News

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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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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