By Jared S. Renfroe

Carla Wright v. Cookeville Regional Medical Center

Docket No. 2015-04-0181

State File No. 95090-2014

Filed March 8, 2017

Summary      

This case centers around the employee’s request for a continuance of the trial on the eve of trial.

Facts

The employee, Carla Wright, allegedly sustained an injury to her back while pulling a cart in the course and scope of her employment with her employer, Cookeville Regional Medical Center. Because mediation was unsuccessful, a Dispute Certification Notice (DCN) was issued, and the employer’s defenses were listed as “applicability of the escape clause,” TTD overpayment and impairment rating, as well as seven other defenses or issues raised by the employer. Subsequently, the Second Injury Fund was added as a party, and again, mediation was unsuccessful. Another DCN was issued. This second DCN listed the same defenses, but the list of seven additional issues and defenses was increased to 18, one of which was misrepresentation. After post-discovery mediation was unsuccessful, a third DCN was issued, and the employer’s defenses were listed as “applicability of the escape clause,” PPD and PTD, and the list of additional defenses and issues was identical to those submitted with the second DCN. Thus, four days before the trial date, the employer had raised more than 20 issues and defenses.

On the day before the scheduled trial, the Court held a telephone conference with the parties. It was then that Ms. Wright requested that the trial date be continued because she was unaware that the employer was relying on a misrepresentation defense until the post-discovery mediation. She asserted that she needed to re-take the deposition of one of her physicians in order to respond to that defense. The trial court granted the motion and continued the trial. The employer appealed, contending that because the employee waited until the day before the trial date to move for a continuance, it had already incurred the expense and inconvenience of preparing for trial, and because the defense of misrepresentation had been raised in the second DCN, the employee had notice of same. Additionally, the employer asserted that the employee never submitted written discovery requests to the employer and thus did not act diligently before moving for a continuance.

Holding          

The Appeals Board stated that a party may raise as many defenses as it deems appropriate consistent with good faith requirements, but when a party elects to assert numerous wide-ranging defenses, it runs the risk that the course of litigation may be delayed or extended by the need for the opposing party to prepare for each and every defense. Additionally, the Appeals Board noted that the employer had also previously requested a continuance of the trial date, and this request was granted. The Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s decision to continue the trial date.

Jared S. Renfroe is an attorney for Spicer Rudstrom PLLC. He focuses his legal practice on litigation throughout Tennessee. His concentrates primarily in premises liability, business and commercial representation, employment practices litigation, professional liability, insurance defense and workers’ compensation.

 

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