Spooked by Hannan: Will Summary Judgment Return?

On Halloween 2008, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., stating explicitly for the first time that Tennessee does not follow the federal Celotex standard for summary judgment. Hannan has spooked some lawyers and judges, who fear that summary judgment has joined the ranks of the zombies -- the living dead -- or has become a mere ghost that haunts lawsuits but never materializes. In a TennBarU webcast this Wednesday, UT College of Law Professor Judy Cornett will show that there is no reason to be spooked by Hannan: Summary judgment is no zombie, but is alive and well in Tennessee, and indeed may be more available after Hannan than before.

Find out more or register for this webcast now

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Court: TCA


Ronald J. Berke and Megan England Demastus, Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Appellant, Wendy Janette Thompson.

David Alan Thompson, Sr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pro Se Appellee.


In this post-divorce action, issues regarding child support were litigated after the Trial Court modified custody. After the trial, the Trial Court sua sponte contacted David Alan Thompson's ("Father") employer and obtained information regarding Father's wages and benefits. The Trial Court entered its order finding and holding, inter alia, that Father was entitled to a judgment against Wendy Janette Thompson ("Mother") for $6,275.13 plus interest for overpayment of child support. Mother appeals to this Court raising issues regarding the sua sponte investigation and the calculation of child support. We hold that the sua sponte investigation did not comply with Tenn. R. Evid. 614. We, therefore, vacate the Trial Court's judgment and remand this case to the Trial Court to receive additional proof, or not, as the Trial Court deems necessary, and then decide all issues based solely upon the evidence as presented by the parties to, and received by, the Trial Court.



Court: TCA


Isham B. Bradley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Western Express, Inc.

Tara L. Swafford and Wendee Hilderbrand, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Brentwood Services, Inc. and Brentwood Services Administrators, Inc.


Western Express, which was one of twenty-nine members of a workers' compensation self-insurance group trust established pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. section 50-6-405(c), appeals the dismissal of its civil action against the former administrator of the now liquidated self-insurance group trust, Brentwood Services, Inc. Plaintiff's claims were dismissed pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Trust was liquidated in a separate liquidation proceeding wherein the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance served as the Liquidator. A settlement entered into between the Liquidator and Brentwood, which resolved all claims common to the members of the Trust, was approved by the Chancery Court and entered in the liquidation action. Following the settlement of the liquidation action, Plaintiff filed this civil action against Brentwood to assert claims Plaintiff believed to be personal or unique to Plaintiff and which were not barred by the Liquidator's settlement with Brentwood. Thereafter, Brentwood filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, contending that the claims asserted by Plaintiff were not personal or unique to Plaintiff, but common to all members of the trust, and that all such claims had been resolved in the liquidation action; alternatively, Brentwood asserted that any claims that were unique to Plaintiff were not sufficiently pled and, thus, should be dismissed. The trial court granted Brentwood's motion, dismissing all claims based upon the reasoning submitted by Brentwood. We affirm.



Court: TCCA


Charles S. Mitchell, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronnie Jackson, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Chris West, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Petitioner, Ronnie Jackson, Jr., pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated assault. As part of his plea agreement, he was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to eight years for his aggravated robbery conviction and three years for each of his aggravated assault convictions, those sentences to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction. He now appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court's order denying post-conviction relief, contending that this denial was error because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and, consequently, entered his pleas involuntarily and unknowingly. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel failed to properly investigate his case and prepare a defense strategy, that trial counsel pressured him into pleading guilty, and that by entering an Alford plea, he believed he could continue to challenge pre-trial constitutional issues. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.



Court: TCCA


Stephen M. Wallace, District Public Defender; and Joseph F. Harrison, Assistant District Public Defender, attorneys for appellant, William Lee Smith.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, Jr., District Attorney General; and James F. Goodwin, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, attorneys for appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, William Lee Smith, pled guilty in the Sullivan County Criminal Court to four counts of reckless aggravated assault and one count of driving under the influence (DUI). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant agreed to serve two years of his sentence on supervised probation; the manner of service of the remaining four years of his sentence was left to the determination of the trial court which ordered it served in incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that he should have been granted full probation or some other alternative sentence for the four-year sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.



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About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.

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