Two Long-Arm Statutes

We have more than two. They begin at Tenn. Code Ann.  §20-2-201 (dating back to 1887) and include the 1932 nonresident motorist statute ( §20-2-203). But herein we'll compare the two laws most frequently referred to as "long-arm" statutes.

In 1965 the General Assembly enacted the initial version of Tenn. Code Ann.  § §20-2-214 through 219. An important amendment in 1972 is codified as  §20-2-214(a)(6), subjecting defendants outside Tennessee to lawsuits filed here on "any basis not inconsistent with the constitution of this state or of the United States."

Specific grounds listed in the 1965 statute are as follows:

  1. transaction of business here,
  2. tort here,
  3. ownership or possession of property here,
  4. insuring a risk located here, and
  5. contracting for services or materials to be furnished here.

Added later was  §20-2-214(a)(7), giving Tennessee jurisdiction over divorce suit issues where the couple lived here and one spouse stayed here.

The reach of the arm is very long. See two opinions I critiqued in the May/June 1992 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal: Davenport v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 756 S.W.2d 678 (Tenn. 1988), and Walker v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 813 S.W.2d 135 (Tenn. App. 1990). Professor Pivnick writes that these precedents support a general jurisdiction theory. For an expansive specific jurisdiction holding, see J. I. Case Corporation v. Williams, 832 S.W.2d 530 (Tenn. 1992). The courts have taken the admonition in  §20-2-219(b) ("It's the legislative intent that [this law] be given a liberal construction") and run with it.

In 1997 the General Assembly enacted another long-arm law without repealing the first. It is codified at Tenn. Code Ann.  § §20-2-221 through 225. My weekly reading of slip opinions persuades me that most judges don't rely on this version, perhaps because lawyers don't cite it. And maybe the latter don't cite it because they don't need it.
In most respects there are no significant differences. But compare the tort bases for personal jurisdiction. The 1965 statute simply lists "any tortious act or omission within this state." The 1997 statute at  §20-2-223(a)(3) lists "causing tortious injury by an act or omission in this state." At  §20-2-223(a)(4) we find: "causing tortious injury in this state by an act or omission outside this state of the person who regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in this state."

What if a tortfeasor is negligent in New York and injury occurs in Tennessee? That's exactly what happened in Hanvy v. Crossman Arms Company Inc., 466 S.W.2d 214 (Tenn. 1971), a 3-2 decision. An air rifle manufactured by the Yankee corporate defendant was shipped in a "loaded and dangerous condition." The Tennessee minor plaintiff lost his left eye as a result. The majority held the defendant subject to personal jurisdiction in Tennessee under the 1965 statute.

The best approach for the practitioner is to consult both long-arm statutes when contemplating a lawsuit. And be sure to study the annotations. Godspeed.

Errata:

In my June 2007 column on "Authentication Miscellany," I erred by writing that Davy Crockett researcher William Groneman III "does not have a college degree." The truth is that he graduated from Manhattan College in 1974 with a B.A. in history. I apologize to Mr. Groneman and to the readers of this journal. And I continue to believe that he is correct in concluding that the De La Peña "diary" is a forgery.

In my May 2009 article on "The Trial of Rush Strong," I erred by writing that Rush's ex-wife Bonnie Hurt Strong "married James Huffman, a U.S. Senator from Ohio." The truth is that she married George C. Maggers. She died on Feb. 2, 1942, in Washington, D.C., and was buried at Marion, Alabama. Again I apologize to you readers " and to Bonnie.


Donald F. Paine DONALD F. PAINE is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP. He lectures for the Tennessee Law Institute, BAR/BRI Bar Review, Tennessee Judicial Conference, and UT College of Law. He is reporter to the Supreme Court Advisory Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure.