News

UT Law Profs Author New Book on Civil Procedure

University of Tennessee College of Law professors George Kuney and Donna Looper have authored a new book: A Civil Matter: A Guide to Civil Procedure and Litigation, both as a print edition and an e-book. Published by West, the book is a concise overview of the civil litigation process under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and follows a diversity car accident case from the district court to post-trial proceedings and settlement before retrial. The authors report that the book is intended as an introduction and overview for those unfamiliar with civil litigation and who need to develop a detailed understanding of the nuts and bolts of the process quickly and efficiently.

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AG Reviewing Proposed Pilot Settlement

The Tennessean reports that state Attorney General Robert E. Cooper is reviewing a proposed settlement of multiple suits filed against Pilot Flying J, alleging that the company withheld millions of dollars in promised rebates to trucking customers. The “fairness review” comes as lawyers for some of the affected trucking firms have charged that the offer, with an estimated $40 million price tag, is far from adequate. The review is mandated under the federal Class Action Fairness Act. The proposed settlement, filed with a court in Arkansas, would pay trucking firms the amount that Pilot withheld plus six percent interest. Under the deal, the lawyers for the trucking firms could earn up to $14 million in fees.

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2014 Rules Package Published for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to suspend rules; requirements for electronic copies of transcripts; specification of the color of applications; responses and amici in TRAP 9 and 11 matters; and refinement of criminal contempt provisions. Four TBA sections -- Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law and Criminal Justice -- will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 27. 

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Court Updates Technology Provisions Rule

The Tennessee Supreme Court updated Rule 26 regulating the use of recording equipment in light of technological advances. The rule outlines procedures for recording trial court proceedings and includes provisions for designating the recording as the transcript under the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. “The use of electronic recording has proven to be an exceptionally accurate and economical method of preserving the trial record and the response from litigants and lawyers in my courtroom has been universally positive,” said Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Brothers.

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Jury Scam Back After Run in 2009

Reports of a telephone scam threatening prosecution and fines for not fulfilling federal jury service are prompting courts around the country to remind the public that they rarely contact jurors by phone. “Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call,” David R. Herndon, chief judge of the Southern District of Illinois, wrote in a recent release. “Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for social security numbers, credit card numbers or any other sensitive information.”  Anyone receiving a scam call should contact the clerk's office of the U.S. district court. This is not the first time that scammers have targeted potential jurors. The U.S. courts released a video in 2009 warning of similar schemes.

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Federal Judges Reject Request to Consolidate Pilot Lawsuits

In a two-page decision issued today, a panel of federal judges has rejected a request to consolidate multiple lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J for an alleged fuel rebate scheme. The panel concluded that it would be best to allow an Arkansas court to continue its deliberations on a proposed settlement, which already has won initial approval from a district court judge in Little Rock. “Centralization at this time could delay settlement proceedings,” the panel concluded, noting that truckers who don’t agree to the settlement terms can opt out. The Tennessean has the story.

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Nelson Mullins Moves into New Nashville Office

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has moved into a 17,000-square-foot office space at One Nashville Place at Fourth Avenue and Commerce Street. Although about the same size in square footage as the firm's previous office at the Regions Center, managing shareholder Larry Papel noted that the new space is "lighter and brighter and newer and nicer." The new space can accommodate up to 25 attorneys. Nelson Mullins, which opened in 2012 with six attorneys, added two more in April of this year and expects to add at least three more attorneys within the next few months. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.

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Review: 'Zubulake's e-Discovery' a Must-Read for Lawyers

If your practice involves e-discovery at all, you know the name Laura Zubulake. Read a review of her new book, Zubulake's e-Discovery: The Untold Story of My Quest for Justice, in this issue. "Her lawsuit resulted in a historic jury verdict and landmark e-discovery opinions that have proven influential not just nationally but also in Tennessee, having been cited by courts across the state," Nashville lawyer Russell Taber writes in his review. "While the Zubulake decisions are well known, her book reveals for the first time what really happened behind the scenes and how she did what she did."

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Knoxville Lawyer Calls for New Approach to Jury Trials

In a recent opinion piece on Knoxnews, Knoxville lawyer Wayne A. Ritchie suggests that civil jury trials are becoming endangered as the resources and time needed to navigate the legal system increase. One solution being used in other jurisdictions is the Short, Summary and Expedited (SSE) trial model. Ritchie writes that a study of courts using this model reveals that locally-tailored approaches can successfully streamline litigation. Ritchie, who is serving as president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) Southeastern Chapter, says the organization has endorsed the concept and will be advocating for SSE trials in Tennessee. Read more about the concept in his article.

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Miller & Martin Appoints New Leaders

Miller and Martin attorney James T. Williams has been appointed to serve as chair of the firm’s litigation department, the Chattanoogan reports. Alison B. Martin will take the role of vice-chair. “We are excited to have James and Alison lead our Litigation team as the department continues to grow. Their depth of expertise and dedication to the firm makes them invaluable to the future success of the department,“ said Jim Haley, chairman of the firm.

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Nashville Attorneys Appointed to Key Roles in Meningitis Case

Mark Chalos of Leiff Cabraser Heinmann & Bernstein has been appointed federal-state-liaison counsel for the large product liability lawsuit against the New England Compounding Pharmacy. He will coordinate communication with attorneys handling cases against the company, which filed for bankruptcy late last year after it shipped to hospitals and other care providers tainted materials that led to an outbreak of fungal meningitis. The Nashville Post reports that Chalos has also been named to a seven-members plaintiff’s steering committee, joining Nashville lawyer Gerard Stranch, a member at Branstetter Stranch & Jennings. That committee, which will coordinate the pretrial discovery on behalf of the plaintiffs, also includes attorneys from Boston, Atlanta, Michigan and Virginia.

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Unions Fight Workers’ Comp Overhaul

Union groups on Monday blasted Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to create a new workers’ compensation office and place it under the troubled the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessean reports. “We are calling on the governor to put the brakes on moving such a vital process for injured Tennessee workers into the most dysfunctional department in the state,” the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council said in a statement. The bill, which has already cleared the Senate and is progressing in the House, would completely overhaul the workers’ comp program by moving claims out of the courts.

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Depositions Skills CLE on Tap for April

You can’t win a trial at deposition, but you certainly can lose one. This CLE, planned for April 25 in Knoxville and Memphis, is designed to avoid that outcome by addressing basic and intermediate deposition techniques in general personal injury cases. Attendees will hear from experienced litigators – both from the plaintiff and defense perspective – who will discuss key components of the deposition process.

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Hearsay Exceptions: What's the Difference?

Knoxville lawyer Donald F. Paine details the differences between Tennessee and federal hearsay exceptions in the current Tennessee Bar Journal.

Learn about the Costs and Budget for eDiscovery

With the continued growth of eDiscovery, the manner in which corporations and law firms assess vendor budgets can be a challenge. Join John Burchfield and Austin Maddox as they educate counsel on eDiscovery costs and budgeting to determine what eDiscovery program is best for them. The pair will discuss these and other issues during a one-hour webinar next Thursday, March 21.

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St. Thomas Clinic Wants Meningitis Lawsuits Consolidated

Attorneys for St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center, where dozens of patients were injected with a meningitis-tainted steroid, filed a motion in Davidson County Circuit Court asking that the presiding judge assign the current and future lawsuits to a single circuit or chancery court judge, the Tennessean reports. The motion was filed on behalf of the Howell Allen Clinic, a codefendant in the two recent suits. The move for consolidation follows recent action merging cases in federal court stemming from the same fungal meningitis outbreak, which caused 14 deaths among Tennessee patients and sickened more than 700 people nationwide.

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Widower of Meningitis Victim Sues St. Thomas

Widower Wayne Reed filed a lawsuit against the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center and its owners after his wife died in last year’s meningitis outbreak from tainted injections she received at the clinic. The Nashville Ledger reports that the lawsuit also challenges caps on medical malpractice awards in a new state law, and seeks $12.5 million in compulsory damages. Reed is disabled and the suit claims his wife was his primary caregiver.

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Pharmacy Blames Cleaning Company for Meningitis Outbreak

The Boston Globe reports that the New England Compounding Center -- the pharmacy linked to the nationwide meningitis outbreak -- is attempting to get its cleaning contractor to take responsibility for problems in its factory. The firm, UniFirst, acknowledges that a subsidiary helped clean portions of the pharmacy’s cleanroom facility, but a spokesperson called the claims “unfounded and without merit.”

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Court Will Not to Hear Pay Equity Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court will not hear an appeal filed on behalf of Washington County Clerk and Master Brenda W. Sneyd after her lawsuit against the county was dismissed, by the State Court of Appeals, the Johnson City Press reports. Sneyed originally  filed suit in Sept. 2010 in Washington County Chancery Court to request back pay for not receiving the same 10 percent pay raise as her counterpart. 

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AG Reaches $90 million Agreement over Unlawful Drug Promotion

The Tennessee Attorneys General office, along with 37 other Attorneys General, reached a $90 million agreement with GlaxoSmithKline LLC to resolve allegations that GlaxoSmithKline unlawfully promoted its diabetes drug Avandia by engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by misrepresenting Avandia’s cardiovascular risks and safety profile. Tennessee will receive $3 million as part of this multistate consumer protection investigation. Download the press release.

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Lawmakers Issue Subpoena for Meningitis-linked Pharmacy Director

Congressional lawmakers have issued a subpoena for the director of the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak, the Elizabethton Star reports. The subpoena came after a lawyer for Barry Cadden, co-founder of New England Compounding Center --  where the contaminated steroid shots were distributed from -- told lawmakers he would not voluntarily attend a congressional hearing.

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Supreme Court Considers Limitations on Class-Action Suits

The Supreme Court appears divided on two cases limiting class-action lawsuits against biotech company Amgen Inc. and cable provider Comcast Corp. Class actions increase pressure on businesses to settle suits because of the cost of defending them and the potential for very large judgments. Amgen and Comcast are seeking requirements for plaintiffs to prove more of their case earlier in the process in order to reduce the number of class-action suits. The court should decide both cases by June. The Memphis Daily News has the story. 

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Red Bank Commissioners Settle 2 of 5 Lawsuits

Red Bank commissioners have settled two of the five lawsuits filed against them in federal court between 2010 and 2011 in the wake of the controversial firing of Chief Larry Sneed, the Times Free Press reports. The commission voted 3-1 to settle suites filed by former police officers Bradley Hannon and Rebecca Chauncey Morgan for $36,000 and $21,000, respectively. The city is still battling lawsuits from Sneed, officer Isaac Cooper, and officer Stephen Satterwhite.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Returns to Bass Berry & Sims

Former Bass Berry & Sims partner Matt Curley has returned to the firm following a two-year stint in the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, the Nashville Post reports. A graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law, Curley served as an assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the local office’s civil division. At Bass, he will again be a partner in the firm’s compliance and government investigations practice group.

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Vanderbilt Sues Former Employee, Partner Convicted of Fraud

Vanderbilt University has filed a civil lawsuit against the two men convicted of defrauding the school of more than $560,000, the City Paper reports. On Oct. 9, Jason Hunt, former administrative manager at Vanderbilt Law School, and his partner Samuel Wakefield pled guilty to fraud, theft and statutory rape. The lawsuit asks for compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

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