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Tennessee Court Dismisses Car Accident Case Against City Due to Improper Service of the Complaint

While people are generally aware that there are statutory limitations that set forth deadlines for when a lawsuit must be filed, most people do not understand the full extent of what this means. For example, an injured party may think that if his or her lawsuit was filed within the statutory period provided by law, they cannot waive the right to recover. This is not true, however, as shown in a recent car accident case decided by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee.

In that case, the court found that although the lawsuit was filed within the statute of limitations, due to the injured party’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements regarding service the suit was properly dismissed. If you were involved in a Tennessee car accident, it is essential to retain an attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you establish a strong case in favor of your recovery of compensation.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with the defendant police officer who was employed by the defendant city on October 21, 2014. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit on October 5, 2015, and on October 13, 2015, a city clerk accepted service of the Complaint. Subsequently, on November 30, 2015, the defendant city filed an Answer to the Complaint, arguing in part that it was not properly served with the Complaint and therefore, service was not effective. In detail, the defendant city stated that because the Complaint was not served on the Mayor or City Attorney the service was improper. In February 2017, the defendant city filed a motion for summary judgment setting forth the same argument. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Tennessee Requirements for Service of Process

Under Tennessee law, a lawsuit arising out of a car accident must be filed within one year of the accident. The court stated that although the plaintiff’s lawsuit was filed within the statute of limitations, the plaintiff failed to comply with other procedural requirements set forth under the law and therefore, the plaintiff waived the right to pursue his claim.  Specifically, after a lawsuit is filed it must be served on the defendant within 90 days or if not served, reissued, otherwise, it does not toll the statute of limitations. Further, under the procedural rules, actual notice of a lawsuit does not excuse the failure to effectuate proper service.

To serve a municipality the rules require that a copy of the Complaint be delivered to the City Attorney or the Chief Executive Officer. Here, the plaintiff argued that because the person who accepted service worked for the Mayor, service was proper under the rules. The court rejected this argument, holding that the rule was unambiguous and required service upon the specific people noted. As such, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the action against the defendant city.

Consult a Seasoned Tennessee Car Accident Attorney

If you were injured in a car accident involving a municipality it is important to retain an attorney who will be mindful of the details of the law that must be followed to protect your rights. Attorney Eric Beasley is proficient in handling all nature of Tennessee car accident cases and will work diligently to help you in your pursuit of the full extent of compensation you may be able to recover. Mr. Beasley can be reached at 615-859-2223 or via the online form to set up a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court of Appeals Imposes Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Independent Medical Evaluation, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 27, 2018.