News

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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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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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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January TBJ: Our 'Pro Bono Heroes' Honored

The January issue focuses on Tennessee lawyers who have given their time to help others, our "Pro Bono Heroes," along with updates on the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice initiatives, and profiles of those honored by the TBA with Public Service Awards. There is also a personal account, by Memphis lawyer Buck Lewis, of an encounter at a pro bono clinic that changed lives, plus how technology can help even more. TBA President Jason Pannu discusses the importance of the Legal Services Corporation and Legal Aid. The issue also covers comparative fault and the "get out of jail free" cards available to certain special interest groups. Read the Tennessee Bar Journal!

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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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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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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

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.

CLE TOPICS:
  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

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

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at http://lyft.com/i/lawtech5 or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS & EXHIBITORS:


 

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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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Judge Refuses to Label Opioid Manufacturers as ‘Drug Dealers’

Eighth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge John D. McAfee has refused a move by prosecutors to label the manufacturers of opiates as drug dealers, Knoxnews reports. Fourteen prosecutors representing 47 counties in Middle and East Tennessee last year filed lawsuits against opioid makers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, and distributors under the Tennessee Drug Dealer Liability Act. In his ruling McAfee pointed out that despite their marketing practices, opioid manufacturers are making a legal and FDA-approved product.
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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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Jury Rules in Favor of Coal Ash Cleanup Workers

A federal jury today ruled that Jacobs Engineering, the contractor in charge of cleanup efforts following the 2008 Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant spill, failed to keep laborers safe during the process and likely caused the poisoning of many workers, Knoxnews reports. More than 30 workers have died since the cleanup and more than 250 are sick or dying. The verdict means the workers will get a chance to seek damages, including money to cover medical testing for all laborers who worked at the site.
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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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Damages, Failing Insurance and Lawyer Well-Being Headline New Issue

When there is a right, there should be a remedy, but as authors Robert Dalton and David Hudson point out, Tennessee’s Constitution doesn’t include compensation to a citizen injured by a governmental actor who has violated its provisions. Read the details in the November Tennessee Bar Journal. Also, David Broemel explains what happens if an insurer fails. In his column, TBA President Jason Pannu delves into how lawyers can watch for unhealthy habits and focus on well-being -- and what the options are for help, such as the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, when needed. Check out these stories and more in the new TBJ.

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VA to Pay $2.5 Million in Wrongful Death Settlement

The parents of a U.S. Army veteran will receive $2.5 million in a wrongful death settlement after their 26-year-old son died from a treatable condition at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. Staff Sgt. Aaron M. Merritt died in October 2014, just nine months after he was honorably discharged at Fort Campbell and less than 10 months after he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the Nashville VA. Merritt’s parents sued the hospital in 2016, claiming negligence after VA doctors failed to monitor his reaction to prescribed medication.
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TVA Official Refuses to Testify in Coal Ash Lawsuit

A former TVA spokesperson who made public claims that the Kingston coal ash sites were safe is refusing to testify on behalf of cleanup workers who are now sick, dying or dead, Knoxnews reports. Anda Ray says she will not voluntarily testify on behalf of the hundreds of workers who labored, unprotected, to clean up the coal ash spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant. Phase one of the toxic tort lawsuit against the TVA contractor in charge of the cleanup began today.
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S.E.C. Sues Tesla CEO Elon Musk

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court accusing Tesla CEO Elon Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements on Twitter that had the potential to hurt investors, the New York Times reports. The suit aims to bar Musk from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies, such as Tesla; this type of punishment is one of the harshest that the S.E.C. can impose on corporate executives. In the Aug. 7 tweet, Musk said he was considering taking Tesla private and that the financing for this possible conversion was "secured." However, neither Tesla nor Musk had actually secured financing beyond initial conversations with investors. A 2013 S.E.C. policy permits companies to disclose market-moving information via Twitter, provided investors are given advance notice that the corporation may do so. Tesla had given investors notice that Musk’s Twitter account is one venue the company may deliver significant announcements.

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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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TBJ This Month: Insurance, Dead Tortfeasors, Prohibition and a High Court Turndown

Family law practitioners should take note of the recent Tennessee Supreme Court opinion, Coleman v. Olson, as the court dealt with the issue of an alteration of the beneficiary of a life insurance policy during the pendency of a divorce. Marlene Eskind Moses and Ben Russ write that "the case provides the clearest guidance available when dealing with a similar issue going well beyond the mere statutory language in its analysis of such situations." Columnist John Day writes about what to do when a tortfeasor dies before the suit is filed. Keith Stewart reviews a book from Vanderbilt University Press, "The Prohibition Era and Policing: A Legacy of Misregulation," by Wesley M. Oliver. And find out the name of the Tennessee lawyer who was asked but turned down the chance to be on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Spoiler alert: That's right, Howard Baker!). It's all in the September issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal

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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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2018 Health Law Primer and Forum

Tennessee remains at the forefront of the health care industry, so it’s only fitting that we host the nation’s preeminent health law forum. This must-see, must-do event for Tennessee health law lawyers features timely programming designed to up your game and keep you on top of trends in the field. Topics for this year include new issues in health care as related to transgender and immigrant patients, the opioid crisis, fraud and abuse developments/enforcement, legislative updates and much much more. This year’s keynote speaker Chief Counsel to the Inspector General Gregory Demske will also detail priorities and enforcement efforts for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. 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. 10
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
 
Health Law Forum
When:  Thursday, Oct. 11 – Friday, Oct. 12
Where: Embassy Suites Hotel, 820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin
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Purdue Pharma Asks Judge to Toss Tennessee Opioid Lawsuit

Purdue Pharma has asked a Knox County judge to toss Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s lawsuit against the firm that blames it in part for the opioid crisis, Knoxnews reports. Slatery’s lawsuit focuses on high-pressure sales tactics Purdue staffers utilized towards under-skilled doctors to push OxyContin prescriptions. Purdue blames the problem on “doctors who wrote improper prescriptions” that the company "has no control over.” 
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DOJ Prepares for Growing List of Gatlinburg Wildfire Lawsuits

The U.S. Justice Department has assigned a team of attorneys to battle a growing list of lawsuits blaming the National Park Service for the severity of the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, Knoxnews reports. Three lawsuits have now been filed in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Department of the Interior on behalf of citizens who lost their lives or property in the blaze. 
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Put TBA UPS to Work

Have you enrolled in TBA’s UPS account for members? Visit UPS's TBA page and save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio. Shipping services include next day air, international, ground and express.
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Law Office Management Tips on Shipping

If your law office uses shipping services, your TBA membership team can help you compare those costs to TBA’s UPS member benefit. Your firm office manager can work directly with TBA staff and UPS services to enroll or transfer shipping accounts. Members can save up to 34 percent on UPS’s broad portfolio of shipping services, including next day air, international, ground and express.
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