Motions for Summary Judgement Reviewed by Tennessee Court of Appeals under a De Novo Review With No Presumption of Correctness Standard

As summarized in the Memorandum Opinion, in Janet Sura v. Jimmy’s Last Laugh, Judge Stafford summarizes the case explaining that, “Plaintiff sued the owner of a hotel after she fell in its lobby. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that the defendant did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. Because the trial court’s order does not adequately explain how an expert report proffered by the plaintiff was treated in adjudicating the motion for summary judgment, we vacate and remand to the trial court for the entry of an order that addresses this issue.”

What is a Memorandum Opinion from the Tennessee Court of Appeals? Well, Rule 10 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee provides that “This Court, with the concurrence of all judges participating in the case, may affirm, reverse or modify the actions of the trial court by memorandum opinion when a formal opinion would have no precedential value. When a case is decided by memorandum opinion it shall be designated “MEMORANDUM OPINION,” shall not be published, and shall not be cited or relied on for any reason in any unrelated case.” (See Footnote 1.)

If a Court’s Order insufficiently addresses relevant issues, then in certain circumstances the Court of Appeals when conducting their de novo review with no presumption of correctness ‘erases’ (really vacates) an order and send a case back to the trial court for them to correctly address a relevant issue.

The standard of review for a motion for summary judgment as stated above is de novo with no presumption of correctness.

When the Court of Appeals in Tennessee reviews a trial court’s grant of summary judgment de novo, with no presumption of correctness, they must “take the strongest legitimate view of the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, allow all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and discard all countervailing evidence.” Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tenn. 1993) (citations omitted), holding modified by Hannan v. Alltel Publ’g Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008), holding modified by Rye, 477 S.W.3d 235.

The Court of Appeals in Tennessee must “similarly accept the evidence presented by the nonmoving party as true and resolve any doubts about the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in its favor.” TWB Architects, Inc. v. Braxton, LLC, 578 S.W.3d 879, 887 (Tenn. 2019) (citing Martin v. Norfolk S. Ry., 271 S.W.3d 76, 84 (Tenn. 2008)).

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Primary Source: JANET SURA v. JIMMY’S LAST LAUGH, LLC, Tennessee Court of Appeals, March 26, 2024 Session, No. M2023-01174-COA-R3-CV, Judge Stafford (Caselaw Changes - This Blog Post doesn’t constitute legal advice.)