Tennessee’s Prior Suit Pending Doctrine

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently had the opportunity to discuss the doctrine of prior suit pending in a car wreck case, Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Shempert. The Shemperts filed suit for a wreck in which Mr. Shempert was injured and included his own uninsured motorist carrier, Farmers Insurance Exchange, as a defendant. After discovery in the first lawsuit, Farmers filed a separate declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that the Shempert’s policy with Farmers provided no coverage for the wreck. The Shemperts filed a motion to dismiss the second case on the basis of the doctrine of prior suit pending.

The Court of Appeals explained that the doctrine of prior suit pending provides that an action is subject to being dismissed if a prior lawsuit involving the same parties and the same subject matter is pending. The first lawsuit must be pending in a court that has jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. 

The Court of Appeals found that the first lawsuit did include the issue of whether the Farmers policy provided coverage for the wreck, and that Farmers had raised coverage as a defense in the first lawsuit. Also, the court noted that the court in the first lawsuit had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter. Therefore, the court reversed the  entry of summary judgment for the insurer in the declaratory judgment  case and remanded it to the trial court to be dismissed.

The case number is W2013-01059-COA-R3-CV.  It was decided by the Western Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals  on February 3, 2014.