SUPREME COURT OPINIONS

Robert Allen Doll, III v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee
M2022-01723-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

In this case, an attorney appeals the recommended sanction of disbarment after three criminal convictions. The attorney was convicted by a jury of two counts of subornation of aggravated perjury and one count of criminal simulation, all Class E felony offenses and serious crimes under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 22. All three criminal convictions arose out of the attorney’s conduct in representing a client. In the ensuing disciplinary proceedings, a Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel recommended disbarment. The attorney appealed the hearing panel’s decision to the chancery court, which affirmed. The attorney appealed to this Court. On appeal, the attorney argues the hearing panel should have reviewed similar cases of attorney misconduct where a suspension was imposed, and that he should be suspended based on the sanction imposed in those cases. Under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panels and trial courts considering attorney discipline promote consistency in the imposition of sanctions by anchoring their decisions on punishment to the American Bar Association Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions. Rule 9 does not give either hearing panels or trial courts authority in attorney disciplinary cases to base recommended attorney disciplinary sanctions on a review of sanctions imposed in comparative cases. The Supreme Court’s more expansive perspective from seeing the broad swath of attorney disciplinary matters in the entirety of the State—whether appealed or not—puts it in the best position to consider comparative cases for the sake of uniformity of punishment throughout Tennessee. In this case, considering the nature of the attorney’s misconduct, no comparable case convinces us that suspension, rather than disbarment, is the appropriate sanction. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court and the decision of the hearing panel and impose the sanction of disbarment.

Davidson Supreme Court

Loring E. Justice v. Board of Professional Responsibility
E2022-01105-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Thomas J. Wright

This is a direct appeal of a disciplinary proceeding involving a Knoxville attorney who filed four motions containing pejorative statements about the trial judge in a child custody case involving the attorney’s minor child. A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility determined that the attorney violated multiple Rules of Professional Conduct and imposed a three-year suspension as punishment. The attorney appealed to the trial court. The trial court affirmed the hearing panel’s judgment in all respects with the exception of the attorney’s punishment. The trial court held that the hearing panel erred in imposing a suspension, and it increased the punishment to disbarment. The attorney appealed to this Court. We affirm the judgment of the trial court on all issues with the exception of the issue regarding the attorney’s punishment. We hold that the trial court erred in increasing the punishment to disbarment, and we reinstate the three-year suspension imposed by the hearing panel but modify it to take effect upon the filing of this Opinion.

Knox Supreme Court

Loring E. Justice v. Board of Professional Responsibility (concurring)
E2022-01105-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Thomas J. Wright

I agree with virtually all of the majority’s thorough and well-reasoned opinion, with one exception: its determination that ABA Standards 6.21 and 7.1, which identify disbarment as the presumptive sanction, do not apply to this case. As explained below, I would hold that ABA Standards 6.21 and 7.1 apply, and consequently disbarment is the presumptive sanction, because Mr. Justice engaged in the misconduct with intent to obtain personal benefit. I nonetheless concur in the majority’s decision to impose a three-year suspension, based on the comparative cases cited in the majority opinion.

Knox Supreme Court

In Re Conservatorship of Susan Davis Malone
W2024-00134-SC-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: PER CURIAM
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Townsend

This is the second interlocutory recusal appeal in this conservatorship action, filed by two attorneys in the case. In the first recusal appeal, the Court of Appeals entered an order staying all trial court proceedings. The Court of Appeals then issued an opinion affirming denial of the recusal motion, stating that the stay was lifted, and remanding the case to the trial court. Before the appellate mandate issued, the attorneys filed a second motion for the trial court judge to recuse; this was denied as well. The attorneys then filed this second petition for recusal appeal. They later filed a motion in the Court of Appeals arguing that trial court orders entered after the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the first recusal appeal, but before the mandate issued, are void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals agreed and held the orders were void. The counterpetitioners and co-conservators have filed an accelerated application for permission to appeal in this Court, and we ordered the attorneys to file a response. Having reviewed the application for permission to appeal, the answer, all appendices, and the applicable law, we grant the application, and dispense with additional briefing and oral argument. We hold that the stay imposed by the Court of Appeals in the first recusal appeal did not divest the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction over the case. We further hold that the attorneys waived any other argument that orders entered by the trial court should be vacated because they were entered prior to issuance of the mandate. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Shelby Supreme Court

Melissa Binns v. Trader Joe's East, Inc.
M2022-01033-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda J. McClendon

This interlocutory appeal involves an alleged slip and fall incident that occurred at the defendant’s grocery store. The plaintiff’s amended complaint included allegations of vicarious liability, premises liability, negligent training, and negligent supervision against the defendant. In an attempt to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligent training and supervision claims, the defendant filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and asserted two alternative arguments, both of which the trial court rejected. First, the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument that courts must dismiss “negligent activity” claims, such as claims for negligent training and supervision, when asserted concurrently with a premises liability theory of recovery. Second, the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s direct negligence claims were no longer legally viable due to the defendant admitting it was vicariously liable for the conduct of its employee, commonly referred to as the “preemption rule.” After denying the defendant’s motion, the trial court granted permission to file an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Court of Appeals denied the defendant’s application. The defendant then appealed to this Court, and we granted review. We hold that the preemption rule is incompatible with Tennessee’s system of comparative fault and decline to adopt it. In addition, we decline to adopt the rule proposed by the defendant pertaining to “negligent activity” claims asserted alongside premises liability claims. As a result, we affirm the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Davidson Supreme Court

State of Tennessee v. Tony Thomas and LaRonda Turner
W2019-01202-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A jury convicted two defendants, Tony Thomas and Laronda Turner, of three counts of
first-degree premeditated murder. Those convictions stem from a triple homicide that
occurred in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2015. Another co-defendant, Demarco Hawkins, was
also implicated in the killings. However, his trial was severed from the other defendants,
and he testified against Mr. Thomas and Ms. Turner. After Mr. Thomas and Ms. Turner
were convicted, they appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, raising five issues for
review. The intermediate appellate court ruled unanimously on three of the issues, but one
judge dissented on the other two. Mr. Thomas and Ms. Turner sought permission to appeal,
and we accepted the appeal only as to the two issues on which the intermediate appellate
court was divided. First, we agreed to consider whether the prosecution breached the
requirements of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to produce statements
made by Mr. Hawkins at proffer conferences, which were allegedly inconsistent with Mr.
Hawkins’ formal statement to law enforcement, before trial. Second, we agreed to address
whether the evidence was sufficient to support Ms. Turner’s murder convictions. Based
on our review, we conclude that the State did not breach its obligations under Brady with
regard to Mr. Thomas. Additionally, we determine that the evidence is insufficient to
sustain Ms. Turner’s convictions because Mr. Hawkins’ testimony was not adequately
corroborated.1 As a result, we affirm the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals in part
and reverse in part. Additionally, in this opinion, we abrogate Tennessee’s common law
accomplice-corroboration rule. However, we apply that change on a prospective basis
only, and, thus, it has no bearing on the outcome of this case.

Shelby Supreme Court

State of Tennessee v. Tony Thomas and LaRonda Turner (Concur in Part and Dissent in Part)
W2019-01202-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

I agree that Tony Thomas’s murder convictions should be affirmed. The Brady v.
Maryland issue raised by Mr. Thomas is a close question. Before trial, Mr. Thomas
requested the prosecution to provide witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements. The trial
court ordered disclosure, the prosecution failed to disclose the statements in its possession,
and the statements were favorable to Mr. Thomas. In my view, the State’s failure to disclose
the witness’s statements until he testified at trial was nondisclosure, not delayed disclosure.
However, the nondisclosed statements had to be material to Mr. Thomas’s defense for his
Brady claim to prevail. Because the statements were not sufficiently material, his Brady
claim fails.

Shelby Supreme Court

State of Tennessee v. Tony Thomas and LaRonda Turner (Concur in Part, Dissent in Part)
W2019-01202-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sarah K. Campbell
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

I join in full the majority opinion’s analysis of the Brady issue and its judgment
affirming Tony Thomas’s conviction. I also agree with much of the majority’s analysis
regarding the accomplice-corroboration rule, including its decision to abrogate that rule. I
respectfully disagree, however, with the majority’s conclusion that our holding abrogating
the accomplice-corroboration rule should apply only in future cases and pending cases that
have not yet gone to trial. I would instead apply that holding here—and to other cases
pending in trial courts or in appellate courts on direct review—and affirm Laronda Turner’s
conviction on that basis. I write separately to offer an additional reason why the
accomplice-corroboration rule should be abrogated and to explain why our decision should
apply retroactively.1

Shelby Supreme Court

James Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC et al.
M2021-00927-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sarah K. Campbell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bonita J. Atwood

Granville Williams, Jr., died while residing at an assisted-living facility. The central question in this appeal is whether his son’s ensuing wrongful-death action against the facility must be arbitrated. To answer that question, we must resolve two subsidiary issues—first, whether the attorney-in-fact who signed the arbitration agreement as Williams’s representative had authority to do so and, second, whether Williams’s son and other wrongful-death beneficiaries who were not parties to the arbitration agreement nevertheless are bound by it. We hold that signing an optional arbitration agreement—that is, one that is not a condition of admission to a health care facility—is not a “health care decision” within the meaning of the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act. The durable power of attorney that gave Williams’s attorney-in-fact authority to act for him in “all claims and litigation matters” thus provided authority to enter the optional arbitration agreement even though it did not specifically grant authority to make health care decisions. We further hold that Williams’s son is bound by the arbitration agreement because his wrongful-death claims are derivative of his father’s claims. Because we conclude that the claims in this action are subject to arbitration, we reverse the Court of Appeals’ contrary decision and remand to the trial court.

Rutherford Supreme Court

James Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC et al. (Dissenting)
M2021-00927-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bonita J. Atwood

To enforce and compel arbitration in this case, the majority rewrites a health care facility admission contract, disregards the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act, ignores precedent, and creates confusion in an important area of the law. I respectfully dissent.

Rutherford Supreme Court

James Williams v. Smyrna Residential, LLC et al. (Dissenting)
M2021-00927-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bonita J. Atwood

I agree with many of the points made in Justice Lee’s dissenting opinion. I write separately out of concern about the practical implications of the majority’s decision to leave the law so unsettled in an area that touches so many.

Rutherford Supreme Court

Brian Philip Manookian v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee
M2022-00075-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

In this lawyer disciplinary case, the lawyer’s conduct compels disbarment. The lawyer sent a series of intimidating, demeaning, embarrassing, and harassing communications to opposing counsel and others. Some targeted family members of opposing counsel, including one family member who was also a former client, and caused well-founded concern for their well-being and safety. In the ensuing disciplinary proceedings, a Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel found that the purpose of the communications was to intimidate opposing counsel in order to gain unfair advantage in pending litigation. It concluded inter alia that the lawyer’s conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice, that he failed to respect the rights of third persons, and that he violated his duty to a former client, in violation of Tennessee’s Rules of Professional Conduct. The hearing panel said the presumptive sanction was disbarment, found four aggravating factors, and found no mitigating circumstances. Without explanation, the hearing panel recommended a two-year suspension instead of disbarment. The attorney appealed to the trial court. The trial court indicated that, had the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a separate petition for review, the trial court would have recommended disbarment, but because the Board did not, the trial court affirmed the sanction of suspension. Both parties appeal. Here, the lawyer’s conduct was egregious. Victimizing the families of opposing counsel and causing concern for their well-being and safety is an especially grave offense and a profound dishonor as a lawyer. The hearing panel’s decision to deviate downward from the presumptive sanction of disbarment was arbitrary and capricious, and the lawyer must be disbarred. Accordingly, we modify the judgment of the hearing panel and impose the sanction of disbarment.

Davidson Supreme Court

Brian Philip Manookian v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee (Dissenting)
M2022-00075-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

While this Court has inherent jurisdiction over attorney disciplinary matters, attorneys must be afforded fair notice and an opportunity to be heard. For the first time, this Court has increased an attorney’s discipline through the exercise of the Court’s inherent jurisdiction outside of the process outlined in Rule 9 by disbarring Brian Philip Manookian without giving fair notice of its intent. I dissent from the Court’s decision to disbar Mr. Manookian and would affirm the hearing panel’s finding of a twenty-four-month suspension. Neither the hearing panel nor the trial court erred.

Davidson Supreme Court

State of Tennessee v. David Wayne Eady
M2021-00388-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

This appeal presents two issues. First, we consider whether the District Attorney General’s
Office should have been disqualified from prosecuting this case because the District
Attorney General previously served as counsel for the accused in a separate case. Second,
we consider the propriety of conducting a single trial for multiple offenses under the theory
that the separate crimes were all parts of a larger, continuing plan. David Wayne Eady was
charged in one indictment with committing multiple robberies in Nashville over the course
of a month. Mr. Eady moved to disqualify the District Attorney General’s Office, primarily
because the District Attorney General had represented him in a criminal matter
approximately thirty years earlier. The prior matter resulted in a conviction that the State
sought to use in this case to qualify Mr. Eady as a repeat violent offender for sentencing
purposes. The trial court denied the motion to disqualify, noting the limited nature of the
District Attorney General’s involvement in this case and the “mandatory nature of the
repeat violent offender statute.” See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-120(g) (2019). Mr. Eady
also moved to sever the offenses, which the trial court denied upon finding that the crimes
were parts of a common scheme or plan and that the evidence of one offense would be
admissible in the trial of the others. See Tenn. R. Crim. P. 14(b)(1). Mr. Eady ultimately
was convicted as charged of eleven counts of aggravated robbery, two of which later were
merged, and one count of attempted aggravated robbery. Upon Mr. Eady’s appeal as of
right, a divided panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. State v. Eady, No.
M2021-00388-CCA-R3-CD, 2022 WL 7835823, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 14, 2022),
perm. app. granted, (Tenn. Jan. 31, 2023). The intermediate appellate court was unanimous
in rejecting the challenge to prosecution of the case by the District Attorney General’s
Office. Id. at *34–35. After noting that there was “no real dispute between the parties that
[the District Attorney General] had an actual conflict of interest disqualifying him from
participating in [Mr. Eady’s] prosecution,” the court seemed to proceed on the assumption
that an actual conflict of interest existed but nevertheless held that this conflict did not
require disqualification of the entire office. Id. at *34. In addition, a majority of the court
upheld the denial of a severance. Id. at *28–30. One judge dissented, however, concluding
that the offenses should have been severed because the evidence did not reflect that the
offenses were parts of a larger, continuing plan. Id. at *38–42 (McMullen, J., dissenting
in part). We granted Mr. Eady’s appeal to address both issues. As for the motion to
disqualify, we agree with the State’s argument before this Court that the circumstances do
not establish an actual conflict of interest for the District Attorney General, and we
conclude that the trial court correctly denied the motion to disqualify the District Attorney
General’s Office. As for the motion to sever, we have determined that the record does not
establish that the offenses were parts of a larger, continuing plan. Thus, we conclude that
the trial court erred in denying a severance. However, we find the error harmless as to all
convictions except the one in count eight. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the
Court of Criminal Appeals in part, reverse it in part, and remand to the trial court for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson Supreme Court

Thomas Fleming Mabry v. The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court
E2022-00945-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

This is an appeal in a lawyer-disciplinary proceeding involving Tennessee attorney Thomas
Fleming Mabry. In March 2019, the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition
for discipline against Mr. Mabry charging him with numerous infractions based on
complaints from several different parties. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr.
Mabry refused to participate in depositions, either in-person, telephonically, or over
videoconference. At his final disciplinary hearing conducted via Zoom, Mr. Mabry briefly
connected, by audio only, and objected to holding the hearing virtually and to the Board
introducing depositions of unavailable witnesses. He requested an indefinite continuance.
He ended the connection. The hearing continued without Mr. Mabry’s participation, and
the Hearing Panel found him in violation of multiple Tennessee Rules of Professional
Conduct. The panel permanently disbarred Mr. Mabry and ordered him to make restitution.
Mr. Mabry appealed to the chancery court claiming several procedural violations, but the
chancery court found no merit in his arguments. Mr. Mabry has now filed a direct appeal
to this Court, raising the same procedural challenges. Upon review, we agree with the
judgments of the Hearing Panel and chancery court—disbarment is the appropriate
sanction for Mr. Mabry’s actions.

Knox Supreme Court

John Earheart v. Central Transport et al.
M2023-00384-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

John Earheart, Jr. ("Employee") filed a workers' compensation claim against Central Transport ("Employer") for temporary disability benefits. After initially denying the claim, Employer ultimately agreed to pay the requested benefits on the day before the scheduled expedited hearing. Following a compensation hearing, the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims ("trial court") ordered Employer to pay Employee's attorney's fees and costs under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-226(d)(l)(B). The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board ("Appeals Board") affirmed. Employer appealed. 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 Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

 

Supreme Court

Pratik Pandharipande, M.D. v. FSD Corporation
M2020-01174-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sarah K. Campbell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

This case arises from a dispute between a property owner and his homeowners’ association. The property owner, Pratik Pandharipande, purchased a home in a vacation community on a Tennessee lake, intending to use it as a short-term rental. At the time of the purchase, the property was subject to covenants requiring that the home be used for “residential and no other purposes.” The covenants were amended several years later to allow leases with minimum lease terms of thirty days. Pandharipande contends that neither the original covenants nor the amendments prohibit him from leasing his property for short terms of two to twenty-eight days. His homeowners’ association disagrees on both scores. We agree with Pandharipande that the original covenants requiring residential use of the property do not bar his short-term rentals, but we agree with the homeowners’ association that the amendments do. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the homeowners’ association based on both the original covenants and the amendments. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We affirm the Court of Appeals in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

DeKalb Supreme Court

State of Tennessee v. Ebony Robinson
M2021-01539SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

In 2020, Ebony Robinson (“Defendant”) pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by
intoxication, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and driving without a license. The trial
court imposed a ten-year sentence largely suspended to probation with periodic weeks of
confinement for the first three years. The State appealed the sentence, arguing that a 2017
amendment to the probation eligibility statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-
303, prohibits defendants who are convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication from
receiving any form of probation. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the State and
reversed the trial court, ordering Defendant to serve the full sentence in confinement. The
intermediate court concluded that the amended probation statute expressly prohibits
probation of any kind, including periodic or split confinement, for criminal defendants
convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication. After reviewing the relevant statutes, this
Court affirms the Court of Criminal Appeals and holds that the clear and precise language
of the 2017 amendment to the probation eligibility statute prohibits all forms of probation
for a defendant convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication. Accordingly, we affirm
the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson Supreme Court

Robert Crotty, et al. v. Mark Flora, M.D.
M2021-01193-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe P. Binkley, Jr.

In this interlocutory appeal, the defendant physician in a health care liability action asks us
to review two pretrial orders. In the first, the trial court excludes evidence that a nonparty
physician was the cause-in-fact of the claimant’s injuries because the defendant never
amended his answer to include that allegation, as required under Rule 8.03 of the Tennessee
Rules of Civil Procedure as applied in George v. Alexander, 931 S.W.2d 517 (Tenn. 1996).
Because he does not allege that the nonparty physician was negligent, the defendant asks
us to modify our holding in George and reverse the trial court’s order. We respectfully
decline to do so. In the second pretrial order on appeal, the trial court considered Tennessee
Code Annotated section 29-26-119, a provision that partially abrogates the common law
collateral source rule in health care liability actions. It held that section 29-26-119 does
not abrogate the collateral source rule under the facts of this case. We agree with the trial
court that the collateral source rule remains in effect in this case. We affirm both of the
trial court’s pretrial rulings.

Davidson Supreme Court

Robert Crotty, et al. v. Mark Flora, M.D. (Concur in Part and Dissent in Part)
M2021-01193-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe P. Binkley, Jr.

This interlocutory appeal involves two pretrial orders. I concur with the holding
and analysis of the majority as to the first pretrial order involving Rule 8.03 and George v.
Alexander, 931 S.W.2d 517 (Tenn. 1996). However, I respectfully dissent from the
majority’s holding and analysis as to the second pretrial order involving Tennessee Code
Annotated section 29-26-119 and the collateral source rule. This issue requires the Court
to interpret the meaning of section 29-26-119. I would hold that, when section 29-26-119
governs damages in a health care liability action, the statute’s clear language contemplates
only “actual economic losses suffered . . . paid or payable,” thereby abrogating the
collateral source rule. Thus, I would reverse the trial court’s pretrial order.

Davidson Supreme Court

Commercial Painting Company, Inc. v. The Weitz Company, LLC, et al.
W2019-02089-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge JoeDae L. Jenkins

The economic loss doctrine generally precludes a contracting party who suffers only
economic losses from recovering damages in tort. In Tennessee, the application of this
doctrine is limited to products liability cases. In this appeal, we consider whether the
economic loss doctrine should be expanded to apply outside the products liability context.
A jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages to a drywall subcontractor in a suit
against a general contractor under theories of breach of contract and tort. The Court of
Appeals applied the economic loss doctrine to preclude the recovery of damages in tort in
a suit between sophisticated commercial entities. The intermediate court, in part, affirmed
the award of compensatory damages for breach of contract, dismissed the tort claim, and
reversed the award for punitive damages. We hold the economic loss doctrine only applies
in products liability cases and should not be extended to other claims.

Shelby Supreme Court

Roger Baskin v. Pierce & Allred Construction, Inc.
M2021-00144-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In this appeal, we address whether a Tennessee resident may sue an Alabama corporation in a Tennessee court for alleged breach of contract and breach of warranty pertaining to its construction of a custom lake house in Alabama. Tennessee resident Roger Baskin hired Pierce & Allred Construction, an Alabama corporation with its principal place of business in Alabama, to build a house on a parcel of land in Alabama. Mr. Baskin supplied the architectural plans and some of the materials, all sourced from Tennessee, and the parties communicated throughout the project from their respective states. However, all of Pierce & Allred Construction’s activities on the project occurred in Alabama. Mr. Baskin ultimately became dissatisfied with the quality and expense of the construction work, and he filed suit in the Davidson County Chancery Court. Pierce & Allred Construction moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that the corporation lacked the “minimum contacts” with Tennessee that due process protections require. Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). The trial court granted the motion, finding that the events relevant to the claims occurred in Alabama and that the corporation’s contacts with Tennessee were minor and attenuated. The Court of Appeals reversed, looking to recent decisions from this Court, see Crouch Ry. Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC, 610 S.W.3d 460 (Tenn. 2020), and the United States Supreme Court, see Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct., 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021) (explaining that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction requires that a plaintiff’s claim arise out of or relate to the defendant’s forum contacts). We granted permission to appeal. Based on our review, we have determined that Pierce & Allred Construction’s contacts with Tennessee were not such that the corporation reasonably should have anticipated being haled into a Tennessee court to answer this suit. In making this determination, we conclude that certain contacts with Tennessee did not reflect that the corporation purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business activities in Tennessee, while certain other contacts were not sufficiently related to Mr. Baskin’s claims to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. Thus, we hold that Mr. Baskin failed to establish a prima facie case of the minimum contacts necessary for a Tennessee court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the Alabama corporation. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the trial court dismissing Mr. Baskin’s complaint.

Davidson Supreme Court

Commercial Painting Company, Inc. v. The Weitz Company, LLC, et al. (Dissent)
W2019-02089-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sarah K. Campbell; Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins joins
Trial Court Judge: Judge JoeDae L. Jenkins

economic-loss doctrine bars recovery in tort for purely economic losses in certain
situations. In this case, the Court is asked to apply that doctrine to bar tort claims brought
by a subcontractor against a general contractor, where the relationship between the
subcontractor and general contractor is governed by a contract. The majority opinion cabins
the economic-loss doctrine to products liability cases and refuses to extend it to contracts
for services for fear that doing so would require that we also create various exceptions. I
respectfully disagree with that holding. The core rationale underlying the economic-loss
doctrine—to create a boundary line between tort and contract law to ensure that parties can
allocate risks and responsibilities as they see fit—applies equally to cases involving
contracts for services. And to the extent that any exceptions to the rule would be needed,
their creation would not be nearly as difficult or messy as the majority predicts. I would
hold that the economic-loss doctrine applies here and precludes the subcontractor from
recovering punitive damages and pre-judgment interest.

Shelby Supreme Court

James A. Welch et al. v. Oaktree Health and Rehabilitation Center LLC d/b/a Christian Care Centers of Memphis et al.
W2020-00917-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

Tennessee’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 34-6-201 to -218, includes a provision for limited statutory immunity from civil liability, under certain conditions, for health care providers who rely in good faith on health care decisions made by an apparent agent on a principal’s behalf. Id. § -208. Tennessee’s Health Care Decisions Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 68-11-1801 to -1815, includes a similar provision for limited statutory immunity from civil liability, under certain conditions, for health care providers who comply in good faith with health care decisions made by an apparent agent on a principal’s behalf. Id. § -1810. The health care decision in this case is the execution of an arbitration agreement with admission to a nursing home. The agreement was signed by an agent under a durable power of attorney for health care executed several years earlier. After the resident’s death, his estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home on negligence theories. On appeal from the trial court’s denial of the defendant nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration, we hold that the nursing home does not meet the requirements for limited statutory immunity from civil liability under either the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act or the Health Care Decisions Act. Consequently, the trial court did not err in considering evidence on whether the principal had the requisite mental capacity to execute the durable power of attorney for health care. We overrule the holding on the immunity provision in the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Act, Tennessee Code Annotated section 34-6-208, in Owens v. National Health Corporation, 263 S.W.3d 876, 889 n.4 (Tenn. 2007), to the extent it is inconsistent with this opinion. We affirm the trial court, reverse the Court of Appeals, and remand to the Court of Appeals.

Shelby Supreme Court

Ben C. Adams v. Buchanan D. Dunavant et al v. Watson Burns PLLC et al
W2023-00304-SC-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Townsend

Before his election to the bench, the probate judge in this interpleader action served as an
expert witness in a 2017 case involving one of the defendants, Watson Burns, PLLC. In
the current case, Watson Burns, PLLC and another law firm defendant moved for the
probate judge’s recusal based on the expert opinions the judge expressed in the 2017 case.
The probate judge denied the motion, and the law firms filed an accelerated interlocutory
appeal as of right to the Court of Appeals pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B.
The Court of Appeals reversed, ordered the probate judge’s recusal, and remanded for
assignment of another judge. Two other parties to the interpleader action then filed an
accelerated application for permission to appeal in this Court pursuant to Rule 10B, section
2.07. We ordered the parties prevailing in the Court of Appeals to file a response to the
application. Having thoroughly reviewed the Rule 10B application for permission to
appeal, the response, all appendices, and the applicable law, we grant the Rule 10B
application, dispense with additional briefing and oral argument, and hold that the probate
judge’s denial of the recusal motion was appropriate in this case. Therefore, we reverse the
judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings consistent with this
decision

Shelby Supreme Court