Tennessee Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments For February In Nashville

February 10, 2020

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on February 11, 2020.  The details of the cases are as follows:

  • Vickie S. Young, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Randall Josh Young, Deceased v. First Cardiology PLLC, et al In this healthcare liability action, the plaintiff, Vickie Young, filed a wrongful death suit against the defendants, First Cardiology PLLC and Thomas Killian, M.D., alleging negligence and medical malpractice that resulted in her husband’s death.  Before trial, the defendants sought to exclude the plaintiff’s medical expert testimony on the basis that the expert was not licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee or a contiguous bordering state during the year preceding the relevant time period, as required by Tennessee statute.  The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to exclude the expert’s testimony, stating that the particular statute only applied to healthcare professionals who were practicing in a “health care profession requiring licensure,” and, at the time relevant to this case, the plaintiff’s expert was exempt from licensure as part of a post-graduate medical training program.  The trial court subsequently granted the defendants’ permission to file an interlocutory appeal, but the Court of Appeals denied the application.  The Supreme Court, however, granted review of the appeal.  Before the Supreme Court, the defendants argue that the competency requirements for medical experts are unambiguous in that the expert must have been licensed and practicing in Tennessee or a contiguous bordering state during the year preceding the date that the alleged injury or wrongful act occurred.  The plaintiff argues that the statute at issue does not apply to medical professionals who, like the expert in this case, were qualified to practice medicine under a waiver of licensure during the relevant time period. 
  • George H. Thompson, III v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee – This attorney-discipline case was initiated after a single complaint alleging that the attorney, Mr. George Thompson, allowed the statute of limitations in a client’s personal injury action to expire, prohibiting the client from refiling her claim or obtaining relief.  Mr. Thompson offered his client $5,000 in exchange for a release from liability concerning the case, but he did not advise his client that she should obtain independent legal counsel regarding the release.  Mr. Thompson stipulated to the acts of wrongdoing and that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.  As a result, the hearing panel found that a one-year suspension, thirty days active with the remainder on probation, was the appropriate measure of discipline given Mr. Thompson’s history of similar acts of wrongdoing and discipline.  The chancery court affirmed the hearing panel’s sanction.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Thompson argues that thirty days active suspension would effectively eliminate his ability to carry on his solo practice and would force him to retire early.  Additionally, Mr. Thompson argues that he did not knowingly or intentionally violate the rules, so a suspension is not appropriate in this instance.  The Board argues that the hearing panel’s decision is not arbitrary or capricious and is supported by substantial and material evidence.
  • In re: Cumberland Bail Bonding – This case involves the challenge of a judicial district’s local rule of court, which requires a bonding agent to give notice to a defendant of all his or her court appearances and to be present at all of the defendant’s court appearances.  Here, Cumberland Bail Bonding failed to appear at a defendant’s hearing.  As a result, the trial court suspended Cumberland’s bonding privileges pending a hearing.  Cumberland filed a motion for reinstatement of bonding privileges, which was denied, and Cumberland appealed.  The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s order suspending Cumberland. It held that, while the notification requirement of the rule is within the trial court’s “inherent power” to regulate bonding companies, the appearance requirement is “arbitrary, capricious, and illegal” because it was “not apparent why the bonding company’s presence” is required at each appearance.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, the State argues that the appearance requirement is neither arbitrary nor capricious because “[t]he bondsman’s presence in court ensures that all parties timely receive relevant information about a defendant.”  Additionally, the State argues that the local rule does not conflict with any statute or rule and that the statutes regulating bonding agents did not abrogate the court’s inherent authority to regulate bonding agents through the local rule.  Cumberland argues that the local rule is inconsistent with Tennessee statute because “it modifies the statutory obligations of bonding companies” and that the appearance requirement is arbitrary and capricious.
  • Crouch Railway Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC – This contract dispute arose after LS Energy Fabrication, LLC (Lonestar) hired Crouch Railway Consulting (Crouch) for engineering and planning services related to the construction of a railcar repair facility in Texas.  Lonestar is a Texas company, based out of Baytown Texas, and Crouch is a Tennessee company, based out of Brentwood, Tennessee.  Months in to the performance of the contract, Lonestar failed to make payments for work completed in two separate months.  Crouch filed a claim for breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Lonestar in Williamson County Chancery Court.  Lonestar filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that simply contracting with a Tennessee company is not enough to confer personal jurisdiction on the Williamson County court.  The trial court granted Lonestar’s motion to dismiss, but the Court of Appeals reversed.  Relying on Nicholstone Book Bindery, Inc. v. Chelsea House Publishers, 621 S.W.2d 560 (Tenn. 1981), the Court of Appeals held that Lonestar “purposefully directed its activity toward Tennessee by engaging a Tennessee engineering company to provide customized services, which were preformed primarily in Tennessee.”  Additionally, the Court of Appeals explained that the decision to require Lonestar to litigate in Tennessee was both “fair and reasonable.”  On appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Lonestar argues that the Tennessee and United States constitutions require the nonresident defendant to “create a substantial connection with the forum state, not merely foresee the possibility of one day being sued there.”  Additionally, Lonestar argues that the Court’s focus should be on the company’s conduct and not simply foreseeability.  Crouch argues that Lonestar has “more than sufficient minimum contacts with Tennessee” because it “intentionally engaged Crouch,” knowing it was a Tennessee company, in specialized design and consulting services.  Additionally, Crouch argues that “subjecting Lonestar to personal jurisdiction in Tennessee is consistent with notions of fair play or substantial justice.”
  • Douglas Ralph Beier v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee – This attorney-discipline matter arose from two separate cases for which Mr. Beier represented one of the parties.  In the first case, the Board of Professional Responsibility alleged that Mr. Beier forged the signature on an affidavit and filed the document with the court.  In the second case, regarding a probate matter, the Board alleged that Mr. Beier not only misrepresented who the heirs of the estate were, but he also misrepresented the value of the probate estate to pad his contingency fee.  A hearing panel determined that Mr. Beier violated six separate Rules of Professional Conduct and that a two-year suspension, ninety days active suspension with the remainder on probation, was the appropriate sanction.  Both Mr. Beier and the Board filed petitions for review of the hearing panel’s judgment in the Hamblen County Chancery Court.  The chancery court determined that the hearing panel’s finding that Mr. Beier violated the rules was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by substantial and material evidence.  Additionally, the chancery court held that Mr. Beier’s two-year suspension was appropriate but that the entirety of the sanction should be served as an active suspension.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Beier argues that the findings and conclusions of both the hearing panel and the chancery court were arbitrary and capricious and not supported by the evidence.  Furthermore, Mr. Beier argues that the hearing panel did not adequately weigh similar attorney discipline matters in determining the appropriate sanction and that the chancery court inappropriately modified the service of the suspension.  The Board argues that the hearing panel’s determinations as to ethical violations were supported by substantial and material evidence and that the chancery court appropriately modified the sanction.

Media members planning to attend oral arguments should review Supreme Court Rule 30 and file any required request.