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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Jun 30, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Daniel R. Pilkington and Brian R. Bibb, Knoxville, Tennessee, for appellant, City of Morristown, Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

F. Braxton Terry, Morristown, Tennessee, and W. Lewis Jenkins, Jr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for appellees, Chuck’s Package Store; The Cellar, Inc.; T&T Package Store, LLC; Morristown Beverage Associates, Inc., d/b/a Cork & Keg Package Store; The Package Store; and C&C Package, Inc.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andre`e Sophia Blumenstein, Solicitor General; Charles L. Lewis, Deputy Attorney General; and Mary Ellen Knack, Senior Counsel, for the amicus curiae, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): SUSANO

This case originated when six retail wine and liquor stores filed suit against the City of Morristown seeking a refund of a portion of inspection fees that had been erroneously calculated by the City. The fees were assessed by the City on the purchases at wholesale of alcoholic beverages. The City failed to use the correct percentage mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-3-501 (2013).2 It is undisputed that the plaintiffs overpaid the City; since the plaintiffs were understandably unaware of the error, they failed to state that they were paying the fees under protest. The City moved to dismiss the case, citing the plaintiffs’ failure to pay “under protest.” The trial court held that Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-1-1807 (2013) relieved the plaintiffs of the requirement to pay the inspection fees under protest. Accordingly, the trial court denied the City’s motion. The case proceeded to a bench trial where the court resolved all of the issues in the plaintiffs’ favor. The City appeals, arguing that Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-1-1801, et seq. (2013) does not apply to challenges involving fees paid to municipalities. The State Attorney General filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the City’s position. We affirm the trial court.