Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law

Tennessee Courts Still Sorting Out Mexican Car Accident Lawsuits

Car accident litigation is often complicated when the parties to the case reside in different states—or in some cases different countries. For example, Tennessee courts normally have jurisdiction over any personal injury lawsuit arising from conduct that occurs within the state. But there may be times when an accident outside of Tennessee may still involve this state’s courts.

Accident Victim Faces Five Appeals in 13 Years

To illustrate how complicated things can get, the Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its fifth decision in a case dating back to 2003 that has yet to go to trial. The litigation originally involved more than 30 separate lawsuits against a Tennessee-based tire manufacturer, alleging violations of the state’s product liability laws. In one of the lawsuits—the subject of the fifth and most recent appeal—a man was driving a car that utilized the company’s tires. According to the lawsuit, a tire blew out, causing an accident that seriously injured the man and killed two of his passengers.

What has made this litigation problematic for the Tennessee courts is that this man’s case—as well as the other complaints that were originally consolidates—arises from an accident that actually occurred in Mexico. The reason the plaintiffs brought their lawsuit in Tennessee was because the defendant tire company is based in this state, and the lawsuit alleges a “civil conspiracy” here.

In 2004 the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its first decision in this litigation. The court held the plaintiffs had to seek relief in the Mexican courts before they could even attempt litigation in Tennessee. Many of the plaintiffs, including the one in the present appeal, subsequently filed lawsuits in Mexico, which were in turn rejected by that country’s courts. The plaintiffs then returned to the Tennessee courts. Several more appeals followed.

More than a decade later, the Court of Appeals was called upon in this fifth appeal to decide whether the substantive law of Tennessee or Mexico should apply when trying this particular plaintiff’s lawsuit. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant that Mexican law should apply. Indeed, the Court of Appeals noted that way back when deciding the first appeal it held Mexican law “would almost certainly be the controlling substantive law.” Accordingly, the plaintiffs could not re-litigate that same issue now. With that understanding, the appeals court returned the case to the trial court—hopefully allowing the case to finally proceed to trial.

A Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Choice of law is often a major issue in deciding personal injury lawsuits, as every state (and country) has different standards for establishing a defendant’s potential liability. It is therefore essential to work with an experienced Knoxville personal injury lawyer who understands how Tennessee courts operate and apply the law. While the above case is an unusual situation, personal injury and product liability litigation often requires several years to resolve. That is why if you have suffered a serious injury due to someone else’s negligence, you should not hesitate to contact Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law, right away.

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