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Banks v. Elks Club Pride of Tennessee

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Banks (plaintiff) brought suit against Elks Club Pride of Tennessee (defendant) for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The original tortfeasor doctrine is not eliminated by comparative negligence statutes.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff was attending an event at the defendants place of business when her chair broke causing her to collapse, injuring herself. When she went in for a medical consultation it was recommended that she have surgery to fuse injured vertebra in her back. After the doctor who performed her surgery, Boyce, was finished, he realized he fused the wrong vertebra and had to correct his mistake with another surgery. While recovering at a nursing home, Cumberland Manor Nursing Home, she developed an infection that required further surgery and medical treatment. Plaintiff sued the defendants, Boyce, and Cumberland. The defendants asserted an affirmative defense of comparative negligence, and plaintiff responded arguing that under the original tortfeasor doctrine defendants can be held liable for subsequent injuries developed out of damage from an original tort.

    Issue.

    Whether the original tort feasor doctrine is not eliminated by comparative negligence statutes.

    Held.

    No. The original tortfeasor doctrine is not eliminated by comparative negligence statutes.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    Under the original tortfeasor doctrine, a defendant who caused an initial injury to a plaintiff will be liable for subsequent injuries that occur as a result of the original injury. Here, the defendants were the first ones to cause injury to the plaintiff, which in turn caused her to have surgery that injured her even further. Thus, the injuries that occur after the plaintiff fell from the chair can be attributed to the defendants. The infection that the plaintiff got while she was recovering can be attributed to the defendant because they are the original tortfeasor. The defendant argues that because the comparative negligence statute attributes the proportion of damages that each party must pay based on their degree of fault, it eliminates original tortfeasor liability. The original tortfeasor doctrine says that an original tortfeasor can be held liable for subsequent injuries, it has nothing to do with who pays what portion of damages.


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