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Homelift of Nashville, Inc. v. Porta, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 11, 2017

HOMELIFT OF NASHVILLE, INC.
v.
PORTA, INC.

         Session January 19, 2017

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Wilson County No. 2010-CV-662 John D. Wootten, Jr., Judge

         This appeal involves a claim for attorney's fees and other litigation expenses incurred by a third-party defendant in a wrongful death action. The third-party plaintiff filed the third-party complaint against the third-party defendant seeking indemnity. A jury found both the third-party plaintiff and third-party defendant at fault for the death in the underlying action, but because the third-party plaintiff was allocated more than 50% of the fault, the jury determined that the third-party plaintiff was not entitled to indemnification. The third-party defendant filed a post-trial motion for attorney's fees and expenses incurred in defending the third-party action. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Although we conclude that it did not lack subject matter jurisdiction, we affirm the denial of the third-party defendant's motion.

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

          Stephen W. Elliott and Fetlework Balite-Panelo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Porta, Inc.

          Jefferson C. Orr and Joshua K. Chesser, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Homelift of Nashville, Inc.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Andy D. Bennett, J., joined.

          OPINION

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         In February 2010, Ms. Jimmie Dean Browning fell into an elevator shaft in her home and died as a result of her injuries. Later that year, her estate filed a wrongful death action against Homelift of Nashville, Inc. ("Homelift"), the seller and installer of the elevator, and ThyssenKrupp Access Corporation ("ThyssenKrupp"), an alleged successor to the manufacturer of the elevator. The suit, which was filed in the Circuit Court of Wilson County, Tennessee, asserted claims of negligence, strict products liability, breach of warranty, breach of contract, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

         A.

         On September 14, 2012, Homelift filed a third-party complaint for indemnity against Porta, Inc. ("Porta"), the alleged manufacturer of certain "interlock devices" installed on the elevator doors. The third-party complaint averred, in relevant part, as follows:

In January 2010, as part of its completion of the elevator installation at the Browning home, HomeLift installed three interlock devices at the Browning home, one on the hoistway door on the basement floor, one on the hoistway door on the main floor, and one on the hoistway door on the second floor of the home.
In its lawsuit, Ms. Browning's Estate claims that her death was caused in whole or in part by the failure of the interlock device which was installed by HomeLift ...

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