Moon v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co.

Decision Date08 September 1987
Docket NumberAUTO-OWNERS
Citation736 S.W.2d 92
PartiesFreddie MOON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v.INSURANCE CO., Defendant-Appellee. 736 S.W.2d 92
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Charles H. Farmer, Jackson, for plaintiff-appellant.

D.D. Maddox, Huntingdon, for defendant-appellee.


BROCK, Justice.

In this worker's compensation action the plaintiff-employee seeks to recovery benefits for an injury to his back sustained in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment on or about September 27, 1984 when the walls of a trench in which the plaintiff was working at the time caved in and covered most of the plaintiff's body. The trial court heard the case on the merits and rendered an opinion and decree in which it denied benefits to the plaintiff on grounds that he had failed to satisfy the notice requirements of T.C.A. Sec. 50-6-201. The plaintiff has appealed and we reverse.

On September 27, 1984 the plaintiff, Freddie Moon, was engaged in laying a pressure water line when the 9 feet deep trench in which he was working caved in and covered from 1/2 to 2/3 of the length of his body. Working with the plaintiff at the time was Harold Miller who was an officer and one of the two shareholders of Sanders Construction Company, the employer, and the Company's Superintendent of Jobs. Mr. Miller helped the plaintiff Moon dig out of the dirt and asked him if he was injured. Mr. Moon replied that he was not, feeling no pain at that time. Later the two, plaintiff and Mr. Miller, went to lunch and the plaintiff worked for the remainder of that day. The next day plaintiff Moon told Dwight Sanders, the other shareholder of Sanders Construction, that he had not been injured in the accident and he worked a few hours at Mr. Miller's farm without complaining of any injury. Thereafter, although he picked up his paycheck the plaintiff did not report to work again and never informed his employer of the pain and difficulties he began to suffer, until suit was filed.

Plaintiff Moon testified that he began to feel pain on September 28 and that on the 29th his right leg, stomach and right side began to cause him discomfort. On October 1, 1984 the plaintiff complained of pain in the groin and was treated by Dr. James Williamson, a family practitioner in Huntingdon, Tennessee, whom plaintiff told of the accident. At that time, Dr. Williamson diagnosed plaintiff's injury as a pulled muscle and there was nothing to indicate to him that plaintiff Moon was suffering from a disc injury caused by his employment.

The pain worsened, however, and moved to his lower back and Mr. Moon saw Dr. Robert Barnett, an orthopedic surgeon, in Jackson, Tennessee on October 10, 1984. He told Dr. Barnett about the accident and how he had been suffering pain in his lower back, right leg and hip and was experiencing numbness and tingling. Dr. Barnett was of the opinion that plaintiff's symptoms were consistent with the accident and admitted him to the hospital on October 12, 1984, for x-rays which disclosed a "mild disc bulge," a herniation or protrusion of a disc in the lower lumbar section of his back. Dr. Barnett decided to treat plaintiff Moon by conservative means and released him from the hospital on October 20. On October 24, 1984 Mr. Moon returned to Dr. Barnett because his leg pain was worse and he was again hospitalized until November 2. On November 11, 1984 plaintiff was readmitted to the hospital and surgery was performed and a ruptured intervertebral disc was removed and plaintiff was discharged on November 26 with a 10% partial disability to his body as a whole.

During one of his hospital admissions, the hospital called the residence of Mr. Harold Miller, one of the employer's shareholders and the Company's Superintendent of Jobs and asked Mr. Miller's wife, who answered the telephone, whether or not Sanders Construction Company would be responsible for Mr. Moon's hospital bills. Mrs. Miller, who had no connection with the construction company personally, took it upon herself to deny the company's liability for plaintiff's medical expenses. She told her husband, however, what had happened and he approved her denial. Shortly thereafter somebody informed Mr. Miller that the plaintiff Moon was going to sue the company on a claim that he had been injured while working for them. Dwight Sanders testified that when his wife told him she had seen Moon's name in a newspaper as being a patient admitted to the Jackson Hospital he "knew then he was more than likely in trouble.... because he would be down there claiming an injury."

Mr. Moon filed this action on October 26, 1984 seeking worker's compensation benefits. This suit is brought directly against the insurer of the plaintiff's employer. Mr. Sanders testified that he was first informed of the suit on November 12, 1984.

After a trial on the merits, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's action for failure to comply with the notice requirements set out in T.C.A. Secs. 50-6-201 and 50-6-202. The trial judge held that the employer had actual knowledge of the accident but not of the injury resulting from the accident and that the filing and service of the plaintiff's complaint in this action on the employer's insurer did not satisfy the notice requirement of the statute. The trial judge held that plaintiff was excused from giving notice from the date of the accident until October 24, 1984 because of lack of knowledge of his injury, which the trial court held to be reasonable. Although this action was...

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2 cases
  • In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. Tires Products
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
    • July 27, 2001
    ...found two cases from Tennessee involving other notice provisions that lend some support to this determination. In Moon v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 736 S.W.2d 92, 94 (Tenn.1987), the court addressed the issue of whether the filing of a lawsuit satisfied Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-201, which provide......
  • Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n v. Tenn. Metro Holdings XII LLC
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Appeals
    • May 14, 2013
    ...of its position, In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. Prods. Liab. Litigation, 155 F. Supp. 2d 1069 (S.D. Ind. 2001), Moon v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 736 S.W.2d 92 (Tenn. 1987), and Wal-Board Supply Co. v. Daniels, 629 S.W.2d 686 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1981), involve distinctly different factual and le......

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