Tennessee Court Remands Negligence Case For Failure to Consider Motion to Amend

When a plaintiff files a complaint in a lawsuit, he or she must take great care to include all relevant facts that help establish his or her case. While plaintiffs are not required to include every single little detail related to the case, they must include sufficient information so that a court, taking their allegations as true, could find that a claim exists. Sometimes after an initial complaint is filed, a plaintiff will realize that certain important information is missing, or will discover new information that he or she would like to add. When this happens, a plaintiff can file a motion to amend, which, if granted, allows the plaintiff to amend the complaint to add additional information or clarify. As the case below demonstrates, courts generally allow motions to amend, if reasonable, and should consider this amended information when deciding whether to dismiss a case.

In this premise liability case, the plaintiff, B.S., was a bus driver who was attending a school district training conducted by the Nashville government. She was not allowed to drive her own bus to the training but was required to take a shuttle. After she parked her bus and began walking toward the shuttle, she tripped on a buckled and uneven portion of the parking lot pavement, causing her to fall and sustain injuries. The buckling was the result of flooding that had occurred in Nashville in 2010, three years before B.S.’s fall.

B.S. sued the Nashville government for its failure to adequately maintain the parking lot. She argued that the parking lot had been in a state of disrepair for such a long time that the government should have been aware of the condition, but failed to fix it or to warn her of the problems. Several months after the filing of the initial complaint, B.S. moved to amend her complaint to add an additional claim of negligence based on the parking lot’s failure to meet applicable building codes. B.S. had retained an expert to review the relevant building codes and the state of the parking lot and determined that the government was not in compliance. At the time of B.S.’s motion to amend, the Nashville government had a pending motion for summary judgment against B.S.

The trial court ignored B.S.’s motion to amend and ruled on the government’s motion for summary judgment considering only B.S’s original complaint. It found that Tennessee law did not require premises owners to protect the public from, or repair, every single minor aberration that occurred on a surface that the premise owner owned. Here, it held the government was not required to maintain the parking lot surface “as smooth as a billiard table” and, because the buckling at issue was not unreasonably dangerous, the Nashville government was not at fault.

B.S. appealed, arguing that the trial court had failed to consider the fact that the government was in violation of building codes and might be liable for negligence on this ground as well, as set forth in her amended complaint. The Court of Appeals agreed. It noted that while the trial court had the discretion to reject the motion to amend if there was a sufficient basis to do so, the trial court had not actually addressed the motion at all or considered the factors that needed to be weighed in order to decide whether the motion to amend should be granted. Had the motion to amend been proper, the trial court should have then considered the amended complaint when evaluating whether to grant the government’s motion for summary judgment. Because the trial court did not do this, the Court of Appeals held that the grant of summary judgment was in error and reversed and remanded so that the trial court could consider the amended complaint.

When considering a motion for summary judgment, courts must consider all of the facts available to them, taking facts presented in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Where a court fails to consider facts in an amended complaint or other evidence presented by a party, such as expert testimony or the testimony of a witness, summary judgment may be reversed.

In order to survive summary judgment, it is important to make sure that the judge has all the facts important to your case, even if this requires filing a motion to amend.  Dedicated premises liability attorney Eric Beasley can work with you to develop a plan for gathering all of the evidence you need, and presenting that evidence to the judge in a comprehensive and persuasive manner. If a judge fails to fairly consider the evidence you’ve presented, Mr. Beasley will also fight for your rights on appeal.  If you have recently been injured and need assistance in preparing your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Rejects Claim That Door Frame Was Dangerous Condition, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, November 9, 2017.

Tennessee Court Reverses Lower Court In Premise Liability Case, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, August 23, 2017.

Tennessee Court Grants Summary Judgment When No Risk Could Have Been Anticipated, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, June 21, 2017

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