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Luna v. White County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 29, 2015

JOANN LUNA
v.
WHITE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL.

Session Date: April 14, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for White County No. CC2434 John J. Maddux, Jr., Judge

Richard Marshall Brooks, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joann Luna.

W. Carl Spinning and Michael T. Schmitt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Steve Page, White County Sheriff, White County Tennessee.

Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P. J., M. S., and Andy D. Bennett, J., joined.

OPINION

RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE

I. Factual and Procedural Background

This appeal arises out of a suit brought by Joann Luna, a resident of Sparta, Tennessee, to recover damages for her arrest and imprisonment. Ms. Luna filed suit against White County, Sheriff Oddie Shoupe, in his individual and official capacities, and Deputy Steve Page, in his individual and official capacities (collectively "Defendants") under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act ("GTLA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101, et. seq. She asserted causes of action based on negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and violations of the Tennessee Constitution[1]; she also asserted that the County was liable under Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-8-301, et. seq., for the actions of Sheriff Shoupe and Deputy Page who "act[ed] by virtue of and under the color of their offices as deputies employed by White County . . . ."[2] The County, Sheriff Shoupe, and Deputy Page answered the complaint, denying liability and asserting various affirmative defenses.

In due course, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that there is no private right of action under the Tennessee Constitution for the claims asserted by Plaintiff; that the County was immune from liability under the GTLA; that Sheriff Shoupe and Deputy Page were immune from all claims against them under the GTLA and common law qualified immunity; and that all of the claims were barred by the public duty doctrine. After a hearing, the court granted the motion on all grounds.

Ms. Luna appeals, contending that the court erred in holding that the GTLA did not remove the County's immunity, and that Sheriff Shoupe and Deputy Page were entitled to qualified immunity.[3]

II. Standard of Review

On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party is entitled to judgment in its favor only if it can "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04; accord Penley v. Honda Motor Co., 31 S.W.3d 181, 183 (Tenn. 2000).[4] If the motion is properly supported, "[t]he burden of production then shifts to the nonmoving party to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists." Mark VII Transp. Co. v. Responsive Trucking, Inc., 339 S.W.3d 643, 647 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009) (citing Hannan v. Alltel Publ'g Co., 270 S.W.3d 1, 5 (Tenn. 2009)). The moving party may shift the burden by "either affirmatively negat[ing] an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or establish[ing] an affirmative defense." Id. The trial court's ruling on the motion is a question of law that we review de novo with no presumption of correctness. Bain v. Wells, 936 S.W.2d 618, 622 (Tenn. 1997).

III. Discussion

The facts pertinent to the resolution of this case are taken from Defendants' Statement of Material and Undisputed Facts and Ms. Luna's response thereto; unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not in dispute[5]:

1. On or about November 5, 2011, an arrest warrant was issued for the arrest of one Jo Ann Luna on the charge of theft under $500.00.
2. The Jo Ann Luna subject to the arrest warrant is different than the plaintiff in this lawsuit, who shares the same name.
3. The other Luna failed to appear for her court appearance and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.
4. The only identifying information on the bench warrant was the name "Jo A. Luna" and an address of "210 Lum St., Sparta, TN 38583."
6. The bench warrant commanded that "Jo A. Luna" be brought to the White County jail and held without bond until the ...

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