Supreme Court confirms change in law does not entitle grandmother to second visitation suit

November 16, 2012

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s decision to dismiss a grandmother’s second petition requesting visitation with her granddaughter.  In 2009, following the death of her daughter, Jeanette Jackson filed suit in the McNairy County Chancery Court seeking visitation with her granddaughter.  Bradley Smith, the child’s father, objected to Ms. Jackson’s request.  Following a two‑day hearing, the trial court ruled against Ms. Jackson. 

In 2010, the Tennessee legislature, at the urging of Ms. Jackson and her lawyer, changed the procedure for considering a grandparent’s request for visitation. Ms. Jackson then filed a second request for visitation with her granddaughter. Instead of presenting new evidence to support her request for visitation, Ms. Jackson relied solely on the intervening change in the law. The trial court dismissed Ms. Jackson’ s second lawsuit because it had already heard Ms. Jackson’s evidence and had determined that she had not proved that she was entitled to visitation with her granddaughter. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order on technical grounds relating to the adequacy of the record.

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that the trial court had correctly dismissed Ms. Jackson’s second request for visitation.  The court applied the general rule that changes in the law following a final decision by a trial court do not ordinarily entitle the losing party to a second trial.  The court decided that the 2010 change in the statute allowing grandparents to visit with their grandchildren was not one of the rare exceptions to the general rule.

To read the Jeanette Rea Jackson v. Bradley Smith opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit TNCourts.gov.