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:
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).