News

Nashville Orthodontics Startup Sues Reporter for Negative Story

SmileDirectClub, a Nashville-based orthodontics startup, is suing Gizmodo Media Group and author Nick Douglas over a story that criticized their company, the Nashville Post reports. The company claims that the story is “filled with unsubstantiated false statements and innuendo.” The article described criticisms from the American Association of Orthodontists about the company’s product. Gizmodo Media Group is made up of the remnants of Gawker Media, which was successfully sued by Hulk Hogan until it folded in 2016.
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Teacher Fired for Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy Files Lawsuit

A Knox County private school teacher is suing the school that fired her when administrators discovered she was pregnant but unmarried, Knoxnews reports. The school’s attorney says that Concord Christian School had the right to fire Tabatha Hutson under a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that recognized a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws. Hutson’s attorney claims that since Hutson, a Catholic, was hired at a Baptist school for her expertise in the curriculum and not because of a ministerial calling, the exception does not apply. 
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Jury Awards Smoker’s Family $13.5 Million in Case Against Cigarette Company

A Florida state jury awarded $13.5 million the family of a man who died after smoking cigarettes for decades, Law360 reports. $5 million in compensatory damages and $8.5 million in punitive damages were awarded to the family of Arthur Brown, who was found 35 percent at fault for his death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2003. Brown smoked Viceroy cigarettes, a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds, since 1955, a period in which tobacco companies were still colluding to hide evidence pertaining to the health risks of cigarettes. The Brown family was represented by Nashville attorneys Kathryn Barnett and Jason Gichner, and Jacksonville attorneys Katy Massa and Tony Luciano, all of Morgan and Morgan.
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Attorney Parke Morris Talks about Nursing Home Litigation

In this one-hour online CLE from the Tennessee Bar Association, attorney Parke Morris reviews recent cases involving nursing home and long-term care. Other topics include prosecuting and defending cases in this area and identifying legal issues.
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Nashville Mall Owners Appeal to Supreme Court Over Flood Insurance

The owners of Opry Mills, the Nashville mall that was closed for two years following the May 2010 floods, have appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court to reverse a decision that reduced their flood insurance coverage from $200 million to $50 million, The Tennessean reports. Simon Property Group filed an appeal Friday with the court to overturn a lower court decision that ruled the mall fell under a $50 million coverage limit for properties in “high hazard flood zones.”
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10 Essential Documents for Your Practice

Instructions and rules for client file retention, list of current curse and copy of bank’s form for IOLTA access are three of the top 10 documents attorneys need for succession planning and practice management. Learn more in this 3-hour dual credit workshop with attorney Timothy Takacs.

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Reception for Tort and Appellate Attorneys

The TBA Appellate and Tort & Insurance Practice sections will hold a reception immediately following their collaborative forum on March 29. Section members and practitioners are invited to attend (attendance to the CLE is not required but recommended). The reception will be held on March 29, 4 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center.
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Annual Tort and Appellate Forum Features Judicial Panel and New E-Filing

Clerk of the Appellate Courts Jim Hivner will review the court’s new e-filing process at the upcoming Tort and Appellate Forum on March 29 in Nashville. Other speakers include Dean Bill Koch of Nashville School of Law, the Hon. Neil Thomas, the Hon. Kyle Hendrick and former Chief Justice Janice Holder. Sessions will feature updates in tort law, the process of claim evaluations and best practices for insurance coverage and bad faith.
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Harper Lee’s Estate Sues Over Broadway Version of ‘Mockingbird’

The estate of Harper Lee has filed suit in Alabama federal court over producer Scott Rudin and acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s depiction of Atticus Finch in the much-anticipated Broadway adaptation of novel To Kill A Mockingbird, reports The New York Times. The complaint asserts that Sorkin’s portrayal of the iconic Atticus Finch, the crusading lawyer who represents a black man unjustly accused of rape, presents him as a man who begins the drama as a naïve apologist for the racial status quo, a depiction at odds with his purely heroic image in the novel. 
 
The contract the parties signed states that “the Play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the novel nor alter its characters.” Tonja B. Carter, the lawyer Lee appointed to run her estate, met with Rudin to express “serious concerns about the script,” specifically that Finch is depicted as “rude and selfish” as well as “more confrontational and far less dignified.” “This Atticus,” Carter wrote, “is more like an edgy sitcom dad in the 21st Century than the iconic Atticus of the novel.” The Rudin team is arguing that while the producers must listen to the estate’s view, they are the final arbiters of whether the production is faithful to the novel.
 
"As far as Atticus and his virtue goes, this is a different take on Mockingbird than Harper Lee's or Horton Foote's," Sorkin told New York Magazine. "He becomes Atticus Finch by the end of the play, and while he's going along, he has a kind of running argument with Calpurnia, the housekeeper, which is a much bigger role in the play I just wrote. He is in denial about his neighbors and his friends and the world around him, that it is as racist as it is, that a Maycomb County jury could possibly put Tom Robinson in jail when it's so obvious what happened here. He becomes an apologist for these people” said Sorkin.
 
This production will be the first time To Kill A Mockingbird has been performed on Broadway. The play is scheduled to open on Dec. 13. Click here to read the complaint in its entirety.
 
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Tort and Appellate Forum Reception

The TBA Appellate and Tort & Insurance Practice sections will hold a cocktail reception immediately following their collaborative forum on March 29. Join friends and colleagues to relax and unwind after the program.
 
This event provides a great opportunity to meet leadership of the organization while networking with attorneys and professionals with a similar focus. Forum attendance is not required to attend the reception. Here’s the key info:
 
When: March 29, 4 p.m., CDT
 
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 5th Floor Terrace Room, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219
 
Contact Jarod Word with any questions.
 
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Store Owners Caught in 'Operation Candy Crush' Contemplate Legal Action

Store owners involved in the recent “Operation Candy Crush,” where Rutherford County law enforcement agencies raided and shuttered 23 businesses selling cannabidiol (CBD) candies, are contemplating legal action reports The Murfreesboro Post. Law enforcement action culminated on Feb. 12, when the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department and the Smyrna Police Department seized all merchandise containing CBD and padlocked the almost two dozen businesses, citing them as a public nuisance.
 
Proprietors argue that they broke no laws since CBD contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive element in illegal marijuana. Legal CBD products must be derived from industrial hemp and contain less than 0.3 percent THC. When isolated from the plant, CBD can be distilled into an oil and added to food and beverages to be sold. If derived from an industrial plant with a clear chain of command, the oil is not inherently illegal.
 
Defense attorney Tommy Santel, who is representing several store owners, argued that CBD and industrial hemp are not identified as controlled substances. "The state has failed to even plead a sufficient case," Santel said, when asking for the dismissal of all civil injunctions and the removal of the padlocks. "The state needed to go further, the state needed to say 'derivative of marijuana' or 'derivative of industrial hemp.”
 
All criminal and civil charges against the store owners in Rutherford County part of Operation Candy Crush will be dismissed and their records wiped clean.
 
Attorneys representing those business owners are discussing how to structure any legal action, which could involve “an overarching” state injunction by stores that took their items off of shelves because they feared prosecution, as well as the Rutherford County business owners who were arrested and lost days of business, according to Joe Kirkpatrick, president of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association. 
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Next Week: Tort and Appellate Forum 2018

A cross-collaborative CLE forum presented by the TBA’s Appellate Practice and Torts & Insurance Practice sections comes to the Tennessee Bar Center on March 29. This must-see, must-do event will feature timely topics and expert analysis from seasoned professionals, guaranteed to help you up your game and stay on top of trends and advancements relevant to your practice. The forum will feature first-rate programming from speakers and producers such as:

  • Hon. Kyle Hendrick, Hamilton Co. Circuit Court, Chattanooga
  • James Hivner, Supreme Court of Tennessee, Nashville
  • Justice Janice Holder, Private Legal Solutions, Memphis
  • Justice William Koch Jr., Nashville School of Law, Nashville
  • Robertson Leatherman Jr., Attorney, Memphis
  • Morris Ricketts, Consumers Insurance USA a Motorists Insurance Group Company, Murfreesboro
  • Nathan Shelby, Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC, Nashville
  • Hon. Neil Thomas, Hamilton Co. Circuit Court (ret.), Chattanooga

Topics include:

  • Updates on the appellate court’s new e-filing process
  • Updates in tort law
  • A review of the claims evaluation process
  • Practice pointers for insurance coverage and bad faith
  • Effective lawyering in front of juries
  • Ethical considerations and professionalism in appellate practice

Section members receive a discount for the program. Here’s the key info:

When: Thursday, March 29, registration begins at 8 a.m. CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Avenue North, Nashville

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White Nationalist Claims He Can't Get a Lawyer, Wants Charlottesville Suit Tossed

Richard Spencer— white nationalist and president of the National Policy Institute, an "alt-right" think tank and lobbying group— has filed a pro se motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him as a result of the recent Charlottesville, VA protests over removal of controversial statues honoring Confederate generals which left one dead and dozens injured. The suit, filed in federal district court of Virginia in Oct. 2017, alleges the plaintiffs were injured, harassed, intimidated and assaulted by the white supremacist groups in the city.
 
In the motion, Spencer claims that the blame for violence falls on the anti-fascists, or Antifa, who showed up to protest he and his cohorts' ideas and on the police, who he says did too little to discourage the violence. "Harsh and bold words, as well as scuffles, are simply a reality of political protests, which are, by their very nature, contentious and controversial," Spencer wrote. "Free societies, not only in the United States but around the world, accept this as a cost of free assembly and maintaining a vibrant political culture."
 
According to the document, Spencer maintains that he is unable to find an attorney due to the controversial nature of the case despite "the supposed but apparently illusory ethical obligation lawyers have to represent unpopular clients and to assure at least a semblance of a fair trial." "The plaintiffs, in this case, have enormous resources at their disposal. Several major law firms, likely working pro bono, with probably dozens of attorneys and deep pockets for depositions and other discovery expenses are lined up to represent them." said Spencer.
 
The motion in its entirety can be read here.
 
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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Shelby Family Loses Suit Against Durham School Services

The family of a Shelby County boy who was injured on the way to school will receive no compensation from Durham School Services after a jury determined the company was not enough at fault in the accident, The Commercial Appeal reports. Timothy and Teresa Kocher sued Durham for $14 million, accusing the company of leaving their son at a bus stop. The child, who arrived early to the stop to find the bus leaving without him, was unsuccessful in flagging down the driver. He went home and grabbed his bike to ride to school, and was hit by a truck on the way. The jury agreed that the company shared some of the blame, but it determined that the plaintiffs were more at fault and awarded no damages.
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Idaho to Allow Non-ACA Approved Health Insurance Plans

Idaho officials said they will begin allowing insurers to sell new plans that don't meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. In a bulletin issued Wednesday by state Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, "state-based health benefit plans" or "state-based plans" will not be subject to the federal restrictions applied to"grandfathered" or "transitional" plans.
 
Under these guidelines, insurers who participate are free to deny people coverage or charge more based on a customer's medical history, a practice that's illegal under Obama Care. Officials argue that the state needed to act to allow for cheaper plans that would help attract younger, healthier people back into an ailing market, however, critics say that this will likely mean steep premium increases for middle-class individuals with pre-existing conditions.
 
State officials said they are trying to press forward with the changes on their own without any action from Washington. The move will almost certainly be met with legal challenges by ACA proponents, as it has drastic implications on federal enforcement of individual market requirements.
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 

Highlights

  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219

 

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Knoxville Motel Sued for Crime that Took Place on Property

A Knoxville motel with a troubled history has been hit with a lawsuit over a gospel singer who was kidnapped, beaten and robbed while staying there, Knoxnews reports. Smyrna-based singer Dennis Humphries was staying at the West Knoxville Motel 6 on June 5 when he was attacked, chased into his room, tied him up in the bathroom and robbed. The lawsuit alleges that hotel security saw the attack and did nothing, and a clerk only called 911 at another guest’s urging but did not go to the room to investigate. The complaint seeks $1 million in damages.
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Age Bias Lawsuit With Rep. Duncan Settled Using ‘Hush Fund’

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. was found to have settled an age bias lawsuit, first filed in 2009, using a fund that settles lawsuits on behalf of members of Congress and shields disclosure of settlements from the public, Knoxnews reports. The law that allows the fund’s existence, the Congressional Accountability Act, is under scrutiny by leaders in Washington, including U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn, given recent public outcry on behalf of sexual harassment victims.
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Dog Bites, Alimony Deductions and a New Superhero

The January Tennessee Bar Journal carries a full slate of legal information from our columnists, ranging from a column covering the law regarding dog bites by John A. Day, to the elimination of alimony deductions by Marlene Eskind Moses and Manuel Benjamin Russ; and Bill Haltom's thoughts on the possibilities for a new superhero: Super Spiderman Batman Lawyer.

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Nashville Cleared to Move Forward with Opioid Lawsuit

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s administration has been cleared to utilize an outside law firm to explore a potential lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, The Tennessean reports. The Nashville Metro Council voted yesterday to defeat a motion to reconsider contracting with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP for the effort. The road block in the process came from Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, who was concerned that minority-led law firms were not considered for the contract. Lieff Cabraser has now partnered with Manson, Johnson and Conner, a firm whose five partners are all African-American.
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Prosecutors Unveil Evidence in Woodmore Bus Crash

The driver of a school bus charged with killing six children was on the phone at the time of the crash, the Times Free Press reports. Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said that driver Johnthony Walker received a call at 3:17 p.m., and the first calls about the Woodmore Elementary bus crash came in at 3:20 p.m. The prosecution also alleges that Walker was speeding. A draft of National Transportation Safety Board report on the wreck is now in the review process and could be released in late spring. Judge Don Poole also announced during today's hearing that jurors for the trial will be brought in from Montgomery County to hear the case.
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TSC Upholds Standards for Statute of Limitations in Legal Malpractice Cases

In John Howard Story, et al. v. Nicholas D. Bunstine, et al., the Tennessee Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to following the “discovery” rule for determining when the statute of limitations begins to run in legal malpractice cases. At the urging of the plaintiffs, the Court analyzed other possible methods for determining when a legal malpractice action accrues, including the continuous-representation rule, appeal-tolling doctrine and final judgment rule, but concluded none was preferable to Tennessee’s current “discovery” standard. Justice Roger A. Page wrote the court’s opinion.
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Marine Veteran Sues VA Medical Center, Tennessee Congressman

A Washington County Marine veteran is suing U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, and 17 employees of the Mountain Home VA Medical Center over a forced opioid tapering policy that limits veterans’ access to pain medication, the Johnson City Press reports. Robert D. Rose Jr., whose injuries were sustained in training exercises, claims he has been denied adequate access to health care since the opioid tapering policy began in 2012. Rose said in his lawsuit that he, alongside 90 percent of veterans receiving care at the center, have been denied opioid medications since October 2016.

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