Wiseman Bray Wins on Motion to Dismiss

motion to dismiss

Victory for Wiseman Bray!

Wiseman Bray PLLC is happy to announce a victory in a business litigation case. Our strategy? A Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss. Our client, a former officer and employee of a factoring corporation, was wrongfully sued in his individual capacity by a former customer of his employer. Our client served as Chief Financial Officer, and had merely signed agreements on behalf of the company. The Plaintiff alleged that our client’s employer had misapplied payments and committed other improper acts in connection with their Factoring and Buyout Agreements.

Our Strategy

The Complaint contained numerous allegations against the factoring corporation, but its only mention of our client was that he was an officer of the company, and that, as an officer he was somehow responsible for implementing the policies and procedures that damaged Plaintiff.

After our firm was hired to represent the former officer, we carefully analyzed the Complaint filed against him in Federal Court. In our judgment, the claims in the lawsuit were neither valid nor properly stated, so we filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.

What is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim?

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is filed at the very beginning of a case which argues, essentially, that a plaintiff’s claim is either not legally correct, or that insufficient facts have been alleged to suppose an otherwise valid legal claim.

When such a motion is filed, the judge must assume that all the allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint are true, resolving any and all doubts in favor of the plaintiff. For obvious reasons, then, such motions are usually very difficult to win. The corresponding benefit is equally obvious, though, because dismissal at this early stage allows the client to avoid most of the costs of litigation.

The Court’s Ruling in Our Case

The Federal District Court judge agreed with our argument and granted the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of our client. In dismissing the breach of contract claim, the Federal District Court Judge said:

A corporate officer cannot be held liable for a corporation’s debts merely because he exercises dominion or control over the organization. Schlater v. Haynie, 833 S.W.2d 919, 924 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991). Likewise, a corporate officer signing a contract on behalf of corporation does not bind himself to the contract. Bill Walker & Associates, Inc. v. Parrish, 770 S.W.2d 764, 770 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1989). Instead, a court will only hold an officer liable on a contract if it appears that the officer signed the contract in his personal capacity.

Here, Plaintiff has alleged no facts showing that [the former officer] was a party to the Factoring Agreement in his personal capacity. The Factoring Agreement’s signature page clearly shows that [his] signature was in his capacity as CFO. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) Additionally, he is not even a signatory to the Buyout Agreement. Plaintiff’s Complaint instead apparently attempts to hold [the former officer] liable because he exercised control over [the corporation’s] actions.  However, Tennessee law does not allow this. See Schlater 833 S.W.2d at 924. Therefore, its breach of contract claim against [the former officer] fails.

In dismissing the Plaintiff’s additional claims of conversion and fraud, the Judge went on to say:

A director or officer of a corporation does not incur personal liability for its torts merely by reason of his official character; he is not liable for torts committed by or for the corporation unless he has participated in the wrong.’” Cooper v. Cordova Sand & Gravel Co., Inc., 485 S.W.2d 261, 271–72 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1971).

Here, the only allegation against [the former officer] himself is that he “was responsible for implementing the policies and procedures that damaged Plaintiff,” or, in other words, acted as an officer of the corporation. Because Plaintiff’s Complaint lacks any reference to any tortious conduct on the part of [the former officer], it fails to state a claim against him for both conversion and fraudulent inducement.

This case was handled by Civil Litigation Attorneys Chris Patterson and Erin Shea.

Need a Business Litigation Attorney?

Call us at 901-372-5003 or visit our website to learn more about our services as business litigation attorneys.

We handle other kinds of cases as well, including: personal injury, apartment crime injuries, auto accidents, premises liability, wrongful death, contract drafting and review, general civil litigation, estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, business planning, and business entity formation.

How to Talk to Your Insurance Company After an Accident

insurance company after car accident

Don’t Always Expect the Insurance Company to be on Your Side

After a car accident, you may feel it necessary to contact your auto insurance company or carrier and let them know what has happened immediately. While informing your carrier of an accident is an important step in getting the compensation you deserve, there are a few things you should know before you pick up the phone.

As nice as it is to believe that an insurance company is on your side, this might not always be the case. Insurance agencies are running a business, meaning their main concern will almost always be their bottom dollar. Even though you may have paid your monthly premiums, and followed up on your end of the bargain, the insurance company will likely still not be looking after your best interests. That’s why you may want to consider enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney. Their main objective is to help you get the compensation you deserve. In fact, most DC personal injury lawyers won’t see any payment until you do.

Speaking with Your Insurance Company

After an accident, you may want to follow these steps:

  • Call the police
  • Take care of injuries
  • Exchange information with the other driver
  • Document the accident
  • Report the accident to your insurance company

When you contact the insurance company, you will likely need the following information:

  • Policy information
  • Identity Verification
  • Facts about the accident
  • What property was damaged
  • If there were any injuries
  • Police report and its identification number

At this point, insurance companies will likely try and find ways to reject your accident claims or find a way to pay the least amount of money on a claim. Remember, you only have to provide the basic information at this time. Stick to the facts and avoid adding any personal opinions, or conjecture about liability; an insurance company will likely try to spin any non-factual evidence you provide to avoid paying your claim. This is also not a time to accept any offers from the insurance company for a payout. If you already have an attorney, provide the attorney’s contact information to the representative. If you don’t have an attorney, let the representative know you will be getting one. Retaining an attorney shows the insurance company that you are serious and that they cannot take advantage of you.

If you’ve been injured in an accident and are in the process of dealing with your insurance company to get the compensation you deserve, it may be in your best interest to seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into communicating with your insurance agency.

Need a Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer?

Call us at (901) 372-5003.  Our experienced Memphis injury lawyers can help you make the most of your insurance claim.

Wrongful Death of a Child

wrongful death of a child attorney

Info From Wiseman Bray About the Wrongful Death of a Child

No one should have to ever think about the wrongful death of a child. As a mother of two young children, I can’t think of anything more unbearable than the loss of a child. But according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, over 57,000 children under the age of 19 die every year in the United States.

Our law firm represents parents who have lost a child due to the fault of another person or company. The legal term for a death caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing is “wrongful death.”

Who can File Suit for Wrongful Death of a Child?

In Tennessee, only certain people have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages for the wrongful death of a child. As a general matter, the child’s parents can file suit against the responsible party.  If the parents are divorced, special rules apply. Usually, the parent with “primary custody” has the right to file suit. An administrator can also file the lawsuit. Tenn. Code Ann. Section Tennessee Code Annotated Section 20-5-106 provides that the wrongful death cause of action:

shall pass to . . .the [child’s] natural parents or parent or next of kin if at the time of death [the child] was in the custody of the natural parents or parent and had not been legally surrendered or abandoned by [the parents] pursuant to any court order removing [the child] from the custody of [the parents or parent]; or otherwise to the [child’s] legally adoptive parents or parent, or to the administrator for the use and benefit of the adoptive parents or parent; the funds recovered in either case to be free from the claims of creditors.

Occasionally, due to family circumstances, wrongful death cases involving children can become very complicated. Sometimes disputes arise between divorced parents or among family members as to how the case should be handled. Also, even if you aren’t the person to file the lawsuit, you may still be entitled to recover a portion of the damages awarded. Likewise, the person who files the lawsuit may or may not be entitled to a portion of the money damages awarded. An experienced wrongful death attorney can talk with you, learn about your family situation, and advise you on your potential rights.

What are the Damages in a Wrongful Death Case Involving a Child?

Damages in a case involving the wrongful death of a child are determined on a case by case basis. A jury will look at all of the facts and circumstances and make an award. Legally speaking though, the types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death case are statutory and are set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 20-5-113. The general categories are:

(1)     Injuries Suffered by the Child from Time of Injury Until Death

This classification allows recovery for medical expenses, physical and mental pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and loss of earning capacity during the period from injury to death.

(2)     Incidental Damages Sustained by Child’s Next of Kin

This classification of damages includes the pecuniary value of the child’s life.  The “pecuniary value” of a deceased child’s life represents the value of the child’s probable future financial accumulations at the time of the child’s death.  To determine the pecuniary value of a decedent’s life, a court considers the following factors: life expectancy and age, condition of health, capacity for earning money through a skill, art, trade, profession, occupation or business, and personal habits regarding sobriety and industry. The amount should then be reduced by deducting the decedent’s probable living expenses had the decedent lived.

In the case of a wrongful death of a child, the analysis is a bit different. Living expenses are the costs associated with child-rearing. In the case of a very young child, estimates of the child’s future earnings and contributions are speculative at best. For this reason, it can be helpful to have expert testimony concerning the valuation of a child’s pecuniary losses.

Loss of Consortium (Filial Consortium Damages)

Pecuniary value also includes the value of human companionship. Parents of a deceased child are entitled to recover for loss of consortium.  However, these claims for loss of consortium cannot exist independently from the claim that a defendant’s negligence caused the child’s death. Thus, parents cannot recover for the sorrow and anguish endured as a result of the child’s death. Rather, the “pecuniary value” of the child’s life includes a value for the parents’ loss of consortium

In determining the amount of consortium damages, courts consider the benefits the child bestowed on the family, such as companionship, comfort, society, attention, cooperation, affection, care and love. Because it is impossible to generalize on the extent to which family members enjoy each other’s companionship and society, the measurement of a particular parent’s loss of a particular child’s consortium is decided on a case by case basis.

Punitive Damages

If the child’s death was caused by reckless or intentional conduct, parents can seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the responsible person and deter similar behavior.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Depending on the facts of the case, parents of a deceased child may be able to assert independent claims for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” An experienced wrongful death lawyer can advise you further about this and other claims you may have.

Limits on Damages in Tennessee Due to Tort Reform

As a general rule, the most that parents can recover for “loss of consortium” damages for the wrongful death of a child is $750,000. Punitive damages are usually limited to $500,000 or two times the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. One of our Memphis wrongful death attorneys can discuss your case and explain the rules on damages in Tennessee, as well as the various limitations in effect due to Tennessee Tort Reform.

Looking for a Caring and Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyer?

If you’d like to speak with a caring and compassionate wrongful death lawyer in the Memphis or Nashville area, please call our office at 901-372-5003. We’re not your everyday law firm. We are mothers and fathers just like you and we treat our clients like family. There is never any charge for an initial consultation or meeting.

Construction Contract? Confirm Your Contractor is Properly Licensed First!

construction contract lawyer

Construction Contract? Confirm Your Contractor is Properly Licensed First!

I spent a good amount of time one week working with a client to cancel his construction contract after learning that the contractor was not properly licensed to build his new house. What started out as an exciting time in this client’s life turned out to be a big mess.  I was eventually able to work out a solution with the unlicensed contractor, but not before he had hired legal counsel of his own.

In Tennessee, residential and commercial construction contractors are regulated by the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors.  Per the Board,

A contractor’s license is required prior to contracting (bidding or negotiating a price) whenever the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more.

For residential construction, licensed contractors may contract to build houses so long as the total cost of the project does not exceed the monetary limit established by the Board.  A contractor may apply to have his limit increased after submitting documents showing financial stability.

Frequently however, home builders enter into contracts with customers for projects that exceed their monetary limits.  Many problems can come into play when this happens.  Contractors jeopardize their licenses and expose themselves to fines from the Board. Contractors open themselves up to not being able to collect under the terms of the construction contract, even if everything goes well.  Customers run the risk of the project being shut down and having to incur additional expenses. Customers may even have to hire a replacement contractor.

Before Your Enter Into a Construction Contract. . .

Check to see if your contractor is properly licensed!  Construction litigation  can be lengthy, complex, and expensive. Many problems can be avoided if customers do a little quick research to confirm that the contractor they want to use is fully and properly licensed.  You can do that by clicking here.

If you need a construction or contract lawyer, call me at (901) 372-5003 or email me here. 

By: Chris Patterson

Construction Contract Lawyer Chris Patterson

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

 

 

Local Goverment Alert: TN Supreme Court acknowledges expansive rights of governing boards to sue & be sued

local governmentTwo recent opinions give real insight into the Tennessee Supreme Court’s thinking about the ability of the components of local government to sue each other.

In the first case, the Court confirmed Metro Nashville’s ability to sue its own Board of Zoning Appeals.  In the second case, the Court confirmed the Coffee County School Board’s right to sue two cities over funding issues.

These opinions are especially timely considering the battle brewing in Memphis about whether or not a County Commission can retain its own counsel, separate and apart from the county attorney.