News

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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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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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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Lawsuit Against Opioid Drugmakers Includes Challenge to Tort Reform

The Nashville law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Tennessee prosecutors Tuesday seeking to hold three drugmakers financially accountable for the state's opioid epidemic, is using the litigation to challenge the constitutionality of tort reform state lawmakers passed in 2011. That legislation caps the amount of "non-economic" damages such as pain and suffering and punitive damages to a total of $1.25 million in civil lawsuits against businesses, manufacturers, doctors, medical providers and the like. Knoxnews.com reports.

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Shelby County May Sue Pharma Companies for Opioid Crisis

Shelby County attorneys are exploring a suit against big pharmaceutical companies to recover costs from fighting the county’s opioid epidemic, The Commercial Appeal reports. The attorneys could have a recommendation sometime this month. The states of Ohio and Mississippi have already filed similar lawsuits, and Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, recently asked state Attorney General Herbert Slatery to join them
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Harwell Asks State AG to Join Suit Against Drug Companies

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, has asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery to join a lawsuit filed by the Ohio attorney general against drug companies over the opioid crisis, the Nashville Post reports. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued five drug makers Wednesday, accusing them of intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers. The companies sued were Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon, Johnson and Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Allergan. Mississippi is currently the only other state that has joined the suit. 
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Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section members. Your membership in this section shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession.

How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might explain a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines at http://www.tba.org/submit-an-article, which will tell you about length, notes and other details. Once it’s in the proper format, send it in! It goes to the editor, Suzanne Craig Robertson, who will then get it to the seven members of the Editorial Board for review.

If you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Commission on CLE & Specialization at http://www.cletn.com/.

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Sentenced to Debt: When You Can't Pay Your Fines

In the current issue of the Journal, Nashville lawyer Vidhi S. Joshi looks into what happens within the criminal justice system in Tennessee when a person cannot pay their fines. Read the feature “Sentenced to Debt.” Columns this month include "Redefining Relocation," by Marlene Moses and Benjamin Russ; John Day writing about "Mothers, Minors and Medical Bills"; and Bill Haltom following the saga of where the bodies of President and Mrs. James K. Polk will land for eternity.

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Woodmore Bus Driver’s Verdict to Come from Out of Town Jurors

Prosecutors agreed today that a panel of out-of-town jurors will hear the case of the bus driver charged with vehicular homicide in the Woodmore bus crash, the Times Free Press reports. Defense attorney Amanda Dunn said that it would be very difficult for a Hamilton County jury to try 24-year-old Johnthony Walker fairly, and noted that the defense would prefer jurors from a metropolitan area similar to Chattanooga.
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Woodmore Bus Driver’s Verdict to Come from Out of Town Jurors

Prosecutors agreed today that a panel of out-of-town jurors will hear the case of the bus driver charged with vehicular homicide in the Woodmore bus crash, the Times Free Press reports. Defense attorney Amanda Dunn said that it would be very difficult for a Hamilton County jury to try 24-year-old Johnthony Walker fairly, and noted that the defense would prefer jurors from a metropolitan area similar to Chattanooga.
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