News

Chattanooga Firm Files Class Action Suit Against Volkswagen

Chattanooga firm Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway PC filed a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and related corporate entities following the company’s admission that it installed “defeat devices” in certain Volkswagen and Audi diesel automobiles in order to pass emissions tests. The lawsuit joins the more than 175 class actions filed in 32 states. The firm's lawsuit contains plaintiffs from Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. “Volkswagen has been an important part of the Chattanooga community, but we are certainly disappointed in Volkswagen’s intentional actions in mispresenting the true nature of its diesel engines,” managing partner Gary Patrick said.

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Erlanger Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Continues

Testimony resumed Friday in the Erlanger Health System lawsuit in which former interim chief executive officer Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson seeks to prove she was wrongfully terminated two years ago during her medical leave. The Times Free Press reports that during opening arguments last week, Jennifer Lawrence – Woodard-Thompson’s attorney – described Erlanger's board of trustees as a "country-club clique" that was unhappy with Woodard-Thompson after she reported inappropriate behavior from a former hospital cardiologist. Woodard-Thompson filed a $25 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the Chattanooga hospital. 

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Former Davidson Judge Files Suit Against VW

Former Davidson County Judge Walter Kurtz filed a class-action suit against Volkswagen, claiming the automaker's intentional installation of a a device in its diesel cars to cheat emissions tests constitutes unjust enrichment, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, the Nashville Post reports. Kurtz purchased one of the company's affected models. "Judge Kurtz filed this lawsuit on behalf of himself and all other individuals like him who purchased one of these vehicles in Tennessee and around the country," said lawyers with Nashville firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, who are representing Kurtz. 

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Supreme Court Dismisses Claims Against Clarksville

The Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed a complaint against the city of Clarksville after ruling that claims made by Richard Moreno, who was injured by a tree on state property in Clarksville, were filed too late and should be dismissed. Moreno waited nearly a year after the 2009 incident to file a complaint against the state and later filed against Clarksville. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Moreno’s complaint against Clarksville. In his dissent, Justice Gary R. Wade wrote, “a ‘notice of claim’ qualifies as an ‘original complaint initiating a suit’ because the notice meets the traditional definition of a ‘complaint’ and its filing has the same effect.” Read the majority opinion

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Uber Lawsuit Moves Forward, Challenges Company for Reimbursement

A federal lawsuit filed by three Uber drivers in California can proceed as a class-action suit and challenge the company for tips and gas reimbursement, following a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen, Forbes reports.The lawsuit now represents 160,000 people who drive for Uber in California. Judge Chen rejected Uber’s assertion that the three people filing did not represent the entire company, saying that the 400 driver testimonials presented by Uber in the courtroom were “statistically insignificant." Uber’s current business model is based on drivers paying their own expenses because they are independent contractors, not employees.

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Rule Change Package Released for Review, Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to dismiss appeals; provisions permitting electronic signatures in courts employing electronic filing; clarification of the effect of service of process on commencement of actions; adoption of the term preliminary hearing in lieu of preliminary examination in criminal procedure; and, refinement of procedure for correction of illegal sentences in criminal cases. The are no evidence rules changes proposed this year. A 90-page comprehensive restructuring and revision of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure is also included.

Six TBA sections -- Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law , Family Law, Juvenile and Children’s Law and Criminal Justice -- will be asked to review the proposed amendments and recommend comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due to the Court by November 25, 2015.

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NLRB: Companies Can Be Liable for Actions of Franchises

The National Labor Relations Board today ruled 3-2 that companies can be held liable for labor violations committed by franchises and contractors, the Washington Examiner reports. "With more than 2.87 million of the nation's workers employed through temporary agencies in August 2014, the board held that its previous joint employer standard has failed to keep pace with changes in the workplace and economic circumstances," the board said.

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Nashville Lawyer Receives 2015 Paladin Award

Nashville attorney Kenny Byrd of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has been recognized with the Tennessee Association for Justice’s (TAJ) 2015 Paladin Award. The award is the group’s highest honor, given to an attorney who has demonstrated superior skills as a trial advocate, has achieved an outstanding result for clients and has worked to improve the civil justice system. Byrd was recognized for the role he played in successful litigation against cigarette manufacturers R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Company.

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Court Rules on Passport Issue, Grants 3 Cases for Fall

The U.S. Supreme Court issued three opinions today, including one favoring the White House in a foreign-policy power struggle with Congress over whether Jerusalem-born Americans may list Israel as the place of birth on their U.S. passports. The court also agreed to hear three cases in the fall: when a three-judge panel must be convened to consider challenges to redistricting plans, how workers prove class action damages, and whether a defendant facing asset forfeiture can use funds not obtained from the crime to pay for legal representation. Finally, the court declined to hear four cases, including another challenge to the Affordable Care Act and a question of whether local governments may require handguns be disabled or locked up when they are not being carried. Read a wrap-up from SCOTUSblog.

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Hamilton County Jury Awards $20 Million to Developers

A Hamilton County Circuit Court jury today awarded $20,599,000 to the developers of Canyon Ridge on Lookout Mountain against a financial firm that allegedly secretly started working on a rival project. The jury also said the plaintiffs are due punitive damages. Attorneys tell Chattanoogan.com that it is believed to be the largest verdict award in Hamilton County history.

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Holmes Named New Federal Magistrate

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Barbara D. Holmes has been selected to replace Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin, who will be retiring July 31. Holmes is currently head of h3gm’s Commercial Bankruptcy and Reorganization Practice Group. She has more than 25 years of experience with restructuring and insolvency matters and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.

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Fungal Meningitis Victims to Share $200 Million

A $200 million settlement has been reached to pay out claims in the 2012 nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that was first detected in Nashville and was traced to an injectable steroid made by Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC). The outbreak sickened 778 people across the country, killing 76, according to an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tennessee was one of the hardest hit states with a total of 153 people sickened and 16 deaths. Dozens of civil lawsuits from across the country were consolidated into the bankruptcy filing of NECC. About 3,770 people nationwide have filed claims against the company. The Tennessean has the story.

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Justices Side With Employees Over Retirement Plan

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today in favor of participants in employee retirement plans who object to companies' investment decisions that eat into retirement savings, WMC News 5 reports. The justices revived claims by current and former employees of energy company Edison International who argued that the company chose mutual funds with excessive fees. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate decision in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. People in charge of investment options have an ongoing responsibility to monitor the situation, Breyer said. "The continuing duty to review investments includes a duty to remove imprudent investments," Breyer said. The AP has more.

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Insurance Defense Firm Expands to Nashville

McAngus Goudelock & Courie, a regional insurance defense firm, has expanded into Nashville, making it the firm’s 12th office in the Southeast. MGC welcomes four new attorneys to the firm’s newest office: Paul Brewer, Joey Johnsen, Chuck Mangelsdorf and Stephen Morton.

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Opt-Out Workers Comp Bill On Hold

A crusade to allow Tennessee employers to opt out of mandatory workers’ compensation insurance seems a first-year flop, but will likely be back next year, Knoxnews reports. Sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, SB0721/HB0997 sets minimum payout provisions — $300,000 in most circumstances for medical coverage — and sets a limit on lawsuit payouts. The Tennessee Bar Association and a number of insurance companies oppose the proposal.

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Justice Kirby to Speak at Annual Litigation CLE

Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby will provide the keynote remarks at this year’s annual Litigation CLE. The seven-hour program on April 17 will address tort reform and effective oral advocacy for litigators. Visit TBA CLE for more information.

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Court Deletes Unpublished Opinion Rule

For many years, Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 4(H) required attorneys to furnish to the court and to opposing counsel copies of all unpublished opinions cited in motions and briefs. Effective immediately, the Tennessee Supreme Court has deleted this requirement. The change means that in both trial courts and on appeal, attorneys are no longer required to file copies of unpublished opinions. The TBA commented on the proposed rule, supporting the change but also encouraging recognition of a broad list of sources for such opinions. Though the order is dated March 4, it was distributed only today by the court clerk. Read the court’s order here.

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Tech Savvy Trial Attorney Wanted

A motivated, independent attorney is sought to represent clients in complex and/or high-risk civil litigation. The ideal candidate will live in the Knoxville area. The opening is a full-time, work from home position that requires a technology savvy attorney who can work in a paper-less environment with support staff located in Nashville. Read all the details at TBA Joblink.

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Nashville Firm Plays Role in $100M Tobacco Settlement

A federal judge yesterday morning put a 90-day hold on all of the so-called Engle Progeny tobacco pending lawsuits in the Florida federal courts after being notified of a settlement agreement. Attorneys from the Nashville office of Lieff Cabraser have won several high-profile verdicts against cigarette manufacturers in recent months, including a $41 million verdict in October, the largest victory in the Engle cases. The Nashville Scene has more.

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Attorneys Form Green Hills Law Firm

Three Nashville attorneys, including the former legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, have opened a law firm in the Green Hills area of the city. Trajan Carney, Steve Elkins and Leslie Curry have created Carney|Elkins|Curry PLC at 3817 Bedford Ave. in Bedford Commons. The firm will handle general civil litigation and appellate practice, with a focus on construction law, general business litigation, administrative and regulatory law, and labor and employment law. It also will offer estate planning and probate services. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Butler Snow Acquires Nashville Litigation Firm

Butler Snow is acquiring locally based litigation firm Walker Tipps & Malone, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The deal will boost Butler Snow's Nashville office to more than 60 attorneys, expanding its practice lines, which currently specialize in health care, commercial litigation and business services. Walker Tipps & Malone brings along civil and business litigation as well as personal injury practices.

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Waller Adds 11 Attorneys

Waller today announced the addition of 11 new attorneys to several key practice groups: real estate, finance and restructuring, labor and employment, healthcare compliance and operations, and litigation and dispute resolution practices. "In response to the needs of our clients, we continue to experience tremendous growth in practices that are core strengths of our firm," said Waller chair Matt Burnstein.

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New Website Uses Crowdfunding to Finance Lawsuits

A new website unveiled yesterday uses crowdfunding to finance potentially high-value commercial lawsuits, the ABA Journal reports. LexShares connects accredited investors with plaintiffs in commercial lawsuits. LexShares’ staff of legal and securities professionals reviews the suits and only posts cases deemed to have strong merit. If the plaintiff wins a settlement or court judgment, the investors will recover an amount “proportionate to the investment,” the press release says. If the plaintiff loses, the investors lose their money.

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TDLA Names New President, Officers

The Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association (TDLA) recently installed James H. Tucker Jr. as its 49th president. He is the first African American to hold this position. The association, which represents lawyers engaged in civil defense litigation, also announced new officers for 2014-2015: President-Elect Cate Dugan of Deason & Associates in Nashville; Secretary-Treasurer Barret Albritton of Spears, More, Rebman & Williams in Chattanooga; and Vice President Rocky King of Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis in Knoxville. Immediate past president Bradford D. Box will serve as the new DRI Representative for Tennessee.

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NBJ Ranks Nashville's Top Litigation Judgments

The Nashville Business Journal ranked the largest litigation judgments awarded in Nashville during the past year (July 2013- June 2014). First Bank’s May 2014 suit against Gold Building LLC/Feras Abualrob tops the list with a judgment of $1.4 million.

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