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Tennessee Supreme Court Recently Ruled that Trial Courts Must Explain The Basis for Ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment Before it Invites or Requests Counsel to Draft the Order

Posted on Jul 28 2014 9:45PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  On July 15, 2014 the Tennessee Supreme Court provided an important new opinion that will modify the way many trial courts handle ruling on motions for summary judgment.  The case of Mary C. Smith v. UHS of Lakeside, Inc., No. W2011-02405-SC-R11-CV, 2014 WL 3429204 (Tenn. 2014), dealt with a situation where a trial court granted two motion for summary judgment on behalf of the defendants.  The details of this health care liability cause of action are not important to be able to evaluate the importance of this opinion.  The details of what happened at the motion for summary judgment rulings are, however, very important. 


After the trial court ruled on two motions for summary judgment the court then directed defense counsel to prepare the orders explaining the trial court’s ruling.  The Supreme Court discussed the trial court’s statements to counsel as follows: 


The trial court then observed that “the appellate court is going to want a rationale from our rulings.” Accordingly, the trial court stated, “As far as a basis for the ruling, I'm going to let you [Lakeside's counsel] make those.... And in the same way [p]laintiff's counsel can then, you were successful on EMTALA, outrageous conduct and the negligent infliction of emotional distress, the motions in which you were successful, you'll prepare the order and the rationale for the Court's ruling.”


Smith at 5.  At the second hearing the trial court once again ruled on the pending motion for summary judgment and stated:


I'm ruling now. I think I've heard ample discussion on this. And I'm directing the [d]efendant to prepare the order and to establish the rationale for the [c]ourt's ruling in quite specific detail, and let this go forward as quickly as possible to the [a]ppellate [c]ourt.


So basically at both hearings, the trial court did not provide detail about the basis or reasoning for its ruling on the motions for summary judgment.  It simply relied upon counsel to draft an order explaining the rationale for the trial court’s ruling.  The granting of the motions for summary judgment was therefore appealed and the appeal ultimately came to the Tenne...

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TAGS: Summary Judgment Comments [0]

Tennessee Passes “Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014” Preventing Employers from Obtaining Access to Personal Internet Accounts Like Facebook

Posted on Jul 20 2014 8:55PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Legislature recently passed the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014.  This is found in 2014 Public Chapter 826.  This new statute will be found at T.C.A. § 50-1-1001 et seq. and takes effect on January 1, 2015.  This new statute basically prevents an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee for failure to provide access to a “personal internet account” (which basically includes any type of internet account).  “Personal internet account” is defined as follows:


(5) "Personal Internet account":

(A) Means an online account that is used by an employee or applicant exclusively for personal communications unrelated to any business purpose of the employer; and includes any electronic medium or service where users may create, share or view content, including, emails, messages, instant messages, text messages, blogs, podcasts, photographs, videos or user-created profiles; and

(B) Does not include an account created, maintained, used, or accessed by an employee or applicant for business-related communications or for a business purpose of the employer.


Upon review of the definition of personal internet account would certainly include Email, Facebook and Twitter accounts.  The most common of the “personal internet account’s” that falls within this statute is likely Facebook so it would certainly apply to anyone who has a Facebook account with private settings (yet another reason to make sure that your Facebook account is set to “private” and not “public”)  Under this statute Tennessee employers are specifically prevented from the following:

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

New Tennessee Statute Provides Immunity for Forcible Entry Into A Motor Vehicle to Remove Minor in Imminent Danger

Posted on Jul 13 2014 7:03PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Legislature dealt with an interesting issue in the 2014 legislative session involving minor’s stuck in vehicles.  The legislature passed Public Chapter No. 788 and it took effect on July 1, 2014.  Apparently, there was some need to pass this statute although this statute really addresses a very rare circumstance.  It is of note, however, that this particular change in Tennessee law has received quite a bit of attention from the media even though there are other changes in the law that are much more substantial and significant but they receive no media attention. 


In summary this new statute basically provides immunity from civil liability for any damages resulting from forcible entry into a vehicle to remove a minor from the vehicle.  The person who removes the minor must have a good faith belief that forcible entry is necessary because the minor is in imminent danger of suffering harm.  There are also other requirements that are outlined in the statute and must be followed for this immunity to apply.  The new statute is found in T.C.A. § 29-34-209 and provides as follows:


(a) A person whose conduct conforms to the requirements of subsection (b) shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a minor from the vehicle.
(b) Subsection (a) applies if the person:
 (1) Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor to exit the vehicle;
 (2) Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the minor is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from  the vehicle and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one;
 (3) Has contacted either the local law enforcement agency, the fire department or the 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
 (4) Places a notice on the vehicle's windshield with the person's contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor and that the  authorities have been notified;
 (5) Remains with the minor in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle until law enforcement, fire or other emergency responder  arrives; and
 (6) Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the child from the vehicle than is necessary under the circumstances.
(c) Nothing in this section shall affect the person's civil liability if the person attempts to render aid to the minor in addition to what is authorized by this section.


Obviously, it is likely a rare circumstance where this will occur (I am referring to the actual need for immunity to apply to protect someone from a lawsuit – I am aware that minors are sometimes left in vehicl...

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TAGS: Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Defenses, Immunity Comments [0]

New Tennessee Law Clarifies that Red Light Violation Does Not Occur When Vehicle’s Front Tires Have Already Entered Intersection When Light Turns Red

Posted on Jul 6 2014 8:59PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  In the 2014 Tennessee Legislative session the Tennessee Legislature decided to clarify exactly what constitutes a red light violation in Tennessee.  The legislature amended T.C.A. § 55-8-110 which is the statute that discusses what traffic control signals mean for an intersection.  It defines and explains the meaning of the “green”, “yellow”, and “red” notifications on traffic signal devices.  The Tennessee Legislature passed Public Chapter No. 989 that added a new subsection (e) to T.C.A. § 55-8-110 as follows:


(e) It is not a violation of subdivision (a)(3), unless the front tires of a vehicle cross the stop line after the signal is red.


Subsection (a)(3) is the section that discusses the responsibilities of a driver when faced with a red light in Tennessee.  As a result of this change, it is not a red light violation unless the front tires of the vehicle cross the stop line after the signal is already red.  As a result, if the front tires are already beyond the traffic intersection line at the point when the light turns red, then it is not a red light violation under the newly amended T.C.A. § 55-8-110.  This law takes effect on July 1, 2014.


Obviously, this change in the law will come into play in automobile accident litigation across the state of Tennessee.  This new statute more clearly defines what it means to violate a red light and provides a definitive time period when a red light violation occurs (when the vehicle’s front tires cross the intersection line when the light is already red).  I am sure this statute will be heavily involved in litigated car accident cases across the State of Tennessee.  However, I think it is a beneficial clarification in the law to make a bright line test for when a red light violation occurs.  There is still plenty of room for disagreement as to whether the fr...

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TAGS: Uninsured Motorist, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Defenses Comments [1]

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