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Archives: 2013 September

Automobile and Trucking Liability - Are Tennessee emergency responders exempt from traffic laws and can they be held responsible for accidents?

Posted on Sep 30 2013 7:33AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Brief Summary:  Tennessee emergency responders are not required to follow certain traffic laws when responding to an emergency call.  However, they are still required to drive with “due regard for the safety of all persons” and can still be held liable if they do not comply with this requirement.


Analysis:  A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision discussed an interesting issue about whether emergency responders are required to comply with traffic laws.  The case of Hardeman County v. Judy I. McIntyre, 2013 WL 1227034, No. W2012-01690-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013) involved a situation where an ambulance struck another vehicle while on an emergency call.  The ambulance crossed the double lines in order to proceed around some vehicles but ended up striking the plaintiff’s vehicle, injuring the plaintiff.  The trial court assessed 60% of the fault against the ambulance driver and 40% of the fault against the driver of the other vehicle.  The case was appealed and the respective duties were discussed in detail.


The court noted that T.C.A. § 55-8-108 provides that emergency responders are exempt from certain traffic laws in Tennessee.  The key parts to T.C.A. § 55-8-108 are as follows:

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TAGS: Negligence, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, Defenses Comments [0]

Trade Dress Infringement –The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a substantial jury award in a trade dress infringement case.

Posted on Sep 24 2013 10:27PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  I previously handled a significant trade dress case that has since resolved for my client but I still pay special attention to trade dress and trademark infringement cases.  They are often fascinating cases but they can also be very complex and expert intensive.  We do not have a lot of these types of cases in Tennessee but a recent Sixth Circuit decision I read about on the Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog caught my interest. 


The case is Groeneveld Transport Efficiency, Inc. v. Lubecore International, Inc., 2013 WL 4838792 (6th Cir. 2013).  It is a very lengthy opinion but is a very important case to review if you have a trade dress case in the Sixth Circuit (it will be a published opinion).  This opinion discussed whether trade dress protection applied to certain industrial grease pumps used in automated lubrication systems for commercial trucks.  The basic question, as framed by the Sixth Circuit, was whether a company “can use trade-dress law to protect its functional product design from competition with a copycat design made by another company where there is no reasonable likelihood that consumers would confuse the two companies’ products as emanating from a single source.” Groeneveld at 1.  This is a very important issue in trade dress law. 


Ultimately the Sixth Circuit reversed the $1,225,000.00 jury verdict award and found “G

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TAGS: Trademark and Trade Dress Infringement Law Comments [0]

Contracts – Beware of signing a lease agreement on behalf of a company in your own name in Tennessee.

Posted on Sep 16 2013 9:02AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis: The recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision of Reginald M. Mudd v. Rexford Goostree, Jr. and Liberty Cabinets and Millwork, Inc., 2013 WL 1402157 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013) provided a good example of the great danger in signing a lease agreement in an individual’s own name when it is intended to be signed on behalf of a company.  In this case, the lease agreement listed the landlord as “Mudd Properties”. Mudd at 1.  The tenant was listed as “Liberty Cabinets & Millworks, Inc.” Mudd at 1. However, in the signature box at the end of the lease Rexford Goostree Jr., the owner of Liberty Cabinet & Millworks, Inc., signed the lease as follows:




By Rex Goostree, Jr.


(bold portions were handwritten) Mudd at 1.  He did not state that he was signing on behalf of the company as a representative.  The lease terms were breached by the Tenant and therefore the plaintiff sued Rex Goostree Jr. personally for breach of contract. Mudd at 1.  Rex Goostree Jr. asserted in response that he should not be held personally liable under the commercial lease because “Liberty Cabinets & Millworks, Inc.” was na...

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TAGS: Breach of Contract, Corporation/LLC Law, Contracts Comments [0]

Employment Discrimination – What are the elements required to establish employer pregnancy discrimination under Tennessee law?

Posted on Sep 8 2013 9:07PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision, Pierce v. City of Humboldt, Tennessee, 2013 WL 1190823, No. W2012-00217-COA-R3-CV (Tenn.Ct.App. 2013) dealt with an alleged pregnancy discrimination situation.  In this case a police officer asserted she was discriminated against and terminated due to her pregnancy.  We are not going to discuss the specifics of this case for the purpose of this post because I want to simply highlight the required elements for a pregnancy discrimination case in Tennessee.


This lawsuit was brought under the Tennessee Human Rights Act found in T.C.A. § 4-21-101 et. seq.  Under the Tennessee Human Rights Act, terminating employment based on an employee’s sex is a “discriminatory practice” that is prohibited by the Tennessee Human Rights Act.  Pierce at 9.  The Tennessee Human Rights Act was designed to prevent discrimination based on federal statutes including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.  Pierce at 9.  As a result, under Tennessee law “an unlawful employment practice occurs whenever pregnancy alone is a motivating factor for an adverse employment action.”  Pierce at 10. 


There are two ways to establish pregnancy discrimination in Tennessee.  The first is to produce sufficient evidence that a specific adverse employment action was caused by intentional discrimination.


This method focuses primarily on the discriminatory conduct.  Employees using this method may present either direct or circumstantial evidence o...

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TAGS: Employment Law Comments [0]

Medical Malpractice/Healthcare Liability Action – When is a cause of action considered to be based in medical malpractice as opposed to negligence under Tennessee law?

Posted on Sep 2 2013 10:22PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Suzanne Renee Williams-Ali v. Mountain States Health Alliance, 2013 WL 357580, No. E2012-00724-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. January 30, 2013) discussed when a case is a medical malpractice cause of action (now called a “healthcare liability action” under the new statute) as opposed to simply a negligence claim.   Of course, this is of great importance because of the hoops that one must jump through in order to comply with the various pre-suit requirements for a Tennessee medical malpractice case.  This lawsuit concerned a plaintiff who was dropped from a table by the defendant’s employees while she was undergoing myocardial imaging.  She essentially fell off the table and landed on the floor and sustained injuries as a result of the fall. Williams-Ali at 1.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant Mountain States Health Alliance under a theory of negligence, not as a medical malpractice action.


As a result, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss asserting the causes of action in this matter were actually medical malpractice as opposed to ordinary negligence and requested dismissal because the plaintiff did not comply with the medical malpractice pre-suit requirements.  Ultimately, the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant and found that the gravamen of the complaint sounded in medical malpractice as opposed to ordinary negligence.  The non-compliance with the pre-suit requirements was therefore fatal to the case.  This case was appealed and the plaintiff asserted that medical training and experience were not necessary to place or secure a patient onto the scan table for the nuclear stress test.  As a result, the argument was that this case should be considered a negligence case, not medical malpractice.


As the Supreme Court has previously held, “cases involving health or medical entities do not automatically fall within the medical malpractice statute.”  Williams-Ali at 4 (quoting Draper v. Westerfield, 181 S.W.3d 283, 290 (Tenn. 2005)).  The court further noted that a recent Tennessee Supreme Court provided a lengthy and well-reasoned opinion discussion of the difference between a medical malpractice claim and an ordinary negligence claim (See Estate of French v. Stratford House, 333 S.W.3d 546, 555-60 (Tenn. 2011)).  In the Estate of French case the Supreme Court discussed these issues and stated as follows:

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TAGS: Negligence, Defenses, Tennessee Medical Malpractice/Health Care Liability 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