Supreme Court Opinions

Format: 07/02/2016
Format: 07/02/2016
State of Tennessee v. James D. Wooden
E2014-01069-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

We granted this appeal to determine whether a party filing a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 (“Rule 36.1”) states a colorable claim for relief for correction of an illegal sentence by alleging that the trial court increased his sentence above the statutory presumptive minimum sentence but failed to find enhancement factors justifying the increase. Answering this question requires us to determine the meaning of two terms used in Rule 36.1—“colorable claim” and “illegal sentence.” We hold that the definition of “colorable claim” in Rule 28, section 2(H) of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court applies to the term “colorable claim” in Rule 36.1. Additionally, we conclude that the definition of “illegal sentence” in Rule 36.1 is coextensive with, and actually mirrors, the definition this Court has applied to the term for purposes of habeas corpus proceedings. Compare Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1(a), with Cantrell v. Easterling, 346 S.W.3d 445, 452 (Tenn. 2011). Taking the allegations of the Rule 36.1 motion in this case as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the moving party, we conclude that the moving party has failed to allege a colorable claim for correction of an illegal sentence. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of the Rule 36.1 motion is affirmed.

Bradley County Supreme Court 12/02/15
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee v. The Board of Zoning Appeals Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, et al.
M2013-01283-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

We granted permission to appeal in this case to determine whether The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (“Metro”) has standing to file a petition for a writ of certiorari against The Board of Zoning Appeals of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (“BZA”) in chancery court in order to challenge a BZA decision. We hold that Metro does have standing in this case. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals, and this matter is remanded to the chancery court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Davidson County Supreme Court 11/10/15
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, D/B/A Erlanger Health System
M2013-00942-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

We granted permission to appeal to address whether exhaustion of administrative remedies is required in this lawsuit brought by a hospital against a TennCare managed care organization (MCO). The hospital alleged in its complaint that the MCO had not paid the hospital all of the monies due for emergency services provided to the MCO’s TennCare enrollees. In its answer, the MCO asserted that it had paid the hospital in accordance with TennCare regulations; the MCO also filed a counterclaim regarding overpayments made pursuant to the TennCare regulations. The MCO filed a motion for partial summary judgment. It argued that the hospital’s allegations implicitly challenged the applicability and/or validity of the TennCare regulations, so the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) required the hospital to exhaust its administrative remedies by bringing those issues to TennCare prior to filing suit. Absent exhaustion of administrative remedies, the MCO argued, the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The trial court agreed; it dismissed the hospital’s lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed the MCO’s counterclaim as well. The Court of Appeals reversed; it concluded that the hospital’s lawsuit was simply a dispute regarding the interpretation of statutes and regulations, over which the trial court had jurisdiction. The MCO appeals. Looking at the substance of the parties’ dispute rather than simply the face of the hospital’s complaint, we hold that the UAPA requires exhaustion of administrative remedies in this matter to the extent that resolution of the parties’ claims would necessarily require the trial court to render a declaratory judgment concerning the validity or applicability of TennCare regulations. While the UAPA prohibits the trial court from rendering such declaratory relief absent exhaustion of administrative remedies, it does not address claims for damages. In this case, both parties have asserted damage claims that hinge on the issues to be addressed in the administrative proceedings. Under these circumstances, we reverse the dismissal of the complaint and the counterclaim and remand the case to the trial court with directions to hold the parties’ damage claims in abeyance pending resolution of administrative proceedings regarding the validity or applicability of the TennCare regulations at issue.   

Davidson County Supreme Court 11/05/15
Lea Ann Tatham v. Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., et al - Concurring in Part, Concurring in the Judgment
W2013-02604-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The majority has resolved the summary judgment issue by applying the federal standard recently adopted by this Court in Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis, MPLLC, No. W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. 2015). As explained in my dissent in Rye, I disagree with the adoption of the federal standard and would instead retain our former summary judgment standard. In this instance, however, I would reach the same conclusion as the majority pursuant to the former standard. Accordingly, I concur in the judgment.

Madison County Supreme Court 10/30/15
Lea Ann Tatham v. Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., et al.
W2013-02604-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This products liability case arises out of an accident which resulted from the failure of a tire purchased less than three months before the accident. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff’s vehicle was totaled. Subsequently, the entire vehicle, including the tire, was destroyed. This case presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to dismiss this case as a sanction for spoliation of evidence; (2) whether the trial court erred in denying summary judgment to the Defendants on the issues of causation and whether the tire was defective or unreasonably dangerous; and (3) whether the trial court erred in denying summary judgment on the issue of the application of the apparent manufacturer doctrine. Upon a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court did not err with respect to any of these issues. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Supreme Court 10/30/15
Michelle Rye, et al v. Women Center of Memphis, MPLLC, et al - Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part
W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

The majority opinion accurately recounts the development of this area of the law but ultimately concludes that the summary judgment standard first articulated in Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208 (Tenn. 1993), and later refined in Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008), and other decisions of this Court, must now be overruled. In my view, the principles articulated in Hannan, when interpreted in light of the history of summary judgment in Tennessee, set forth the preferable standard for shifting the burden of proof at summary judgment—one that is fully consistent with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56. By granting Rule 11 review in a case which pre-dated the passage of a statute purporting to set a new standard for summary judgment, by rejecting the well-established doctrine of stare decisis, and by acquiescing to the standard proposed by the General Assembly, my colleagues have preempted the future consideration of an important constitutional issue—whether the General Assembly, by its enactment of Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-16-101 (Supp. 2014), has violated the separation-of-powers doctrine. In the interest of consistent, predictable procedural guidelines of adjudication, I would hold that Byrd, Hannan, and their progeny should be reaffirmed as the standard for summary judgment in Tennessee and should be applied to the facts before us. Moreover, in my assessment, even the federal standard, as adopted in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), does not warrant dismissal on all of the claims. I must, therefore, respectfully dissent.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/15
Michelle Rye, et al v. Women Center of Memphis, MPLLC, et al - Concurring
W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

I concur in all respects with the excellent opinion in this case authored by Justice Clark. I write separately solely to address from a somewhat different perspective some of the points raised by the dissent. The dissent claims that Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008) simply “refined” the summary judgment standard adopted by this Court dating back to 1993 in Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208 (Tenn. 1993). Based in part upon my first-hand experiences in the trenches as a trial court judge, I beg to differ.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/15
Michelle Rye, et al v. Women Center of Memphis, MPLLC, et al - Concurring
W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

I was not serving on the Supreme Court in 2008 when Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008) was argued. Had I participated in the Hannan decision, I would have joined in the majority opinion. However, after observing the application of the unique Hannan standard over the past seven years, I conclude that the Hannan standard is unworkable and should be replaced. Although it is often easier to maintain the status quo rather than admit that a mistake was made, we do not have this option. We must change course when we realize we are headed in the wrong direction. 

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/15
Michelle Rye, et al v. Women Center of Memphis, MPLLC, et al.
W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

We granted permission to appeal in this healthcare liability action to reconsider the summary judgment standard adopted in Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008). The Court of Appeals concluded that the Hannan standard requires reversal of the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to the defendants on certain of the plaintiffs’ claims. We hereby overrule Hannan and return to a summary judgment standard consistent with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. We hold, therefore, that a moving party may satisfy its initial burden of production and shift the burden of production to the nonmoving party by demonstrating that the nonmoving party’s evidence is insufficient as a matter of law at the summary judgment stage to establish the nonmoving party’s claim or defense. Applying our holding to the record in this case, we conclude that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all the plaintiffs’ claims at issue in this appeal. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this matter to the trial court for entry of summary judgment on these issues and for any other proceedings that may be necessary.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/15
Kevin Turner v. Stephanie D. Turner
W2013-01833-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha Brasfield

We granted this appeal to determine whether the courts below erred in concluding that the mother must be afforded relief from a void default judgment terminating her parental rights even though she did not seek relief from the void judgment under Rule 60.02(3) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure until more than eight years after it was entered. We agree with the courts below that the default judgment is void for lack of personal jurisdiction and also conclude that the reasonable time filing requirement of Rule 60.02 does not apply to petitions seeking relief from void judgments under Rule 60.02(3). Nevertheless, we hold that relief from a void judgment should be denied if the following exceptional circumstances exist: “(1) [t]he party seeking relief, after having had actual notice of the judgment, manifested an intention to treat the judgment as valid; and (2) [g]ranting the relief would impair another person’s substantial interest of reliance on the judgment.” Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 66 (1982). We hold that the record has not been sufficiently developed to determine whether exceptional circumstances exist. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Appeals and remand for the trial court to determine, after a hearing, whether exceptional circumstances justify denying relief in this case.

Fayette County Supreme Court 10/21/15
Christopher Shondale Stacey v. Nissan North America, Inc., et al.
M2014-00796-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Jude J. Mark Rogers

Employee was terminated as a result of a verbal altercation with an employee of a contractor at his employer’s wellness center. He thereafter sought reconsideration of his three previous workers’ compensation claims. Employer asserted that Employee was not eligible for reconsideration because he was terminated for misconduct connected with his work. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B)(iii)(b) (2014). The trial court found that Employer had not sustained its burden of proof that Employee’s misconduct was connected with his employment, determined that Employee was entitled to reconsideration, and awarded additional permanent disability benefits. Employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred in its ruling concerning the termination, incorrectly excluded evidence of statements given by the contractor’s employee and erred by finding that Employee established that he was entitled to disability benefits above those he had already received. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Robertson County Supreme Court 10/15/15
Adam Ellithorpe, et al. v. Janet Weismark
M2014-00279-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

We granted review in this health care liability action to decide whether the trial court erred by failing to apply this Court’s analysis in Estate of French v. Stratford House, 333 S.W.3d 546 (Tenn. 2011), in determining whether it was necessary for plaintiffs to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 et seq. We hold that the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, which amended the THCLA, statutorily abrogated our decision in Estate of French by providing that “[a]ny such civil action or claim is subject to [the THCLA] regardless of any other claims, causes of action, or theories of liability alleged in the complaint.” Because it is undisputed that the plaintiffs in this case failed to provide pre-suit notice or file a certificate of good faith, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the judgment of the trial court dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice is reinstated.
 

Davidson County Supreme Court 10/08/15
American Casualty Company of Reading, Pennsylvania v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00898-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Five groups of Pennsylvania-domiciled insurance companies filed complaints in the Tennessee Claims Commission seeking a refund of retaliatory taxes paid under protest. The Commissioner entered judgments denying the requested refunds, and the insurance companies appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments. We granted permission to appeal to consider whether certain Pennsylvania workers’ compensation assessments result in a financial burden on Tennessee insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania, thereby triggering the imposition of retaliatory taxes against the Pennsylvania insurance companies doing business in Tennessee. Because the workers’ compensation assessments must be paid by employer–policyholders in conjunction with their premium payments, the administrative task of collecting and remitting those payments does not qualify as a burden on the insurance companies for purposes of the retaliatory tax. The judgments of the Court of Appeals are, therefore, reversed.

Supreme Court 10/02/15
Valley Forge Insurance Company v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00897-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Five groups of Pennsylvania-domiciled insurance companies filed complaints in the Tennessee Claims Commission seeking a refund of retaliatory taxes paid under protest. The Commissioner entered judgments denying the requested refunds, and the insurance companies appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments. We granted permission to appeal to consider whether certain Pennsylvania workers’ compensation assessments result in a financial burden on Tennessee insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania, thereby triggering the imposition of retaliatory taxes against the Pennsylvania insurance companies doing business in Tennessee. Because the workers’ compensation assessments must be paid by employer–policyholders in conjunction with their premium payments, the administrative task of collecting and remitting those payments does not qualify as a burden on the insurance companies for purposes of the retaliatory tax. The judgments of the Court of Appeals are, therefore, reversed.

Supreme Court 10/02/15
Old Republic Insurance Company, et al v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00904-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Five groups of Pennsylvania-domiciled insurance companies filed complaints in the Tennessee Claims Commission seeking a refund of retaliatory taxes paid under protest. The Commissioner entered judgments denying the requested refunds, and the insurance companies appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments. We granted permission to appeal to consider whether certain Pennsylvania workers’ compensation assessments result in a financial burden on Tennessee insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania, thereby triggering the imposition of retaliatory taxes against the Pennsylvania insurance companies doing business in Tennessee. Because the workers’ compensation assessments must be paid by employer–policyholders in conjunction with their premium payments, the administrative task of collecting and remitting those payments does not qualify as a burden on the insurance companies for purposes of the retaliatory tax. The judgments of the Court of Appeals are, therefore, reversed.

Supreme Court 10/02/15
Ace American Insurance Company, et al v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00930-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Five groups of Pennsylvania-domiciled insurance companies filed complaints in the Tennessee Claims Commission seeking a refund of retaliatory taxes paid under protest. The Commissioner entered judgments denying the requested refunds, and the insurance companies appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments. We granted permission to appeal to consider whether certain Pennsylvania workers’ compensation assessments result in a financial burden on Tennessee insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania, thereby triggering the imposition of retaliatory taxes against the Pennsylvania insurance companies doing business in Tennessee. Because the workers’ compensation assessments must be paid by employer–policyholders in conjunction with their premium payments, the administrative task of collecting and remitting those payments does not qualify as a burden on the insurance companies for purposes of the retaliatory tax. The judgments of the Court of Appeals are, therefore, reversed.

Supreme Court 10/02/15
Chartis Casualty Company, et al v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00885-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Five groups of Pennsylvania-domiciled insurance companies filed complaints in the Tennessee Claims Commission seeking a refund of retaliatory taxes paid under protest. The Commissioner entered judgments denying the requested refunds, and the insurance companies appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments. We granted permission to appeal to consider whether certain Pennsylvania workers’ compensation assessments result in a financial burden on Tennessee insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania, thereby triggering the imposition of retaliatory taxes against the Pennsylvania insurance companies doing business in Tennessee. Because the workers’ compensation assessments must be paid by employer–policyholders in conjunction with their premium payments, the administrative task of collecting and remitting those payments does not qualify as a burden on the insurance companies for purposes of the retaliatory tax. The judgments of the Court of Appeals are, therefore, reversed.

Supreme Court 10/02/15
Richard Moreno v. City of Clarksville - Dissenting
M2013-01465-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

As early as 1799, the Superior Court of Law and Equity of Tennessee adopted the principle that the courts of this state should interpret the law in a manner that elevates “the justice of the case” over “technical formality.” Glasgow’s Lessee v. Smith, 1 Tenn. (1 Overt.) 144, 151 (1799). It is equally well established that “Tennessee law strongly favors the resolution of all disputes on their merits,” and that remedial statutes must “be given a broad and liberal construction in order to achieve this goal.” Henley v. Cobb, 916 S.W.2d 915, 916 (Tenn. 1996). This case involves a claim brought pursuant to the Claims Commission Act and hinges on the construction of Tennessee Code Annotated section 20 1 119, a remedial statute intended to provide plaintiffs with a fair opportunity to add a non-party when a defendant alleges that the non-party was comparatively at fault for a plaintiff’s injury. Becker v. Ford Motor Co., 431 S.W.3d 588, 592 (Tenn. 2014). The majority has concluded that in this instance Richard Moreno (the “Plaintiff”) cannot invoke section 20 1 119 because it applies only when the defendant alleging comparative fault is named in a pleading described as a “complaint” rather than a “notice of claim,” the latter being the statutory term used to describe the pleading that commences an action under the Claims Commission Act. In my view, the majority’s interpretation of section 20 1 119 is contrary to the plain meaning of the statute, elevates form over substance, and violates the principle that claims should be decided on the merits whenever possible. I must, therefore, respectfully dissent.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 09/18/15
Richard Moreno v. City of Clarksville
M2013-01465-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

In this appeal, the claimant seeks to toll the statute of limitations on his claim against a municipality based on two statutes: (1) Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-1-119, the 90-day “window” in Tennessee’s comparative fault statute to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor, and (2) Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(b), the tolling provision in the Tennessee Claims Commission Act that states that the filing of written notice of a claim against the State tolls all statutes of limitations as to other persons potentially liable to the claimant. The trial court dismissed the claimant’s complaint against the municipality. It held that, because the antecedent complaint against the State of Tennessee was filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission after expiration of the one-year limitations period, the 90-day window under Section 20-1-119 to file the lawsuit against the municipality, as a comparative tortfeasor, was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the claimant’s written notice of his claim against the State, filed with the Division of Claims Administration before the one-year limitations period elapsed, was an “original complaint” within the meaning of Section 20-1-119, so the lawsuit against the municipality was timely. The municipality appeals. We hold that the complaint, not the written notice of a claim, is the “original complaint” under Section 20-1-119, so the 90-day window to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor was never triggered in this case. We also hold that Section 9-8-402(b), the tolling provision in the Claims Commission Act, is not applicable to toll the statute of limitations for a claim against a municipality filed under Tennessee’s Governmental Tort Liability Act. Therefore, this action is time-barred. 

Montgomery County Supreme Court 09/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Rickey Alvis Bell, Jr. - Concurring In Part and Dissenting In Part
W2012-02017-SC-DDT-DD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III


I concur with the majority’s holdings as to the trial court’s denial of Mr. Bell’s motion to strike the death notice based on intellectual disability; the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-203 that prohibits the execution of any intellectually disabled person; and the trial court’s denial of Mr. Bell’s motions for mistrial. I agree with the majority’s conclusion that the trial court erred by refusing to allow Mr. Bell to introduce evidence that Rick Harris, the victim’s husband, was having an affair with his ex-wife at the time the victim was murdered. However, I disagree that the error was harmless. In my view, the State failed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that this error did not affect the outcome of the trial. Because Mr. Bell was deprived of his constitutional right to present a defense and the State failed to show that the error did not affect the verdict, Mr. Bell is entitled to a new trial. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the majority’s holding that Mr. Bell is not entitled to a new trial and would pretermit the remaining issues.

Tipton County Supreme Court 09/10/15
State of Tennessee v. Rickey Alvis Bell, Jr.
W2012-02017-SC-DDT-DD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker

In this capital case, the jury convicted the Defendant, Rickey Alvis Bell, Jr., of two alternative counts of first degree felony murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated sexual battery. The jury sentenced the Defendant to death for the first degree murder based on four aggravating circumstances. On direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the Defendant’s convictions. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the record did not support two of the aggravating circumstances but nonetheless affirmed the death sentence. We now address the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to strike the death notice on the ground that he is intellectually disabled; (2) whether Tennessee’s statute prohibiting the execution of intellectually disabled persons is unconstitutional; (3) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s two motions for mistrial; (4) whether the trial court erred by refusing to allow the Defendant to adduce evidence that the victim’s husband was having an extramarital affair at the time the victim was murdered; (5) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions; and (6) our mandatory review of the Defendant’s death sentence. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions and death sentence.

Tipton County Supreme Court 09/10/15
David G. Young v. City of Lafollette, et al.
E2013-00441-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

We granted permission to appeal to address two issues: (1) Whether the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101 to -408 (2012 & Supp. 2014), applies to Tennessee Public Protection Act (“TPPA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304 (2008 & Supp. 2009), claims against governmental entities; and (2) If the GTLA does not apply, whether a constitutional or statutory right to trial by jury applies to TPPA claims brought in circuit court. As to the first issue, we hold that the GTLA does not apply to TPPA claims because the TPPA is an independent and specific body of law, which removes governmental immunity and thus controls the adjudication of TPPA claims against governmental entities. As to the second question, we hold that there is no constitutional right to trial by jury for TPPA claims and that there is no statutory right to trial by jury for TPPA claims filed in circuit court. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed on the separate grounds stated herein, and this matter is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Campbell County Supreme Court 08/26/15
Kighwaunda M. Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC.
M2014-01723-SC-R23-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Aleta A. Trauger

We accepted a question of law certified by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to determine whether a job applicant has a cause of action under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act against a prospective employer for failure to hire if the prospective employer failed to hire the job applicant because that applicant had filed, or is likely to file, a workers’ compensation claim against a previous employer, and if such a cause of action exists, what standard should apply. We hold that there is no cause of action for failure to hire under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act.

Supreme Court 08/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Knowles - Dissent
W2013-00503-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

“Hard cases, it has frequently been observed, are apt to introduce bad law.” Winterbottom v. Wright, 152 Eng. Rep. 403, 404 (1842). The same is true of “cases in which . . . moral indignation . . . is aroused” by egregious facts. Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law 105 (1957). The defendant here, convicted of the rape of a child and already serving a forty-year sentence for related federal offenses, deserves no sympathy. Because, however, constitutional principles sometimes get in the way of what might otherwise qualify as a just punishment, I must dissent from my colleagues. The fundamental principle at issue here is the right to a unanimous jury verdict, see Tenn. Const. art. I, § 6, which requires the State to elect the specific evidence it is relying upon for a conviction when the jury hears proof of more than one instance of sexual misconduct. State v. Johnson, 53 S.W.3d 628, 630 (Tenn. 2001). Regrettably, the State misidentified the factual basis for the charged offense in this instance. Because this error, although clearly inadvertent, served to undermine the fundamental right to a unanimous verdict, I believe that a new trial should be ordered.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Knowles
W2013-00503-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether an inaccuracy in the prosecution's election of offenses amounted to plain error that entitles the defendant to relief. Although the Court of Criminal Appeals erred by failing to subject the election issue to plain error analysis, we hold, after thoroughly reviewing the record pursuant to the plain error doctrine, that the election error does not entitle the defendant to relief. Despite the inaccuracy, the election was sufficiently specific to eliminate any substantial risk that the jury would return a non-unanimous verdict. Additionally, the defendant has failed to provide a complete record of the proceedings in the trial court. Accordingly, under these circumstances, we affirm, on the separate grounds stated, the Court of Criminal Appeals' judgment upholding the defendant's conviction of rape of a child.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/31/15