News

Shelby Judge Reprimanded For Delayed Rulings

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Robert Weiss has been reprimanded for unreasonable delays in rulings on two cases, the Daily Memphian reports. The public reprimand, issued in January by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, found that Weiss took up to five years to make a ruling in one case and three years in another. Reprimands of this nature from the board are somewhat rare, with Weiss being the only judge to receive one so far this year.

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Help4TNDay Kicks Off Saturday

Tennessee lawyers are invited to participate in Help4TNDay activities throughout the month of April. Events will bring attention to the ongoing need for free and low-cost legal services and highlight the groups that provide these services to disadvantaged Tennesseans. Opportunities include volunteering to help clients in need through Tennessee Free Legal Answers (TFLA) or at a local legal clinic. The events kick-off this Saturday with a statewide virtual legal clinic, where attorneys across the state will answer questions on TFLA from noon to 2 p.m. Simultaneously, the TBA will host an on-site TFLA Clinic and Luncheon in Nashville. To participate in the TBA event, contact Liz Todaro. Help4TNDay is a joint effort by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association. 
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Lawsuit Claims Murfreesboro Facility at Fault for Man’s Burning Death

The family of a man who was burned alive at a veteran’s affairs facility is suing multiple people associated with the facility, the Daily News Journal reports. John Daniels Carothers was arrested and accused of murdering Robert "Bobby" Miller," a black man, and later sent a letter to a white supremacist group admitting to the crime. Robert Miller Jr. and Vernice Miller are suing multiple people after the March 2018 death of their son, including Ida Frazier and Annie Young, sisters and co-owners of Frazier Young Supportive Living. The wrongful death suit names employees of the facility, Carothers and Ten Broeck Healthcare, a private mental health institution in Cookeville that placed Miller and Carothers in the Frazier Young residence.
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Register Now: 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum

Register now for the 31st Annual TBA Health Law Forum and the 19th Annual Health Law Primer to take place this October in Franklin The must-see, must-do event for Tennessee health law attorneys, this forum features timely topics designed to up your game and keep you on top of trends in the area. Presentations in this year’s program will include: cyber threats in health care, surrogate decision making, updates with TennCare, cloud-based vendor agreements, reps and warranties, legislative updates, antitrust concerns and much more. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with top players in the field. Here are the key details:
 
Health Law Primer (introductory program)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 16
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
Health Law Forum
When:  Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
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Purdue Pharma, Oklahoma Reach Settlement, Praised by AG Slatery

Oklahoma has reached a landmark settlement with Purdue Pharma regarding its role in the opioid crisis, The Washington Post reports. This is the first such settlement in the more than 1,600 lawsuits faced by the drug maker, including the case in Tennessee where Knox County Circuit Court Judge Kristi M. Davis struck down Purdue’s motion for dismissal. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery released a statement praising the action and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to holding Purdue and other manufacturers accountable for possible violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. In the Oklahoma settlement, Purdue will pay $102.5 million to establish a new foundation for addiction treatment and research, provide $20 million worth of treatment drugs and cover about $60 million in litigation costs.
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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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TBA, Governor Opposes Bill Requiring Legislative Confirmation for Judicial Appointments

A bill currently making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would require legislative confirmation for the governor’s picks for vacant lower-court judgeships and other local judicial positions, The Nashville Post reports. The TBA opposes the bill, with Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson saying  it "adds an unnecessary delay and political layer to the process." Gov. Bill Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold said the administration also opposes the bill because "our current process already provides a high level of accountability as these positions are often up for election within a short time from the governor’s appointment."
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Teacher Awarded $1.7 Million in Lawsuit with Oak Ridge Schools

John Edward Anderson III, a teacher who sued Oak Ridge Schools in federal court, was awarded more than $1.7 million by a jury this week, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. Anderson sued the school district and its head administrators for wrongful termination, breach of contract, defamation, lack of due process and an invasion of his privacy. Anderson retired from the Oak Ridge district in 2015 amid a series of allegations, which related to the sleeping arrangements of a high school track trip that had upset parents.  
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Litigation & Appellate Forum Set for April 18

Make plans to join your colleagues for the Litigation & Appellate Forum on April 18. This year’s event will include a session on appellate procedure, a presentation on social media issues and client intake, a dual credit legal technology hour related to hold and preservation systems, a session discussing ethical issues in brief writing and brief strategies for both trial and appellate as well as a presentation on the reasonable certainty requirement for calculating damages. Earn up to three hours of general CLE and two hour of ethics CLE.
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SEC Charges Volkswagen, Former CEO

Volkswagen and former CEO Martin Winterkorn have been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors during its diesel emissions scandal, The New York Times reports.  Despite settling with the U.S. two years ago over criminal and civil charges and paying out over $30 billion in penalties, the company is being accused of violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC’s complaint involves $13 billion in bonds and other securities and alleges that the company mislead and made false statements to investors about the financial health of the company and the environmental impact of its technology in order to sell securities to investors at inflated prices. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, repayment of ill-gotten gains, civil penalties and to bar Winterkorn from serving in a corporate officer or director role in the United States.

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Purdue Pharma Considers Bankruptcy

Facing numerous lawsuits over its role in the U.S. opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma is considering filing for bankruptcy, USA Today reports. As the first trial date is nearing in hundreds of lawsuits aiming to hold the company accountable for its role in the nationwide crisis, bankruptcy proceedings would likely pause litigation. A federal bankruptcy judge would have wide discretion on how to proceed with the claims against the company and other drugmakers and distributers. Hundreds of claims from local and state governments that have sued the company could be impacted. While Purdue's role is just one aspect of the litigation, critics assign a lot of blame to the company because it developed OxyContin and pursued an aggressive marketing strategy for the drug. 

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This Friday: LGBT Law Annual Forum 2019

Register now for the TBA LGBT Law Annual Forum to take place on Friday, June 21 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Timely topics for this year’s program will include laws concerning conversion therapy, an inside look at Vanderbilt’s Clinic for Transgender Health, ethical considerations regarding discrimination and employment law, ending the day with an LGBT community advocacy panel open to the public.
 
The forum will be held in conjunction with the 2019 Nashville Pride Festival, allowing attendees to take advantage of the fun and activities surrounding the celebration. Don’t miss what guarantees to be an insightful forum and one of the nation’s premier Pride festivals! Here’s the key info:
 
Attendees are also invited to Tennessee Equality Project’s Pink and Purple Pre-Pride Party following the program.
 
When: Friday, June 21, registration begins at 11 a.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Tour Death Row in This Unique CLE Opportunity

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section will hold its annual Criminal Law Basics Forum at the Tennessee Bar Center on May 22. This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. We will cover appellate issues, attorney well-being and ethics, ending the day with a guided tour of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, presented by Warden Tony Mays and attorney David Raybin who will discuss representing a death row inmate through execution. Don’t miss out on this unique, enriching CLE opportunity. Here are the key details:
 
When: Wednesday, May 22, registration at 8 a.m., CDT; prison tour at 2 p.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave N.; Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, 7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd, Nashville
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Knox Co. Judge Rejects Purdue Pharma Request to Dismiss Opioid Lawsuit

Knox County Circuit Judge Kristi Davis rejected a motion by Purdue Pharma to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III on behalf of taxpayers accusing the company of playing an integral role in the state’s opioid epidemic, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Purdue maintains that it has no liability regarding the epidemic, saying the drug which sparked the lawsuit, Oxycontin, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and that it complied with all FDA labeling requirements. Davis ruled the state isn’t suing Purdue for labeling and selling the drug as authorized by the FDA, stating in her opinion “the court finds that Purdue’s argument is based upon a mischaracterization of the state’s complaint, which is not grounded in the content of the medication labels but rather the conduct of Purdue and its pharmaceutical sales representatives.” Purdue maintains the blame falls solely on opioid addicts and over-prescribing doctors, not its drug.

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TBA Officer Candidates Offer Messages to Members

All candidates with contested races in the 2019 Tennessee Bar Association election have been provided the opportunity of preparing a campaign message to members. Those messages were sent out yesterday by email to TBA members and are now also available on the TBA.org website. Voting will begin Friday and continue through April 1. All members should receive emails with voting instructions on Friday.
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Labor & Employment Forum – May 3

This program provides timely, specialized and practical information on a range of labor and employment law topics. Presented by esteemed leaders in the field, the CLE sessions will focus on mediation and employment cases, accommodations in the modern era, case law updates, and a unique, interactive ethics session focused on attorney well-being and the power of laughter. Finally, this program will include a judicial panel giving practitioners unique insight into the best presentation techniques for employment cases in federal court. This is the most in-depth employment-focused CLE in the state. Review the agenda, read the session descriptions and register to attend by clicking here.
 
When: Friday, May 3. Registration starts at 8 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
CLE Credits: 1 Dual, 5.5 Gen.
 
The program will feature presentations by Hon. Waverly Crenshaw Jr.Hon. Jon McCallaHon. Travis McDonoughJohn Bode of Miller & Martin PLLC, Celeste Bradley of Impark, Heather Collins of Collins & Hunter PLLC, Edmond Sims and Deborah Walker of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Stan Graham of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Dan Norwood of Working Boomer Advocate, Debra Norwood of LaughterLawyerUSA and Michael Russell of Russell Dispute Resolution, PLLC.
 
Produced by Donna Mikel of Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak.

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Vanderbilt Law Students Win Moot Court, Mock Trial Competitions

Vanderbilt Law students Peter Cornick and Elizabeth Holden won the 2019 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition held earlier this month at Vanderbilt Law School, receiving the John A. Cortner Award and a cash prize for their win. The competition’s final round was argued before a panel of three federal appellate judges, including Judge Stephen A. Higginson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, who served as the round’s Chief Justice, Judge David J. Barron of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Later in the month, Abigail Wood and Chandler Ray took home top honors at the school's 2019 Mock Trial Competition, held on Feb. 15. The competition was sponsored by King & Spalding.
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City of Memphis Denies Wrongdoing in Case of Dead Body in Police Impound Lot

The city of Memphis has denied any liability in the wrongful death case where the corpse of a man was found in a police impound lot 49 days after his death, The Commercial Appeal reports. Bardomiano Perez Hernandez was reportedly sitting in the vehicle drinking beer with his coworkers when they were approached by robbers who fired on the van killing Hernandez and critically wounding another passenger. In a response regarding the incident, the city claims that the people at fault for the death are the other men in the van and the accused robbers, also citing various legal protections it maintains limit liabilities for governments. Two men were eventually arrested and charged last June with first-degree murder in the killing of Hernandez.

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Workers Involved in Bean Station ICE Raid Sue for Discrimination, Excessive Force

Workers detained by ICE after an immigration enforcement raid on a Bean Station slaughterhouse are now suing the agency, Newsweek reports. In the lawsuit filed last Thursday, the workers contend that ICE agents — along with officials from Homeland Security Operations, Enforcement and Removal Operations and the Tennessee Highway Patrol — used excessive force, berated the workers with racial slurs, punched one worker in the face and shoved firearms in the faces of many others. In total, approximately 100 workers were detained and 11 were arrested during the raid, making it among the largest worksite-enforcement operations in recent years. Read the complaint using this link. Additionally, executive council member Bruce Buchanan wrote a recent blog post regarding the lawsuit.

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Tomorrow: Tort, Insurance and Appellate Practice Forum 2019

The Tort, Insurance and Appellate Practice Forum, held on March 21, will offer essential and practical material for tort and insurance attorneys and appellate updates from seasoned practitioners in that arena. The all-day CLE will address the intangibles of litigating against an insurance company and highlight recent updates in medical malpractice law designed to keep you on top of trends and developments in this field. Members of the TBA Tort and Insurance Law and Appellate Practices sections receive discount pricing. Register now.
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Attorney Says Vanderbilt Medical Center at Fault in Case of Reckless Homicide

An attorney for nurse RaDonda Vaught, charged with reckless homicide after a medication error killed an elderly patient at the hospital two years ago, said that Vanderbilt University Medical Center “bears a large part of the fault," The Tennessean reports. Vaught has admitted she made an error, but her prosecution has infuriated many in the nursing community who believe she is being punished for an honest mistake. Attorney Peter Strianse also partly blamed the death on electronic medication dispensing cabinets that are used at Vanderbilt and common at most hospitals.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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February TBJ: Play Ball (in the Courtroom)!

Deliver that perfect closing pitch – on the baseball diamond if you must, but we’re talking about in the courtroom! Read this Step-by-Step Guide to Delivering the Perfect Closing Pitch, in our February issue. Also, take an inside look from two medical examiners about how a suicide determination is made. TBA President Jason Pannu addresses respecting judicial independence and the Rule of Law, and a new elder law column is introduced – “Older & Wiser,” with Kelly and Matt Frere. Read the full issue here.
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Suit Say Gatlinburg Park Rangers Guilty of ‘Reckless Neglect’ in Wildfire

In a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court, lawyers for Michael Reed, a man who lost his family during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, accused the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers of "reckless neglect” and said they “failed to comply with one mandated policy after another.” Knoxnews reports that lawyers working on behalf of the park want the lawsuit thrown out, saying fire crews need the freedom to act without fear of being sued or second-guessed later.
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