News

LAET Names Director of Litigation and Advocacy

Russell Fowler was named director of litigation and advocacy for the Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Fowler teaches constitutional law at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and writes the “History’s Verdict” column for the Tennessee Bar Journal. He is a member of the executive council of the TBA Litigation Law Section.

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Old Hickory Neighbors File Suit to Block Rock Quarry

The Tennessean reports a group of Old Hickory residents filed a lawsuit yesterday in an effort to stop Metro government from issuing future permits for a limestone rock quarry project. The suit points to legislation the Metro Council passed in November that created new buffer zones to prevent mineral extraction activity immediately near residential homes in Nashville. The suit also names Industrial Land Developers as a defendant.

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$10M Suit Filed Against Bus Driver Charged With Rape

A $10 million lawsuit was filed Thursday against a Hamilton County bus driver charged with the 2015 rape of a teenage student, the Times Free Press reports. The teen’s guardians are seeking the amount in punitive and compensatory damages and have requested a jury trial.

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Depositions, Workers' Comp Claims Court in March Issue

Depositions are a basic tool for many trials, but are you using them in the most effective way possible? Dan Berexa looks at best practices for depositions in this issue of the Journal. Judge Kenneth Switzer and Jane Pribek Salem explain what you need to know about Tennessee’s Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. For instance, at the trial level an average of 52 days pass from the time a mediator certifies a dispute until a workers’ compensation judge issues an order. Judge Pamela B. Johnson tells you the do's and don'ts of how to practice in the relatively new court. Read these stories and more in the March Journal.

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Complaints for Relief from Elavon Due Feb. 27

Eligible Tennesseans who seek relief from Elavon Inc., following a settlement between the global credit card transaction processor and Attorney General Herbert Slatery, must file a complaint by Feb. 27. The settlement, reached November 2015, resolved allegations that the company was misrepresenting its cancellation policy and other items. Complaints may be filed online or by phone at (615) 741-4737.

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In This Issue: Retaliatory Discharge, Advanced Care Planning and Dale Bumpers

This month the Tennessee Bar Journal's employment law column by Edward Phillips and Brandon Morrow covers retaliatory discharge in "Badges and Blown Whistles: Recent Retaliatory Discharge Actions in Tennessee." Monica Franklin collaborates with Dr. Gregory Phelps in her elder law column, "Advanced Care Planning: When Law and Medicine Intersect."  Humor columnist Bill Haltom writes about the late Dale Bumpers, the small-town lawyer who defended Bill Clinton before the Senate in the 1999 impeachment trial. Read these and the rest of the February issue.

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Nashville Attorney Joins Steering Committee in Volkswagen Suit

Nashville attorney Gerard Stranch IV, a partner in Branstetter Stranch & Jennings, was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee that will coordinate the multidistrict litigation against Volkswagen. The automaker is facing more than 175 class actions in 32 states, including Tennessee, after the company admitted to installing “defeat devices” in certain vehicles in order to pass emission tests. Stranch joins 22 attorneys on the steering committee appointed by Judge Charles R. Breyer of California’s Northern District Court.

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BlueCross BlueShield to Appeal Breach of Contract Ruling

The Tennessean reports BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is appealing a recent decision by the Chancery Court for Tennessee's 20th Judicial District that says BCBST breached a contract with a general insurance agent. The court recently awarded James Walker, the president and owner of Individual Healthcare Specialists, $2.1 million after BCBST was found to have breached a commissions contract. BCBST argued that changes to the contract and commission structure on renewals were due to the Affordable Care Act.

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Computers in Self-Driving Cars 'Count as Humans'

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month determined that the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law. Reuters reports the decision comes after Google in November submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has "no need for a human driver." "We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years,” NHTSA's letter said.

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Suit Claims UT Football Players Assaulted Teammate for Helping Rape Victim

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday against the University of Tennessee alleges that university football players twice assaulted fellow teammate Drae Bowles for assisting the woman who accused former players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams of rape in 2014. Bowles, who transferred to Chattanooga after the 2014 season, received a subpoena to testify. The alleged female assault victim is one of six unnamed women who filed the suit. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Tennessee Oncology Files Lawsuit Over Cancer Drug

Nashville-based Tennessee Oncology is suing Genentech for false representation in the packaging of its cancer drug Herceptin, The Tennessean reports. Tennessee Oncology, represented by Bass Berry & Sims, claims the label on the drug misrepresents the amount of product after following the approved preparation instructions for the freeze-dried powder. Similar lawsuits are pending in six other states.

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Bass Berry Acquires H3GM Group in Nashville

Bass Berry & Sims, the largest law firm in Nashville, acquired 10 Harwell Howard Hyne Gabbert & Manner shareholders along with five associates and additional staff members from the firm. The merger, expected to be completed in mid-March, dissolves HG3M, which had been home to 26 attorneys. Eight shareholders did not make the move but say they don't plan to stay together.  Read more from Nashville Post.

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Former School Employees Receive $55K in Lawsuit

Judge Larry Wallace ruled three former Cheatham County school employees will receive back pay from the school district after they were removed from their administrative positions and reassigned to classrooms. The Tennessean reports the amounts to be received total $55,772.76.

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Discrimination Suit Against Farmers Granted Class Action Status

A California federal judge certified a class action status to a discrimination suit in which a group of female current and former attorneys of Farmers Insurance claim the company paid men higher salaries. Lynne Coates, who had worked for Farmers for a total of nine years, filed the original complaint in which she alleged Farmers was paying less-experienced male employees a larger salary than her own. Twelve attorneys have joined the suit. Read more from the Insurance Journal.

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UT Reaches $750K Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit

The University of Tennessee announced Monday it had reached a $750,000 settlement with its former associate director of sports medicine and two ex-Lady Volunteers strength coaches in a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Jenny Moshak, Heather Mason and Collin Schlosser claimed in the 2012 lawsuit that they received less compensation than employees holding similar positions and performing comparable tasks for men's teams. School officials said that "the university unequivocally denies that any of the three former employees suffered any discrimination or retaliation." Read more from the Associated Press.

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Court Date Set for Franklin Man Accused of Fraud in Wellness Company

George David George, who is accused of devising a stock scheme and stealing millions of dollars from a Brentwood wellness company, is scheduled to appear in federal court on Jan. 12. The Franklin resident was charged with four felonies and is accused of collecting $2.25 million in investments from WellCity Foundation. "We don't subscribe to the notion that it was a Ponzi scheme," George's attorney Peter Strianse said. "The company provided real services, and was used by a lot of school districts and things like that. We insist it wasn't a facade." Read more from the Franklin Home Page.

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Supreme Court Denies Tire Company Dismissal Request

The Tennessee Supreme Court denied Bridgestone entities’ request to dismiss a case because of lost evidence and a request for summary judgment. The decision affirmed a trial court ruling in the case in which a woman’s car was totaled in an accident after it appeared that a tire may have failed and the wrecking service later destroyed her car. The Court also reviewed the defendants’ additional reasons for requesting summary judgment, conducting the analysis under the Court’s recent opinion in Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis. Justice Gary R. Wade wrote a concurring opinion, in which he disagreed with the new summary judgment standard, but reached the same conclusion under a different analysis. Read the opinion authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.  

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ESPN Star Seeks $75M in Peephole Suit

Former ESPN personality Erin Andrews is seeking $75 million in a lawsuit tied to an incident where she says a stalker filmed her through a peephole in a Nashville hotel, new court documents say. The Tennessean reports that Andrews’ Nashville attorney, Randall Kinnard, filed a revised version of her lawsuit earlier this week in Davidson County Circuit Court. The previous lawsuit sought $10 million for similar claims.

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Former Erlanger CEO Receives Settlement in Termination Suit

Former Erlanger interim chief executive officer Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson will receive $600,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit she filed against the Chattanooga hospital more than two years ago, the Times Free Press reports. Woodard-Thompson claimed that she was the target of racial remarks and e-mail hacks when she filed a $25 million lawsuit after being terminated while on medical leave. “This settlement is comparable to what Erlanger had agreed to pay Woodard-Thompson more than two years ago, but was refused by her at that time,” Pat Charles, an Erlanger spokeswoman, said.

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Discussion of VW Clawbacks is 'Hypothetical'

The Tennessean reports that currently there are no plans to take away incentives or grants from Volkswagen following the company’s admission to cheating in order to pass emissions tests. "Any discussion of clawbacks is hypothetical. We have assurances directly from company executives that Volkswagen's expansion remains on track," said Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

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Metro Schools Can Fire Non-teaching Staff Without Appeals Hearing

Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Ellen Lyle said Metro’s director of schools has the power to dismiss non-teaching staffers without giving them an appeals hearing, The Tennessean reports. Lyle said in her ruling that state law “supersedes the Metro Charter’ and allows for a board to create policies detailing the process in which the director hires and fires personnel.

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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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