Tennessee Supreme Court broadens sphere of individuals owed a duty in tort claim

In Satterfield v. Breeding Insulation Company, et al., the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that ALCOA, the employer, owed a duty to those who regularly and for extended periods of time came into clsoe contact with the asbestos-contaminated work clothes of its employees to prevent them from being exposed to a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm.

In this case, which was a reversal of the trial court’s dismissal on the basis of a failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, Doug Satterfield was a long time employee of ALCOA, Inc. The Plaintiff was originally Amanda Satterfield, Doug’s daughter, who was born on September 7, 1979. Unfortunately, Ms. Satterfield passed away from mesothelioma during the pendency of the lawsuit and her father was substituted as her personal representative. ALCOA filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that it owed no duty to the Plaintiff. The Tennessee Court of Appeals field an opinion reversing the dismissal and the Supreme Court accepted review.           

           

    

   

 

 

In an extremely eloquent and well written opinion, Justice William C. Koch, Jr. exhaustively reviewed the elements of a negligence claim in Tennessee and discussed the historical distinction between misfeasance and nonfeasance pointing out that no duty is generally owed in situations involving nonfeasance unless the plaintiff falls into a special relationship class.     

 

    

   

 

 

Justice Koch then took the time to discuss the current state of the law on “take home” cases across the country and correctly found that the dichotomy in decisions usually rests on whether a duty of reasonable care arises when a defendant’s conduct poses an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm to persons or property. Justice Koch pointed out that in Tennessee it is clear that such a duty exists especially since this is a case of misfeasance as opposed to nonfeasance. 

 

    

   

 

 

Justice Koch further found that any public policy considerations should be moderated and sobered by the well-tested principles regarding the imposition of duty and did not feel compelled by ALCOA’s argument that public policy should sway a decision against the plaintiff. 

 

    

   

 

 

While the plaintiff still has a long and arduous path in front of him in this particular case, the principles laid down by the Supreme Court represent an important, keystone victory for the injured in Tennessee that will reverberate for years to come.

 If you should have any questions regarding whether you have been harmed by someone owing a duty to you or you have suffered an accident at work, or have a Social Security Disability claim, feel free to the Law Offices of Tony Farmer through our website or at 865-584-1211 or 800-806-4611.

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About farmerdreiser

Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser provide comprehensive representation to injured victims throughout eastern Tennessee in personal injury, Social Security disability, and workers' compensation cases.
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