Larry R. ("Rocky") McElhaney II is the principal and founding member of RML. He is a 1999 honors graduate of Nashville School of Law. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from UT-Knoxville in 1995 and his Associates of Science from Walters State Community College in 1993. He was born and raised in Morristown, a small town in East Tennessee.
In 2008 and continuing, Rocky was invited to be a member of the National Trial Lawyers Association which limits its membership to the Top 100 trial lawyers in each state. Rocky was named 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Best of the Bar by the Nashville Business Journal, a distinction for the top lawyers in Nashville. He is a member of the Tennessee Association for Justice where he serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors and the American Association for Justice. In 2009, Mr. McElhaney founded and co-chaired TAJ's Workers Compensation Practice Group. From 1998, Mr. McElhaney served on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, serving as President for 2006-2007. He served an instructor of Intro to Law and Legal Writing at the Nashville School of Law from 2005-2008. In 2011, Rocky was named to the list of Mid-South Super Lawyers as a Rising Star. He frequently lectures on workers' compensation and trial related issues. He has argued before the Tennessee Supreme Court six times, establishing and clarifying significant issues of law.
For more of Rocky’s biography, click here
At age 16, Rocky knew he wanted to be a lawyer. He had no interest in being a corporate lawyer or real estate lawyer. Rocky's goal was to be a trial lawyer, to help people, to fight for David against Goliath. Rocky's dad, Larry McElhaney, was seriously injured in a work accident. He was a millwright at BASF Fibers, a large corporation in Lowland, Tennessee (just outside Morristown). He was working on a tank when noxious gases escaped from a valve, causing Mr. McElhaney to pass out. He fell several feet to the concrete floor below. His back for severely injured. Surgery was required. The injury was so severe that Mr. McElhaney was disabled permanently from work. The insurance company for the employer first denied surgical care, paid disability benefits late and finally refused to offer a fair settlement. Mr. McElhaney had to get a lawyer to help him get the benefits and compensation he deserved under the laws of Tennessee. Before the trial, Rocky’s family struggled and they lost their house. He saw first hand the devastation that such a tragedy can bring to a family. This experience left an indelible impression on Rocky and set his career path.
Although just 38 years old, Rocky has been representing clients in serious injury and accident cases for 15 years. While still in law school, he took a law clerk position with a successful Nashville general law practitioner in 1996. He quickly focused on the cases in the office involving injuries. He began to write briefs, draft lawsuits and prepare cases for settlement and trial. While a third year law student at NSL, special permission was obtained from United Stated Federal District Judge Thomas A. Higgins for Rocky to sit at counsel table and assist in a two-week trial involving constitutional free speech violations and retaliation by Williamson County, Tennessee against a small business man and his company. The case was won by the plaintiff. This experience taught Rocky that sometimes the best result for the client is won with fair minded and impartial jurors like we have in Tennessee.
Rocky continued to handle civil litigation cases and participate in trials as a law clerk throughout 1997, 1998 and 1999. It was during these years that he forged his early relationships with UAW auto workers at Saturn Corporation in Spring Hill, Maury County, Tennessee. He assisted Saturn workers with their workers compensation claims. Over the year Saturn rebranded locally to General Motors but Rocky kept fighting was the auto workers there and at Nissan in Smryna. Rocky has successfully represented hundreds of injured auto workers and that continues to be a large focus of his practice. In 2009, Rocky won a landmark decision for Tim Cook against General Motors which allowed hundreds of workers to re-open settled and resolved cases to receive additional compensation. Additional information on this matter is available here.
Rocky passed the bar in his first attempt in October 1999 and set out on a legal journey that ultimately led to the founding of RML.
In October 1999, Rocky accepted an associate attorney position with the Law Office of Larry R. Williams in Nashville, where he clerked while in law school. In January 2001, he was named partner in Williams & McElhaney, P.C. Rocky left his law partnership with Larry Williams in September 2002 and formed Arena & McElhaney, PLLC, a firm dedicated to representing injured auto workers and significantly injured persons. The firm attempted to limit its representation to cases involving serious, complex work accidents and other injuries.
In July 2001, Rocky settled his first multi-million dollar case involving a young lady who was almost killed when a vehicle she in which she was riding was rear-ended by a tractor trailer going too fast on a Nashville interstate. Several other large settlements have followed for some extraordinary people. Other mulit-million dollar settlements followed including in 2009 for a Dickson County man with a mild traumatic brain injury after being hit by a construction truck and in 2005 for a Maury County man severely burned in a fire in a construction explosion. To view a listing of some of Rocky's case results, click here.
In November 2005, Rocky's client was awarded $1.25 million by a Davidson County jury in a wrongful death case. The trial lasted one week and involved a pedestrian who was struck by a car in a crosswalk in the Hillsboro Village area of Nashville. This was Rocky's first million dollar jury verdict, an accomplishment some lawyers never achieve. He was 32 years old.
To better serve his clients and reach his personal goals, Rocky founded Rocky McElhaney Law Firm in 2006. The goal of the firm is to represent real and extraordinary people who have been seriously injured in work accidents or seriously hurt by someone else's fault. To read more about RML, click here.
Growing up in East Tennessee, Rocky played baseball and football and was signed to play both in college. He eventually landed at Walters State where he played college baseball. In 1985, he was a member of the Morristown American baseball all-star team and played in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His team finished first in the United States and third in the world.
Remember: It's your life. I'm your lawyer.
- Nashville School of Law, J.D., 1999
- University of Tennessee at Knoxville, B.A., 1995
- Tennessee state courts, 1999
- United States District Court, Middle District, Tennessee 1999
- United States Appeals Court, Sixth Circuit, 2006
Significant Tennessee Supreme Court Cases
McCall v. National Healthcare, 100 S.W.3d 109 (Tenn. 2003). In case of first impression, Tennessee Supreme Court upheld trial court's grant of pre-trial temporary payments and medical benefits in workers' compensation case, holdng that trial court's have authority to award such benefits without evidentiary hearing even after 1992 amendments to Tennessee Workers' Compensation Act.
Bone v. Saturn Corporation, 148 S.W.3d 69 (Tenn. 2003). In case of first impression, Tennessee Supreme Court reversed trial court award in favor of worker and two prior panel decisions in holding that when setting the compensation rate in workers' compensation cases, the date of injury is date the injury is reported not the "last day worked." Later reversed in Building Material Corp v. Britt, 211 S.W.3d 706 (Tenn. 2007), to make the law in Tennessee exactly what Rocky argued on behalf of Ms. Bone.
Brown v. Erachem Comilog, Inc., 231 S.W.3d 918 (Tenn. 2007). Ground-breaking ruling in occupational disease workers’ compensation cases which reversed the trial court and lower panel decisions and held that the statute of limitations begins to run when the disease prevents work, not treatment for the disease. This was monumental ruling for injured workers and revived the Brown case.
Thompson v. Peterbilt (companion case with West v. Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.), 256 S.W.3d 618 (Tenn. 2008). Significant case in workers' compensation cases involving the "race to the courthouse" created by the 2004 legislative amendments to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 50-6-203(a). Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the first to file a lawsuit established venue not the first to file and obtain service of process. One legal commentator (John Day) called this a change in Tennessee law.
Nichols v. Jack Cooper Transport, 318 S.W.3d 354 (Tenn, 2010). Case of first impression in Tennessee dealing with the impact of temporary lay-offs for injured workers in Tennessee. The high court ruled that a temporary lay-off can result in a "loss of employment" and established factors trial courts should consider. This opinion helps injured workers receive additional compensation in some circumstances.
Crowley v. Thomas, 343 S.W.3d 32 (Tenn. 2011). Rocky took this case to the Tennessee Supreme Court to challenge a 100 year old rule that permits defendants to appeal cases won by the Plaintiff from small claims court to Circuit Court and then dismiss the appeal on the eve of a jury trial. The Court upheld the practice as procedurally available to defendants.