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When is a National Organization Responsible for the Sexual Abuse of a Minor that Occurs at a Local Chapter in Tennessee?

Posted on May 18 2014 10:14PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  A very interesting Tennessee Court of Appeals decision was recently decided on an issue that often comes up in sexual abuse cases.  The question is whether a national organization or entity can be held responsible for actions that occurred by the local organization or their members or volunteers.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals decision of Ms. B., individually and on behalf of minor child, John Doe, “N” v. Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee, et al, No. M-2013-00812-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 890892 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) involved a lawsuit that was filed for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor child by a volunteer associated with the local Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee.  The national entity, Boys and Girls Club of America, was also sued in this case.  The trial court granted the national entity’s motion for summary judgment and that ruling was appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. 


The question before the Tennessee Court of Appeals was whether the national Boys and Girls Club of America had a legal responsibility to the minor child in this context.  The court noted that it is well settled in Tennessee that “there is no duty to protect others against risks of harm by third parties.”  Ms. B. at 4.  However, the court went on to state that, “an exception arises, however, when a special relationship exists between the defendant and either the person at risk or the actor who is the source of the risk or danger.”  Ms. B. at 4.  Further, “[i]f an individual stands in a special relationship to another individual who is the source of the danger or who is foreseeably at risk from the danger, then the individual assumes an affirmative duty to exercise reasonable care to either control the danger or protect the vulnerable.”  Ms. B. at 4. 


The Tennessee Court of Appeals in this case framed the specific issue in dispute as follows:


The question of whether a duty should be imposed on BBBSA to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual abuse of children participating in programs offered b...

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TAGS: Torts, Corporation/LLC Law, Miscellaneous Comments [0]

In Tennessee How Long Does a Settlement Offer Remain Open When No Expiration Time Period is Provided?

Posted on May 11 2014 10:01PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently decided an interesting case that discussed how long a settlement offer stays open when the settlement offer does not have a specific expiration date or any reference to how long the offer will remain open.  In the Tennessee Court of Appeals decision of Tonita Reeves v. Pederson-Kronseder, LLC d/b/a Pederson’s Natural Farms, Inc., No. M2013-01651-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 1285702 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) the employee and employer were preparing to arbitrate an age discrimination case.  Prior to the time of the arbitration the parties entered into settlement negotiations.


On June 29, 2012, a specific settlement proposal was made by defense counsel to the plaintiff after multiple prior emails discussing the concept of settlement (this proposal did not have any expiration date).  Defense counsel followed up with additional emails inquiring about the status of settlement but plaintiff’s counsel provided no specific response.  In the following month the parties engaged in additional written discovery and took additional depositions.  The arbitration was set for August 15, 2012.  Without any further offer being made, the plaintiff emailed defense counsel August 12, 2012, three days before the arbitration, and accepted the June 29, 2012 offer of settlement.  Defense counsel responded by stating that the June 29, 2012 offer of settlement was no longer viable due to the passage of time and the expenses that had been incurred since it was made.


Ultimately, the arbitration went forward and the plaintiff did not receive a favorable outcome at the arbitration.  As a result, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court alleging breach of contract for the settlement proposal that was “accepted” prior to the mediation.  The trial court found there was no enforceable settlement agreement in this circumstance.  This was appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals considered whether there was a legitimate settlement.  The Court basically found that settlement offers only remain open for a reasonable period of time even when there is no expiration date.  Reeves at 4, 5.  The court cited the rule in the Tullahoma Concrete case where the Court stated:


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TAGS: Settlement, Breach of Contract, Contracts Comments [0]

Status of Pending Tennessee Legislation to Abolish Collateral Source Rule in Tennessee – What Happened in 2014 Legislative Session?

Posted on May 4 2014 9:18PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Several people have recently asked me about the status of proposed legislation in Tennessee to abolish the collateral source rule.  Many of you will recall that in the 2013 legislative session a bill on this issue was proposed called the “Phantom Damages Elimination Act”.  This bill was SB 1184/HB 0978.  The Legislative website page that will provide you with updates on this bill can be found here.  This bill would effectively abolish the collateral source rule in Tennessee. 

There were many discussions about this bill in 2013.  In fact, in 2013 the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to establish a study committee to study the impact of this bill over the summer and fall of 2013.  In the 2013 hearings it was stated that the bill would be brought back in 2014 pursuant to the request of Senator Tracy, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.  So the question is, what happened in the recently ended 2014 Tennessee legislative session?

The answer to this question is simply – nothing happened!  The bill was only called up on one occasion on January 14, 2014 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brian Kelsey made one comment about the bill at that time.  He said simply “at the sponsor’s request that has been rolled to the last calendar” – see the video of the hearing here.  That is the only official insight we can obtain on this bill at this time.  There was no discussion or revelation of the results of the “study committee” that was established in the 2013 session.  The bill was never called up again according to the Tennessee legislature’s website.  The House appears to have not even called it up in any committee.

So what happened?  It was a hot topic in 2013 that was discussed in several committee hearings and there were many articles posted in the media and on attorney’s websites discussing this possible legislation.  At this time, I simply cannot tell what happened.  I did a Google search and could not find any substantive discussion about why it was not addressed in the 2014 Legislative session.  As a result, I am at a loss to explain why it was not addressed....

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TAGS: Damages, 2014 Tennessee Legislation, 2013 Tennessee Legislation 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