Judge Orders TVA Contractor Negotiate with Sickened Kingston Coal Ash Spill Workers

A federal judge is ordering a TVA contractor accused in the nation’s first and largest case of mass poisoning by coal ash to sit down at the bargaining table with sickened workers, Knoxnews reports. Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Friday ordered Jacobs Engineering into mediation in a toxic tort lawsuit filed on behalf of the hundreds of blue-collar laborers who were sickened — some fatally — after unprotected long-term exposure to the 7.3 million tons of coal ash that spilled from a dike at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County a decade ago. Jacobs was the firm placed in charge of the clean up process by TVA.
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6th Circuit Panel Strikes Down Tennessee's Punitive Damage Cap

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled in a recent decision that a 2011 Tennessee law that caps punitive monetary damages in civil lawsuits is unconstitutional, The Times Free Press reports. The ruling strikes at a provision in the 2011 Tennessee Civil Justice Act, which sharply curtailed monetary damages, including punitive damages. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Attorney General's office said the state is reviewing whether to appeal or not.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Law Regarding Releases From Liability

The Tennessee Supreme Court has revised the factors for courts to consider when deciding the enforceability of a release of liability signed by someone before participating in an activity or obtaining a service. In a case brought by Frederick Copeland against medical transport company MedicOne Medical Response Delta Region Inc., in which Copeland, after signing an agreement releasing MedicOne from liability, was injured while getting into one of the company's vans. Copeland sued, but a lower court and an appeals court both found the released enforceable. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the release was not enforceable because Copeland did not have equal bargaining power with MedicOne when he signed the release, the language of the release was unclear and overly broad, and the release involved an activity with important public interest implications. Read Justice Sharon Lee's unanimous opinion.

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Forrest Descendants Sue Memphis Over Statue

The descendants of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest have filed a lawsuit against the City of Memphis, demanding the return of a statue of him that was removed late last year, The Commercial Appeal reports. The descendants want the city to pay for the return of the statue to a location of their choosing, as well as return "all pedestal, base, burial vault, copper caskets, and the earthly remains of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest." They want an unspecified amount in compensatory damages for the "embarrassment, humiliation, and mental anguish caused by the defendants."
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Federal Judge Rules School Not Legally Responsible for Students' Safety in Mass Shooting

A federal judge in Miami has dismissed a lawsuit filed by 15 students present during the Valentine’s Day shooting at their school in Parkland, Florida, The ABA Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled last week that school and sheriff’s officials had “no legal duty” to protect the students. Among those named in the suit are officials at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the Broward County sheriff’s office. Bloom said the students’ suit arises from the actions of the shooter, rather than a state actor.
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Law Tech Blast: Feb. 15, 2019

Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast on Feb. 15! This is a free program available to all practicing lawyers. The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

FREE SIGN UP: Sign up now so we know you are coming.

  • You will only pay for the hours you wish to be awarded CLE credit.
  • Programming will be available throughout the day with dual credit hours available.
  • The registration desk will also be open all day.
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Preparing for eDiscovery Before Litigation 

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including a hot, new tech product. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Lawyers in Equifax Data Breach Case Want Material Surrendered to Congress

Attorneys suing Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax in a massive class action stemming from the firm’s 2017 data breach want documents and witness statements the company turned over to Congress, reports. Plaintiffs counsel is seeking the information because the rules in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia generally preclude discovery until after a judge has ruled on motions to dismiss. As a result, once defendant parties move to dismiss a case, little or no discovery occurs until after the court rules. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a majority report Tuesday that concluded the data breach that exposed personal and financial data of an estimated 148 million consumers was preventable.
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LexisNexis Launches Legal Analytics Tool

LexisNexis has launched a new legal analytics tool, Context, that provides sortable data on federal judicial decisions, Legaltech News reports. Available as an added purchase in the Lexis Advance suite, Context can provide data specific to judges, including favored citations and motion outcomes. Additionally, the tool has sortable data on 380,000 expert witnesses who appeared in federal court. 

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Best Twitter Accounts for Legal Issues

Looking for some great social media follows? The American Bar Association is out with its list of best legal Twitter accounts of 2018. Included for the first time this year is @inspiredcat, the account of Vanderbilt Law School professor Cat Moon. Members can also always keep up locally with the TBA at our Twitter accounts, @TennesseeBar, @TennBarJournal or @TBAYLD.

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December CLE in 6 Cities

TBA offers CLE in six locations during December. See offerings in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City and Jackson. Find last-minute by the hour through Dec. 31 or take any of the TBA's online CLE packages.
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Nashville Police Officer Files Suit Claiming City Retaliated Over Her Rape Accusation

A Nashville police officer filed a federal discrimination lawsuit Friday against the Metro Nashville government and a police department commander, alleging the government and commander retaliated against her after she accused another officer of sexually assaulting her. The Tennessean reports that Officer Monica Blake’s lawsuit also claims that Commander Janet Pardue discriminated against her by dealing a more severe punishment to Blake than what was given to other white, male officers for the same infraction.
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Suit: Pain Clinics Duped Government, Military out of Millions

Federal prosecutors have accused a chain of pain clinics in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia of duping the government and the military out of millions of dollars by forcing patients to receive unnecessary injections into their back, then intentionally mislabeling the injections during billing, the Tennessean reports. A lawsuit filed against Franklin-based Pain MD clinics and parent company MedManagement, or MMi, alleges that the MMi company culture pressured medical staff to inject patients as often as possible in an effort to inflate profits.

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Mark Your Calendars!

Sevier County Man Faces Trial for Deputy's Panic Attack

In the first case of its kind in Tennessee, a Sevier County man will stand trial Wednesday on charges he caused a deputy’s panic attack, Knoxnews reports. Brian Mullinax was unarmed and facedown on the ground several yards from the law enforcement officer during an incident in December 2016, for which he now faces assault charges. The officer, former Sevier County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Justin M. Johnson, fired his gun in Mullinax's neighborhood minutes before the panic attack allegedly occurred. Johnson was forced to resign earlier this year after an investigation uncovered the details of his past firing from a police agency for fanning his gun over the head of an officer, lying to his chief, hitting his wife and threatening his mistress.
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Ex-Pilot President Denied Christmas Break Before Starting Fraud Sentence

A request from convicted Pilot Flying J former President Mark Hazelwood that he have until after Christmas to begin serving his 12 ½ years in prison for fraud has been denied, Knoxnews reports. "If the court attempted to set (prison) dates that did not conflict with any religious holidays, it would be unable to set any dates at all," U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said. "Easter, the most important Christian religious holiday, would come just a few short months after Christmas." Hazelwood was convicted in a scheme to rip off small trucking companies of more than $50 million.

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New Videos Available

Need a few CLE hours? Several presentations from this year's Litigation and Appellate Forum are now available online. Take a look at the list below and view one today!

New E-Filing Process and its Impact on Tennessee Rules - Jim Hivner, Clerk of the Tennessee Supreme Court, will discuss the new E-filing process in the Appellate courts and its impact on Tennessee rules.

Open Courts - Judge Brandon Gibson discuss the importance of openness and transparency in the court system and the presumption of openness of government records. 

Oral Argument Preparation Panel - This panel discusses perfecting your appeal before the trial even ends. You will hear about tips and techniques used by some of the most experienced trial lawyers in Tennessee.

Perspectives from the Bench - This presentation will help you the next time you appear in Federal court.

Taking and Defending Effective Depositions - In this presentation you will learn the techniques to successfully take or defend a deposition to your greatest advantage.

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Lawsuit Claims Knox Commissioner Abused Special Needs Student

A lawsuit filed just before the school year claims that Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill physically and psychologically abused a student with special needs in 2017, Knoxnews reports. The student’s parents are suing Gill, Knox County, the Knox County Board of Education, Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas and the South-Doyle Middle School Principal Andrew Brown. An attorney representing the family said each party has "agreed to stay the proceedings pending a mediation to explore a resolution of all claims."
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7 New Job Postings for October on TBA JobLink

New job postings have been added to TBA’s employment portal. Postings include Consumer Law, Disability Rights, Environmental Law, Litigation and Associate positions. JobLink helps Tennessee legal employers post jobs and TBA members connect with job opportunities.
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Federal Court Issues Injunction Against Tennessee Drugmaker

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court judge issued a consent decree of permanent injunction against Tennessee over-the-counter drugmaker Keystone Laboratories barring the company from manufacturing or distributing drugs until it complies with the requirements in the decree, Regulatory Focus reports. The injunction comes after the Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, filed a complaint against the company and its owner and operator in September. According to the complaint, Keystone violated the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by distributing over-the-counter drug products that were not manufactured in accordance with current good manufacturing practices and in some cases did not have adequate labeling. The company has agreed to be bound by the consent decree.
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Basic Tech Checklist for Firms

Law firms attempting to stay competitive and state-of-the-art need to consistently evaluate their use of technology. In addition to staying competitive, technological competency is required. In 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court amended Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to include this obligation. Above the Law presents a simple and straightforward tech checklist for law firms or lawyers seeking guidance in this area.   

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BPR Seeking Disciplinary Counsel

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility is seeking an attorney for the position of Disciplinary Counsel - Litigation Section, Appeals. The duties and responsibilities include: investigate and conduct discovery related to complaints of attorney misconduct; prepare pleadings and appear in disciplinary hearings before hearing panels; represent the board in appellate proceedings before special judges in trial courts and before the Tennessee Supreme Court; prepare and present continuing legal education; and other duties as assigned. Applicants must be licensed in Tennessee and have a minimum of seven years experience in the practice of law and practice before the Tennessee Supreme Court is preferred. Read more about the position on TBA's JobLink portal.
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Court: Funeral Homes Not Responsible for Mishandled Bodies

A Shelby County Chancery Court ruled in a class action lawsuit that funeral directors were not at fault for the mishandling of bodies at Galilee Memorial Gardens, and that the cemetery itself was 99 percent responsible for what happened, The Commercial Appeal reports. More than 1,200 plaintiffs, whose loved ones were buried in caskets one atop the other, took part in the suit. Cemetery owner Jemar Lambert in 2015 pleaded guilty to criminal charges, including charges of burying bodies on land the cemetery did not own.
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Walmart Changing Legal Operations

The Corporate Counsel blog takes a look at changes in Walmart's legal operations. At the recent annual Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Symposium in Philadelphia, Alan Bryan, senior associate general counsel for Walmart Inc. discussed Walmart’s new cost cutting measures. Walmart has entered into partnership with LegalMation and is using software to take complaints filed against the company, generally in tort and general litigation matters, then feeding them into the system. Within two minutes, the system kicks out an answer, a first set of interrogatories and a first set of requests for production. “We’ve found that it is saving 60 to 70 percent of the time that would normally take to review a complaint,” Bryan explained. 

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State Farm to Pay $250 Million for Secretly Funding Illinois Supreme Court Campaign

State Farm has agreed to pay $250 million to settle a class action claiming the insurer created a RICO enterprise to secretly fund the election of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who later voted to overturn a $1.05 billion verdict against the Illinois-based company, The Associated Press reports. The class-action lawsuit sought nearly $10 billion from State Farm in a trial that was scheduled to begin Tuesday. The allegations center around the 2005 case of Avery v. State Farm, Karmeier cast the deciding vote to reverse a $1.06 billion judgment in 1999 against State Farm for its use of aftermarket car parts in repairs. 
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