstrated in a recent car accident case arising out of Tennessee, in which the court dismissed a self-represented plaintiff’s case for lack of prosecution. If you suffered harm due to a collision caused by another person’s negligence, it is prudent to consult a Tennessee car accident attorney to discuss your options for seeking damages.

Facts and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff sustained bodily injuries, emotional distress, property damage, and pain and suffering in a car accident caused by the defendant. The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging negligence claims. The plaintiff failed to appear on numerous occasions throughout the case and ultimately failed to appear at trial. She was granted a continuance but advised that if she failed to appear again, her case would be dismissed. The plaintiff did not show up for her second trial, however, after which the court dismissed her case with prejudice, for failure to prosecute. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in dismissing her case. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute

Under Tennessee law, courts are obligated to provide equal and fair treatment to parties that represent themselves in lawsuits. The courts are not permitted, however, to prejudice the substantive rights of other parties to be fair to parties that choose to represent themselves. In other words, self-represented parties are not permitted to refuse to comply with the procedural and substantive laws that apply to parties that are represented by counsel. Thus, the plaintiff was obligated to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

The court further explained that trial judges are granted the authority to control the proceedings in their court and that the authority is quite broad. Specifically, it includes the authority to dismiss a case for failure to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure or court order or for failure to prosecute. When a trial court exercises its discretion to dismiss a case due to the plaintiff’s failure to prosecute, the reviewing court will only overturn the ruling of the trial court, if it finds that the trial court acted arbitrarily or without reason. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the plaintiff routinely failed to show up for court hearings and was explicitly warned that if she did not appear for her trial the second time it was scheduled, her case would be dismissed. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

Speak with an Experienced Tennessee Car Accident Attorney

If you sustained injuries in a car accident, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney to assist you in pursuing claims against the driver that caused the accident. Attorney Eric Beasley is an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney who will craft persuasive arguments in favor of your recovery of the full amount of compensation you may be owed. You can reach Mr. Beasley via the online form or by calling 615-859-2223 to schedule a complimentary and free meeting regarding your accident.

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