Supreme Court Requires Trial Courts To Explain Rulings On Summary Judgment Motions

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure require trial judges to explain why they are granting or denying a motion for summary judgment before they ask the lawyer for the winning party to prepare a proposed order.

Motions for summary judgment are requests by one or more parties to a lawsuit for the court to rule on the merits of an issue before a case goes to trial. The court can determine prior to the start of a trial that there is no genuine issue of material fact and all or a portion of the case will come to an end.

In the specific case the Court decided today, Mary C. Smith sued UHS of Lakeside, Inc. in the Shelby County Circuit Court following the death of her husband who had been treated at the Lakeside Triage Center in September 2004. UHS filed motions for summary judgment asking the trial court to dismiss Ms. Smith’s lawsuit. During hearings in March 2010 and September 2011, the trial judge orally granted UHS’s motions but did not explain the basis for her decisions. Instead, the trial judge asked UHS’s lawyer to draft orders that provided the legal basis for her decisions. The trial judge signed the orders prepared by UHS’s lawyer despite Ms. Smith’s objections.

Ms. Smith appealed, and the Court of Appeals set aside the summary judgment orders. The Court of Appeals decided the trial court failed to comply with Rule 56 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires trial courts to “state the legal grounds” when deciding a motion for summary judgment.

The Supreme Court agreed that the trial court failed to comply with Rule 56. The Court emphasized that deciding a motion for summary judgment is a high judicial function. The requirement that a trial court state its grounds promotes respect for the judicial system by ensuring that a summary judgment decision is the product of the trial court’s own independent analysis.

The Court held that the trial court erred by granting UHS’s motions for summary judgment without providing legal grounds and by asking UHS’s lawyers to supply the orders that articulated the reasons for the court’s decision. The Court concluded the trial court must, “upon granting or denying a motion for summary judgment … state the grounds for its decision before it invites or requests the prevailing party to draft a proposed order.”

In this case, the Court determined the contested orders were not the product of the trial court’s independent judgment, therefore the case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings.


Street Corner Market At The Clemons Has Grand Opening Wednesday

Street Corner Market at The Clemons will host a grand opening on Wednesday at 9 a.m.   Street Corner Market at The Clemons is at 730 Chestnut St. The 2700 square foot market features fresh produce, craft beer, a deli featuring Boar’s Head Meats, locally roasted Mayfly, Rembrandt’s, and Fleetwood coffees and pastries from the Bluff View Arts District. In addition, ... (click for more)

GDOL To Help Express Employment Professionals Recruit In Lafayette

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will help Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, recruit at least 50 employees for two Rock Spring and one LaFayette locations. The event will be held on  Wednesday, Oct. 12 , from  9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  at the LaFayette Housing Authority located at 300 Oak Street in LaFayette. GDOL staff will be onsite to ... (click for more)

DA Pinkston Files Petition To Declare 2 Gangs A Public Nuisance

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed a petition on Monday asking that two Chattanooga gangs, the Gangster Disciples and the Grape Street Crips, and their members be declared public nuisances. General Pinkston is also "asking that injunctive relief be given to the law-abiding residents of East Lake by establishing a Safety Zone that covers most of their neighborhood." ... (click for more)

2 Boaters Die In Suspected Carbon Monoxide Poisoning On Chickamauga Lake

Two boaters and their pet were pronounced dead at the scene of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning on Chickamauga Lake.  Kristy D. James and Mike L. Richardson of Chattanooga were reported missing to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office earlier in the day by a concerned family member. The boaters had not been heard from since Saturday. Tennessee Wildlife Resources ... (click for more)

Of Course Gangs Are A Public Nuisance

Now, I don't know it all.  Beginning with my parents, folks of all sorts have been actively pointing out my ignorance for more than seven decades now.  So I'm well aware that I don't know it all.  In recent months I've begun to develop an appreciation for the local work of Mr. Neal Pinkston; I've been impressed with several things he's been doing in his official ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Pitch Called ‘The Defector’

When Jose Fernandez was killed early Sunday morning in a boating accident, he was 24 years old yet had already lived a life much larger than almost all old men. He had spent part of a year in an unimaginably cruel Cuban prison, this when he only 14 years old and sandwiched in an inhumane cell among grown criminals. There were murders daily – in his very cell -- and nobody cared. ... (click for more)