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Tennessee Jury Award of Damages Significantly Less Than Medical Bills Overturned by Tennessee Court of Appeals

Posted on Nov 28 2015 12:03PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Sometimes juries make interesting decisions that need to be sorted out by the Tennessee Appellate Courts.  The recent case of Khadijeh Naraghian v. Darryle K. Wilson, No. W2014-02002-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 7012526 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) dealt with an automobile accident that occurred in Shelby County Tennessee.  In this case, the plaintiff alleged the defendant struck the plaintiff’s vehicle in the rear causing a neck injury to the plaintiff due to the accident.  Liability for the accident was disputed based upon the theory of alleged comparative fault of the plaintiff.  Regardless, there were approximately $13,440.00 of medical bills that were not contested by the defendant by any substantive counter medical proof. 


Ultimately, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded a total of $7,831.67.  The jury also found the plaintiff was 44.58% at fault for the accident and therefore the trial court reduced the award to $4,340.31.  The question on appeal was whether the jury award was disproportionate to the amount of damages actually proved at trial.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals found the award was not appropriate based on the evidence and therefore the award of damages was reversed.  The Court noted that it was basically undisputed that the plaintiff incurred approximately $13,440.00 in medical expenses.  The plaintiff asserted the jury cannot simply arbitrarily disallow part of the medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the injury.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed.  The Court found the following:


As we have already stressed, there was no evidence in this case rebutting the necessity or reasonableness of the charges billed by Dr. Burford. His testimony was essentially unimpeached. Because we cannot reconcile the jury's verdict with the undisputed evidence that was presented, we must vacate the trial court's judgment and remand this matter for a new trial.


Id. at 5. 


This case is certainly interesting because it shows that a jury cannot disregard competent uncont...

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TAGS: Jury Issues, Damages, Post Judgment Motions Comments [0]

Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Which Cases Are Subject to Tennessee Health Care Liability Act Requirements

Posted on Nov 15 2015 6:25PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently handed down a very important medical malpractice decision in Adam Ellithorpe v. Janet Weismark, 2015 WL 5853873 (Tenn. 2015).  In this new decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court considered whether its prior opinion of Estate of French v. Stratford House, 333 S.W.3d 546 (Tenn. 2011) was overruled by legislation found in the Tennessee Civil Justice Act in 2011.  In the Estate of French decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court previously ruled that claims could be characterized as ordinary negligence as opposed to medical malpractice when the conduct alleged is not substantially related to the rendition of medical treatment by a medical professional.  Following that decision, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 which amended the definition of a “healthcare liability action” to the following:


(1) “Health care liability action” means any civil action, including claims against the state or a political subdivision thereof, alleging that a health care provider or providers have caused an injury related to the provision of, or failure to provide, health care services to a person, regardless of the theory of liability on which the action is based;


T.C.A. § 29-26-101(a)(1). 


As a result, the question in the Ellithorpe case was whether the new definition of a “Health care liability action” overruled the Estate of French decision when determining if a case came within the Health Care Liability Act.  In Ellithorpe the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the Tennessee legislator overruled the Estate of French decision.  The Court held that “section 29-26-101 establishes a clear legislative intent that all civil actions alleging that a covered health care provider or providers have caused an injury related to the provision of, or failure to provide healthcare services be subject to the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements, regardless of any other claims, cause of action or theories of liability alleged in the complaint.”  Ellithorpe at ­­­7.


As a result, it is now very clear in Tennessee, based on the current status of the law, that if a cause of action has any relationship to a health care liabili...

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TAGS: Tennessee Tort Reform, Defenses, Tennessee Medical Malpractice/Health Care Liability Comments [0]

Tennessee Court of Appeals Confirms that Forum Selection Clauses are Enforceable in Tennessee Contracts.

Posted on Nov 1 2015 6:46PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently discussed forum selection clauses found in contracts.  These are clauses that select the jurisdiction and court that will handle any disputes involving the contract.  The case of The Cohn Law Firm v. YP Southeast Advertising & Publishing, LLC, 2015 WL 3883242 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) involved a dispute between a plaintiff attorney law firm and an advertising company.  The plaintiff’s attorney sued the advertising company in Shelby County Chancery Court over the dispute.  The defendant advertising company filed a Motion to Dismiss alleging that this jurisdiction was inappropriate due to a forum selection clause in the contract.  The contract between the plaintiff’s attorney law firm and the defendant provided that any lawsuit pertaining to the agreement should only be filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia or the Superior Court of Dekalb County, Georgia. (The Cohn Law Firm at 2).  This contract was signed by the plaintiff attorney.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals found that generally forum selection clauses are “enforceable and binding on the parties entering the contract.”  (The Cohn Law Firm at 4).  Further, “a forum selection clause will be upheld if it is fair and reasonable in light of all the circumstances surrounding its origin and application.  A party seeking to invalidate a forum selection clause must prove that the clause resulted from misrepresentation, duress, abuse of economic power, or other unconscionable means.”  (The Cohn Law Firm at 4).  Tennessee law is also clear that “the party challenging the enforcement of the forum selection clause should bear a heavy burden of proof.”  (The Cohn Law Firm at 4). 


The forum selection clause that was present in this case was as follows:


18. Miscellaneous; Exclusive Venue. This Agreement and all claims and disputes arising under or relating to this Agreement will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, without giving effect to its conflicts of laws principles. Any action or proceeding arising under or relating to this Agreement shall be filed only in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia or the Superior Court of DeKalb County, Georgia. Advertiser hereby consents and submits to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of those courts and waives any objection based on the convenience of these exclusive venues.... If any provision...

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TAGS: Corporation/LLC Law, Contracts Comments [0]

Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com