Ward v. Nat’l Healthcare Corp., 2007 Tenn. App. LEXIS 695 (2007)

The Estate of Clifford Ward filed a wrongful death case against a nursing home and corporate defendants in the Rutherford County Circuit Court. The four defendants were National Healthcare Corporation; NHC/Delaware, Inc.; NHC, Inc.; and National Healthcare/Knoxville, LLC. In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were joint venturers with an equal right to share in the control and operation of the Knoxville nursing home. They also alleged that Clifford Ward suffered injuries and harm, including death, while in the care of that nursing home.

The defendants argued venue should have been in Knox County, Tennessee, arguing that NHC Healthcare/Knoxville, LLC was the nursing home operator and a principal defendant.The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss, although it found the action arose in Knox County and that the LLC resides in Knox County. The trial court denied the motion based on its inability to determine that there was a principal defendant and because the other three defendants were in Rutherford County.

On appeal, the Court construed T.C.A. § 20-4-101 which provides: If, however, the plaintiff and defendant both reside in the same county in this state, then such action shall be brought either in the county where the cause of action arose or in the county of their residence. Finding that the LLC need only be a material, not a principal, defendant for the section to apply, the court found that venue was in Knox County. Nonetheless, the appropriate action was not dismissal, but transfer to Knox County pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-1-116.

Decided November 15, 2007. Opinion at: http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/OPINIONS/Tca/PDF/074/wardtedOPN.pdf

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