The following section from Day on Torts Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law​​​ is out of date and should not be used. It remains a part of this site for historical purposes only. An updated version of the book is available by subscription at (Additional information below.)

§47.8 Common Knowledge Exception

The Case : Baldwin v. Knight, 569 S.W.2d 450 (Tenn. 1978).

The Basic Facts : Plaintiff sought treatment at an emergency room after a piece of wire which was struck by the lawnmower he had been operating struck him in the leg and became embedded. The Defendant emergency room physician failed to discover the wire in Plaintiff's leg. Plaintiff sued an emergency room physician after the physician failed to discover a wire embedded in his leg as a result of a lawnmower accident.

The Bottom Line:

  • "Where the act of alleged malpractice lies within the common knowledge of a layman, expert testimony is not required. Bowman v. Henard, [547 S.W.2d 527 (Tenn. 1977)]; Rural Educ. Ass'n. v. Bush, [298 S.W.2d 761 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1956)]; Vaughn v. Shelton, [514 S.W.2d 870 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1974)] where it was held that expert medical evidence was not required to prove that if both of the fallopian tubes are severed and closed, the patient would thereby be rendered immune from pregnancy." 569 S.W.2d at 456.
  • "Floyd v. Walls, [168 S.W.2d 602 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1942)]; and Gresham v. Ford, [241 S.W.2d 408 (Tenn. 1951)], are relied upon by defendants as requiring expert testimony to determine whether or not a doctor's decision not to x-ray constitutes malpractice. Those cases are inapposite for the reason that this case does not involve the alleged negligent act of failure to x-ray. The alleged negligent act here was the failure to ascertain, from history and inspection, that the wound was caused by a flying object and possibly contained a foreign body. All the experts agreed that if the true facts had been ascertained, x-rays were indicated and would have been taken." Id.

Other Sources of Note: Runnells v. Rogers, 596 S.W.2d 87 (Tenn. 1980) (holding that in factual circumstances very similar to Baldwin it was within common knowledge that wire embedded in plaintiff's foot should have been taken out by the physician and that expert testimony was not necessary for Plaintiff to prevail); Seavers v. Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, 9 S.W.3d 86, 92 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999) (court references several cases where the common knowledge exception was applied).

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.

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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.

The book is now available electronically by subscription at The new format allows us to keep the book current as new opinions are released. BirdDog Law also has John's Tennessee Law of Civil Trial and Compendium of Tennessee Tort Reform Statutes available by subscription, as well as multiple free resources to help Tennessee lawyers serve their clients

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