The Tennessee State Supreme Court Makes Suing Family Easy

In 2012, a man named Michael Becker was in a car accident when his son, who was driving, hit a pole. Mr. Becker sustained some injuries, and after speaking with his personal injury attorney, he filed a lawsuit against Ford, who manufactured his truck. The details of the truck accident case go on, but all you really need to know is that Ford had the case moved into federal court, and then turned around and blamed Mr. Becker’s son.

So Mr. Becker did what any parent might do to protect a child: he filed to have his son named a defendant in his lawsuit – the lawsuit where he, Michael Becker, was the plaintiff.

Wait – what?

What we can learn about fault in a personal injury suit

As outside counsel looking into a car accident case that isn’t ours, and which we have no connection to, we can assume a couple of things here. The first is that the details surrounding the accident must have led Mr. Becker and/or his lawyer to assume that the crash was caused by some auto product defect. Since he’s not suing Hamilton Township, where the crash occurred, we can also assume that the light pole and the streets were in proper condition; otherwise, his injuries may have been grounds for a premises liability case.

The second thing we can assume is that neither Mr. Becker nor his attorney thought the actions of his son, the driver, were grounds for fault –at first. But once the Ford Motor Company came back and listed the son as the party at fault, someone clearly had a change of heart.

We’re not saying that Mr. Becker’s son wasn’t at fault for the accident; we don’t know. But the fact that the Tennessee court system allowed Mr. Becker to amend his complaint after the statute of limitations had run out, and that the amendment included adding a defendant he previously knew, could affect how injury attorneys take on cases in the future. Before this ruling, it was unclear whether or not a personal injury plaintiff could add a new defendant to a complaint if that plaintiff knew about the defendant’s involvement from the get-go. By saying “yes” to the amendment, the court has set a precedent for all lawsuits down the line.

As for Mr. Becker’s son, we hope he has a good lawyer, too.