Justia Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Donovan v. Hastings
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals upholding that trial court's determination that the plaintiff homeowner's award of attorneys fees and costs under Tenn. Code Ann. 20-12-119(c) was limited to those incurred after the date the defendant contractor filed an amended countercomplaint, holding that the lower courts erred.Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract for the renovation of a residence. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Defendant filed an amended countercomplaint asserting breach of contract. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims and then dismissed the countercomplaint. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the attorney fee and costs award granted by the trial court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's award of attorney fees and costs, holding that the fees and costs recoverable by Plaintiff in connection with the dismissal of Defendant’s breach of contract claim are not limited to those incurred after the amended countercomplaint was actually filed. View "Donovan v. Hastings" on Justia Law
Franks v. Sykes
The Supreme Court held that the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977, Tenn. Code Ann. 47-18-101 to -132, applies to health care providers when they are acting in their business capacities and that Plaintiffs, who were consumers of medical services, may state a claim under the Act against the hospitals for conduct arising out of the hospitals' business practices.Plaintiffs received hospital medical services for injuries received in car accidents. The hospitals did not bill Plaintiffs' health insurance companies but, rather, filed hospital liens against Plaintiffs' claims for damages arising from the accidents. The liens were for the entire amount of the hospital bills and were not reduced for Plaintiffs' health insurance benefits. Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit, alleging that the filing of the discounted hospital liens was unlawful under the Act. The trial court dismissed the case for failure to state a cause of action. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the underlying transaction did not fit within the Act's definition of a "consumer transaction" as defined by the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs stated a cause of action under the Act. View "Franks v. Sykes" on Justia Law
State v. Itzol-Deleon
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
State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co.
In a two-year period, more than eleven million cigarettes manufactured by an Indonesian cigarette manufacturer were sold in Tennessee. After the manufacturer withdrew its cigarettes from the United States market, the State suit the manufacturer, alleging that the manufacturer had failed to pay into the Tobacco Manufacturers' Escrow Fund as required by Tenn. Code Ann. 47-31-101 to -103. The trial court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer. The court of appeals reversed. At issue on appeal was whether Tennessee courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer where the manufacturer's cigarettes were sold in the State through the marketing efforts of a Florida entrepreneur who purchased the cigarettes from an independent foreign distributor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Tennessee courts lacked personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer because the State failed to establish that the manufacturer purposely availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Tennessee. View "State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co." on Justia Law
Akers v. Prime Succession of Tenn., Inc.
Defendant, a crematory operator, hid hundreds of uncremated bodies on his property rather than perform cremations he was paid to do. When Plaintiffs, who had received what they thought to be their deceased son's cremains from Defendant's crematory, learned about the problems at the crematory, they discovered the body of their son was mishandled and not properly cremated. Plaintiffs sued Defendant for the alleged mishandling of their deceased son's body. Following a jury verdict for Plaintiffs, the trial court entered judgment against Defendant based on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim but granted his motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Plaintiffs' Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and bailment claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) holding Defendant liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress in the amount of the jury verdict; (2) instructing the jury that they were permitted to draw a negative inference resulting from Defendant's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege during questioning; and (3) dismissing the TCPA and bailment claims. View "Akers v. Prime Succession of Tenn., Inc." on Justia Law
Discover Bank v. Morgan
At issue in this consumer protection case was which Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure applied to a motion that sought relief from a default judgment of liability on a counter-complaint, where the motion was filed within thirty days of entry of the default, the trial court did not expressly direct the entry of judgment on the counter-complaint pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02, and neither liability on the original complaint nor damages on the counter-complaint were determined. The trial court entered default judgment in favor of the consumer on her counterclaims against Discover Bank and awarded the consumer damages. The court of appeals upheld the default judgment, vacated the award of damages, and remanded the case for a new hearing on damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Rule 54.02, rather than Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02, applies in this situation, but the same test applies to motions seeking relief from default judgment, under either rule, on the basis of "excusable neglect"; and (2) actual damages are recoverable for loss of available credit under Tennessee Consumer Protection Act where the plaintiff suffers a demonstrable loss of credit, proximately caused by the defendant, resulting in actual harm. View "Discover Bank v. Morgan " on Justia Law
Lind v. Beaman Dodge, Inc.
Plaintiff, who had purchased a truck from an automobile dealership, filed a products liability suit in 2007 against the manufacturer and the dealership, as Seller. Later, Plaintiff entered a voluntary nonsuit as to Seller and proceeded only against the manufacturer. Over one year later, the manufacturer declared bankruptcy. In 2009, Plaintiff again sued Seller, alleging negligence and strict liability in tort. Seller filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals denied the appeal. The Supreme Court granted Seller's application for permission to consider the application of the saving statute to the circumstances. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff could proceed under the strict liability claim because that cause of action did not accrue until the manufacturer was judicially declared insolvent; and (2) because the second suit alleged acts of negligence on the part of Seller, an exception to the statutory rule prohibiting products liability suits against sellers, and could have been brought in 2007, the statute of limitations was a bar to recovery under that theory. Remanded for trial. View "Lind v. Beaman Dodge, Inc." on Justia Law