Court Explains What Commences a Lawsuit in Tennessee Car Accident Cases

In any civil case, including lawsuits arising out of car accidents, procedural errors can be costly. While most people are aware that a lawsuit may be dismissed if it is not commenced within the statute of limitations, many people do not understand the nuances of what this truly means. This was highlighted in a recent Tennessee car accident case in which the Plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed as untimely, due to the fact that it was filed but not issued within the statute of limitations. If you were involved in a car accident in Tennessee and you wish to pursue damages from the responsible party, it is integral to your case to retain an attorney with ample experience litigating car accident cases.

Reportedly, in the subject case, the plaintiff sustained injuries in a car accident on January 25, 2013. The plaintiff filed a civil warrant on January 24, 2014, against the defendants, the other driver involved in the accident and his employer, in which the plaintiff alleged the defendants were negligent and therefore liable for his injuries. The warrant was filed after normal business hours. Five days later, the plaintiff was informed he owed a filing fee, which he paid. He filed an amended warrant in May 2014.

It is alleged that the case was removed to a circuit court, where the plaintiff filed a complaint in May 2017. Subsequently, the defendants filed an answer and affirmative defenses in response to the plaintiff’s complaint. One of the defenses set forth by the defendants was that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The defendants then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court decision.

Commencement of a Case Following a Car Accident

On appeal, the court noted that because the plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged personal injuries the applicable statute of limitations required the plaintiff to commence his lawsuit within one year of the date of the accident. As such, he had to commence his lawsuit by January 25, 2014. Because January 25, 2014, was a Sunday, the statutory period extended to January 26, 2014. Here, the plaintiff’s warrant was stamped as filed on January  24, 2014, but the plaintiff did not pay the filing fees until January 31, 2014. Thus, the issue of whether the plaintiff’s lawsuit was timely turned on the definition of the term “commence.”

The court noted that the Tennessee statute §16-15-710 stated that a lawsuit is commenced by the suing out of a warrant, whether or not the warrant is served. Tennessee statute §16-15-716 stated, however, that a civil action is “commenced” by the issuance of a civil warrant. The court concluded that the legislature would not have meant to create a conflict between the two statutes and any uncertainty must be resolved in favor of the intended operation of the laws. Thus, the court found that a civil action is “sued out” and therefore commenced when a warrant is both filed and issued. As the warrant in the subject case was not issued until January 31, 2014, the court found that the lawsuit was not commenced within the time allowed.

Meet with an Experienced Tennessee Car Accident Attorney Regarding your Case

If you were involved in a car accident in Tennessee, it is important to retain an experienced car accident attorney in a timely manner, or you may waive the right to pursue damages. Attorney Eric Beasley is a proficient Tennessee car accident attorney who can help you seek any damages you may be able to recover. Mr. Beasley can be contacted at 615-859-2223 or through the online form to set up a meeting.