SW Legal studies in Business

Sequential Events May Create Distinct Tort Actions, Not One Cause of Action
Description

Tennessee high court held that a person who suffered an injury in a fall, and then claimed to have suffered medical malpractice during treatment, would have distinct causes of action against each defendant. There is not one action that ties the parties together by joint and several liability.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Comparative Fault

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Banks was injured when a chair she was sitting on at an Elks Lodge collapsed. Dr. Boyce later performed surgery on her back, fusing certain vertebrae. Because Boyce fused the wrong vertebrae, a second surgery was required to correct the error. Then during rehabilitation at a nursing home, Banks developed a serious staph infection that required additional surgeries and extensive care and treatment. She sued the Elks Club and Boyce. Those parties filed motions against each other and the nursing home regarding which one could be responsible for injury. After various holdings by lower courts, the Tennessee high court reviewed the matter.

Decision

A party whose tortious conduct causes physical harm to another is liable for enhanced harm the other suffers due to the efforts of third persons to render aid reasonably required by the other's injury, as long as the enhanced harm arises from a risk that inheres in the effort to provide aid. Any claim Banks may have against Dr. Boyce would not fall under this rule, as the claim against him did not arise from immediate efforts to provide aid but to surgery performed later. The doctrine of joint and several liability does not apply to circumstances in which separate, independent negligent acts of more than one tortfeasor combine to cause a single, indivisible injury. Hence, there may be separate actions by Banks against the Elks Lodge, Dr. Boyce, and the nursing home, as there are injuries alleged to have committed separate negligent acts. The alleged tortfeasors were not acting in concert with each other, there were distinct incidents involving each party.

Citation Banks v. Elks Club Pride of Tennessee, ---S.W.3d--- (2010 WL 104617, Sup. Ct., Tenn., 2010)

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