Castleman v. Ross Engineering, Inc.

958 S.W.2d 720 (1997)

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Castleman v. Ross Engineering, Inc.

Tennessee Supreme Court
958 S.W.2d 720 (1997)

Facts

A general contractor contracted with subcontractor J.E.C. Electric (J.E.C.) on a project. J.E.C. employee Billy Castleman (plaintiff) was injured during his work on the project. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company (Hartford), the general contractor’s workers’-compensation insurer, paid Castleman approximately $100,000 in workers’-compensation benefits. Castleman subsequently brought a tort action against Ross Engineering, Inc. (Ross) (defendant), a third party, to recover for his injuries. Hartford filed a petition to intervene in the action, claiming a subrogation right and asserting a lien on Castleman’s recovery from Ross. After a trial, the jury found that Castleman had suffered damages of $1.5 million. The jury applied comparative-fault principles and found that Ross was 68 percent at fault for the accident, Castleman was 16 percent at fault, and J.E.C. was 16 percent at fault. The trial court thus entered judgment against Ross for $1.02 million, which was 68 percent of Castleman’s damages. Ross paid Castleman the amount of the judgment less $100,000, which Castleman accepted in satisfaction of the judgment. The trial court then awarded the $100,000 to Hartford on its subrogation claim. Castleman appealed the trial court’s award to Hartford, arguing that Hartford’s subrogation right was conditioned on Castleman being made whole for the accident. Castleman contended that being made whole meant recovering from both Ross Engineering and J.E.C., because the jury had found both of those entities at fault. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, and Castleman appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reid, J.)

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