News

Court Clarifies Law on Proof of Medical Expenses in Personal Injury Cases

In Jean Dedmon v. Debbie Steelman et al., the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to change a state law that outlines what evidence can be used to prove medical expenses in cases involving personal injury. The court held that Tennessee law continues to allow plaintiffs to use full, undiscounted medical bills to prove their medical expenses instead of the discounted amounts paid by insurance companies. Justice Holly Kirby authored the unanimous opinion in the case that was originally filed in Crockett County,
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Woodmore Employees File Suit Over Emotional Trauma Suffered After Bus Crash

Two lawsuits were filed today by Woodmore Elementary School employees who claim they suffered “acute emotional trauma” following last year’s deadly bus crash, which took the lives of many students, the Times Free Press reports. The employees named the private bus company, Durham School Services, as well as driver Johnthony Walker in their lawsuits. Faculty and staff say they were not prepared to go to school following the tragedy and deal with the trauma that followed.
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Safety Manager Destroyed Evidence of Kingston Fly Ash Danger to Workers

Three supervisors from the Kingston coal ash cleanup said in affidavits that they witnessed the safety manager on the project intentionally destroy evidence of dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, Knoxnews reports. Tom Bock worked for Jacobs Engineering, the government contractor tapped by TVA to manage the cleanup, and is now accused of allegedly destroying or altering results and knowingly endangering workers. Hundreds of the 900 cleanup workers are now sick and some have died. Many of the sick and survivors of the dead are suing Jacobs.  
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Chattanooga Agrees to Redact Personal Information in Crash Reports

In an effort to curb unethical solicitation of crash victims, the city of Chattanooga has agreed to redact personal information of crash victims in reports, the Times Free Press reports. Additionally, those requesting records must promise not to use the information to wrongfully solicit a victim, lest they face a Class A misdemeanor. The change is in response to a federal lawsuit filed in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court, in which a personal injury attorney claimed a medical company called a crash victim on behalf of an out-of-town lawyer. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan ordered the city to make the changes.
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Knoxville Lawyer Named Federal Administrative Law Judge

Knoxville attorney Benjamin Burton has been selected to serve as an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration. He will serve at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in St. Louis. Burton worked for the Social Security Administration prior to entering private practice and is one of only 61 Board Certified Social Security Trial Specialists nationwide.
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Lawsuit Claims Loud Music Caused Pedal Tavern Injury

A new lawsuit alleges that a Nashville pedal tavern company blasted music so loud that when a passenger slipped off of the vehicle, the driver could not hear her screams, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit claims the passenger suffered “permanent” bodily injuries during an incident that occurred while she was riding a Sprocket Rocket pedal bar in October of last year. “The music was too loud for the (driver) to hear the screams asking him to stop,” the complaint read.
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Lawsuits Filed Over Las Vegas Shooting Face Legal Obstacles

Lawsuits filed in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting face many obstacles, the least of which includes a 2005 law that protects gun makers from civil claims brought by gunshot victims, the ABA Journal reports. At least two lawsuits have been brought against the manufacturers of “bump stock” devices, which allow accelerated gunfire from a semi automatic weapon and were used by the killer in the Vegas incident. It is unclear whether a bump stock is a gun component covered by the law’s liability shield.
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Court Issues Proposed Rules Amendments, Asks for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

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Family of Woodmore Bus Crash Victim Suing Funeral Home, Law Firm

The family of one of the children killed in the Woodmore Elementary bus crash last year is suing a Chattanooga funeral home as well as an out-of-state law firm, NewsChannel 9 reports. Mother LeTesha Denise Jones claims that the Taylor Funeral Home locked her in a room with a man claiming to be an attorney, and was not let out of the room until she agreed to sign a representation agreement. The family later learned that the man, Alphonso McClendon, was not a licensed attorney.
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September Issue: Cumulative Error, Torts and 'It's Lawsuit Time in the SEC!'

"Errors in isolation may not be impactful," writes David L. Hudson, "but multiple errors together or cumulatively may require a finding that the defendant's trial does not comport with the due-process ideal of fundamental fairness." Hudson takes a detailed overview of the Cumulative Error Doctrine in this issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Columns include John Day's torts, John Williams' book review on Lincoln’s Greatest Case, and in perfect timing for the start of football season, Bill Haltom takes a humorous look at a current lawsuit heating up in the Southeastern Conference.

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Firm Says 200 Could Sue Over Gatlinburg Fire Response

An attorney from a Knoxville firm said that more than 200 people have signed up to potentially pursue legal action against the U.S. Department of Interior over the response to the Gatlinburg fires, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Some of those 200 have already sent in claims and the rest are coming soon, said Sidney Gilreath with Gilreath and Associates. Gilreath said the Chimney Tops 2 fire review, released last Thursday, showed that the National Parks Service response was “too little too late.”
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Tort and Insurance Online Series

Topics in this 1-Click series include the Claims Commission Act and the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act. Learn about millennial jurors and gain perspective from both sides on the West and Dedmon cases.

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Gatlinburg Wildfire Insurance Claims at $909 Million

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) has released the latest details on insurance claims related to the Gatlinburg wildfires, showing incurred losses of $909,801,523, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The total is down from its highest listing in February, which was $943 million. Of that number, $474 million are from residential property and $384 million are from commercial ones.
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Coaches Cleared of Abuse Sue Parent Who Accused Them

Two coaches cleared of abuse complaints have filed a $6 million defamation lawsuit against the parent who accused them, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Hardin Valley High School head coach Joe Michalski and assistant Zach Luther filed suit against Sheri Super, who they claim lied about injuries to a player and an “emotionally and physically abusive” practice drill in a letter she sent to school administrators.
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Vanderbilt Reaches Settlement Over Medicare Fraud Allegations

Vanderbilt University Medical Center will pay $6.5 million to settle Medicare fraud allegations, the Tennessean reports. The deal comes after claims from three former VUMC physicians that surgery scheduling practices from 2003 to 2011 violated Medicare billing regulations. A portion of the settlement money will go to state agencies and the whistleblowers, but under the False Claims Act, the majority of the settlement will go to Medicare. 

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HRC Medical Must Pay $18 Million for Consumer Protection Violations

A judge has ordered that HRC Medical Centers and the company’s principles must pay consumers who purchased HRC’s bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), according to Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office. Judge Don Ash granted the state’s motion for partial summary judgement in its suit against the company, which must now pay $18,141,750 for violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, the Court issued a permanent injunction barring the Defendants from engaging in conduct the Court has found unlawful.
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Dozens of Sick, Dying Coal Ash Cleanup Workers Sue Company That Handled Spill

More than 50 sickened workers and the survivors of deceased workers are suing Jacobs Engineering, the California company that handled the cleanup of the 2008 Kingston Coal Ash Spill on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the complainants allege workers weren’t told to wear protective clothing or masks despite the highly toxic conditions they were working in and warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency. At least 17 workers from the site have died since 2008. The case is set for trial in 2018.
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Accident Investigation CLE

Get a working knowledge of the types and causes of accidents during this July 26 CLE webcast. Discussion includes the proper process of documenting vehicle accidents, construction accidents, environmental accidents and others. Find out more and register here.

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D.C. Pastors Sue Coca-Cola Over Health Concerns

Two Washington, D.C.-based pastors have filed suit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association (ABA), claiming soda makers knowingly deceived customers about the health risks of their products, The Washington Post reports. The complaint, which was filed last week, alleges that Coke and the ABA ran an intentional campaign to confuse consumers about the causes of obesity. “We’re losing more people to sweets than to the streets,” said Pastor Delman Coates, one of the complainants.
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Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

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Disability Rights TN Conducting Survey on Needs and Resources

Disability Rights Tennessee is conducting a survey to gather information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization. Attorneys working in the disability rights field are asked to contribute their thoughts. Others are asked to share the survey with friends and colleagues in the disability rights field, so an accurate picture of the needs of those with disabilities can be compiled. The deadline to respond is July 15. For more information contact DRT at (800) 342-1660 or gethelp@disabilityrightstn.org.

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Middle Tennessee U.S. Attorney Secures $2.7 Million False Claims Settlement

The acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee reached a settlement with Innovative Therapies and its parent company, Cardinal Health, in a $2.7 million False Claims Act case, the Nashville Post reports. The company was accused by a whistleblower of marketing and billing a product as “durable medical equipment,” even though the product did not meet standards for a durable device. The whistleblower in the case will receive $488,700 under the terms of the False Claims Act.
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Crash Victims’ Families File Suits Against Guardrail Companies

The families of three Tennesseans killed in a crash last year filed lawsuits today alleging negligence by guardrail companies, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Two of the wrongful death suits were filed in Cumberland County Circuit Court and a third was filed in Hamilton County against Valmont Industries, Lindsay Corporation and their subsidiaries. They are accused of failing to design a safe product and failure to disclose “known problems and defects.” The suits also allege improper installation by Cumberland Guardrail.
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Judge Lifts Blackout on Gatlinburg Wildfire Records

Government records on the handling of the Gatlinburg wildfire can now be released to the public by order of Judge Jeff Rader, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Records were kept under wraps for weeks, even after the ruling, which was prompted by the state attorney general’s request for clarification on what records the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency could release about the deadly blaze. The only details the judge barred from release are the names of the two teenage boys accused of starting the fire.
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AG Slatery Announces Investigation into Opioid Crisis

After a lawsuit was filed in Sullivan County against drug makers earlier this week, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced he is leading a coalition of Attorneys General from across the country in comprehensive investigations into the roots of the opioid epidemic, the Nashville Post reports. The announcement did not name any specific drug makers or targets, but the group will examine the role “parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids may have played in creating or prolonging this problem.”
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