By Courtney S. Paterson

Carrie K. Lightfoot v. Xerox Business Services, et al.

Docket No. 2015-01-0233
State File No. 72875-2014
Filed September 12, 2016


This recent Appeals Board case involves dismissal with prejudice after an employee and her attorney failed to appear at a show cause hearing and failed to take actions as directed by the trial court. The Appeals Board gave a lengthy opinion, ultimately affirming the trial court’s decision.


This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employee contending that a dismissal with prejudice for failure to prosecute and failure to comply with the court’s orders was unwarranted. The primary issue on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the case with prejudice.

This appeal involves an employee who alleged she fell out of a chair, injuring her back. The employee also claimed she later suffered a stroke due to pain from the alleged work injury.  The employer denied the claim and submitted affidavits of three individuals working near the Employee that contradicted her allegations. The employee filed a petition for benefit determination, seeking medical and disability benefits. At an expedited hearing, which had been rescheduled from an earlier date at the employee’s request, her attorney informed the trial court that he had concerns about his client’s competency.

The trial court granted the employee’s attorney’s request to withdraw the request for assistance and continue the matter until he could have her evaluated by a mental health professional. At a subsequent status conference, her attorney represented that he suffered from a medical condition that precluded his inquiry into the employee’s competency. The trial court instructed the employee to be prepared to inform the court of the results of her mental evaluation at the next status conference.

Neither the employee nor her attorney attended the next status conference. The trial court entered an order reflecting that if the employee did not take further action, the case would be dismissed. The employee failed to comply with these instructions and another show cause hearing was set. After the next show cause hearing, the employee’s attorney filed a motion asking that the case be set for a hearing on the merits. In response to the motion to set, the employer argued that the case should be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court entered an order dismissing the employee’s claim with prejudice.

The appeals board affirmed the trial court’s decision. The appeals board found no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court.



An associate with Spicer Rudstrom since 2009, Courtney focuses her practice on automobile liability, insurance coverage litigation, insurance defense litigation, insurance subrogation, premises liability, products liability, and workers’ compensation. She is admitted to practice in all trial and appellate state courts in Tennessee, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.


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