Supreme Court Opinions

Format: 09/04/2015
Format: 09/04/2015
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
Arthur B. Roberts et al. v. Robert Bailey et al.
M2013-01950-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants to settle a boundary dispute. During the litigation, the defendants, who had for years enjoyed the continuous and exclusive possession of their lands, discovered that their ancestors, husband and wife, had acquired title during the “gap years” and, in consequence, had owned the lands as tenants in common rather than tenants by the entirety. The defendants, proceeding as third-party plaintiffs, filed a motion to quiet title against third-party defendants, also descendants of their ancestors, who each claimed an ownership interest in the disputed lands by inheritance. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the third-party defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed. On remand, the defendants/third-party plaintiffs amended their complaint, seeking to establish title by prescription. The trial court again denied relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the third-party defendants‟ “undisputed ignorance” of their status as co-tenants in common with their relatives precluded a “presumptive ouster” and, therefore, prevented the defendants/third-party plaintiffs from taking title by prescription. Because the undisputed facts establish that each of the elements of title by prescription has been satisfied, the Court of Appeals is reversed and the original defendants are awarded title by prescription. This cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Loudon County Supreme Court 07/31/15
Homer L. Cody v. Board of Professional Responsibility of The Supreme Court of Tennessee
W2014-02003-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility determined that a Memphis attorney should be suspended from the practice of law for 180 days based on his violation of Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 8, Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(a), 8.4(a), and 8.4(d). The trial court affirmed the decision of the Hearing Panel. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/27/15
Yarboro Sallee v. Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility
E2014-01062-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

In this appeal from attorney disciplinary proceedings, the hearing panel of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility suspended the law license of the appellant attorney for one year. The hearing panel determined that the attorney violated Rules 1.4, 1.5, 1.16, 4.4, and 8.4 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct. Its decision was based on, inter alia, the attorney’s failure to communicate with the client, excessive fees, withholding items from the client’s files after termination of her representation, and sending the clients’ new attorney emails threatening criminal prosecution of the former clients. The attorney sought judicial review of the hearing panel’s decision, and the trial court affirmed the decision of the hearing panel. The attorney now appeals to this Court. After a careful review of the record, we affirm. 

Knox County Supreme Court 07/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Ricco R. Williams - Dissenting
W2013-01897-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

A majority of this Court has determined that when a defendant is charged with the offenses of kidnapping and robbery as to different victims during a single criminal episode, the jury is not entitled to an instruction, pursuant to State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), that in order to convict on the kidnapping charge it must first determine whether the removal or confinement of the kidnapping victim is “essentially incidental” to the contemporaneous robbery of another victim. Because I cannot agree with my colleagues that the White instruction is never applicable to these circumstances, for the reasons set forth in my separate opinion filed today in State v. Teats, No. M2012-01232-SC-R11-CD, I must respectfully dissent.

Lauderdale County Supreme Court 07/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Ricco R. Williams
W2013-01897-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

This appeal presents the issue of whether a trial judge is required to give a jury instruction based on our decision in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), when a defendant is tried on charges of kidnapping and robbery of different victims. The defendant, along with two accomplices, broke into a family’s home while they were sleeping. Brandishing weapons, the intruders forced the family members to remain in the living room while they ransacked the home. The intruders later fled with money and jewelry. At trial, a White jury instruction was neither requested nor given. The jury convicted the defendant of numerous charges, including five counts of especially aggravated kidnapping of the husband, wife, and three children; aggravated burglary of the husband’s residence; and two counts of aggravated robbery of the husband and wife. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and one count of aggravated robbery as to the husband and modified the conviction of aggravated robbery of the wife to aggravated assault. On review, we remanded the case for consideration in light of White. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping as to the three children, but, in light of White and State v. Cecil, 409 S.W.3d 599 (Tenn. 2013), reversed the convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping as to the husband and wife and remanded those charges for a new trial. In this appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court’s failure to give a White jury instruction as to the remaining three convictions for the especially aggravated kidnapping of the children constituted reversible error. In accordance with our opinion in State v. Teats, __S.W.3d__, No. M2012 01232 SC R11 CD (Tenn. 2015) released contemporaneously with this opinion, we hold that the White jury instruction was not required as to the offenses of especially aggravated kidnapping of the three children.

Lauderdale County Supreme Court 07/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Maurice Teats - Dissenting
M2012-01232-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

A majority of this Court has determined that when a defendant is charged with the offenses of kidnapping and robbery as to different victims during a single criminal episode, the jury is not entitled to an instruction, pursuant to State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), that in order to convict on the kidnapping charge it must first determine whether the removal or confinement of the kidnapping victim is “essentially incidental” to the contemporaneous robbery of another victim. Because I cannot agree with my colleagues that the White instruction is never applicable to these circumstances, I respectfully dissent.

Davidson County Supreme Court 07/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Maurice Teats- Concurring
M2012-1232-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

I concur in Chief Justice Lee’s well-written majority opinion in this case. Under the law as it currently stands in Tennessee, the majority has correctly analyzed the issue presented. I write separately to note the same concerns expressed by Justice Bivins in his separate concurrence in our recent decision State v. Alston, namely, concerns about the far-reaching constitutional holding in the case that gives rise to this issue, this Court’s 1991 decision State v. Anthony, 817 S.W.2d 299 (Tenn. 1991). See State v. Alston, No. E2012-00431-SC-R11-CD, --- S.W.3d ---, 2015 WL 2155690, at *9-10 (Tenn. May 5, 2015)(Bivins, J., concurring) (citing Anthony, 817 S.W.2d at 299).

Davidson County Supreme Court 07/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Maurice Teats
M2012-01232-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

We granted review in this case to determine whether a trial judge is required to give a jury instruction based on our decision in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), when a defendant is tried on charges of kidnapping and robbery of different victims. The defendant and an accomplice forced their way into the back door of a restaurant, threatened the employees at gunpoint, and ordered them into a back storage area. While the accomplice guarded these employees, the defendant forced the restaurant manager to take him to the cash drawer, where he took the restaurant’s money. The defendant was indicted for aggravated robbery of the store manager and four counts of especially aggravated kidnapping of the other four employees. A jury convicted the defendant of all charges. On appeal, the defendant asserted that the trial judge’s failure to give the White jury instruction was reversible error. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions. We hold that a White jury instruction is not required when a defendant is charged with the offenses of kidnapping and robbery of different victims.

Davidson County Supreme Court 07/14/15
Stephen Michael West et al. v. Derrick D. Schofield et al.
M2014-02478-SC-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

We granted this extraordinary appeal to determine whether, in this declaratory judgment action, the death-sentenced inmates' claims challenging the constitutionality of a 2014 statute that designated electrocution as an alternative method of execution and the constitutionality of electrocution as a means of execution should be dismissed as unripe. Because the death-sentenced inmates are not currently subject to execution by electrocution and will not ever become subject to execution by electrocution unless one of two statutory contingencies occurs in the future, their claims challenging the constitutionality of the 2014 statute and electrocution as a means of execution are not ripe. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's decision denying the defendants' motion to dismiss, dismiss the death-sentenced inmates' electrocution claims as unripe, and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Davidson County Supreme Court 07/02/15
Anne Payne v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
E2012-02392-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale C.Workman and Judge Harold Wimberly, Jr.

A railroad employee who was diagnosed with lung cancer filed suit against the railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, alleging that the railroad had negligently exposed him to asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, and radioactive materials, all of which were contributing causes to his illness. The employee also alleged that the railroad was negligent per se by violating pertinent safety statutes or regulations. When the employee died prior to trial, his wife was substituted as plaintiff. By special verdict, the jury awarded the plaintiff $8.6 million, finding that the employee’s cancer and subsequent death were caused not only by the railroad’s negligence but also by its negligence per se. The jury also found that the employee was sixty-two percent at fault due to his history of cigarette smoking. After the return of the verdict, the trial court instructed the jury that because of its finding that the railroad had violated safety regulations, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act did not allow for a reduction of the amount of damages based upon the employee’s contributory fault, meaning that the plaintiff would receive the entire $8.6 million. The jury then deliberated for an additional eight minutes and returned with an amended verdict awarding the plaintiff $3.2 million “at 100%.” The trial court entered judgment on the amended verdict but later granted a new trial and entered an order of recusal. A substitute judge granted the railroad’s motion for summary judgment after excluding the plaintiff’s expert proof on the issue of causation. On appeal by the plaintiff, the Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment and remanded with directions for the original trial judge to review the evidence and enter judgment on either the original $8.6 million verdict or the amended $3.2 million verdict. We hold that the plaintiff’s expert proof was properly admitted at trial, but that the original judge erred by granting the railroad’s motion for a new trial based on evidentiary and instructional issues, and committed prejudicial error in assessing the amount of damages to be awarded. Under these circumstances, the appropriate remedy is to remand for a new trial as to damages only.

Knox County Supreme Court 07/01/15
Action Chiropractic Clinic, LLC v. Prentice Delon Hyler, et al
M2013-01468-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Action Chiropractic Clinic, LLC brought suit against Prentice Delon Hyler and Erie Insurance Exchange to recover $5,010.00 as payment for chiropractic services. The trial court granted Erie Insurance Exchange’s motion for summary judgment. We granted review to determine whether the “Assignment of Rights” to Action Chiropractic Clinic as a health care provider executed by Mr. Hyler was a proper assignment. Upon a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the document in this case was not an effective assignment. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Davidson County Supreme Court 07/01/15
Clayton Arden v. Kenya I. Kozawa, M. D. et al
E2013-01598-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The primary issue presented is whether a health care liability case must be dismissed because the plaintiff sent the health care defendants pre-suit notice of the claim via a commercial carrier, FedEx, instead of using certified mail, return receipt requested, through the United States Postal Service. The defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) (2012). The defendants did not allege they failed to receive notice or were prejudiced by the plaintiff’s method of service. The trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that strict compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) was required. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that substantial compliance was sufficient to satisfy the statutory content requirements of the notice, but that the plaintiff’s failure to send the notice by certified mail constituted deficient service. We hold that the manner and proof of service prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-121(a)(3)(B) and (a)(4) may be achieved through substantial compliance. The defendants received notice and were not prejudiced by the manner of service. Therefore, the use of FedEx to deliver the notice and the filing of proof of service with the complaint constituted substantial compliance with the manner and proof of service requirements of the pre-suit notice statute. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Monroe County Supreme Court 06/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Terrence Justin Feaster
E2012-02636-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

The defendant was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. After determining that the separate convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault did not violate double jeopardy, the trial court imposed consecutive sentences totaling twenty-six years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. A divided panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, finding no double jeopardy violation. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal to determine whether due process safeguards prohibit the retroactive application of the double jeopardy standard adopted in State v. Watkins, 362 S.W.3d 530 (Tenn. 2012), which was decided after the date of his offenses. The defendant argues that the former double jeopardy standard set out in State v. Denton, 938 S.W.2d 373 (Tenn. 1996), should apply. Because our ruling in Watkins cannot be classified as “unexpected” or “indefensible” by reference to prior law, due process does not preclude its retroactive application. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.

Knox County Supreme Court 06/25/15
Richard A. Berent v. CMH Homes, Inc., et al
E2013-01214-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

In this appeal, we are asked to overrule established precedent regarding the circumstances under which an arbitration provision in an adhesive consumer contract is rendered unconscionable and unenforceable based on non-mutual remedies, i.e., mandating arbitration for the consumer but reserving a judicial forum for the merchant. This case involves an adhesion contract for the sale of a manufactured home. The contract includes an arbitration provision under which the sellers retain the right to seek relief in a judicial forum for limited purposes. After the buyer took possession of the home, he filed a lawsuit against the sellers for breach of contract, and the sellers filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion to compel. In reliance on this Court’s decision in Taylor v. Butler, 142 S.W.3d 277 (Tenn. 2004), the trial court held that the non-mutuality of remedies in the arbitration provision rendered it unconscionable and invalid. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also relying on Taylor. We granted permission to appeal to address whether the ruling in Taylor is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act under the reasoning in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), and to address whether Taylor should be overruled or modified in light of the current majority view in other jurisdictions on the validity of arbitration contracts that include non-mutual remedies. We hold that Taylor did not adopt a per se rule that any degree of non-mutuality of remedies in an arbitration provision in an adhesion contract renders the provision unconscionable and unenforceable. Consequently, the ruling in Taylor is not preempted by federal law. In addition, after reviewing the law in other jurisdictions, we decline to overrule or modify the ruling in Taylor. Applying Taylor to the contract in this case, we conclude that the sellers’ retention of a judicial forum for limited purposes does not render the arbitration agreement unconscionable. Accordingly, we reverse the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the trial court and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. 

Hamilton County Supreme Court 06/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Marlo Davis
W2011-01548-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

I concur in the Court’s opinion; however, I write separately to express my concerns about the delay in the trial of this case and the evidentiary problems caused by the delay. Quincy Jones was shot to death on November 9, 2006. The Defendant was arrested on November 13, 2006, and a preliminary hearing was held on January 17, 2007. At the hearing, Jarcquise Spencer testified about what he saw at the time of the murder, including his recollection of seeing the Defendant pull a gun, point it at the victim, and shoot him. 

Shelby County Supreme Court 06/03/15
State of Tennessee v. Marlo Davis
W2011-01548-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Ward

The Defendant, Marlo Davis, was charged with alternative counts of first degree felony murder and first degree premeditated murder. The jury convicted the Defendant of second degree murder as a lesser-included offense of felony murder and of reckless homicide as a lesser-included offense of premeditated murder. The trial court subsequently merged the reckless homicide conviction into the second degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender to forty years’ imprisonment. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We granted the Defendant permission to appeal and now address three issues: (1) whether the trial court committed reversible error by admitting as substantive evidence a prior statement and the preliminary hearing testimony of a testifying witness; (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s alternative convictions of second degree murder and reckless homicide; and (3) whether the jury’s inconsistent verdicts entitle the Defendant to relief. We hold that the trial court’s admission of the testifying witness’ prior statement and preliminary hearing testimony was not reversible error and that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions. We also reject the Defendant’s argument that the jury’s inconsistent verdicts entitle him to relief. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment of second degree murder.

Shelby County Supreme Court 06/03/15
Timothy Davis ex rel. Katherine Michelle Davis v. Michael Ibach, MD, et al.
W2013-02514-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

The Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against the Defendants. Following the Defendants’ motions to dismiss the action, asserting that the certificate of good faith was noncompliant with the requirement in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d)(4) (Supp. 2008), the trial court granted the Plaintiff’s request to voluntarily dismiss the action. The Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the trial court. We granted review to determine whether the requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d)(4) that a certificate of good faith filed in a medical malpractice action disclose the number of prior violations of the statute by the executing party also requires disclosure of the absence of any prior violations of the statute. We hold that it does not. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Dyer County Supreme Court 05/29/15
Ike J. White, III v. David A. Beeks, M.D.
E2012-02443-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The issue in this health care informed consent case is whether the trial court erred by limiting the testimony of plaintiff patient’s expert witness regarding the risks that the defendant doctor was required to disclose to obtain the patient’s informed consent for surgery.  The doctor performed a spinal fusion on the patient.  His back pain initially improved, but subsequently worsened.  The patient sued the doctor, claiming his back pain was caused by nerve compression due to ectopic bone growth at the site of the fusion.  The patient alleged that the doctor failed to give him adequate information to enable him to give an informed consent to the surgery.  In a pretrial deposition, the patient’s expert testified that to obtain informed consent, the doctor was required to advise the patient that he would use a bone-grafting protein and inform the patient about all the potential risks arising from its use, including risks that allegedly caused harm and risks that did not cause harm.  The trial court granted the doctor’s motion to limit the patient’s expert witness testimony to only those risks that allegedly materialized and injured the patient.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the doctor.  In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s exclusion of the expert medical testimony.  We hold that the trial court erred by excluding expert testimony regarding undisclosed medical risks that had not materialized.  Because this error, more probably than not, influenced the jury’s verdict, the patient is awarded a new trial.  

Bradley County Supreme Court 05/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Jereller Alston, Kris Theotis Young, and Joshua Edward Webb - CONCUR
E2012-00431-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

I concur in the Court’s opinion in this case authored by Chief Justice Lee. That opinion represents the correct analysis and result based upon the existing analytical framework currently utilized by this Court in this area of the law. Although I agree that this is not the case to revisit the issue at this point in time, I write separately to express my concern about this existing analytical framework.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/05/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Jereller Alston, Kris Theotis Young, and Joshua Edward Webb
E2012-00431-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

We granted review in this case to determine whether a jury instruction based on our decision in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), must be given when a defendant is charged with the offenses of kidnapping and aggravated burglary. The defendants threatened the victim with guns and took her purse as she was getting into her car outside of her residence. The defendants forced the victim to enter her home and followed her inside. They forced the victim to sit on her couch while they ransacked her home. Police apprehended the defendants as they attempted to flee. The defendants were indicted for aggravated robbery of the victim’s purse, aggravated burglary of the victim’s home, especially aggravated kidnapping, and possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony. A jury convicted the defendants of all charges. The trial court set aside the guilty verdicts for especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary, finding that these convictions, in conjunction with the aggravated robbery convictions, violated principles of due process. The trial court also dismissed the firearms convictions. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and reinstated the verdicts. Upon appeal, we remanded the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration in light of our holding in State v. Cecil, 409 S.W.3d 599 (Tenn. 2013), which made our holding in White applicable to cases in the appellate process. On remand, the intermediate appellate court reached the same result. We hold that a kidnapping charge accompanied by an aggravated burglary charge does not, standing alone, warrant a White jury instruction. However, the trial court erred by not giving a White jury instruction based on the especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/05/15
Larry D. Williams v. City of Burns
M2012-02423-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

We granted permission to appeal in this case to address whether the evidence established that the plaintiff police officer was discharged solely in retaliation for conduct protected under the Tennessee Public Protection Act, Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-1-304, sometimes called the Whistleblower Act. The chief of police for the defendant municipality had the plaintiff police officer “fix” a traffic ticket for a relative. After the plaintiff officer complained to the mayor that the police chief had pressured him into illegal ticket fixing, the police chief discharged the plaintiff. The defendant municipality claimed that it terminated the officer’s employment because he violated the chain of command by reporting the ticket fixing to the mayor, and also because he undermined the chief’s authority with the other officers in the police department. We hold that the municipality’s assertion that it discharged the plaintiff for going outside of the chain of command amounts to an admission that it retaliated against the plaintiff for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities, conduct that is protected under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. After a review of the record, we also hold that the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding that the second reason proffered by the municipality for the officer’s discharge, that he undermined the police chief’s authority, is pretext for retaliation. Accordingly, we hold that the plaintiff was discharged solely in retaliation for conduct protected under the Public Protection Act.

Dickson County Supreme Court 05/04/15