Does Leaving a Comment on a Website Constitute Proper “Notice” of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Tennessee has a one-year statute of limitations when it comes to personal injury claims. But what if you file a lawsuit within the one-year deadline, only to later discover there may be another defendant who is potentially liable for your injuries? Under Tennessee court rules, it is possible to file an amended complaint naming an additional defendant, even after the one-year statute of limitations deadline has passed, provided the new defendant had prior “notice of the institution of the action.”
Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Fails After Sues Wrong Defendant
A September 9 decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Hensley v. Stokely, addresses the scope of this notice requirement. Specifically, the Court looked at a case where a plaintiff claimed she gave a defendant notice of her lawsuit via a comment left on its website.
The plaintiff slipped and fell in a hotel parking lot in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The accident occurred in June 2018. In June 2019, just before the statute of limitations expired, she filed a personal injury lawsuit naming Noble House Hotels & Resorts, LTD, as the defendant. At the time, the plaintiff believed Noble House owned the hotel where her injuries occurred.
It turned out the actual owner was an unrelated company, Stokely Hospitality Properties, Inc. Accordingly, in August 2019 the plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming Stokely as the “proper defendant” and dismissing Noble House from the lawsuit. Stokely then promptly moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired.
The plaintiff argued in response that her amended complaint “related back” to the original, timely complaint, and that she properly added Stokely as a defendant under Tennessee rules. In support of this claim, the plaintiff said she provided the required “notice” to Stokely by leaving a written comment on the hotel’s website before the one-year deadline expired. This comment stated, “I have been in contact with my legal team … and will be pursuing this matter to correct all medical issues due to the injury of my left knee.”
But as the Court of Appeals explained, this was not sufficient notice. At best, the Court said the plaintiff’s comments “merely advise” Stokely that the plaintiff “had interacted with her attorneys … and that she planned to address her medical issues.” Critically, the plaintiff did not say that she had actually filed a lawsuit. And given there was no connection between Stokely and Edge House, there was also no reason to believe the former would have any knowledge of a lawsuit filed against the latter. The Court therefore dismissed the lawsuit against Stokely.
Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is essential to conduct a proper investigation into all of the potential defendants. You certainly do not want to find yourself in the position of suing the wrong defendant then hastily trying to file an amended complaint after it is too late. If you need legal advice or representation from an experienced Gatlinburg personal injury attorney, contact the offices of Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation.