Ironic door sign

Recently the investigation into the Chattanooga bus accident that claimed the lives of six children and injured dozens more has revealed parents, faculty and students had all complained about the driving of bus driver, Johnthony Walker. Ask any defense lawyer and they will tell you that prior complaints can present a huge problem for the defendant if certain requirements are met. Continue reading

photo of hybrid

A new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is expected to save 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year.   Under the new standard, motor vehicle manufacturers have until September 1, 2019 to equip their hybrid and electric vehicles with a system that emits an audible noise under certain conditions to help alert pedestrians to the vehicle’s presence. Specifically, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 141 will require both electric and hybrid vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 lbs or less to make an audible noise when traveling in either forward or reverse at speeds up to 19 mph or 30 kilometers.  Continue reading

The Tennessean reports that the it is not the City of Chattanooga, the school district, or Hamilton County that owns the bus involved in the Chattanooga crash but rather a private company out of Illinois.

It that is correct, the cap on damages applicable to governmental entities discussed in my previous post  will not apply and general Tennessee damages law will be applicable.

There are artificial limits on damages that may be awarded by a judge or jury in personal injury and wrongful death cases but they are not by any means as limiting as those against governmental entities.

We wrote just a few days ago about the bus crash in Nashville involving a school bus in Chester County.  That school bus wreck was bad enough, but today’s school bus accident in Chattanooga is even more tragic.

Apparently, a school bus filled with 35 children crashed into a tree.  It has been reported that six children have died in the crash off Talley Road in Hamilton County and many others have been injured, some in critical condition.  The students attended Woodmore Elementary School.

No information about the cause of the crash is currently publicly available, although speed is being investigated as a factor.  Reportedly the school bus driver is cooperating with authorities. UPDATE:  CNN reports that the bus driver, Johnthony Walker, 24, has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving and that the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating on Tuesday November 22. Continue reading

The Chester County school bus crash in Nashville injuring 23 students (with 20 more seeking a medical evaluation) provides a good opportunity to remind our readers of one of the most unfair provisions of Tennessee law.  That’s saying a lot – there are lots of unfair parts of Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death law – but this one is a biggie.

Most people think that people and companies who harm others should be held accountable for the harm they cause.  But, when a local government causes harm, its accountability is very limited.  Local governments (and the state and federal government) can only be sued under certain circumstances and when they can be sued special rules apply.  The special rules are set forth in the Tennessee governmental tort liability act and the relevant case law.  (Claims against the State of Tennessee are addressed in a separate law.)

The Chester County school bus crash shines the light on two of the special rules.  Before I discuss them please know that I know nothing of the facts of the accident.  I have seen the news reports, but cannot vouch for their accuracy or completeness.

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Kate and Linky sleeping

Let me begin with a disclaimer. This is not a political article, but it was prompted by some political news. Earlier today, I was reading an article about the litigation Donald Trump currently has on his plate. Mr. Trump is currently involved in 75 active lawsuits ranging from spats with pageant contestants to allegations of fraud to multi-million dollar real estate lawsuits. But, it was not the number of lawsuits that prompted this post, because in fairness, there are companies with larger litigation dockets. Instead, what caught my attention was this portion of the article:

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truck

Can you name that quote? It was the foul-mouthed and very funny Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit.   If for some reason you are unaware of this iconic movie also featuring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jerry Reed, the basic story line is that Jerry Reeds’ character, Cledus “Snowman” Snow is a tractor-trailer driver and he is trying to get a load delivered in record time. Burt Reynolds, the Bandit, has the job of diverting attention from the speeding Snowman and his illegal Coors beer cargo. By luring Sheriff Buford T. Justice and other police to chase him in his Pontiac Trans Am, Bandit permits the Snowman to speed down the highway without the interference of any Smokies. Continue reading

teen driver

If you have kids, you probably have mixed emotions about them getting their driver’s license. Jubilation because they can run to the grocery store for you, get themselves to sports practice without you having to leave work early, etc. But it can also be a terrifying time and with good reason. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.

Recently, Mercury Insurance released a list of 2016 model year vehicles that had both good safety ratings and were inexpensive to insure. Based on these criteria, the winners were: Subaru Outback, Kia Sportage, Dodge Dart, Kia Soul, Honda HR-V EX, Hyundai Tuscon, Honda Fit , Honda CR-V LX, Hyundai Elantra GT, VW Golf Sportwagen SW.   I know. I can hear some of you already: “There is no way I am buying my teenager a brand new car”.  I get it.  Our two older kids did not get new cars either. The good news is you can do this same type of comparison yourself for used cars.  Continue reading

Now wait just a minute, I am not going to talk politics. I am going to talk about disclosure and hindsight. Whatever your opinion on Hillary Clinton, most people think it was a mistake for her not to have disclosed that she was suffering with pneumonia. Day in and day out, we counsel our clients on disclosure and here are some thoughts on the issue: 

  1. What you think is important is not what everyone else thinks is important. HRC said she did not disclose the pneumonia because she did not think it was a big deal. But, she is not the decider of what is a big deal in an election. That is the voters’ job. The same is true of litigation: the ultimate decider is the jury. So we tell our clients that everything needs to be viewed through the eyes of jurors.
  1. Non-disclosure almost always does more harm than disclosure. Because some hubbub had already been made about her health, HRC probably thought it would be better keep her pneumonia diagnosis to herself and her camp, take some antibiotics, solider on and avoid providing any fodder to Trump, the media, etc.   This is not an unreasonable position on its face. The problem comes when the information comes out anyway. With HRC, her stumble or collapse (depending upon your political affiliation) outed her illness. As a result, the focus is now two-fold: her health and her transparency. The same is true in injury litigation. Let’s say you have a prior back injury that you think is unrelated to the current back injury you received in a recent tractor-trailer accident and so you decide not to tell your lawyer or the other side about it when they ask you under oath. Let me be clear: this is a horrible plan. The other side is going to have full access to your medical and pharmacy records and the power of a subpoena. Defense lawyers get paid a lot of money by the hour to find things that hurt your case. A good defense lawyer will leave no stone unturned and when they find it you, just like HRC, will have two problems: the old injury is now known and your non-disclosure has now also created a credibility or transparency issue for the jury. Recall point 1; the jury gets to decide what is important and if you win.

bicycle lane

In Nashville and all over Tennessee, more people are using bicycles as their preferred form of transportation. Unfortunately, more bikes on the roads translates to more biking accidents. So far this year, there have been 189 bicycle accidents in the State of Tennessee. Of those 189, 169 involved injury and 2 were fatal – the others were property damage only. Nashville is not the only city struggling with a rising number of bicycle accidents so numerous entities have been studying safer alternatives. Continue reading