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Topic: Statute of Limitations

Equal Pay Act Claims in Tennessee

Posted on Oct 12 2017 11:16AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Equal Pay Act claims in Tennessee are essentially claims usually involve situations where a female employee is paid less than a male employee for the same job.  These claims can be brought in Tennessee under the Tennessee Equal Pay Act (found in T.C.A. § 50-2-201 et al) and under the Federal Equal Pay Act (found in 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)).  These statutes basically are very similar to each other.  These types of pay disparity claims can also be brought under Title VII for sex discrimination.

 

Initial Burden of the Plaintiff:

 

To establish a prima facie claim of unequal pay for equal work under the EPA, a plaintiff has the burden to prove that the employer “pays different wages to employees of opposite sexes for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Vehar v. Cole Nat'l Group, Inc., 251 Fed.Appx. 993, 998 (6th Cir. 2007).  Essentially, a female employee meets this burden if she proves that she is paid less than a male employee performing the same job (does not need to be perfectly identical but does need to be substantially similar) at the employer.


Defenses Available to Employer:

 

After this initial burden is met by the employee, then the employer has some available defenses to try to combat a finding of liability under the EPA.  Specifically, once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of disparate pay, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove the wage differential is justified under one of four affirmative defenses: “(1) a seniority system; (2) a merit system; (3) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (4) any other factor other than sex.” Buntin v. Breathitt Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 134 F.3d 796, 799 (6th Cir.1998). 

 

I...

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TAGS: Damages, Employment Law, Statute of Limitations, Attorney Fees Comments [0]
  
 

Recent Tennessee Court of Appeals Decision Finds that One Year Statute of Limitations May Not Apply to Uninsured Motorist Claims

Posted on Aug 27 2017 10:58AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Larry Stine Bates v. Michael J. Greene, W2016-01868-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 3206599 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017) dealt with an interesting issue involving the statute of limitations that applies to the filing of a claim against an uninsured motorist carrier.  The uninsured motorist carrier in this case was Shelter Insurance. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, the alleged tortfeasor, within one year of the accident. However, the civil warrant was returned unserved. An alias was then issued for the defendant but it was also returned unserved. Over two years after the actual accident, an amended alias civil warrant was issued against the defendant, which added Shelter Insurance Company, plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier, as a defendant. The uninsured motorist carrier was served over two years after the accident occurred.

 

As a result, the insurance company filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and claimed that the action against it was barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions. The circuit court agreed and granted the Motion for Summary Judgment, dismissing the case against the uninsured motorist carrier. The court found the one-year personal injury statute of limitations applied to the uninsured motorist claim.

 

On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reviewed the situation in detail. They reviewed a significant amount of prior cases as well as statutory changes to the uninsured motorist statute.  Ultimately, the Court concluded that in this case, the one-year statute of limitations for a personal injury claim did not apply. Instead, the six-year statute of limitations for a contract cause of action applied for the claim against the uninsured motorist carrier.  Multiple prior Tennessee cases have held consistent with this opinion in the past. The Court also analyzed T.C.A. § 56 -7-1206(d) which provides the following:

 

(d) In the event that service of process against the uninsured motorist, which was issued to the motorist's last known address, is returned by the sheriff or other process server marked, “Not to be found in my county,” or words to that effect, or if service of process is being made upon the secretary of state for a nonresident uninsured motorist and the registered notice to the last known address is returned without service on the uninsured motorist, the service of process against the uninsured motorist carrier, pursuant to this section, shall be sufficient for the court to require the insurer to proceed as if it is the only defendant in the case.

 

Based on this statute the Court noted that the legislator intended that a plaintiff could sue the uninsured m...


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TAGS: Uninsured Motorist, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, Statute of Limitations Comments [0]
  
 

Tennessee Changes Statute of Limitations Law for Individuals Who Are Incapacitated or Incompetent.

Posted on May 27 2016 4:54PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Tennessee law has long provided that individuals who are adjudicated incompetent at the time the cause of action accrued, may commence the action after their legal rights are restored within the normal time period for the statute of limitations for that cause of action.  The statute did not provide for the statute of limitations time period to run if they never gained competency.  As a result, essentially, an individual who was incompetent who was permanently incompetent, would not have any statute of limitations for any cause of action until the time they die.

 

In 2016, the Tennessee legislator fixed this problem by amending the applicable statute, T.C.A. § 28-1-106 in Public Chapter 932.  They added subsection (c)(2) of this statute now provides that any individual who has a court-ordered fiduciary (such as a guardian or conservator) or someone who possesses the legal right to bring suit on behalf of a person who lacks capacity, must commence the action on behalf of that person within the applicable statute of limitations.  The statute provides that the fiduciary may not rely upon any tolling of the statute of limitations unless the individual can establish by “clear and convincing evidence that the individual did not and could not reasonably have known of the accrued cause of action.”

 

The new statute (T.C.A. § 28-1-106) now provides the following:

 

(a) If the person entitled to commence an action is, at the time the cause of action accrued, either under eighteen (18) years of age, or adjudicated incompetent, such person, or such person's representatives and privies, as the case may be, may commence the action, after legal rights are restored, within the time of limitation for the particular cause of action, unless it exceeds three (3) years, and in that case within three (3) years from restoration of legal rights.

(b) Persons over the age of eighteen (18) years of age are presumed competent.

(c)(1) If the person entitled to commence an action, at the time the cause of action accrued, lacks capacity, such person or such person's representatives and privies, as the case may be, may commence the action, after removal of such incapacity, within the time of limitation for the particular cause of action, unless it exceeds three (3) years, and in that case within three (3) years from removal of such incapacity, except as provided for in subdivision (c)(2).

(2) Any individual with court-ordered fiduciary responsibility towards a person who lacks capacity, or any individual who possesses the legal right to bring suit on behalf of a person who lacks c...

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TAGS: Defenses, 2016 Tennessee Legislation, Statute of Limitations Comments [0]
  
 

Lawsuit filed in Tennessee General Sessions Court for Property Damage Cannot be Amended to Add Personal Injury Damages After Statute of Limitations Has Run

Posted on Apr 17 2016 3:49PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

A recent case dealt with an attempted amendment to add personal injury damages after the initial suit only requested property damages.  The case was State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Robert Blondin, No. M2014-01756-COA-R3-CV, 2016 WL 1019609 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2016).  This case was about a July 7, 2009 automobile accident that occurred where an individual sustained personal injury and property damages.  State Farm Insurance filed a Civil Warrant on May 17, 2010 to recover amounts paid to their own insured under the uninsured motorist provision of their policy.  State Farm sued the allegedly at fault driver for property damage only as outlined in their initial Civil Warrant.  On July 15, 2010, after the 1 year statute of limitations for personal injury, State Farm filed a motion to amend the Civil Warrant to assert personal injury damages as well.  The General Sessions Court denied the motion due to the fact the statute of limitations had expired.  State Farm then appealed to the Circuit Court where this request was also denied and then the case was set for trial.  State Farm next voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice prior to trial. 

 

After the dismissal without prejudice, State Farm refiled the action in General Sessions Court on January 31, 2012.  This time, State Farm’s Civil Warrant was for personal injury and property damages.  Ultimately, the Circuit Court, on appeal from General Sessions Court, went forward with the trial and allowed the case to be tried seeking both personal injury and property damages.  The Court awarded personal injury and property damages at the trial.  This case was then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals over the statute of limitations issue. 

 

The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial Circuit Court.  The Court found that “the statute of limitations operated to deprive the General Sessions Court of subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim for personal injuries”.  State Farm at p. 3.  Further, the appeals and voluntary dismissal by State Farm did not operate to revive or extend the statute of limitations because the statute of limitations was already extinguished. State Farm at p. 3.  The Court also discussed State Farm’s argument that the saving statute under T.C.A. § 28-1-105 somehow permitted State Farm to re-file the previous action and rely upon the prior filing of the lawsuit to extend statute of limitation.  The Court noted that the saving statute did permit State Farm to re-file the cause of action but it did not resurrect the previously barred cause of...

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TAGS: Damages, Defenses, Statute of Limitations, Civil Procedure Comments [0]
  
 

Tennessee’s One Year Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Extended to Two Years when Criminal Charges are Brought

Posted on Sep 13 2015 7:04PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The 2015 Tennessee legislature passed Public Chapter No. 388 that extends the typical one year statute of limitation for personal injury causes of action (as well as other cause of actions) in certain situations.  This new law went into effect for all causes of action that accrue on or after July 1, 2015.   This statute basically extends the typical one year statute of limitations for cases involving personal injury, libel, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and compensatory or punitive damage claims under Federal Civil Rights statutes.  In order to take advantage of the two year statute of limitations extension, a criminal charge must be brought pertaining to the incident in question within one year of the incident by (1) a law enforcement officer; (2) a District Attorney General; or (3) a grand jury.  This statute only operates to extend the statute of limitations for the person injured by the criminal conduct. 

 

The entire new statute subsection (found in T.C.A. § 28-3-104(a)) provides as follows:

 

(a)(1) Except as provided in subdivision (a)(2), the following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued:

(A) Actions for libel, injuries to the person, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or breach of marriage promise;

(B) Civil actions for compensatory or punitive damages, or both, brought under the federal civil rights statutes; and

(C) Actions for statutory penalties.

(2) A cause of action listed in subdivision (a)(1) shall be commenced within two (2) years after the cause of action accrued, if:

(A) Criminal charges are brought against any person alleged to have caused or contributed to the injury;

(B) The conduct, transaction, or occurrence that gives rise to the cause of action for civil damages is the subject of a criminal prosecution commenced within one (1) year by:

(i) A law enforcement officer;

(ii) A district attorney general; or

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TAGS: 2015 Tennessee Legislation, Statute of Limitations Comments [0]
  
 

Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies How to Determine the Applicable Statute of Limitations for a Case (Old Rule was “Gravaman of the Complaint”)

Posted on Feb 8 2015 11:37PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Supreme Court in Brenda Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises, LP, No. M2013-00270-SC-R11-CV, 2015 WL 294635 (Tenn. 2015) has provided an opinion that attempts to clarify how statute of limitations should be applied for Tennessee cases.  Over the years numerous Tennessee appellate decisions have cited the “gravaman of the complaint” rule in order to determine which statute of limitations applies to a case.  (Benz-Elliott at 7, 8).  In this case, the Tennessee Supreme Court noted that defining exactly what this actually means has proven difficult over time.  If you desire to read a detailed analysis of the historical citations to this rule and the general “fuzziness” in the actual application of this rule, this case provides a lengthy discussion of these issues.  For the purposes of this blog post, however, I am mainly going to address the ultimate conclusion of the Tennessee Supreme Court that is an attempt to clarify confusing pre-existing precedent. 

 

Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that when choosing the appropriate statute of limitations for a case “courts must ascertain the gravaman of each claim, not the gravaman of the complaint in its entirety.”  Benz-Elliott at 8.  The Court then found the court’s should use a specific “two-step approach” test that has previously been discussed in Tennessee decisions in order to determine the gravaman of a claim.  This holding is stated as follows: 

 

Today we clarify that the two-step approach articulated in Vance and applied in Alexander and Harvest Corp. is the correct framework for courts to employ when ascertaining the gravamen of a claim for the purpose of choosing the applicable statute of limitations. When utilizing this approach, a court must first consider the legal basis of the claim and then consider the type of injuries for which damages are sought. This analysis is necessarily fact-intensive and requires a careful examination of the allegations of the complaint as to each claim for the types of injuries asserted and damages sought. Contract Law and Practice § 12:78, at 595 (2006).

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TAGS: Statute of Limitations, Civil Procedure, Statute of Repose 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]
  
 

Tennessee Adds Five Year Statute of Repose for Attorney and Accountant Malpractice Claims

Posted on Jun 29 2014 9:22PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee legislature recently passed a law that now provides a five year statute of repose for any malpractice claims against accountants or attorneys.  The Tennessee Legislature in the 2014 Tennessee Legislative Session passed Public Chapter No. 618 making this change to existing Tennessee law.  This statute takes effect July 1, 2014 and applies to all acts or omissions of malpractice by accountants or attorneys that occur on or after July 1, 2014. 

 

T.C.A. § 28-3-104 is modified to add a new subsection (c).  The new subsection in the statute provides as follows:

 

(c)(1) Actions and suits against licensed public accountants, certified public accountants, or attorneys for malpractice shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued, whether the action or suit is grounded or based in contract or tort.

(2) In no event shall any action or suit against a licensed public accountant, certified public accountant or attorney be brought more than five (5) years after the date on which the act or omission occurred, except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant, in which case the action or suit shall be commenced within one (1) year after discovery that the cause of action exists.

 

As you can see, there is still a one year statute of limitations for suits against accountants and attorneys for malpractice from the date the cause of action accrued (the discovery rule applies in Tennessee to these causes of action so that can extend the statute of limitations well beyond 1 year from the actual act or omission).  However, the new five year statute of repose is now found in subsection (c)(2) which basically provides that once five years passes from the date of the act or omission which constituted malpractice, no claim can be brought against the accountant or attorney. 

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TAGS: 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Defenses, Torts, Statute of Limitations, Statute of Repose Comments [0]
  
 

In Tennessee One Year Healthcare Liability Action Statute of Limitations is Not Extended by Pre-Suit Notice When Dealing with GTLA Lawsuit

Posted on Apr 6 2014 8:42PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  Last year the Tennessee Supreme Court decided another important case that interprets the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”) in conjunction with other Tennessee statutes.  In this case the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the 120 day extension of time to file a healthcare liability action (formerly medical malpractice cause of action) when pre-suit notice is provided does not apply to GTLA lawsuits.  The Tennessee Supreme Court in Walton Cunningham v. Williamson County Hospital District et al, 405 S.W.3d 41 (Tenn. 2013) dealt with a medical malpractice claim that was filed 15 months after the claim accrued at the time of the death.  The plaintiffs relied upon T.C.A. § 29-26-121 that provides a 120 day extension of time beyond the one year statute of limitations to file suit after pre-suit notice is provided under the statute.  The pertinent part of T.C.A. § 29-26-121 provides as follows:

 

(c) When notice is given to a provider as provided in this section, the applicable statutes of limitations and repose shall be extended for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of expiration of the statute of limitations and statute of repose applicable to that provider...

 

The question in this case therefore was whether the extension found in T.C.A. § 29-26-121 applies to a GTLA healthcare liability claim (essentially a medical malpractice case against a governmental entity).  The statute of limitations for a GTLA claim is one year as explicitly provided in T.C.A. § 29-20-305(b) which provides as follows:

 

(b) The action must be commenced within twelve (12) months after the cause of action arises.

 

As a result, there is a conflict between the SOL of 12 months for a GTLA claim and 12 months + 120 days (with pre-suit notice) in the healthcare liability statute.  The GTLA is a specific statute where the government waives immunity in certain limited circumstances.  However, “because waiver of immunity is in derogation of the common law, any claim for damages brought under the GTLA must be in stri...

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TAGS: GTLA, Tennessee Medical Malpractice/Health Care Liability, Statute of Limitations, Statute of Repose Comments [0]
  
 

Can a Plaintiff Sue Tortfeasor Outside of Statute of Limitations (Under T.C.A. § 20-1-119) When Defendant Asserts Comparative Fault Against Previously Known Tortfeasor?

Posted on Mar 17 2014 9:56PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  On March 7, 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court settled, once and for all, an important question about the comparative fault doctrine in Tennessee.  In sum, the fact a tortfeasor is known to the plaintiff at the time of the filing of the original complaint does not prevent them from bringing them in as a party at a later date (after the statute of limitations runs) when a defendant asserts comparative fault against them. 

 

The case at issue involved a Rule 23 certified question of law from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to the Tennessee Supreme Court.  In Michael S. Becker v. Ford Motor Co., No. M2013-02546-SC-R23-CV, 2014 WL 901510 (Tenn. 2014) the Tennessee Supreme Court made a clear ruling on an important comparative fault issue that has been in some dispute since McIntyre v. Ballentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992).  In the Becker case, the plaintiff sued Ford Motor Company for products liability and breach of warranty claims following an accident.  The plaintiff did not sue the driver of the vehicle in the original complaint (who happened to be the plaintiff’s own son).  Ford answered the complaint and asserted comparative fault against the driver of the vehicle (the plaintiff’s son).  The plaintiff then filed a motion to add the son as a party and Ford opposed the motion on the grounds that the plaintiff could not use T.C.A. § 20-1-119 to bring in the son as a party because the plaintiff knew the identity of their son as a tortfeasor prior to filing the complaint. 

 

As a result of this issue, the Federal court certified the following issue of law to the Tennessee Supreme Court:

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TAGS: Tennessee Comparative Fault, Statute of Limitations, Civil Procedure Comments [0]
  
 
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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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