Yesterday the Tennessee Court of Appeals released its decision in Younger v. Okbahhanes, No. E2020-00429-COA-R10-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan,. 28, 2021). The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:
This appeal arises from a personal injury action. The plaintiff filed this action more than one year after the vehicle collision from which the cause of action accrued. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s action was untimely. The plaintiff filed a response arguing that the statute of limitations for personal injury actions was extended to two years, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-104(a)(2), due to the traffic citation issued to the defendant for failure to exercise due care in violation of section 55-8-136 as a result of the vehicle collision. The Trial Court found that section 28-3-104(a)(2) was applicable to extend the statute of limitations to two years because the defendant had been charged with a criminal offense and a criminal prosecution had been commenced against him. Discerning no error, we affirm.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:
NOTE: This opinion hinges on statutory construction. As it points out, the primary goal of a court in interpreting a statute is to "apply the plain meaning of a statute’s words in normal and accepted usage without a forced interpretation." Younger, slip op. at 5 (emphasis added) (quoting Baker v. State, 417 S.W.3d 428, 433 (Tenn. 2013). That is exactly what the court did here.
Further, another canon of statutory construction is reductio ad absurdum, which means reduction to the absurd; such an interpretation is to be avoided. Ronald Benton Brown & Sharon Jacobs Brown, Statutory Interpretation: The Search for Legislative Intent 73 (NITA 2d. ed. 2011) [hereinafter Intent at _____ ]. I would submit that the defendant's offered interpretation of Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 28-3-104(a)(2) is a reduction to the absurd, and that is yet another reason (aside from just the statute's plain meaning) to reject that forced interpretation. Compare Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a)(2) (LEXIS through 2020 Reg. Sess. and Second Extraordinary Sess.) with Intent, supra, at 73; see also Black's Law Dictionary 1283 (West Grp. 7th ed. 1999) (defining reductio ad absurdum).
Lastly, this decision is absolutely correct in my professional opinion. However, look for the defendant to seek review of it by SCOTN via an application for permission to appeal via Rule 11 of the Tenn. Rules of Civil Procedure. Due to this portion of the statute's novelty (enacted in 2015; amended subsection (a)), I think SCOTN might take this one up. However, I also think if it does it will affirm this decision. My two cents' worth.