News

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.

read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.

read more »

Visitation Today, Services Tomorrow for Nashville Attorney

Nashville lawyer Thaddeus Earl Watkins died on Nov. 19. He was 60. Born in Memphis, Watkins earned his law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. During his 30-year career as an attorney for the State of Tennessee, he served as counsel for the State Fire Marshall’s Office, the State Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners, the Tennessee State Capitol Commission and the Department of Commerce and Insurance before being appointed to the Tennessee Department of General Services. Visitation will be held tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. at Marshall Donnelly Combs Funeral Home, 201 25th Ave N. A second visitation will be held tomorrow at 10 a.m., with services to follow at 11 a.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) or a charity of choice.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.  
read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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.

read more »

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.
read more »

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.

read more »

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.”
read more »

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.

read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »

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. 

read more »

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.
read more »

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.
read more »