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Tennessee Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal of Car Accident Case Based on Allegedly Deficient Signature

Tennessee has a short statute of limitations compared to many states. Thus, it is not unusual for a person injured in a Knoxville car accident to have his or her case dismissed because it was not filed within the applicable limitations period. This much is to be expected.

What may come as more of a surprise, however, is a situation in which the party moving for the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case is his or her own insurance company. This very thing happened in a recent case in which the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurance company filed a motion to dismiss his suit as untimely because of an alleged defect in the complaint – even though the complaint itself was timely-filed.

Facts of the Case

In a car accident case that recently made its way to the intermediate court of appeals, the plaintiff was a man who was involved in an automobile accident on December 2, 2017. He filed suit on November 30, 2018, seeking to recover monetary compensation for certain personal injuries that he suffered as a result of the wreck. The plaintiff served a copy of the complaint against his own uninsured motorist insurance carrier, who was an “unnamed defendant” to the suit.

In February 2019, the insurance carrier filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that it did not comply with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 11.01(a) insomuch as the plaintiff’s attorney did not sign the e-filed complaint. The insurance company filed another motion to dismiss a few months later, averring that the statute of limitations had run, and that the plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed as untimely. The Circuit Court of Shelby County granted the insurance company’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals Decision

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint. The court began by stating that the dispositive issue was whether the plaintiff’s complaint complied with Rule 11.01(a). Under the rule, every pleading is to be signed by at least one attorney of record, in that attorney’s individual name. In signing the pleading, the attorney is effectively making a statement that the pleading is filed in good faith.

Here, the complaint was signed “by permission” by another attorney who was a member of the plaintiff’s attorney’s law firm, rather than by the plaintiff’s attorney himself. Insomuch as there were no allegations that the plaintiff’s attorney did not give the other firm member his permission to sign the complaint, that the plaintiff’s attorney was not familiar with the contents of the complaint, or that the plaintiff’s attorney had not otherwise complied with the requirements of Rule 11, the appellate court found that the signature in question, although signed by another lawyer “by permission,” was sufficient to satisfy the rule.

Car Accident Attorney Offering Free Case Evaluations in Knoxville

If you have questions about your legal rights and need to speak to an east Tennessee car accident attorney, the Hartsoe Law Firm is here to help. To schedule an appointment, use the contact form on this website of call us at 865-524-5657. As the case discussed above indicates, timeliness can be a crucial component of the process of seeking compensation following an automobile collision caused by another’s negligence, so please do not delay in seeking counsel about your situation.

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