Where a trial court did not explain the legal basis for its ruling that a deputy sheriff was immune from a defamation suit under the GTLA, the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment.

In Taylor v. Harsh, No. M2019-01129-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 21, 2020), plaintiff filed suit against defendant, who was a deputy sheriff, for slander, defamation, and interference with prospective economic advantage. The complaint specified that defendant was being sued in his individual capacity. According to plaintiff, defendant pulled plaintiff over for a traffic stop “that resulted in no citation or arrest,” and defendant “thereafter informed an official with a youth volunteer firefighter program…that Plaintiff had committed a felony and fled from the police,” which caused plaintiff’s participation in the program to be terminated.

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that he was immune under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA). The trial court granted the motion, writing in its memo that defendant “was entitled to the immunities set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205(2).” In its oral ruling, the trial court found that defendant was entitled to immunity, but “focuse[d] primarily on the facts of this case, rather than the law.”

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Sometimes, a voluntary dismissal under Rule 41 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure is required and appropriate but the plaintiff wishes to re-file the case within the time permitted by the “savings statute”  (Tenn. Code Ann. Sec. 28-1-105).

What do you allege to avoid the risk of the defendant filing a motion to dismiss for failure to comply with the applicable statute of limitations?

Let’s use a hypothetical to demonstrate the point.  Plaintiff is injured in a car crash on December 27, 2017.  Plaintiff files suit against Defendant on August 14, 2018.  Plaintiff needs to voluntarily dismiss the case, and does so by order dated April 20, 2019.  The case is one to which the “savings statute” applies.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has extended the deadlines for filing suit (both statutes of limitations and statutes of repose) because of the coronavirus and Covid-19.

By Court Order filed March 25, 2020, the Court said this:

Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose that would otherwise expire during the period from Friday, March 13, 2020, through Tuesday, May 5, 2020, are hereby extended through

Where a plaintiff knew how to properly serve a defendant yet chose to delay service of process until after the statute of limitations on his claims had run, summary judgment for defendant was affirmed.

In Fuller v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, No. E2018-02267-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2020), plaintiff filed suit against defendant and Community National Bank in 2015. In that suit, plaintiff initially sent a summons for defendant to CT Corporation System, but CT Corporation informed plaintiff by letter that it was not authorized to accept service for defendant. Plaintiff then successfully served defendant’s general counsel. This first suit was eventually nonsuited, and plaintiff filed second suits against defendant and Community National Bank separately. For the suit against defendant, which was originally filed in August 2017, plaintiff again sent a summons to CT Corporation, who responded by letter in November 2017 that it was not authorized to accept service. “Plaintiff’s counsel did not attempt to properly serve defendant until March 20, 2018, when he returned the unserved summons, and obtained and mailed a second summons to defendant’s general counsel.”

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It is, as the Second District Court of Appeals of Florida said, a “rather arcane”issue: who decides whether a dispute is subject to an arbitration provision – a judge or an arbitrator.  Under the facts presented, the appellate court concluded that because the contract (a clickwrap agreement on AirBNB’s website)  “did not provide clear and unmistakable evidence that only the arbitrator could decide the issue of arbitrability” the issue was one for the judge.

The case is Doe v. Natt and AirBNB, Inc., Case No. 2D19-1383 (Fla. Ct. App. March 25, 2019).  The court reached a result different than several other intermediate appellate courts in Florida and thus is likely to go up on appeal.

Under what circumstances can a Tennessee court insist that an out-of-state defendant submit to the jurisdiction of a Tennessee state court?  The Tennessee Supreme Court is facing this issue in Crouch Railway Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC. 

The case arose when the plaintiff, a Tennessee civil engineering company,  filed an action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment against a Texas energy company (referred to in the opinions as “Lonestar” in Williamson County Chancery Court, alleging that the Texas company breached its contract with the Tennessee company by failing to pay for engineering and planning services.  Lonestar filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion, determining that the minimum contacts test had not been satisfied because the Lonestar did not target Tennessee. Additionally, the trial court determined that it would be unfair and unreasonable to require the Lonestar to litigate the dispute in Tennessee.

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The coronavirus has impacted the service of summons and complaints as many sheriff’s departments make the effort to reduce human contact.  Indeed, the coronavirus is having not only  a short-term impact on the civil justice system but will have a long-term impact as well.  Today we discuss an alternative to service of process by the local sheriff’s department.

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The federal government has finished its investigation into a 2019 car crash involving a Tesla on autopilot.

The report, by the National Transportation and Safety Board, reaches the following conclusions:

  • the design of the Autopilot system contributed to the crash because it allowed the Tesla driver to avoid paying attention

Where an attorney advised her client in a family law case that her husband’s actions in distributing a video of the client having sex with another man might be criminal and advised the client to make a true report to the police department, the attorney was not liable for any tort.

In Pagliara v. Moses, No. M2018-02188-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2020), husband and wife were married, but at some time before the marriage yet while they were dating, wife “used Ecstasy and engaged in sexual relations” with another man “and videotaped their encounter.” After husband and wife were married, the wife of the other man on the video found the video and forwarded it to husband, along with a photograph of a sexual nature. Husband received this information while he was on a business trip in California, and he proceeded to forward a part of the video as well as the photo “to close friends of him and wife.”

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Where a plaintiff was running in the dark with no wearable light and was hit by a car while crossing the road, the Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict finding plaintiff 80% at fault.

In Golden v. Powers, No. E2019-00712-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 12, 2020), plaintiff and her family were visiting Hawkins County, Tennessee from Miami, Florida. Plaintiff went for a jog one morning while it was still dark, and she began by running in the same direction as traffic. When she decided to cross in order to run against traffic, she “glanced to see if any cars were coming.” While crossing, a car approached in the lane plaintiff was running towards, so she slowed down to let the car pass. She did not stop running, did not move back to the side, and did not turn around to check traffic. She was then hit by a car driven by defendant. At the scene of the accident, defendant estimated that she had been driving 50-55 mph, and the speed limit was 45 mph.

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