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Tennessee Personal Injury Trials Have Dropped 55% Since 2000.

Posted on Mar 30 2014 9:50PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  This post is another in a continuing series of posts that analyze the Tennessee Judiciary Annual Report that was recently published providing court statistics for fiscal year 2012 - 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013).  Today I am going to discuss the very significant reduction in the number of personal injury/death cases that proceed to trial over the last 15 years. 


For fiscal year 2012 – 2013 there were a total of 10,137 personal injury/death cases that were disposed of in Tennessee in one way or another.  Out of these cases, 438 of them were disposed of by trial (4.3%).  Only 213 of these trials were jury trials (2.1%).  Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties had a total of 216 cases that proceeded to trial which was 49.5% of the total personal injury cases that went to trial in Tennessee.


These statistics also show that there has been a great reduction in trials in Tennessee over the last 15 years.  In the 2000 - 2001 fiscal year (the first year Tennessee kept these statistics), there were a total of 967 personal injury or death cases that proceeded to trial.  In 2013 there were only 438.  This means that since 2000 we have had a 55% reduction in trials in personal injury/ death cases.  This has been due to many factors including tort reform and the encouragement of mediation in Tennessee.  It also shows why a lot of attorneys struggle to get good trial experience early in their career.   


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TAGS: Jury Issues, Tennessee Legal Statistics Comments [0]

Tennessee Statute of Repose Affirmative Defense is Waived if Not Timely Raised

Posted on Mar 23 2014 7:04PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Supreme Court recently decided an important case about the statute of repose that shows the importance of raising this defense in a timely manner.  The Tennessee Supreme Court in Eddie C. Pratcher, Jr. v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals, 407 S.W.3d 727 (Tenn. 2013) discussed whether the Tennessee healthcare liability statute of repose (T.C.A. § 29-26-116(a)(3)) is an affirmative defense under Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 8.03 and whether it is waived if not raised in a timely manner. 


In the Pratcher case, the patient died following child birth cesarean section complications on December 4, 1999.  On December 1, 2000 her husband filed a Tennessee healthcare liability action (formerly medical malpractice action) against various parties.  There were several amendments to the complaint and the case ultimately proceeded to trial in September of 2006.  At no time throughout the pendency of the case did the defendant assert a statute of repose defense until April 2009 which was two and a half years after the first trial in this case.  At that point the defendant filed a motion to dismiss under the statute of repose defense but still did not attempt to amend its answer to actually add the defense in the answer.  Finally in October of 2010, four years after the trial, this defendant filed a motion to amend the answer to assert the statute of repose defense.  As a result, the Tennessee Supreme Court in this case addressed whether the statute of repose was waived in this context.


The Tennessee Supreme Court at length discussed the interaction between the statute of repose (for a healthcare liability action) and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 8.03.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 29-26-116(a)(1-3) provides as follows:


(a)(1) The statute of limitations in health care liability actions shall be one (1)...

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TAGS: Defenses, Tennessee Medical Malpractice/Health Care Liability, Civil Procedure, Statute of Repose Comments [0]

Can a Plaintiff Sue Tortfeasor Outside of Statute of Limitations (Under T.C.A. § 20-1-119) When Defendant Asserts Comparative Fault Against Previously Known Tortfeasor?

Posted on Mar 17 2014 9:56PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  On March 7, 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court settled, once and for all, an important question about the comparative fault doctrine in Tennessee.  In sum, the fact a tortfeasor is known to the plaintiff at the time of the filing of the original complaint does not prevent them from bringing them in as a party at a later date (after the statute of limitations runs) when a defendant asserts comparative fault against them. 


The case at issue involved a Rule 23 certified question of law from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to the Tennessee Supreme Court.  In Michael S. Becker v. Ford Motor Co., No. M2013-02546-SC-R23-CV, 2014 WL 901510 (Tenn. 2014) the Tennessee Supreme Court made a clear ruling on an important comparative fault issue that has been in some dispute since McIntyre v. Ballentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992).  In the Becker case, the plaintiff sued Ford Motor Company for products liability and breach of warranty claims following an accident.  The plaintiff did not sue the driver of the vehicle in the original complaint (who happened to be the plaintiff’s own son).  Ford answered the complaint and asserted comparative fault against the driver of the vehicle (the plaintiff’s son).  The plaintiff then filed a motion to add the son as a party and Ford opposed the motion on the grounds that the plaintiff could not use T.C.A. § 20-1-119 to bring in the son as a party because the plaintiff knew the identity of their son as a tortfeasor prior to filing the complaint. 


As a result of this issue, the Federal court certified the following issue of law to the Tennessee Supreme Court:

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TAGS: Tennessee Comparative Fault, Statute of Limitations, Civil Procedure Comments [0]

More Tennessee Personal Injury Case Statistics for Fiscal Year 2012-2013

Posted on Mar 9 2014 9:36PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Judiciary has published their new annual report covering fiscal year 2012 to 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) on Tennessee Court statistics.  This report provides a significant amount of useful statistics and information about the Tennessee judicial system.  One important part of the report is the information about personal injury tort cases in Tennessee.    


Out of the 438 cases that went to trial in fiscal year 2012 to 2013 in Tennessee, a total of 180 received actual monetary awards (41.1% of the trials resulted in a damages award).  The total monetary awards provided in these 180 trials was $34,514,022.00.  This is an average award of $191,744.57 per successful trial.  This statistic is greatly skewed by one Davidson County jury award of $13,623,000.00 which was the largest award in Tennessee for this fiscal year, however this jury verdict was reversed on appeal in a February 2014 Tennessee Court of Appeals decision and this case has been remanded to the trial court to be re-tried.  When this one award is removed, the average monetary award in Tennessee was $116,061.23. 


Out of the 180 personal injury tort cases where the jury provided a damages award, 151 of them resulted in an award between $1.00 and $99,999.00.  22 of these cases resulted in an award of between $100,000.00 and $999,999.00.  Only 7 of these cases resulted in awards of greater than $1,000,000.00.  This shows how conservative Tennessee juries are in assessing damages in personal injury cases.  Obviously a lot of cases settle before getting to trial, but these statistics show how few large jury awards there are in Tennessee on an annual basis. 


I will likely have a few more posts regarding the statistics found in this report.  These statistics help us assess how liberal or conservative certain jurisdictions are within Tennessee

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TAGS: Jury Issues, Tennessee Legal Statistics Comments [0]

In Tennessee Can a Surviving Spouse Recover in a Wrongful Death Suit for Death of Spouse After Abandonment?

Posted on Mar 3 2014 11:23PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee wrongful death statute is found in T.C.A. § 20-5-106 and T.C.A. § 20-5-107.  A specific provision in this statute provides that the right to institute and collect any proceeds from a wrongful death action is prohibited for certain surviving spouses.  Specifically, if the children and next of kin establish the surviving spouse abandoned the deceased spouse or willfully withdrew for a period of two years, then the surviving spouse cannot recover under the Tennessee wrongful death statute.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 20-5-107(e)(1) and (2) provides as follows:


(e)(1) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the right to institute and the right to collect any proceeds from a wrongful death action granted by this section to a surviving spouse shall be waived, if the children or next of kin establish the surviving spouse has abandoned the deceased spouse as described in § 36-4-101(a)(13) or otherwise willfully withdrawn for a period of two (2) years.

(2) If the period of two (2) years has passed since the time of abandonment or willful withdrawal then there is created a rebuttable presumption that the surviving spouse abandoned the deceased spouse for purposes of this section.


So, what is the definition of “abandonment” of a spouse as described in this statute?  This definition is found in T.C.A. § 36-4-101(a)(13) which provides as follows:


(13) The husband or wife has abandoned the spouse or turned the spouse out of doors for no just cause, and has refused or neglected to provide for the spouse while having the ability to so pro...

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TAGS: Defenses, Statute of Limitations, Wrongful Death 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
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com