Civil Cases – Opinions Released in Calendar Year 2024

Melissa Binns v. Trader Joe’s East, Inc. (Assertion of Negligence Claim Against Employer When Vicarious Liability is Admitted)

Style: Melissa Binns v. Trader Joe’s East, Inc.

TSC Docket Number: M2022-01033-SC-R11-CV

Court of Appeals Opinion:  None

Summary by the Court of Appeals:  None – Court of Appeals refused to hear a Rule 9 appeal of this matter.

Permission to Appeal Granted: January 11, 2023

Statement of the Issue by the Defendant:  “[W]hether a plaintiff can assert direct negligence claims against an employer if the employer admits that it will be vicariously liable for the conduct of its employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior ?”

Defendant’s Rule 9 Application:  Click here to read.

Appellants’ Briefs Filed: May 17, 2023

Appellees’ Briefs Filed: July 17, 2023

Appellants’ Reply Brief Filed: July 31, 2023

Appellees’ Reply Brief Filed:

Amicus Briefs Permitted:  

Oral Argument Date: October 4, 2023

Link to Oral Argument Video:

Date of TSC Opinion: April 8, 2024

Opinion of the TSC:

TSC Summary of the Opinion:

This interlocutory appeal involves an alleged slip and fall incident that occurred at the defendant’s grocery store. The plaintiff’s amended complaint included allegations of vicarious liability, premises liability, negligent training, and negligent supervision against the defendant. In an attempt to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligent training and supervision claims, the defendant filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and asserted two alternative arguments, both of which the trial court rejected. First, the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument that courts must dismiss “negligent activity” claims, such as claims for negligent training and supervision, when asserted concurrently with a premises liability theory of recovery. Second, the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s direct negligence claims were no longer legally viable due to the defendant admitting it was vicariously liable for the conduct of its employee, commonly referred to as the “preemption rule.” After denying the defendant’s motion, the trial court granted permission to file an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Court of Appeals denied the defendant’s application. The defendant then appealed to this Court, and we granted review. We hold that the preemption rule is incompatible with Tennessee’s system of comparative fault and decline to adopt it. In addition, we decline to adopt the rule proposed by the defendant pertaining to “negligent activity” claims asserted alongside premises liability claims. As a result, we affirm the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.


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