On the evening of December 24, 2009, Richard Moreno was driving his car across the Neal Tarpley Bridge in Clarksville when a massive tree suddenly slammed on top of his car, seriously injuring him. The tree had been planted on property owned by the State of Tennessee. As a result, in accordance with the Tennessee Claims Commission Act, Mr. Moreno filed a claim with the Claims Administration describing his injuries and providing an accounting of his medical expenses.
After filing his claim, Mr. Moreno received an order from the Claims Commissioner directing him to file a formal complaint against the State of Tennessee. Mr. Moreno promptly complied by filing a complaint alleging that the State had negligently maintained both the bridge and the tree that fell on him. Thereafter, the State filed an answer to Mr. Moreno’s complaint denying liability.
Notably, the State’s initial answer to Mr. Moreno’s complaint never mentioned that someone else might be responsible for the accident. However, sixteen months later, the State amended its answer and alleged for the first time that the City of Clarksville was responsible for Mr. Moreno’s injuries because water run-off from a city storm drain had eroded the soil around the bridge, rendering the tree that fell on him unstable.