Summary judgment vacated where no time for discovery was allowed.

Where defendant in a negligence and premises liability case filed a motion for summary judgment just three days after filing her answer, and the trial court denied plaintiff’s motion for additional time to conduct discovery and granted summary judgment to defendant, that ruling was vacated on appeal.

In Graves v. Calloway, No. W2022-01536-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2023), plaintiff filed a negligence and premises liability claim against two defendants, including defendant homeowner, after he was injured when he fell off a ladder while accessing defendant’s attic to help her install squirrel traps. Defendant homeowner filed her answer, then filed a motion for summary judgment just three days later. Plaintiff filed a motion requesting more time to conduct discovery pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56.07, as well as a motion to amend. The trial court ultimately denied the motion for more time and granted summary judgment to defendant homeowner, but this ruling was vacated on appeal.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals noted that the “Tennessee Supreme Court has held that after adequate time for discovery has been provided, summary judgment should be granted if the nonmoving party’s evidence at the summary judgment stage is insufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial.” (internal citation and quotation omitted). Rule 56.07 provides that a party opposing summary judgment can request more time in which to conduct discovery, and plaintiff in this case followed the mechanism set out by the Rule. Plaintiff’s counsel submitted an affidavit stating that he had had no opportunity to conduct discovery, and that he had written defendant’s attorney requesting dates for depositions, but the request had been denied.

Based on the circumstances of the case, the Court ruled that the trial court erred by denying plaintiff’s motion for time to conduct discovery:

It is undisputed that fewer than two months elapsed between the filing of Mr. Graves’ complaint and the award of summary judgment. It is also undisputed that discovery was neither conducted nor scheduled. Additionally, Ms. Calloway does not dispute that Mr. Graves requested deposition dates in writing and was refused by her counsel. We agree that adequate time for discovery was not granted in this case. Accordingly, the trial court erred in denying Mr. Graves’ motion to continue the matter to conduct discovery as provided by Rule 56.07.

The trial court’s award of summary judgment was thus vacated.

This opinion was released three weeks after oral arguments in this case.

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