IN RE ESTATE OF CHRISTINA MARIE COTTEN - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Sep 15, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

H. Douglas Nichol, Knoxville, Tennessee, and John Chadwick Long, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Benjamin Shea Cotten, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Christina Marie Cotten.

Attorneys 2:

Christopher M. Jones and Britney K. Pope, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Dr. Jerry Scott Wilson.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

The personal representative, on behalf of the decedent’s estate, brought this negligence action against the defendant based, inter alia, on the defendant’s alleged acts of displaying and failing to properly store and prevent accessibility to the firearm with which the decedent ultimately committed suicide. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, determining that he owed no duty of care to the decedent and that her suicide was an independent, intervening cause that broke the chain of causation. The estate has appealed. Based upon the applicable balancing test, we conclude that the defendant owed a legal duty of care to the decedent and that summary judgment was improperly granted in the defendant’s favor on the basis of lack of duty. We further determine that the estate’s evidence at the summary judgment stage was sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial regarding causation. We therefore vacate the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We affirm, however, the trial court’s determination that no special relationship existed such as to impose liability for nonfeasance.