Articles Posted in Negligence

A sports bar where a patron abruptly pulled a gun and killed a karaoke operator escaped liability to the dead man’s wife for failing to prevent the attack. Tennessee law imposes a duty on business owners to protect their patrons only from risks that are foreseeable. Because the bar and its neighborhood did not have a history of crime, and the shooter did not have a history of violence, his sudden outburst was not foreseeable and the bar had no duty to protect the dead man, the Tennessee Court of Appeals decided.

Mr. and Ms. Goeser ran a karaoke business in the greater Nashville area, and Hank Wise became a regular at the Goeser’s shows. Over time, Wise developed a fixation on Ms. Goeser. At a karaoke event at a sports bar in South Nashville in April 2009, Ms. Goeser became uncomfortable by Wise’s presence, as the man normally only attended downtown Nashville events. She approached the bar’s manager about Wise, and the manager asked the patron to leave. Wise removed a gun from his jacket and shot Mr. Goeser in the head several times, killing him instantly.

The wife sued the bar for negligence causing her husband’s death. According to the wife, the bar failed to protect her husband by having inadequate security and inadequately training its employees. The trial court concluded that Wise’s actions were not foreseeable and therefore the bar was not liable for the husband’s fatal injuries.

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The daughter of a nursing home patient sought unsuccessfully to hold her father’s facility liable for the injuries she suffered when a facility worker opened a door and injured her. The woman’s case fell apart after the nursing home showed that the doors in question had, over a period of several years, no history of causing other injuries and that the doors passed all their government inspections. The woman’s proof, centered around a sign on the door and the absence of a window, showed only that an injury was possible, not likely, as required by the law.

Arlene Christian was exiting the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Antioch after visiting her father at the facility when a worker, approaching from the opposite direction, unwittingly opened a windowless door into the woman, injuring her. Christian sued the nursing home for her injuries, alleging that several acts of negligence led to the accident. The woman sought $375,000 plus past and future medical expenses.

The nursing home asked the court to throw out the case, contending that the doors in question were not a dangerous condition, so it should not be liable for the woman’s injuries. The trial court agreed, concluding that the nursing home sufficiently demonstrated that the doors were not a dangerous condition and had no defects at the time of the accident.

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The decision in Cunningham v. Williamson County Hospital District exemplifies why people who have suffered a loss or injury due to the negligence of another must consult with a local Nashville attorney as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Here, because the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit 15 months after the statute of limitations began to run, rather than within the one-year time period, they were precluded from any recovery. If you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligence of another person or business, it is essential that you contact a local injury attorney as quickly as possible after the incident occurs.

In this case, plaintiffs’ son was admitted to Williamson Medical Center for treatment of abdominal discomfort. He died 11 days later after experiencing respiratory complications. That was on November 25, 2008. On November 14 and 16, 2009, plaintiffs provided the potential defendants — the Williamson Medical Center, three nurses, a licensed practice nurse and two certified nurses — with pre-suit notice of the medical malpractice lawsuit as required by the Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121. Later, on March 12, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that defendants had been negligent in treating their son, which ultimately caused his death.

The Williamson Medical Center is a governmental entity and subject to the Governmental Tort Liability Act (the “GTLA”), therefore, the case is governed by the GTLA. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that it was filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations date. In response, plaintiffs contended that by filing the pre-suit notice, the Tennessee statute extended the GTLA one-year time period by 120 days. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiffs and denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, but granted an interlocutory appeal. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion. The Supreme Court of Tennessee agreed to hear the case.

In reviewing the “interplay” between the GTLA and the Tennessee Code, the Court looked at whether the Tennessee statute operates to extend the statute of limitations by an additional 120 days. In relying on the decision in Lynn v. City of Jackson, the Court found that statutory provisions inconsistent with the GTLA may not extend the applicable statute of limitations period. Plaintiffs filed their claim outside the 12-month time period required by the GTLA. The Court reversed the lower court’s decision and held that plaintiffs’ claim was untimely and must be dismissed.

People seeking compensation for personal injury cases may recover for physical injuries, but also for pain and suffering, financial damages including lost earnings, medical expenses, associated property damages, and emotional distress. It is absolutely necessary to file your case within the appropriate time period or else you forfeit the right to bring the suit.

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Adequate and skillful staffing at Nashville assisted living facilities and nursing homes should be one of the main priorities of management. Patients and their concerned families deserve nothing less than quality care. Unfortunately, this does not always happen and without proper care, patients can suffer. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the lack of proper care, the facility may be liable for damages to the patient or their family. If you suspect that a loved one or family member has been the subject of abuse or neglect at a nursing home or similar facility, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Nashville personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

In the recent case of Wilson v. Americare Systems, the resident patient’s doctor prescribed a daily dose of medicine for constipation. The assisted living facility nursing staff failed to give her the recommended dosage according to the doctor’s orders. The patient experienced further constipation and visited with her doctor again, who then prescribed four enemas per day. After the nursing staff failed to comply with those instructions, and gave the patient only two enemas in three days, she died from a perforated colon. The patient’s daughters filed a wrongful death claim against the nurse who gave the patient the enema on the day she died, the director of nursing staff of the assisted living center, the owner of the facility and its management company. The complaint alleged that defendants’ treatment of the patient deviated from the applicable standards of care, causing their mother’s death.

After a trial, the jury rendered a verdict apportioning fault as follows: the nurse: 30%, director of nursing: 20%, and the management company: 50%, due to its failure to provide adequate staffing at the facility. The jury awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $300,000, and $5,000,000 in punitive damages against the management company. The company appealed. The appellate court reversed the verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence that lack of staffing proximately caused patient’s death.

The Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated the jury’s verdict, finding that there was enough material evidence that deficiencies in staffing was the proximate cause of patient’s death. The court based this decision on several factors: (1) the nurse testified that she communicated to management the under staffing problems on more than one occasion; (2) there was evidence to support the notion that such inadequate staffing led to deviations and lapses from the requisite standard of care; and (3) there was also sufficient evidence that such deviations from the proper standard of care were “substantial factors” in patient’s death. Here, the nurse told management that they didn’t have enough staff to take care of the patients; nursing staff continuously failed to give the patient her prescribed laxative and later, her enemas – which led to her constipated and impacted condition. At least one doctor testified that the likely cause of patient’s death was the colon perforation due to administering the enema in patient’s impacted condition. The court also remanded the issue of punitive damages back to the appellate court.

Wrongful death cases are, by their very nature, difficult for the surviving family members. It is important to have an experienced Nashville attorney to help you understand your rights and to navigate the — sometimes complex — court proceedings.

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