Public Duty Does Not Save GTLA Action Following MVA

BARBARA A. LYNCH, deceased, by her sister and next of kin, CELINE HAYES, ET AL. v. LOUDON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL.
Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Joseph R. Ford and Ashley Harrison Shudan, Loudon, Tennessee, for the appellants, Barbara A. Lynch, deceased, by her sister and next of kin, Celine Hayes.

Arthur F. Knight, III, and Jonathan Swann Taylor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee,Loudon County, Tennessee.

Judge: MCCLARTY

In this wrongful death action, the plaintiffs alleged that after the deceased was involved in a single car accident, the investigating officer improperly allowed her to continue driving, resulting in her death when she had another wreck shortly thereafter. In the initial lawsuit, the defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court found that the public duty doctrine applied and granted the motion. After the plaintiffs appealed, we held that under the public duty doctrine, disputed material evidence existed as to whether the officer assumed a specific duty to protect the deceased but then discontinued his aid and protection to her, thereby leaving her in a worse position than she was in before he intervened. We therefore reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. Lynch v. Loudon Cnty., No. E2010-02231-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 4952778 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 14, 2011). Upon remand the trial court found that the special duty exception did not apply and the public duty doctrine was a complete bar to the plaintiffs’ action. The court additionally concluded that Restatement (2nd) of Torts section 324 was not applicable and even if fault was compared, the fault of the deceased exceeded that of the officer by more than fifty percent. Accordingly, the trial court found that the claims of the plaintiffs must be denied. The plaintiffs again appeal. We affirm.

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