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Friday, August 28, 2020

New Opinion on Vicarious Liability and the Tennessee Saving Statute

The Tennessee Court of Appeals released its opinion today in Helyukh v. Buddy Head Livestock & Trucking, Inc., No. M2019-02301-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

The dispositive issue in this personal injury action is whether the claims against the defendant trucking company for the tortious acts of its employee/truck driver are time-barred under Abshure v. Methodist Healthcare-Memphis Hospitals, 325 S.W.3d 98 (Tenn. 2010) or saved by the commencement of a new action under Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-105, Tennessee’s “savings statute.” After the plaintiffs commenced the new action, the company filed a motion to summarily dismiss the complaint, asserting the plaintiffs’ claims against the employee were procedurally barred before the new action was commenced. The trial court denied the motion because the first action was instituted before the plaintiffs’ right of action against the employee became extinguished by operation of law, and the second complaint was timely filed pursuant to the savings statute. For the same reason, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This is a good opinion to read about vicarious liability and the saving statute.  The key to the plaintiffs' prevailing on appeal here is that the vicarious liability of the principal-defendant was pleaded against it before the one-year statute of limitations expired in the first action.  See Abshure, 325 S.W.3d at 100; id. at 112.  That is why they were able to use the saving statute to refile against the principal-defendant in this case.  

Also, because the plaintiffs had not effected service of leading process upon Heller in the first suit, they could have sent a copy of the complaint with the notice of voluntary dismissal and the saving statute would have preserved their claims against him for a year after entry of the order dismissing him from the first action.  Frye v. Blue Ridge Neuroscience Ctr., P.C., 70 S.W.3d 710, 711 (Tenn. 2002).

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