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Tennessee Premises Owners Are Not Responsible to Protect Patrons from Violence that Occurs Off Their Property

Posted on Feb 22 2015 9:35PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals decided a recent interesting case involving a shooting that occurred just outside of the property of a youth outreach ministry.  The Jerterrius Marshawn Akridge v. Fathom, Inc., No. 2014-00711-COA-R9-CV, 2015 WL 97946 (Tenn. 2015) decision dealt with a shooting that occurred close to, but clearly outside of the property of the defendant.  The plaintiffs alleged they were attending a public music event at Club Fathom.  Club Fathom provides outreach to at-risk youth, including gang members.  At the event the plaintiffs assert certain individuals wore gang colors and an altercation erupted inside the building.  The defendant’s security personnel forced all patrons to leave the building and the premises.  The plaintiffs were subsequently caught in a shooting which occurred off the premises. 


The plaintiffs claimed the defendant had a history of violence and numerous incidents of crime and public disorder on their property.  Further, the plaintiffs claim the defendant had a duty to the plaintiffs as invitees to protect them and to operate the club in a reasonably safe manner.  Plaintiffs largely relied upon the seminal case on this issue, McClung v. Delta Square Ltd. Partnership, 937 S.W.2d 891 (Tenn. 1996) (this case discusses the duty of a premises owner to protect their customers when there is knowledge of crimes occurring on and around their property)


The question in the Akridge case was whether the defendants owed any duty of care to the plaintiffs when they were not on the defendant’s property at the time of the shooting.  The court noted that generally there is no duty to control the conduct of a third party to prevent harm unless: 


(a) a special relation exists between the actor and the third person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person's conduct, or

(b) a special relation exists between the actor and the other which gives to the other a right to protection.  Newton v. Tinsley, 970 S.W.2d 490, 492 (Tenn.Ct.App.1997)


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TAGS: Defenses, Tennessee Premises Liability Comments [1]

Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies How to Determine the Applicable Statute of Limitations for a Case (Old Rule was “Gravaman of the Complaint”)

Posted on Feb 8 2015 11:37PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Supreme Court in Brenda Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises, LP, No. M2013-00270-SC-R11-CV, 2015 WL 294635 (Tenn. 2015) has provided an opinion that attempts to clarify how statute of limitations should be applied for Tennessee cases.  Over the years numerous Tennessee appellate decisions have cited the “gravaman of the complaint” rule in order to determine which statute of limitations applies to a case.  (Benz-Elliott at 7, 8).  In this case, the Tennessee Supreme Court noted that defining exactly what this actually means has proven difficult over time.  If you desire to read a detailed analysis of the historical citations to this rule and the general “fuzziness” in the actual application of this rule, this case provides a lengthy discussion of these issues.  For the purposes of this blog post, however, I am mainly going to address the ultimate conclusion of the Tennessee Supreme Court that is an attempt to clarify confusing pre-existing precedent. 


Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that when choosing the appropriate statute of limitations for a case “courts must ascertain the gravaman of each claim, not the gravaman of the complaint in its entirety.”  Benz-Elliott at 8.  The Court then found the court’s should use a specific “two-step approach” test that has previously been discussed in Tennessee decisions in order to determine the gravaman of a claim.  This holding is stated as follows: 


Today we clarify that the two-step approach articulated in Vance and applied in Alexander and Harvest Corp. is the correct framework for courts to employ when ascertaining the gravamen of a claim for the purpose of choosing the applicable statute of limitations. When utilizing this approach, a court must first consider the legal basis of the claim and then consider the type of injuries for which damages are sought. This analysis is necessarily fact-intensive and requires a careful examination of the allegations of the complaint as to each claim for the types of injuries asserted and damages sought. Contract Law and Practice § 12:78, at 595 (2006).

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TAGS: Statute of Limitations, Civil Procedure, Statute of Repose 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