Class Action Litigation Bill Passes Despite ABA Opposition

Despite the American Bar Association’s opposition, the U.S. House yesterday passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, the ABA Journal reports. The bill requires federal courts to deny class-action certification unless every one of the proposed class members affirmatively demonstrated they have “suffered the same type and scope of injury” as the named plaintiffs. This morning the House also passed the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017, which amends Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require judges to sanction attorneys who file lawsuits deemed to have no merit. 
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Davidson County Chancery Court Launches E-Filing

Electronic case filing is now available in Davidson County Chancery Court. The court has implemented a program called Odyssey eFileTN, which allows users to open cases and file documents with the Davidson County Chancery Court from anywhere via a secure website. Davidson County is only the second county in Tennessee to implement e-filing in a state trial court. Learn more about the program, access rules or register for e-filing at the Odyssey eFileTN website.
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ABA Opposes Class-action Reform Legislation

The American Bar Association sent a letter to Congress this week in opposition to the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, the ABA Journal reports. Governmental Affairs Office Director Thomas M. Susman said the bill would “make it more difficult for large numbers of injured parties to efficiently seek redress in court; and place added burdens on an already overloaded court system.”
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From Fees to Dogs in Court, March TBJ Has It

In the March Tennessee Bar Journal, Tim Warnock explains last year's Supreme Court decision about assessing fee applications. Commissioner Robert Hibbett and Justin Hickerson give you the scoop on a "court" you may not even know the state has: the Tennessee Claims Commission. On its 190th anniversary, Russell Fowler looks back at how Chancery Court got started in Tennessee, and Wade Davies explains using the summary rule to advance your trial theory. Humor columnist Bill Haltom recalls a dog who presided over a courtroom, and considers taking his own dogs with him to try his next case.

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Suit Accuses Firm of Preying on Woodmore Family

A lawsuit filed today accuses law firms of taking advantage of victims of the Woodmore school bus crash, the Times Free Press reports. The suit was filed against Durham School Services, the private company responsible for the school system’s bus staffing, and includes claims of a Georgia law firm that illegally visited the father of one of the victims in jail and made empty promises.
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Nashville Judge Rules Against ‘Eyesore’ Scrap Metal Yard

A federal judge in Nashville ruled against the scrapyard PSC Metals in a dispute between the company and its landlord, the Nashville Post reports. The two parties disagreed over an appraisal of the property, with the landowners believing that the appraisal should take into account what the land could be worth if it was rezoned from industrial to mixed use. Mayor Megan Barry has called the scrapyard an “eyesore” and former mayors have attempted to redevelop the property in the past.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Harassment Suit Seeks $9.3 Million from Knox County

A Knox County woman is seeking $9.3 million in a suit filed today that claims her boss at the county procurement office sexually harassed her, Knoxnews reports. Janice Orr originally filed a formal harrassment complaint against her boss, Hugh Holt, in August of last year. After a series of interviews with county employees, the investigative body recommended Holt be terminated in October. Holt was then immediately hired by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department at a higher salary.
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Tennessee Supreme Court Rules in Teacher Tenure Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday ruled against Rogelynn Emory, a former tenured Memphis teacher who was fired in 2005, the Tennessean reports. The case centered on whether the Memphis City Schools Board of Education (now Shelby County Board of Education) had potentially violated the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act by holding Emory’s appeal hearing more than 30 days after her suspension. The court’s ruling didn’t address whether the law requires, or merely recommends, that a termination hearing should be held within 30 days after termination proceedings begin. Rather, the court said that because Emory didn’t raise concerns about the timing during her hearing before the Memphis school board, she was barred from arguing it on appeal. 
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Federal Clean Water Lawsuit Against TVA Set for Pretrial Motions

The Nashville Scene has an in-depth cover story about the lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which is set for pretrial motions next week in U.S. District Court. Judge Waverly Crenshaw will hear the suit, which centers around the Gallatin Fossil Plant, located on the banks of the Cumberland River, and the way TVA stores the facility’s toxic coal ash byproduct. Environmental groups are concerned about potential contamination to the Cumberland and the area surrounding the site.
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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Court Adopts 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the 2017 amendments to its rules of procedure and evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and other changes to the rules of appellate procedure, civil procedure, criminal procedure and juvenile procedure, as well as the rules of evidence. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law, and Juvenile and Children’s Law reviewed the rules when proposed and either found no objections or supported the changes. The proposals now go to the legislature for ratification before becoming effective on July 1.

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CBA: Lawyers Should Not Contact Bus Families for 30 Days

The Chattanooga Bar Association (CBA) is calling on lawyers not to contact families of the Woodmore Elementary School bus tragedy for 30 days from the date of the crash. CBA Executive Director Lynda Minks Hood tells that the Rules of Professional Conduct “explicitly prohibit direct unsolicited contact from a lawyer or an intermediary within 30 days” of an event like the school bus crash. Exceptions are made when a lawyer has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the victim and the victim’s family, she says. The paper reports that five lawsuits related to the crash already have been filed in Circuit Court.

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Neal & Harwell Move Unearths Watergate Files

As the Nashville law firm Neal & Harwell was preparing to move to the new Eakin Building, it discovered files connected to the Watergate scandal. The late James Neal, a co-founder of the firm, had been hired by the U.S. solicitor general to prosecute President Richard Nixon and his top aides. He achieved convictions of the U.S. attorney general and two of Nixon’s closest advisors, and delivered “what some call one of the finest closing arguments in the history of trial law,” WKRN reports in a story on the discovery. The firm moved into its new offices at 1201 Demonbreun St., Suite 1000, Nashville 37203, on Monday. Its phone number remains the same.

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Judge Approves $15B Volkswagen Settlement

A federal judge has approved one of the largest consumer settlements in U.S. history, a nearly $15 billion deal that sets in motion a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation effort. According to the Tennessean, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker Volkswagen. The settlement comes about a year after the company admitted rigging 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to evade emissions standards. The company is still facing investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors, which could lead to additional financial penalties and criminal indictments. Those impacted can visit for more information.

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Court May be Delaying Action on ‘Big’ Cases

The short-handed Supreme Court may be showing signs it is having trouble getting its work done, the Associated Press reports. The justices have yet to schedule three cases for arguments that were granted full review in January – an indication they may think the issues involved (separation of church and state, class-action lawsuits and property rights) will lead to a 4-4 split. "It’s much more difficult for us to do our job if we are not what we’re intended to be – a court of nine,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday. The justices have divided evenly in four cases since Antonin Scalia’s death last term. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Court to Hear 7 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review of seven new cases dealing with a range of issues, including length of jury deliberations, identity of criminal offenses, repairmen’s liens, GTLA liability, ecclesiastical abstention and vicarious liability. The Raybin Supreme Court Hotlist reviews the cases and offers a prediction as to how each case may be decided.

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Civil Suit Filed Over Ooltewah Rape Case

Alleging a long and violent history of hazing and sexual abuse of male student athletes, attorneys for a freshman attacked in December 2015 have filed a federal lawsuit against the Hamilton County Board of Education and former Ooltewah High School employees. The suit accuses administrators and staff of knowing abuse was taking place and failing to protect students, the Times Free Press reports. The plaintiff in the case, listed as John Doe, was raped during the basketball team’s trip to Gatlinburg. Three of the victim’s former teammates were convicted Aug. 30 in connection with the rape. All three are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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Court Square Series: Sept. 15 in Dyersburg

The TBA’s 2016 Court Square series continues with a session in Dyersburg on Sept. 15. The course will be held at the Farms Golf Club. Sarah Day, Jennifer Vallor Ivy and Judge Steven Stafford will address changes in summary judgment law; Judge Jim Hamilton will provide a basic overview of the Tennessee Claims Commission; and Laura Chastain with the Board of Professional Responsibility will present an ethics session.

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Jury Awards Almost $19M to Nashville Healthcare Company

A Nashville jury recently awarded $18.8 million to SpecialtyCare, a healthcare provider of neurophysiologic monitoring services. The award included $16 million in punitive damages and $2.8 million for lost profits. The jury found that SpecialtyCare competitor Medsurant LLC interfered with the assets of ProNerve, which was acquired by SpecialtyCare in 2015, and intentionally destroyed and concealed records in order to avoid liability. The Nashville Business Journal has more on the case.

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Court Solicits Comments on 2017 Rules Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court today published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include changing the place for filing a notice of appeal to the appellate clerk’s office, requiring payment of fees and taxes to the appellate court clerk at the time of initiation of an appeal, and changes to the Juvenile, Criminal and Evidence rules. Six TBA sections – Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, Criminal Justice, Family Law and Juvenile and Children’s Law – will be asked to review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 23.

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Litigation Attorney Sought in East Tennessee

An established, family-friendly firm in Blount County is seeking a seasoned litigator with a minimum of eight years of experience. Must be independent but a team player willing to mentor a very capable litigation associate. Salary is commensurate with experience. Apply online through the TBA’s JobLink posting.

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Opinion: Jury Duty a Vital Civil Responsibility

Serving on a jury is a civic duty that far too many Americans go out of their way to avoid, the editors of the Johnson City Press write in today’s issue. “Serving as a juror is not always appreciated in our society. That’s unfortunate because jury duty is a vital civic responsibility essential for maintaining our system of justice. It is a job that must never be shirked.” The editors indicate the opinion piece was motivated by a recent Washington County murder trial in which 11 people failed to show up for jury duty.

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Visitation Sunday for Knoxville Trial Lawyer

Knoxville trial lawyer Hugh Whitford Morgan, 79, died Wednesday (Aug. 10) while on a hike. A graduate of West Point, Morgan served six years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as an aviator and later many years in the Tennessee National Guard. After leaving the army, he attended the University of Tennessee College of Law and earned his degree in 1967. Morgan was a partner at Kramer Rayson. The family will receive friends on Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at Rose Mortuary, 6200 Kingston Pike in Knoxville. A celebration of life will be planned for the fall. Memorial gifts may be made to the Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, Boy Scouts of America and Friends of the Smokies.

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Computer Forensics for Lawyers

On Aug. 2, Lars Daniel with Guardian Digital Forensics in Raleigh will present a special CLE webcast on computer forensics. He will use real life examples to show how forensic artifacts recovered from computers are used in legal cases. Other topics will include best practices in data collection, understanding deleted data, challenging digital evidence and expert testimony. If you cannot join the webcast live, the program will be available on the website for up to one year. Learn more or register here.

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