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Tennessee Court of Appeals Says Dismissal of Wrongful Death Suit Against Truck Stop Owners Was Premature

In a Knoxville motorcycle accident case, the defendant is typically a motorist whose negligence allegedly caused a collision that led to the cyclist being injured or killed. However, other individuals or businesses can also be named as parties in some motorcycle crash cases.

As in other types of negligence lawsuits, the plaintiff has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant breached a legal duty that was owed to him or her and that this breach of duty was the proximate cause of damages complained of by the plaintiff.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a motorcyclist who was killed when his motorcycle collided with a sport utility vehicle in 2016. At the time of the crash, the SUV driver was turning left into a truck stop. The plaintiff filed suit against the driver of the SUV and the owners of the truck stop, seeking to recover damages for her husband’s wrongful death. According to the plaintiff, the truck stop owners were negligent in failing to place a visible sign directing the plaintiff to the proper entrance for passenger vehicles (the SUV driver was turning into an entrance intended for semi-trailer trucks, not passenger vehicles; the plaintiff averred that the truck entrance had a much more limited view of oncoming traffic).

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint against the truck stop owners, holding that they owed no duty to the traveling public to provide signs directing drivers into or out of their place of business.

Decision of the Court

The plaintiff argued on appeal that the trial court had been in error in holding that the defendant truck stop owners owed no legal duty to her. Rather, the plaintiff argued that the truck stop owners had created a hazardous condition by failing to place a prominent and clearly visible sign at the truck entrance and that this created an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm.

Because the court of appeals believed that a balancing test was required in order to determine whether the truck stop owner owed a duty to the plaintiff’s husband under the circumstances, it agreed that the trial court had been wrong to dismiss the case on summary judgment. Because dismissal of the complaint had been premature, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. According to the court, the plaintiff had posed a question of law that could not be determined “at this stage” of the proceedings.

Schedule an Appointment with a Seasoned Tennessee Truck Accident Attorney

Accidents involving motorcycles tend to be much more serious, and all too often fatal, as compared to other motor vehicle collisions. If you have been hurt or lost a loved one due to motorcycle accident caused by another’s negligence, the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., can help. To schedule a free consultation with a helpful east Tennessee motorcycle accident attorney, call us at 865-524-5657. We have offices in both Knoxville and Maryville. Please do not delay in seeking legal advice, as claims not filed by the statute of limitations will likely be dismissed regardless of their merits.

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