Articles Posted in Tennessee

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In medical malpractice cases, form triumphs over substance way too often. Tennessee has been largely immune from this problem because for years, Tennessee malpractice law did not require plaintiffs’ lawyers to jump through the hoops required by many states. Now, Tennessee has added a certificate of merit requirement and other technical obligations to filing a medical malpractice case.

You know, I’m fine with these requirements. What I don’t like is when potentially worthy plaintiffs are denied justice permanently because their lawyers screw up the details.

This is what happened in Williams v. Mountain States Health Alliance. In Williams, a 68 year-old female patient was undergoing myocardial perfusion imaging (a nuclear stress test) when she fell off the table to which she had been strapped. During the procedure the patient made a sudden movement, broke free of the table straps, and fell onto the floor hitting her right side. Prior to the fall, the patient had suffered a stroke and paralysis to the right side of her body. Additionally, she was morbidly obese. The technicians who strapped the patient to the table allegedly knew (or should have known) this.

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John Day reports on how Tennessee’s new malpractice lawsuit reform rules have impacted the number of filings of claims.

I don’t have a big problem with Tennessee’s certificate of merit rules which I think do help limit the number of malpractice lawsuits that should never have been filed. I have a big problem with caps on noneconomic damages.

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A medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of a Florida veteran will begin this week against the Miami Veterans’ Administration hospital. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims he contracted hepatitis C from an unclean medical device used in a 2007 colonoscopy. This may be the bellwether trial on this issue: there are a dozen similar lawsuits that have been filed in Florida and more have been filed in Tennessee. (Certainly, Tennessee – even with their new malpractice restrictions – is a more hospitable place than Florida for medical malpractice lawsuits.)

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I saw a warning sign this weekend on the Chesapeake Bay for stingrays. I wasn’t afraid of stingrays. At all. Until I saw the warning sign. My kids didn’t get into the Bay although we probably would have.

So I read with interest a lawsuit filed last week against the Tennessee Aquarium after a boy got a bacterial infection from petting stingrays last year. The infection caused the boy an 11 day hospital stay. I think the boy is okay but an 11 day hospital stay is tough for any child (I don’t know how old the child is).

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As reported in the Tennessean today, Tennessee juries last year awarded a grand total of $92 million, according to the 2009-10 Annual Report of the Tennessee Judiciary. The average jury verdict was $400,359 last year.

Apparently, this is in civil jury cases altogether. It would have been helpful to breakup Tennessee personal injury cases so we don’t lump injury cases in with contract disputes. Jury Verdict Research would suggest that the median personal injury verdict in Tennessee is under $18,000. The median is a lot less sexy number but it is far more telling of the actual picture.

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JJ HipAccording to Jury Verdict Research, the average personal injury jury verdict in Tennessee is $273,821. Using the median verdict, which deflates the impact of large verdicts, the number falls to $17,536.

John Day provides some additional data about Tennessee car accident verdicts. The Tennessee Jury Verdict Reporter, he reports, looked at 130 car accident lawsuits that went to trial in Tennessee. The average plaintiff’s verdict was $60,552 in the 93 (71%) lawsuits in which the plaintiff prevailed. Factoring in the losses, the average verdict was $43,318.

Average verdict statistics are interesting but, in the end, the axiom that every case is different really does ring true. Average statistics are just that, averages. If you want more information on the value of your case, call 800-553-8082 or get a free online case evaluation.

Example Jury Verdicts in Tennessee

  • July 2013, Tennessee: $ 15,260,000 Verdict: A 17 year-old teenager had been transferred to a local hospital where the staff placed a tracheostomy tube to aid in his breathing after an automobile accident. He remained at the hospital for a month until they elected to remove the tube and transfer him to HealthSouth Cane Creek Rehabilitation Hospital. However he began to experience labored breathing and the tube was reinserted. He was transferred to the rehabilitation facility the next day under orders that he return to the hospital’s surgical clinic for a checkup and plans to progressively downsize and cap the tracheostomy tube. For some reason, the appointment never took place, but the rehabilitation center still instituted capping trials. Although results were inconsistent, a family practitioner chose to remove the tube. He shortly began to experience breathing difficulties and complained of a feeling similar to something being stuck in his throat. The family practitioner prescribed him Xanax to help him rest. Within hours, the teenager suffered respiratory distress. An ambulance was called 20 minutes later, however it arrived too late and he suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest, which resulted in anoxic brain damage. His parents sued the rehabilitation facility and the family care practitioner on their son’s behalf for medical negligence. Plaintiffs alleged the Defendants failed to recognize their son’s airway difficulties and timely consult the appropriate specialists. A Tennessee Circuit Court jury found for the Plaintiffs and awarded them in the amount of $15,260,000.
  • July 2013, Tennessee: $33,591,900 Verdict: A 31 year-old woman, who at the time was 39 weeks pregnant, arrived at Regional Medical Center in Memphis for delivery after fetal testing earlier that morning showed no fetal response to acoustic stimulation and an unusually irregular heart rate. However, she was not placed on a fetal heart monitor for at least an hour after her arrival. The examining physician ordered that an elective C-section be performed later that afternoon around 3:30 pm. By 4:30 pm, the procedure had yet to be performed and the fetal heart rate had crashed. The C-section was finally performed at 4:49 pm; unfortunately, the infant was delivered with no heartbeat and required resuscitation. He was subsequently diagnosed with brain injuries. He currently suffers from spastic quadriplegia as well as cognitive and developmental disorders. He experiences an inability to control his bowel and bladder and requires a feeding tube. His mother sued the examining physician and hospital (both insured by State Volunteer Medical Insurance Co.), individually and on her son’s behalf, for medical malpractice. Plaintiff’s counsel maintained that Plaintiff had experienced asphyxia prior to birth due to the physician’s failure to promptly schedule delivery. Plaintiff’s medical experts testified that delivery should have occurred within the hour of the mother’s arrival to the hospital. Defendants argued that they met the appropriate standards of care and that while Plaintiffs were being monitored there was no change in the fetal heart rate tracing. The matter continued to a four day trial where a Shelby County Circuit Court jury found that the physician had engaged in malpractice. They awarded the Plaintiffs in the amount of $33,591,900.
  • May 2013, Tennessee: $3,705,000 Verdict:    A 30 year-old commercial truck driver was driving his 18-wheeler tractor-trailer northbound on Interstate 55 in Memphis. When he approached the interstate’s intersection with Crump Boulevard, he was stopped by accumulating traffic and subsequently rear ended by a truck. The collision caused a chain reaction in which the truck that struck the man’s vehicle was also struck from behind by another truck. Three days following the collision, he visited the emergency room at Ochsner Medical Center in his hometown of Jefferson, LA with complaints of pain in his lower back and neck. He was treated, released, and advised to visit his primary care doctor who conservatively treated his pain for three to four months. Following the conservative treatment, the man turned in a worker’s compensation claim and began to treat with a neurologist. An MRI revealed a possible disc herniation and bulges in his spine. He received weeks of physical therapy and two rounds of epidural injections before ultimately undergoing a diagnostic procedure. The procedure revealed that he would need a future rhizotomy. He sued the driver of the truck that struck him and his employer for motor vehicle negligence. He alleged the driver failed to maintain a proper lookout while operating his vehicle and that his employer was vicariously liable. Defendants contended that Plaintiff’s injuries were arthritic and unrelated to the accident. They also claimed that Plaintiff had been involved in multiple motor vehicle collisions prior and after the incident at hand. A Shelby County Circuit Court jury found in favor of the Plaintiff and awarded him $3,705,000 for damages.malpractice verdicts
  • September 2012, Tennessee: $3,500,000 Verdict:  A 33 year-old auto mechanic was driving his motorcycle to work on Highway 27 in Chattanooga, TN. Suddenly, a woman who was texting while driving abruptly switched from the right lane to the left, causing a chain reaction of vehicles to brake abruptly. This caused the man to slam into the vehicle in front of him resulting in him being thrown off his bike and onto the pavement. He sustained severe head injuries that resulted in brain damage and partial paralysis. While he did not undergo surgery, he went through exptesive periods of physical therapy and long periods of hospitalization. He sued his insurance company, American Reliable Insurance, for underinsured and uninsured motorist benefits (the woman who was texting while driving was never identified). At the time of trial, he was still confined to a wheelchair and was noted by his counsel that due to the extensiveness of his brain damage, he now has the intelligence of a child. Defense counsel argued that the accident was the Plaintiff’s fault for following too closely to the vehicle in front of him. A Hamilton County Circuit Court jury found that the unidentified driver was 75% liable for the accident and awarded the Plaintiff in the amount of $3,500,000.
  • June 2012, Tennessee: $9,250,000 Verdict:  A 18 year-old honor student was traveling northbound on Mountain View Road in Chattanooga when she was struck head-on by a drunk driver who had crossed the center line of the roadway. From the accident, she suffered from multiple foot injuries that required multiple surgeries. Prior to the accident, she was a cheerleader on her high school squad and had since been unable to return. She sued the driver for motor vehicle negligence. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that at the time of the accident Defendant was intoxicated and was arrested for his third DUI offense. A Hamilton County jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $9,250,000 in damages; the larges punitive damage award given in a drunk driving case in the state of Tennessee.

We put up verdicts and settlements like this because they shed light on the trial and settlement value of these cases.  But, truth be told, they are as misleading as they are informative. First, let’s be fair.  These are good verdicts.  We are handpicked great victories.  We had to step over many not-so-good verdicts to pull these.  Second, every case is different.  A case that sound the same may very well be very different.  You just don’t know what the critical factors are in a case when you read a summary (and often, you don’t even know for sure if you are the lawyer who tried the case).  Often a critical factor is the jurisdiction which will vary not only from state-to-state but county-to-county and city-to-city.   So the take home message is clear: take all of these with more than just a few grains of salt.

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There is a suggestion that malpractice lawyers in Tennessee for a woman and her four year old daughter told the woman not to pursue custody of the child because it could impact her medical malpractice lawsuit.

Interesting allegation that made by the Associated Press in exactly 123 words. This article raises a serious issue but the AP really seems to give it no mind.

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John Day writes a blog post on the new Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit notice requirement and the new certificate of merit requirement.

I’m not sure of the thinking as to why you have to give a doctor notice before you file a malpractice lawsuit although that has always been the law in Tennessee. As to the certificate of merit change, I also can’t see the wisdom in requiring the certificate of merit to be filed with the lawsuit. Maybe there is a reason beyond just making life more difficult for the malpractice lawyer but I can’t see what it is.

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A Tennessee woman has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks accusing the coffee giant of causing first and second-degree burns to her hand and thigh. According to the lawsuit, the coffee cup lid was not properly secured and the spill resulted in significant disfigurement and injuries.

This case is nothing like the McDonald’s case. This is a pure negligence case. But we are going to get approximately 1,000,000 comparisions of this case and the McDonald’s coffee case in the media.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holser, a Pennsylvania native, will become Tennessee’s first female Supreme Court Chief Judge on September 2, 2008. Justice Holser career on the bench began in 1990 when she was elected to the Circuit Court Judge of Tennessee’s Division II, Thirtieth Judicial District.