This appeal involves a question of law concerning the interpretation and application of Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 (2009) certified by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Based on the undisputed facts, the District Court has asked this Court to determine whether, after a defendant asserts a comparative fault claim against a non-party tortfeasor who was known to the plaintiff when the original suit was filed, Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 permits the plaintiff to amend its complaint to assert a claim directly against the tortfeasor named by the defendant, even though the statute of limitations on that claim has expired. We hold that the application of Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 is not restricted to tortfeasors who were unknown to the plaintiff when its original complaint was filed. Therefore, Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-1-119 permits a plaintiff to file an amended complaint against the tortfeasor named by the defendant within ninety days after the filing of the answer or amended answer in which the defendant first asserts a comparative fault claim against the tortfeasor.
Friday, March 07, 2014
New Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion on Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-1-119
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Becker v. Ford Motor Co., No. M2013-02546-SC-R23-CV (Tenn. Mar. 7, 2014). The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
Here's a link to the opinion:
This opinion is no real surprise as far as Tennessee's law of comparative fault is concerned. It is a more current version of another reported decision on this issue. See generally Townes v. Sunbeam Oster Co., 50 S.W.3d 446 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001). However, as the Tennessee Supreme Court pointed out, this certified question was taken to clarify Tennessee's substantive law of comparative fault for the federal courts (which have, respectfully, misinterpreted Tennessee's law of comparative fault for a long time now).