Tennessee Court of Appeals Determines that Plaintiffs Must Add Additional Defendants Within Statutory Time Frame

Posted in Car Accident on March 2, 2014

Recently the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Nashville decided a case that may limit a plaintiff’s ability to add defendants to a complaint. In the case of Morris v. Phillips, Ms. Morris was rear-ended and sought damages for her property damages and injuries. When she filed her complaint, she added the name of one driver, Phillips, as well as that car’s registered owner, Thompson.

crash-car-825017-mMr. Phillips was driving behind several other cars who were all behind Morris, who had been driving her car north on Interstate 65 at the time. Phillips ran into the back of one of the other cars, and this caused a chain reaction resulting in the car immediately behind Ms. Morris’ car running into her.

After a bit more investigation, Ms. Morris sought to amend her complaint, replacing Thompson as the registered owner with Ms. Griffin. When responding to the complaint, Ms. Griffin added the names of the several other drivers who were in between Mr. Phillips and Ms. Morris. These other drivers, she claimed, “made sudden and abrupt stopping movements, said movements being made without first ascertaining whether said movements could be made in safety,” resulting in the accident at issue.

Seven months later, Mr. Phillips amended his response to mirror Ms. Griffin’s, naming the additional drivers. Eight days after that, Ms. Morris amended her complaint to add the additional drivers as well.

The suit arose because one of the additional drivers, Ms. Mitchell, sought to dismiss Ms. Morris’ complaint against her because Ms. Morris waited too long to add her to the law suit. Ms. Mitchell claimed that, under Tennessee law, a plaintiff has only 90 days to add additional defendants to the claim and Ms. Morris waited over 7 months to add her name.

At trial, the judge dismissed Ms. Mitchell’s request, noting that Ms. Morris really only had notice of Ms. Mitchell being added once Mr. Phillips amended his response. Ms. Mitchell appealed to the Tennessee Superior Court.

The Superior Court reversed, finding that Ms. Morris had waited too long to add Ms. Mitchell to the claim. The court explained that Ms. Morris had been provided notice that Ms. Mitchell was an additional driver as soon as Ms. Griffin named the additional drivers in her response. In other words, there was no reason why Ms. Griffin’s response was insufficient notice but Mr. Phillip’s was.

How the Case Affects Tennessee Plaintiffs

This case may affect a Tennessee plaintiff’s ability to add defendants after the fact. In all cases, it is best to add all potentially responsible parties at the outset. However, this is not always possible. Sometimes, additional investigation and research must be completed before a plaintiff knows all the names of those involved. This is permissible, as long as the plaintiff does not wait longer than the statutory 90 days that she is provided. 

Have You Been Involved in a Tennessee Accident?

If you have been involved in Tennessee car accident, you should speak to an experienced Nashville personal injury attorney immediately. As you can see, time is of the essence in personal injury cases and an experienced attorney is often a plaintiff’s best bet to ensure that their case is properly brought. To speak to a dedicated Tennessee personal injury lawyer, contact the firm online, or call 615-200-1111 today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Serving the Defendant with the Lawsuit within One Year of the Wreck, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published January 31, 2014.

Honda Bike and ATV Safety Questioned, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published November 1, 2012.