Tennessee Court of Appeals affirms dismissal of plaintiff’s motor vehicle accident case

by Mandy Hicks

Since there are so many variables and complexities involved in a motor vehicle accident case, it is always best for those who are injured in car crashes to consult with an attorney as early in the process as possible. Issues such as the statute of limitations, notice requirements, and other matters concerning timeliness must be dealt with promptly.

The courts do not favor those who don’t exercise their rights to sue in a timely manner. Recently, a Tennessee appellate court was called upon to decide whether an insurance company (which stood in for its insured, to which it had paid damages arising from a motor vehicle accident) had forfeited its right to recover from the responsible party because it failed to file their case after the defendant appealed a verdict for the plaintiff to circuit court.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent case of Geico General Insurance Co. v. G & S Transportation, Inc., the plaintiff was an insurance company that filed suit against the defendant transportation company, seeking to recover subrogation damages arising from an accident between the plaintiff’s insured and the defendant. The General Sessions Court of Rutherford County entered a default judgment for the defendant.

The defendant appealed the General Sessions Court’s judgment to the Circuit Court of Rutherford County. Due to the defendant’s bankruptcy, a stay was entered in early 2013. Thereafter, the plaintiff’s attorney died, and another attorney was substituted. Other than the substitution of the new attorney, the plaintiff took no further action in the case for approximately three years. In January 2016, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of prosecution.

The Issue on Appeal

Did the circuit court err in dismissing the case for failure to prosecute when the plaintiff was the appellee?

The Decision of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case for lack of prosecution. Under Tennessee law, appeals from general sessions court to circuit court proceed de novo, which, in essence, means that the case starts all over again. Thus, the defendant had the right to ask for the dismissal of the case based upon the plaintiff’s failure to prosecute, even though the plaintiff had been the prevailing party in the circuit court. In so holding, the court noted that, once the case was before the circuit court, the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure applied. Pursuant to Rule. 41.02(1), the circuit court had discretion to dismiss the case for failure to prosecute.

Need Advice About a Tennessee Automobile Accident Case?

As this case illustrates, there are many potential complications and pitfalls in personal injury cases arising from car wrecks, truck accidents, and motorcycle crashes. If you have been hurt in an accident, the assertive, skillful Tennessee automobile accident attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley are here to help. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to schedule your no-obligation, complimentary case evaluation. We serve injured people throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, including in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Springfield, Clarksville, and Bowling Green.

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