Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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Defendant was found guilty of one count of facilitation of aggravated burglary and two counts of theft of property. After finding the presence of one enhancement factor, the trial court imposed concurrent three-year sentences for each offense. The court of criminal appeals found the enhancement factor did not apply and reduced each of the sentences to two years. The Supreme Court reversed the sentence modification by the court of criminal appeals and reinstated the sentence imposed by the trial court, holding (1) a sentence imposed by a trial court should be upheld so long as it is within the appropriate sentencing range and is otherwise in compliance with the purposes and principles of the sentencing statute; and (2) notwithstanding the trial court's reliance on an erroneous enhancement factor in this case, its imposition of three-year sentences was supported by the reasons articulated in the record. View "State v. Bise" on Justia Law

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An employee filed a request for assistance with the Tennessee Department of Labor after she was injured at her workplace. After approximately six months of inaction by the Department, the employee filed a complaint for workers' compensation benefits against her employer in the circuit court. The employer responded with a motion to dismiss asserting that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the parties had not participated in the benefit review conference process. The trial judge did not dismiss the complaint but ordered the case to be held in abeyance pending further orders of he court. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and dismissed the employee's complaint with prejudice, holding that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction of the case because the employee did not exhaust the benefit review conference process before filing suit as required by Tenn. Code Ann. 50-6-203. View "Chapman v. Davita, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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Jefferson County enacted a comprehensive zoning ordinance limiting the use of certain property, including Plaintiff's property, to agricultural purposes. Before the passage of the ordinance, Plaintiff undertook various activities designed to establish business operations for its property. When the County issued a stop work order, Plaintiff, without first receiving a decision from the County's board of zoning appeals, filed a declaratory judgment action arguing that the portion of the property not previously subject to zoning qualified as a pre-existing non-conforming use. The trial court (1) concluded Plaintiff was not required to exhaust its administrative remedies, and (2) ruled that the business activities on the property qualified for protection under Tenn. Code Ann. 31-7-208. The court of appeals set the judgment aside, holding that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the trial court did not err by ruling that Plaintiff was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies; and (2) the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's finding that Plaintiff had established operations sufficient to qualify for protection under section 13-7-208. View "Ready Mix, USA, LLC v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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Defendant was sentenced following his conviction on two counts of first degree murder and nine counts of attempted first degree murder. Defendant's attorney subsequently filed a motion requesting a new trial and withdrew as counsel. The motion contained no specific grounds for relief. The trial court appointed replacement counsel. Several months later, replacement counsel amended the motion for new trial to allege specific grounds for relief. The trial court denied the amended motion for new trial. The court of criminal appeals held that the original motion for new trial was a nullity because it contained no grounds for relief and that the trial court therefore did not have jurisdiction to permit the amendment of the motion. The court of criminal appeals therefore considered Defendant's specific grounds for relief as waived. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the original motion for new trial met the requirements of Tenn. R. Crim. P. 33 despite its failure to allege specific grounds for relief and that the trial court retained jurisdiction to permit the amendment of the motion. Remanded. View "State v. Lowe-Kelley" on Justia Law

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A patient discovered that a guide wire had been left in her vein during a prior medical procedure. She filed a medical malpractice action against the doctors who performed the procedure and the hospital where the procedure was performed. The patient voluntarily dismissed the medical malpractice suit pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41 when she was informed that another party was responsible for the presence of the guide wire. The doctors named in the original suit filed a malicious prosecution action against the patient. The patient filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the doctors could not prove that the prior suit had been terminated in their favor. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, held that a voluntary nonsuit taken pursuant to Rule 41 is not a favorable termination on the merits for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim. Remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of the patient. View "Himmelfarb v. Allain" on Justia Law

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An officer stopped Defendant for a traffic violation. When the officer ordered Defendant out of his vehicle to sign the citation, he observed what appeared to be a bag of cocaine on the floorboard of the driver's side. Charged with possession with intent to sell or deliver twenty-six grams or more of cocaine in a school zone, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence as the product of an unlawful seizure. The trial court sustained the motion, concluding that the request to exit the vehicle was not reasonably related to the stop. The court of criminal appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the order of suppression and remanded the cause for trial, holding than an officer, after making a lawful stop for a traffic violation, may routinely direct the driver outside of the vehicle. View "State v. Donaldson" on Justia Law

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During a robbery, one of the defendants shot the victim in the leg. Although the bullet passed through the victim's leg, the wound required minimal medical treatment and did not cause the victim to suffer a loss of consciousness, extreme pain, disfigurement, or impairment. The defendants were convicted of especially aggravated robbery and aggravated robbery. The court of criminal appeals affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court modified the convictions for especially aggravated robbery to convictions for aggravated robbery because the victim did not suffer a serious bodily injury as required by Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-403. Remanded to the trial court for resentencing. View "State v. Farmer" on Justia Law

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Employee was discharged after she filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit against Employer alleging employment discrimination. Employee appealed the termination to the Metro Civil Service Commission (Commission) and eventually settled the appeal, receiving backpay and other consideration in exchange for her agreement not to accept future employment with the agency that discharged her. Employee subsequently filed a complaint against Employer alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Employer, reasoning that Employee could not establish her termination constituted an adverse employment action because she had accepted backpay and agreed not to be reinstated as part of the settlement of her Commission appeal. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee's acceptance of the settlement did not preclude her from establishing that her termination constituted an adverse employment action for purposes of her federal retaliatory discharge claims. View "Perkins v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson County" on Justia Law

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Jerry and Martha Garrison witnessed their son's injuries after he was struck by a car. The son died afterwards. The Garrisons filed a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against the owner and driver of the car. The Garrisons also served a copy of the complaint upon their insurance company, State Farm, pursuant to the uninsured motorist provisions of their policy. The policy covered damages for "bodily injury," and "bodily injury" was defined in the policy as "bodily injury to a person and sickness, disease, or death that results from it." The trial court determined that the "bodily injury" provision of the uninsured motorist statute covered mental injuries, and therefore, the policy provided, by operation of law, coverage for the Garrisons' emotional distress claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) as applied to this case, "bodily injury" did not include damages for emotional harm alone; and (2) the definition of "bodily injury" in the policy did not conflict with the uninsured motorist statute. View "Garrison v. Bickford " on Justia Law