Picture of John Day

§23.15 Prejudgment Interest on Personal Injury Cases

The Case: Francois v. Willis , 205 S.W.3d 915 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006).

The Basic Facts: The plaintiffs rejected the defendant's offer of judgment in a personal injury case of $16,900.00. The case proceeded to trial and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs. The court entered a judgment for the plaintiffs for $27,787.50 and denied the plaintiffs' motion for prejudgment interest based on the $16,900.00 offer of judgment.

The Bottom Line:

  • "The sole issue on this appeal is whether the trial court erred by declining to award Ms. Francois prejudgment interest on the ground that prejudgment interest is not available in personal injury cases" 205 S.W.3d at 916.
  • "One of the legal principles firmly embedded in our jurisprudence is that prejudgment interest is not available in personal injury cases. The Tennessee Supreme Court first recognized this principle in Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Wallace, [17 S.W. 882, 884 (Tenn. 1891)], and this court has recently reiterated it in no uncertain terms. Hollis v. Doerflinger, 137 S.W.3d at 630.FN1
    FN1 While other unreported decisions of this court are more equivocal about the availability of prejudgment interest in personal injury cases, [Tenn. S. Ct. R. 4(H)(2)] requires us to consider Hollis v. Doerflinger as 'controlling authority.' We also find it significant that the Tennessee Supreme Court directed that Hollis v. Doerflinger be published in accordance with [Tenn. S. Ct. R. 4(D)]."
    Id .
  • "Thus, when faced with a motion for prejudgment interest in a personal injury case, the trial court must take this legal principle into account and, therefore, must deny the motion because to do otherwise would be to apply an incorrect legal standard." Id.
  • "We have noted a factual distinction between this case and Hollis v. Doerflinger that bears mentioning. In this case, Ms. Willis made a $16,900 offer of judgment in accordance with [Tenn. R. Civ. P. 68]. No such offer of judgment was made in Hollis v. Doerflinger. One could argue that personal injury damages become ascertainable when a defendant makes an offer of judgment. We reject this argument for two reasons. First, it is inconsistent with the plain language of [Tenn. R. Civ. P. 68] limiting the rule's application to costs.FN2 Second, permitting offers of judgment to trigger prejudgment interest would undermine the utility of [Tenn. R. Civ. P. 68]. The purpose of the rule is to promote settlements. [Tenn. R. Civ. P. 68] Committee Cmt.; 4 Nancy Fraas MacLean et al., Tennessee Practice: Rules of Civil Procedure Annotated § 63:3, at 451 (3d ed. 2000). Defendants will be deterred from offering to settle a case if their offer exposes them to liability for prejudgment interest.
    FN2 Other jurisdictions have enacted statutes or rules that explicitly allow an offer of judgment to trigger the accrual of prejudgment interest."
    Id . at 916-17.

Recent Cases: Ferguson v. Jenkins , No. E2007-02501-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 4949233 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2008) (finding trial court erred in awarding prejudgment interest that resulted in award against uninsured motorist carrier in excess of coverage limit).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787.



The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

Client Reviews
Everything was great. You guys are a great representative. I was satisfied with everything. Truly appreciate John Day and his hard-working staff.
★★★★★
We thought that you did an excellent job in representing us in our lawsuit. We would recommend you to anyone. Mitch Deese
★★★★★
The Law Offices of John Day is, without a doubt, the best in Nashville! They treated me with the utmost respect and tended to my every need. No question went unanswered. I was always kept informed of every step in the process. I received phenomenal results; I couldn't ask for more. I would definitely hire the Law Offices of John Day again. Anthony Santiago
★★★★★
I would definitely recommend to anyone to hire John Day's law firm because everyone was helpful, made everything clear and got the job done. I am satisfied with how my case was handled. June Keomahavong
★★★★★
It's been a long battle but this firm has been very efficient and has done a remarkable job for me! I highly recommend them to anyone needing legal assistance. Everyone has always been very kind and kept me informed of all actions promptly. Linda Bush
★★★★★
I had a great experience with the Law Offices of John Day. The staff was very accommodating, and my phone calls/emails were always responded to in a timely manner. They made the entire process very easy and stress-free for me, and I had confidence that my case was in good hands. I am very happy with the results, and I highly recommend! Casey Hutchinson
★★★★★