Adding defendants to tractor-trailer accident lawsuit barred by Tennessee statute of limitations

by Mandy Hicks

In lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents, it is not unusual for there to be multiple defendants. Sometimes, this is because two or more drivers’ negligence may have contributed to the accident. It can also happen when a driver was on the job at the time of the accident. In this tractor-trailer accident case, just getting to the heart of who was responsible was difficult.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the tortious acts of a servant, agent or employee. This includes negligent driving. Discovering all of the possible defendants in a case can be a complex endeavor that may take some time. This is one of the reasons that it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent case of Bracey v. McDonald, the plaintiff was a man who was injured in a collision involving a tractor-trailer. He filed a timely lawsuit against the truck driver whose negligence allegedly caused the wreck, and he named another party, whom he believed was the driver’s employer, as a co-defendant. As the suit progressed, the company who was believed to be the employer admitted that it owned the truck that was involved in the accident and that the driver was its agent, but it denied that there was an employer/employee relationship.

Several months after the statute of limitations expired, the man filed an amended complaint, adding other defendants to the lawsuit on the grounds that the defendants were engaged in a joint venture at the time of the accident and were the employers or statutory employers of the driver, which made them vicariously liable for his actions.

The Circuit Court of Wilson County, Tennessee, dismissed the suit as to all the defendants who were not named prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

The Decision of the Appellate Court

The injured man appealed the trial court’s decision. After considering the parties’ respective arguments, the court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the action against the defendants who were not named until after the expiration of the statute of limitations. Although the plaintiff argued that his amended complaint related back to the date of the original complaint, the appellate court disagreed. Instead, the court found that the amended complaint contained only conclusory statements that did not establish a basis upon which the plaintiff could rely in order to assert a claim that the statute of limitations had not run. Likewise, the court did not find that the plaintiff had proven that the defendants had engaged in fraudulent concealment such as would have kept them from relying on the statute of limitations.

To Speak to an Experienced Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney

If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a serious accident involving a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, the knowledgeable truck accident lawyers at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help you seek justice against those responsible. For a free case evaluation, call us at (270) 781-6500. With offices conveniently located in Bowling Green, we serve clients throughout south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee, including in Franklin, Nashville, and Elizabethtown.

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