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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Summary Judgment for Defendants in Auto Case Reversed on Appeal Because Testimony from Interested Witnesses Could Not Be Used to Rebut the Statutory Presumptions Concerning Vehicle Ownership and Vicarious Liability

The Tennessee Court of Appeals released its opinion today in Gray v. Baird, No. M2019-01056-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 19, 2020).  The syllabus from the opinion reads:
This is an appeal of the trial court’s decision to summarily dismiss a claim of vicarious liability against the owner of the vehicle that was involved in a fatal vehicular accident. The driver of the vehicle was the son and employee of the vehicle owner, and it is alleged that the driver was acting in the course and scope of his employment with the vehicle owner at the time of the collision. The owner of the vehicle filed for summary judgment, and the trial court found the affidavits and deposition testimony of the owner and his son refuted the prima facie evidence of vicarious liability created by Tenn. Code. Ann. §§ 50-10-311 and -312 that the son was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision. The plaintiff appeals contending that summary judgment was not proper because the owner and his son were interested witnesses and their credibility was at issue. We agree. It is undisputed that the son’s employment necessitated his travel on the road where the collision occurred, and whether the son had deviated from the defendant’s business prior to the collision is a material fact that is in dispute. For this reason, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This is a good opinion to read if you handle motor-vehicle-collision cases in Tennessee.  It is also a nice follow-up read to Godfrey v. Ruiz, 90 S.W.3d 692 (Tenn. 2002), which can be read at this link:

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