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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Aug 19, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

J. Christopher Rose, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Powers.

Attorneys 2:

Todd Covert, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Allstate Insurance Company.

Jerrold J. White, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Sandra Clark and Sandy Clark.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This interlocutory appeal presents an issue regarding whether a cause of action related to an automobile accident was barred by the running of the statute of limitations as a result of a lack of compliance with the service of process requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 3 upon the defendant tortfeasor. The plaintiffs assert that their counsel had entered into an agreement with the defendant’s liability insurer, acting on behalf of the defendant, to forbear service of process until settlement negotiations ended and litigation ensued. Upon an offer of settlement from the defendant’s liability insurer, the plaintiffs notified their underinsured motorist carrier of their intent to accept the liability insurer’s offer to pay the amount of its policy limit. The underinsured motorist carrier elected to pay the amount of the liability insurer’s policy limit in order to protect its subrogation rights against the defendant. The underinsured motorist carrier subsequently began corresponding with the plaintiffs’ counsel and investigating the plaintiffs’ claim on its own behalf. Following the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations period, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based upon lack of service of process. The underinsured motorist carrier thereafter filed a similar motion. The trial court, upon considering documents outside the record, converted the motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment. The motions were denied. The defendant and the underinsured motorist carrier sought and were granted permission for an interlocutory appeal. Discerning no error in the trial court’s denial of summary judgment to the defendant and the underinsured motorist carrier, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.