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Can a Witness to Co-Worker’s Accident Bring a Retaliatory Discharge Claim After Being Fired Because He Was a Witness?

Posted on Aug 24 2014 9:05PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision of Phillip Dean Patrick v. Nelson Global Products, Inc., No. E2013-02444-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 3763677 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) discussed whether a former employee can bring a retaliatory discharge claim against their employer for being terminated allegedly because he was a witness to a co-workers’ work related injury.  In this case, the plaintiff asserted that he was standing near a co-worker when the co-worker suffered a work related injury.  That co-worker filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Shortly thereafter the employer terminated the plaintiff (not the individual who was actually injured in the workers’ compensation injury incident).  The plaintiff asserts he was terminated because he was a witness to the co-worker’s work injury and that this was a substantial factor in his termination.  As a result, he brought a retaliatory discharge case against his employer.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals noted that in order to prevail on a retaliatory discharge claim in Tennessee, there are four essential elements.  These elements are as follows:


(1) that an employment-at-will relationship existed;

(2) that the employee was discharged;

(3) that the reason for the discharge was that the employee attempted to exercise a statutory or constitutional right, or for any other reason which violates a clear public policy evidenced by an unambiguous constitutional, statutory, or regulatory provision; and

(4) that a substantial factor in the employer's decision to discharge the employee was the employee's exercise of protected rights or compliance with clear public policy.


Patrick at 3 (Citing Tennessee Supreme Court decision Webb v. Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc., 346 S.W.3d 422 (Tenn. 2011)).  The Court found that the plaintiff clearly could establish elements number one and two.  However, there were significant problems with plaintiff’s ability to establish elements nu...

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TAGS: Torts, Tennessee Workers Compensation, Employment Law Comments [0]

Volunteer Doctors who Provide Free Services Under the Volunteer Healthcare Services Act are Not Liable for Medical Malpractice Negligence in Tennessee

Posted on Aug 10 2014 8:53PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Volunteer Healthcare Services Act found in T.C.A. § 63-6-701 through 709 provides a certain level of immunity for volunteer physicians who provide healthcare in compliance with this statute.  Specifically, healthcare providers including physicians, surgeons, dentists, nurses, optometrists or “other practitioners of the healthcare discipline” who perform work for a “sponsoring organization” on a volunteer basis can be protected by the immunity provisions in this statute.


2014 Tennessee Statute Modification – Free Clinics Now Included:


In the 2014 Tennessee legislative session, this Act was amended in Public Chapter 575 in order to expand the amount of healthcare providers who receive protection under the act.  The bill summary provides a good explanation of this expansion as follows:


Under present law, no individual who is licensed, certified, or authorized by any board of the healing arts, who engages in the voluntary provision of health care services to any patient of a sponsoring organization is liable for any civil damages for any act or omission resulting from services rendered, unless the act or omission is a result of the individual's gross negligence or willful misconduct.

This bill extends the above immunity to services delivered at a free clinic.

This bill defines a "free clinic" as a not for profit, out-patient, non-hospital facility in which a health care provider engages in the voluntary provision of health care services to patients without charge to the recipient or a third party. "Voluntary provisions of health care services" is defined as providing health care services either without charge to the recipient or to a third party, or the recipient is charged on a sliding scale according to income.


Now, this protection extends to “free clinics” under the Act.  Prior to this legislative change, “free clinics” were not included in the protections afforded under these statutes.  “Free clinics” under the amended statute are defined in T.C.A. § 63-6-703 as:

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TAGS: Tennessee Medical Malpractice/Health Care Liability, Immunity Comments [0]

2014 Tennessee Legislature Makes Judgments Permanent if Injury or Death Caused by Criminal Conduct

Posted on Aug 3 2014 9:33PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Legislature made an interesting change to the typical rule in Tennessee that judgments are only good for ten years unless renewed (See T.C.A. § 28-3-110 and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04).  The Tennessee Legislature in the 2014 Tennessee legislative session passed Public Chapter No. 596 which was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on March 28, 2014.  This statute essentially allows a party to make a judgment permanent (as opposed to the current law where it expires after 10 years unless renewed) if the injury or death was caused by criminal conduct.  This act applies to any civil judgments that go into effect after July 1, 2014.  Additionally, there is actually a way for this act to apply to judgments entered before July 1, 2014, if a specific procedure is followed.


The new T.C.A. § 28-3-110(B)(1) provides as follows:


(b)(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), there is no time within which a judgment or decree of a court of record entered on or after July 1, 2014, must be acted upon in the following circumstances:

(A) The judgment is for the injury or death of a person that resulted from the judgment debtor's criminal conduct; and

(B) The judgment debtor is convicted of a crim...

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TAGS: Post Judgment Motions, 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Statute of Repose, Miscellaneous, 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
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Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com