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Posted by: Landry Butler on Nov 17, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

R. Steven Waldron, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jerretta Certain.

Attorneys 2:

Josh A. McCreary, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Judy Goodwin.

Judge(s): SUSANO

On February 6, 2014, defendant Judy Goodwin, principal of Barfield Elementary School, received an anonymous telephone call. The caller said she was a nurse and the grandparent of a child that she had just picked up at the school. The caller reported that she had seen a teacher, as it turned out, plaintiff Jerretta Certain, who appeared to the caller to be in an altered state. The caller said Ms. Certain was putting children in danger. Principal Goodwin decided to investigate the caller’s claim. She asked Ms. Certain, school nurse Jessica Floyd, and Student Resource Officer Ward Bates, to come to Ms. Certain’s classroom. All three observed Ms. Certain. Generally speaking, each considered her to be in an altered state. They described her as appearing drowsy, slow, and walking with difficulty. They discovered in her bags seven bottles of medications, all prescribed for Ms. Certain, in properly-marked childproof containers. Ms. Certain alleges that Principal Goodwin stated, “I believe what we’re looking at is an addiction to prescription drugs.” The principal asked Nurse Floyd, “would you want your child in her classroom next year knowing that she’s addicted to prescriptions like this?” Ms. Certain brought this action against Principal Goodwin for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted Principal Goodwin summary judgment on all claims, holding as a matter of law that Ms. Certain could not establish the following essential elements: (1) actual malice; (2) that the alleged statements were defamatory; and (3) that the statements were published. Ms. Certain appeals. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.