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Keane v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 31, 2017

PARRIS KEANE ET AL.
v.
JOHN P. CAMPBELL, III ET AL.

          Session Date: October 11, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 12C3924 Joseph P. Binkley, Jr., Judge

         The plaintiffs filed this negligence action seeking damages for injuries sustained from the collapse of a deck at the defendants' home. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, finding that the injuries were not reasonably foreseeable. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Renard A. Hirsch, Sr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Parris Keane, Joseph P. Keane, and Brendie Keane.

          William B. Jakes, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, John P. Campbell and Lisa H. Campbell.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Andy D. Bennett and Kenny W. Armstrong, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.

         This action arises from a party hosted for high school students at the home of John and Lisa Campbell on September 27, 2008. Parris Keane ("Plaintiff), who was fourteen-years old at the time, attended the party along with approximately forty to seventy other children.[1] While Plaintiff and the other children were dancing and jumping on an elevated, wooden deck attached to Defendants' house, the deck suddenly collapsed. As a result of the collapse, Plaintiff fell and sustained injuries.

          Within one year after Plaintiff turned eighteen, Plaintiffs filed suit against John P. Campbell and Lisa H. Campbell ("Defendants") claiming Defendants' negligence was the direct and proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries. The complaint alleged that Defendants allowed the children to dance and jump on the deck for an extended period of time, which caused significant deflection of the deck and the subsequent collapse. The complaint further alleged that Defendants: (1) failed to properly and adequately monitor or supervise the children attending the party; (2) failed to warn the children of the danger they were facing; (3) failed to take any action to prevent the collapse of the deck; (4) failed to prevent the injury to the children; and (5) failed to observe what they could have observed in the exercise of reasonable care regarding the flexing of the deck. Plaintiff's parents joined in the suit asserting a claim for loss of society and companionship and medical expenses.

         Defendants filed an answer denying all claims of negligence. Defendants also filed a third-party action against The Porch Company, the company that built the deck.

         Following discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment alleging that Plaintiffs failed to establish the essential elements of a negligence claim. Specifically, Defendants asserted that there was no evidence that any act or omission on the part of Defendants constituted negligence or was the proximate cause of the collapse of the deck.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court ruled that the collapse of the deck and harm suffered by Plaintiff were not foreseeable; therefore, Plaintiffs failed to establish the necessary element of duty. Accordingly, the trial court held that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. The ruling from the bench reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

[A]s part of my duty analysis, I have to determine whether there was a foreseeability of harm to be caused ...

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