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Friday, April 22, 2022

Summary Judgment for Defense Reversed on Appeal Because Trial Court Did Not Follow the Proper Procedure in Granting Summary Judgment

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its decision in Auto Owners Insurance v. Thompson, No. W2021-00268-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 21, 2022). The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

The plaintiff challenges the trial court’s order granting the defendant’s Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss as a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56 motion for summary judgment and dismissing the plaintiff’s cause of action with prejudice. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion both as a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss and as a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment despite stating in its order that it had not excluded extraneous evidence presented by the defendant and that it would treat the motion as one for summary judgment. We conclude that the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion as a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss after having considered extraneous evidence and that the trial court erred by failing to include in its order the legal grounds for its decision to grant the defendant’s motion as a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Inasmuch as the plaintiff failed to file a proposed amended complaint in the trial court, we are unable to address the issue raised concerning the motion to amend the complaint. We vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion and Rule 56.

Here is a link to the opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/autoownersinsuranceopn.pdf.

NOTE: There is a lot going on in this opinion but the gist of it is that the trial court converted the defendant's motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment and then it did not comply with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure in granting summary judgment. 

This opinion does a good job of summing up the current standard or review applicable to motions for summary judgment in a Tennessee state court. Accordingly, this is a must-read case in my opinion.

As an aside, the plaintiff could have amended its complaint as a matter of right before an answer was filed and while the motion to dismiss was pending because a motion to dismiss is not a responsive pleading that would prevent amendment as of right under Rule 15 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. (It does not appear that the plaintiff in this case was aware of that fact.) Adams v. Carter Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 548 S.W.2d 307, 309 (Tenn. 1977) (noting that a motion is not a responsive pleading that would prevent an amended complaint from being filed as a matter of right under Rule 15); Vincent v. CNA Ins. Co., No. M2001-02213-COA-R9-CV, 2002 Tenn. App. LEXIS 907, 2002 WL 31863290, at *5 n.4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 23, 2002), (same).

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Trial Court's Denial of Motion Seeking Recusal Reversed on Appeal Due to Judge's Internet Activity

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its opinion in Clay County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., No. E2022-00349-COA-T10B-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 20, 2022). The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B petition for recusal appeal was filed in this Court following the denial of a motion that sought the disqualification of the trial court judge. As explained herein, because we conclude that concerns contributing to an appearance of partiality necessitate the trial judge’s recusal, we reverse. In addition, we vacate an order on substantive matters that was signed by the trial judge while the recusal motion was pending.

Here is a link to the 

opinion: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/clay_county_et_al._v._purdue_pharma_l.p.____opinion.pdf.

NOTE: This is the first opinion I have ever posted on a recusal. It is worth reading in my humble opinion because it touches on the importance of fair trials and the appearance of impropriety in judicial proceedings. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

New Tennessee Health Care Liability Action Opinion: The Denial of the State's Motion to Dismiss Reversed on Appeal Due to a Defective Certificate of Good Faith Being Filed to Support the Claim

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its opinion in Gilbert v. State, E2021-00881-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 14. 2022). The syllabus from the slip opinion reads: 

This appeal relates to a healthcare liability action, The Claims Commission denied the State’s motion to dismiss based upon the claimants’ failure to satisfy the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122 [(which concerns certificates of good faith that must be filed to support claims where expert testimony is required)]. We reverse the trial court and remand for dismissal.

NOTE: Look for the claimants to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to take a look at this one. I will keep you posted.  


Saturday, April 09, 2022

Trial Court's Denial of Defendants' Motion to Compel Arbitration Upheld on Appeal Because Family Member Who Signed Arbitration Agreement Was Not Authorized to Do So

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has issued its opinion in Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC, No. M2021-00927-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 8, 2022). The syllabus form the slip opinion reads:

This appeal concerns the enforceability of an arbitration agreement in a wrongful death lawsuit. James Williams [], individually as next of kin and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Granville Earl Williams, Jr., deceased [], sued Smyrna Residential, LLC d/b/a Azalea Court and Americare Systems, Inc. [] n the Circuit Court for Rutherford County []. Decedent was a resident of Azalea Court, an assisted living facility. Plaintiff alleged his father died because of Defendants’ negligence. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration agreement [] entered into by Decedent’s daughter and durable power of attorney Karen Sams [] on behalf of Decedent when the latter was admitted to Azalea Court. Notably, the durable power of attorney [] did not cover healthcare decision-making. The Trial Court held that Sams lacked authority to enter into the Agreement and that, in any event, the wrongful death beneficiaries would not be bound by the Agreement even if it were enforceable. Defendants appeal. We affirm. 

Here is a link to the opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/james.williams.opn_.pdf.

NOTE: This decision does a good job of explaining the law in Tennessee on nursing home arbitration agreements.  It also further clarifies our state's wrongful death law.  Its a must-read opinion for any lawyer dealing with these issues under Tennessee Substantive law.