News

June TBJ: Paternity Fraud, Economic Losses, Grad Advice

In this issue, learn how to successfully file a paternity fraud lawsuit by reading an article by Peggy R. Smith. You may also need to know how to calculate economic losses in employment termination cases, which Charles Baum explains. In this graduation season, Andra J. Hedrick writes a letter to herself (and new grads) about what to expect and what she would have done differently. There's a lot more in the June issue -- take a look!

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Court to Review New Civil, Criminal Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted review to several new cases. Civil issues to be decided include corporate shareholder standing and challenges to charges by utilities. Criminal issue include traffic stop suppression, expired sentences, defective indictments and lesser-included offenses. The Raybin-Perky Hotlist reviews each and offers a prediction on how the cases may be decided.

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Charity Heads to Pay Fraction of Amount Owed

Three operators of phony cancer charities will pay less than one penny on the dollar toward their combined $106 million settlements, Knoxnews reports. The paper also says that investigators will not comment on whether any of them will face criminal charges after spending donations on lavish trips and personal paydays. The reduced settlement is based on their “documented inability to pay,” officials said. The cases likely will have to be resolved in court, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said earlier this week.

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AG Announces New Settlement Deals

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has announced several settlements on behalf of consumers this month. These include a deal with Sprint and Verizon, which were found to have charged consumers for third-party services they did not authorize; with the nation’s three credit reporting services for inaccuracies in consumer credit reports and the handling of calls disputing credit report information; with RadioShack over the sale of its customers’ personally identifiable information; and with Atmos Energy, which had planned to impose significant hikes in natural gas fees.

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Big Banks Face $2.5 Billion in Fines, Criminal Charges for Rigging Markets

Four big banks will pay $2.5 billion in fines and plead guilty to criminally manipulating the global currency markets going back to 2007, the Associated Press reports. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland conspired with one another to fix rates on U.S. dollars and euros traded in the huge global market for currencies, according to a settlement announced today between the banks and U.S. Justice Department. Knoxnews has the story.

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HCA National Medical Director Sued for Malpractice

Dr. Michael Murphy, the national medical director for HCA's Behavioral Health Services division, has been named as a defendant in a multi-million dollar medical malpractice suit along with two members of his former practice, the Nashville Post reports. Murphy’s former patient killed his father in the middle of a nervous breakdown. The suit alleges that Murphy failed to adequately transition the patient to two members of Murphy’s practice when he left for his current position with HCA and inappropriately accessed his medical records after he was no longer Murphy’s patient.

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Report: Legal 'Firewalls' Shield Chinese Firms from Suits

Chinese companies are shielding themselves from lawsuits in America, denying U.S. businesses and investors their day in court, a report from a federal watchdog says. The report published Tuesday by the U.S.-China Economic Security Commission and reported by the Associated Press says that Chinese companies operating in the U.S. have built a legal firewall that keeps them largely immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and regulatory agencies.

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Court Enters Interstate Marijuana Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked for the views of the Obama administration on a dispute between three states over Colorado’s 2012 legalization of marijuana. The action is a sign that the high court may be interested in the dispute, the Blog of Legal Times reports. The suit, brought by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma, does not challenge the legalization of marijuana but questions the manufacture and sale of the drug across state lines.

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Event to Benefit Legal Assistance for the Arts

The Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville, in conjunction with the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, will host a fundraiser May 27 for the Tennessee Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts. The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the W.O. Smith School. It will include food, live music and a silent auction. Contact Kelly Donley to learn more.

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Court Remands Obamacare Question to 6th Circuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday breathed new life into the religious objections of Catholic groups in Michigan and Tennessee to the Affordable Care Act requirement for contraception coverage in health plans, Reuters reports. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the administration’s position in a case that pre-dated the high court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Supreme Court directed the appeals court to reconsider its decision in light of the June 2014 ruling that allowed certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the provision.

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Nashville Lawyers Launch Online Trademark Service

A trio of Nashville attorneys has launched the online trademark company Trust Tree Legal. The founders -- Bill Ferrell, Randy Michels and Kevin Hartley -- have a combined 30 years of experience in trademark law and patent litigation. The company offers four levels of support ranging in price from $149 to $949 and provides assistance with trademark searches, filing and maintenance; foreign filing; and foreign counterfeits. The trio also offers guidance through a new blog, The Root, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Legislative Session Wraps Up

State lawmakers finished their work for the 2015 legislative session just before 10 p.m. last night, the Tennessean reports. Among the bills passed yesterday, lawmakers approved an additional exemption to the Hall tax on investment income, new rules for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and the use of cannabis oil to treat seizures. Among the bills that failed to advance were measures allowing undocumented immigrants’ children who grew up in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities (which lost by one vote), allowing residents of parts of cities to de-annex territory, and banning alcohol sales to people with three or more drunken driving convictions. See a break down of more legislative winners and losers from the Associated Press.

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Business, Legal Leaders Join in Launch of New Court

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle today launched the state’s first Business Court to a gathering of more than 100 business and legal leaders in Nashville. “Keeping businesses here in Tennessee and bringing in new ventures means more jobs for Tennesseans,” Lee said. “This has long-term benefits and is good for all Tennesseans.” The court is a pilot project that officials hope will be expanded to other cities across the state.

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Bill Eases Creation of For-Profit Corporations

Legislation providing some additional flexibility for the creation of for-profit benefit corporations cleared its last major legislative hurdle this afternoon when the Senate adopted SB972/HB767 as amended. The TBA’s Business Entity Study Committee played a critical role in revising the original proposal so that it conforms more closely to Tennessee law.

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AG Reaches Settlement with Middle Tennessee Auto Dealer

Middle Tennessee auto dealer Wholesale Inc. has agreed to immediately change its advertising practices and pay the State of Tennessee $50,000, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today. The state alleged that the defendant made numerous false representations in violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, including use of a fictitious lender called “CreditAble Auto Funding” claimed to be “by military, for military,” offering a limited amount of loans to military personnel. "Our men and women in uniform deserve to be told the truth when considering a consumer purchase," Slatery said.

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Antitrust Concerns May Block Comcast/Time Warner Deal

The Justice Department’s antitrust division is nearing a recommendation to block Comcast Corp.’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable according to sources, Bloomberg News reports. Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week.

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Steen: Bridge the Generation Gap With Clear Communication

In his Tennessee Bar Journal column about how different generations communicate, TBA President Jonathan Steen points out how important good communication skills are -- and why sending a text late at night to a senior partner may not be the best way to make contact. In the April issue's other columns, Eddy Smith covers IRA beneficiaries and creditor protection; Katy Edge explains how banking works for legal marijuana sales; and Bill Haltom comments on Justice Ginsburg’s recent nap before the president’s speech.

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Nashville Lawyers Form New Firm

Four Nashville lawyers have joined together to form the law firm of Surber, Asher, Surber & Moushon. The firm will focus on personal injury, business and construction law, professional liability and insurance defense, and probate and conservatorship law. Joel Surber, Garrett Asher and Matt Moushon were formerly partners at Parker, Lawrence, Cantrell & Smith. Jennifer Surber formerly served as counsel to the Davidson County Probate Court and as Special Probate Master for the Seventh Circuit Court.

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Governor Signs 2 TBA Bills

Two pieces of the TBA’s legislative package were signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week. SB877/HB1183, which originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section, makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, was signed into law and has been enacted as Public Chapter 60.

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Reminder: State Business Taxes Due April 15

In Tennessee, April 15 is the due date for business, franchise and excise taxes for companies that report on a calendar year basis. In addition, taxpayers subject to the Hall income tax must file and pay that tax by next Wednesday. More information is available on the Department of Revenue’s website. The department also has extended call center hours through April 16. Taxpayers may call (615) 253-0600 or (800) 342-1003 for assistance from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central.

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TBA Legislative Initiatives Head to Governor for Signature

SB877/HB1183 passed the House chamber this week and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature. The bill makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. The proposal originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section. In addition, SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, passed both chambers this week. Finally, SB161/HB609, which would treat pension benefits the same as other marital property in divorce proceedings, passed the Senate and is set for a House vote on April 1. Find out more about important bills in the legislature at TBAImpact.

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House Panel Approves Digital Assets Bill

A state House subcommittee has approved legislation setting rules for access to digital information after death or disability, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” has drawn opposition from representatives of Facebook, Google and Amazon on the grounds that it would declare company policies void if they conflict with state law. The bill gives the legal representative of a deceased or incapacitated person authority to decide how pictures and postings on a site will be disposed of, even though the user once gave the site the right to control such things. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said many social media sites put such provisions in the fine print of their sign-up contracts, which has led to unfortunate situations. Knoxnews has the story.

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FedEx: Shipments Protected by Carrier Law

FedEx Corp. said it shouldn’t be prosecuted for delivering drugs dispensed through Internet sales without prescription because its actions are protected under federal law, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Memphis carrier is fighting money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges that it delivered drugs for online pharmacies, supplying pills to customers who were never examined by doctors. FedEx is also accused of knowing its actions violated federal and state drug laws.

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Court Limits Securities Suits Over Deceptive Comments

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that investors can't sue companies for making misleading statements of opinion prior to a public stock offering just because those statements ultimately turn out to be wrong, WRCB reports. However, the narrow ruling said some opinions in registration documents might omit important facts that could mislead investors, giving them a right to sue for securities fraud.

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AG: Proposed Fees on Commercial Trucks Unconstitutional

Legislation that would impose new fees on trucks traveling Tennessee highways is unconstitutional because the levies would apply disproportionately to trucks owned by out-of-state companies, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in an opinion. SB354, introduced by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, would impose a new "surcharge" on diesel fuel and a "highway maintenance fee" per mile traveled within the state for each commercial motor vehicle weighing 60,000 pounds or more. Slatery says that arrangement violates both the commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state companies. Knoxnews has more.

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