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A “preferred service” state employee does not have a protected property interest in his or her employment, and the State did not bear the ultimate burden of proof in a post-termination administrative appeal under section 8-30-318 of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management Act of 2012 (TEAM), Tenn Code. Ann. 8-39-101 through -407. After the Tennessee Department of Correction (Petitioner) dismissed David Pressley from his employment as a correctional officer, Pressley challenged his termination under the TEAM Act’s appeals process. The Board of Appeals reinstated Pressley at Step III of the appeals process. The chancery court reversed, concluding that the Board erred in determining that the State bore the ultimate burden of proof in the Step III appeal. The court of appeals, in turn, reversed, determining that preferred service state employees have a protected property interest in their employment and that the Board correctly assigned the ultimate burden of proof. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the Board, holding (1) preferred service employees do not possess a property interest in their continued employment with the State; and (2) the Board erred when it assigned the ultimate burden of proof to the State to sustain Pressley’s termination for cause. View "Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a surviving spouse who files a wrongful death lawsuit was acting as a legal representative of the decedent and whether a wrongful death lawsuit filed pro se by the surviving spouse was void ab initio based on the spouse's pro se status. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, affirmed the trial court's denial of summary judgment, and remanded. The court held that the initial pro se complaint was not void ab initio, it served to toll the statute of limitations, and the trial court did not err in allowing the filing of the amended complaint to relate back to the date of the initial complaint. View "Beard v. Branson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this case, the Supreme Court expressly overruled its decision in State v. Barney, 986 S.W.2d 545 (Tenn. 1999), and held that double jeopardy principles apply when determining whether multiple convictions of sexual offenses arise from a single act of sexual assault. Defendant was convicted of one count of attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery, four counts of aggravated sexual battery, and three counts of rape of a child. Defendant was sentenced to an effective term of forty years. The court of criminal appeals affirmed the convictions but merged the conviction of attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery with one of the child rape convictions. The court also modified Defendant’s sentence to an effective term of twenty-five years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court of Criminal Appeals did not err in merging two of Defendant’s multiple convictions. View "State v. Itzol-Deleon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of questions of law from a federal district court and answered (1) for split confinement sentences, Tennessee trial judges are authorized to fix a percentage the defendant must serve in actual confinement before becoming eligible to earn work credits, and (2) Tennessee law imposes no duty on a sheriff to challenge an inmate’s sentence as improper or potentially improper. The certified questions of law arose from a lawsuit Plaintiff brought in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated when his sentence was not reduced by the work credits he earned as a trusty while confined in Madison County jail on his split confinement sentence. View "Ray v. Madison County" on Justia Law

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A potential plaintiff who provides pre-suit notice to one potential defendant is not required under Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) to provide the single potential defendant with a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization. Plaintiff sent a pre-suit notice of her healthcare liability claim to a single healthcare provider and included a medical authorization. Dr. Radwan Khuri moved to dismiss the case, asserting that Plaintiff had failed to povide a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization under section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). The trial court granted Dr. Khuri’s motion and dismissed the complaint, concluding that the authorization provided by Plaintiff did not substantially comply with HIPAA or with the requirements of section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) and that Defendant was prejudiced by Plaintiff’s deficient authorization. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization was not required in this case because Plaintiff’s pre-suit notice was sent to a single provider. View "Bray v. Khuri" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated stalking. The Court of Criminal Appeals reduced Defendant’s conviction from aggravated stalking to misdemeanor stalking on the basis of insufficient evidence. Specifically, the court concluded that the State had not adduced sufficient evidence to establish that Defendant knowingly violated an order of protection. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment of conviction, holding (1) the Court of criminal Appeals misapplied the standard of review and so committed reversible error; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s determination that Defendant had actual knowledge of the order of protection issued against him, and therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction of aggravated stalking. View "State v. Stephens" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A defendant has no appeal as of right under Tenn. R. App. P. 3(b) from the denial of a Tenn. R. Crim. P. 41(g) motion for return of property when the defendant did not file a pretrial motion to suppress and pleaded guilty. Defendant here was indicted on charges of aggravated assault by use or display of a deadly weapon. After law enforcement officers seized guns and related items from Defendant’s home Defendant guilty guilty to reduced charges of reckless endangerment. Three years later, Defendant filed a Rule 41(g) motion for the return of property. The trial court dismissed the motion. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a defendant does not file a motion to suppress and waives any non-jurisdictional defects in the proceedings by entry of a guilty plea, rule 3(b) does not afford the defendant with an appeal as of right from the trial court’s denial of a rule 41(g) motion. View "State v. Rowland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Upon their divorce, Wife and Husband entered into a marital dissolution agreement (MDA) that contained a provision entitling the prevailing party to an award of appellate attorney’s fees in subsequent legal proceedings. The MDA was incorporated into the parties’ final divorce decree. Wife later filed a relocation motion seeking to modify the parties’ parenting plan. Wife then filed a motion for judgment against Husband for reimbursement of uncovered medical expenses. After a hearing, the trial court granted both motions filed by Wife and awarded Wife attorney’s fees based on the MDA. The court of appeals affirmed but declined Wife’s request for an award of fees and costs on appeal. Wife appealed, arguing that she was entitled to appellate attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Wife was entitled to an award of appellate attorney’s fees incurred before the court of appeals under the parties’ MDA. View "Eberbach v. Eberbach" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law

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A jury found Defendant guilty of the premeditated first degree murder of his girlfriend,of initiating a false report concerning her disappearance, and of abuse of her corpse. The jury imposed the death sentence on the first degree murder conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) the sentence of death was not imposed in an arbitrary fashion; (2) the sentence of death was proportionate and appropriate; (3) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error in its evidentiary rulings challenged on appeal; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow Defendant to enter guilty pleas to the noncapital offenses; and (5) any error in the prosecutorial rebuttal argument was not prejudicial. View "State v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Charles Kilburn was injured in a motor vehicle accident and underwent surgery to resolve his neck injury complaints. Charles took oxycodone to alleviate his back pain. Several months after his surgery, Charles died due to an overdose of oxycodone combined with alcohol. The chancery court found that the death was compensable and awarded workers’ compensation death benefits to Judy Kilburn, Charles’s wife. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the chancery court, holding that Charles’s failure to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions ultimately caused his demise, and therefore, his death was no longer causally related to his work-related injury, and his overdose was an independent intervening cause. View "Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co." on Justia Law