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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Sep 18, 2015

Head Comment: With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Amy J. Farrar, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Lance A. Baker and Jeffrey T. Goodson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, City of Clarksville, Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Bruce Kennedy and John T. Maher, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Richard Moreno.

Judge(s): KIRBY

In this appeal, the claimant seeks to toll the statute of limitations on his claim against a municipality based on two statutes: (1) Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-1-119, the 90-day “window” in Tennessee?s comparative fault statute to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor, and (2) Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(b), the tolling provision in the Tennessee Claims Commission Act that states that the filing of written notice of a claim against the State tolls all statutes of limitations as to other persons potentially liable to the claimant. The trial court dismissed the claimant?s complaint against the municipality. It held that, because the antecedent complaint against the State of Tennessee was filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission after expiration of the one-year limitations period, the 90-day window under Section 20-1-119 to file the lawsuit against the municipality, as a comparative tortfeasor, was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the claimant?s written notice of his claim against the State, filed with the Division of Claims Administration before the one-year limitations period elapsed, was an “original complaint” within the meaning of Section 20- 1-119, so the lawsuit against the municipality was timely. The municipality appeals. We hold that the complaint, not the written notice of a claim, is the “original complaint” under Section 20-1-119, so the 90-day window to name a non-party defendant as a comparative tortfeasor was never triggered in this case. We also hold that Section 9-8- 402(b), the tolling provision in the Claims Commission Act, is not applicable to toll the statute of limitations for a claim against a municipality filed under Tennessee?s Governmental Tort Liability Act. Therefore, this action is time-barred.