Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
At issue in this case was the standard for determining whether a shareholder’s claim is a direct claim or a derivative claim. This case arose from a dispute among siblings who were shareholders in a closely-held family corporation. The conflict resulted in dissolution of the original family corporation, the formation of two new corporations, and a lawsuit. In the suit, one group of shareholder siblings asserted claims against the other group of shareholder siblings. The trial court awarded damages to the plaintiff shareholder siblings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the plaintiff shareholder siblings did not have standing because their claims were derivative in nature and belonged to their new corporation. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the traditional approach for determining whether a shareholder claim is direct or derivative described in Hadden v. City of Gatlinburg is hereby set aside; (2) the framework set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Inc. is hereby adopted; and (3) under the Tooley framework, the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert some claims but had standing as to other claims. View "Keller v. Estate of Edward Stephen McRedmond" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant within the extended statute of limitations set by a tolling agreement. Plaintiff voluntarily nonsuited the action and refiled it within one year but after the extended statute of limitations in the tolling agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, determining that the case was not timely filed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the tolling agreement precluded application of the savings statute and, therefore, Plaintiff’s claims were barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the parties’ agreement, the savings statute applied to save the suit that Plaintiff refiled after the extended statute of limitations set in the tolling agreement but within the one-year period provided by the savings statute. Remanded. View "Circle C. Constr., LLC v. Nilsen" on Justia Law

by
In 2001, Father filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Mother did not file an answer to the petition. The trial court subsequently entered a default judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights. In 2010, Mother filed a petition seeking to set aside the judgment terminating her parental rights as void for lack of personal jurisdiction. Father argued that Mother’s petition was barred by the one-year statute of repose applicable to judgments terminating parental rights and thus should be dismissed. The trial court granted Mother’s petition and set aside the default judgment terminating her parental rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the default judgment was void for lack of personal jurisdiction; (2) the reasonable time filing requirement of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 does not apply to petitions seeking relief from void judgments under Rule 60.02(3); and (3) however, relief from a void judgment should be denied if certain exceptional circumstances exist. Remanded for a hearing to determine whether exceptional circumstances justify denying relief in this case. View "Turner v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
Claimant filed a complaint against the City of Clarksville as a defendant. The circuit court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Claimant’s claim against the City was time-barred because the antecedent complaint against the State was filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission after expiration of the one-year limitations period, and therefore, the ninety-day window under Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 to file suit against the City, as a comparative tortfeasor, was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, determining that Claimant’s written notice of his claim against the State, filed with the Division of Claims Administration within the limitations period, was an “original complaint” within the meaning of section 20-1-119, and therefore, the lawsuit against the City was timely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the complaint, not the written notice of claim, is the “original complaint” under section 20-1-119, and therefore, the ninety-day window to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor was not triggered in this case; and (2) the tolling provision in the Claims Commission Act is not applicable to toll the statute of limitations for a claim against a municipality filed under Tennessee’s Governmental Tort Liability Act. View "Moreno v. City of Clarksville" on Justia Law

by
In this health care liability case Plaintiff sent Defendants pre-suit notice of the claim via FedEx. Defendants moved for summary judgment, alleging that Plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) by not using certified mail, return receipt requested, through the U.S. Postal Service. The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that strict compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) was required. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the manner and proof of service prescribed by sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) may be achieved through substantial compliance; (2) delivery of pre-suit notice by private commercial carrier and filing of proof with the complaint constitutes substantial compliance with sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4); and (3) because Defendants received notice and were not prejudiced by the manner of service, Plaintiff’s provision of pre-suit notice to Defendants through the use of FedEx and filing of proof with the complaint constituted substantial compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of the pre-suit notice statute. Remanded. View "Arden v. Kozawa" on Justia Law

by
A jury awarded $3 million in compensatory damages to Plaintiff after finding that Defendant, Plaintiff's employer, retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to show that his supervisor knew of his protected activity before she took adverse action against him. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, reinstated the jury verdict, and remanded, holding that the jury’s verdict was supported by material evidence from which the jury could infer that the supervisor knew that Plaintiff had filed a discrimination lawsuit when she engaged in retaliatory conduct against Plaintiff. View "Ferguson v. Middle Tenn. State Univ." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a civil action in the general sessions court against Defendant, alleging that Defendant provided substandard medical treatment to her. Following a bench trial, the general sessions court entered judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal the next day and deposited with the general sessions court clerk $211.50, which represented the amount of the standard court cost for an appeal to the circuit court plus state and local litigation taxes. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to file an appeal bond in an amount sufficient to secure the “costs of the appeal” under Tenn. Code Ann. 27-5-103. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s case, concluding that payment of the standard court cost and litigation taxes satisfies the appeal bond requirement of section 27-5-103. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s cash bond was sufficient to perfect her appeal to the circuit court. View "Griffin v. Campbell Clinic, P.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
Plaintiff filed suit against three health care providers. The trial court granted motions for summary judgment dismissing all the claims against one of the providers. The trial court did not explain the grounds for its decisions and, rather, requested counsel for the provider to prepare orders establishing the rationale for the court’s ruling. In response, the provider’s counsel prepared “extremely detailed” orders essentially restating the arguments contained in the provider’s filings in support of its summary judgment motions. The trial court signed the orders over Plaintiff’s objections. The court of appeals vacated the contested orders because the trial court had failed to state the legal grounds for its decisions as required by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that trial court failed to comply with Rule 56.04 because the summary judgment orders did not demonstrate that the court exercised its own independent judgment in reaching its decision. View "Smith v. UHS of Lakeside, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
Plaintiff filed a health care liability action against Defendant-health care providers. Six days before filing his complaint, Defendant sent a pre-suit notice of his potential claim to each Defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, as permitted by Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(1). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff failed to file with his complaint an affidavit of the person who had sent the pre-suit notice by certified mail. The trial court dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals affirmed but noted the harsh results strict compliance produces in cases such as this one where no prejudice is alleged. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the complaint, holding (1) the statutory requirement that an affidavit of the person who sent the pre-suit notice by certified mail be filed with the complaint may be satisfied by substantial compliance; and (2) Plaintiff substantially complied with the statute in this case. View "Thurmond v. Mid-Cumberland Infectious Disease Consultants, PLC " on Justia Law