RICHARD LANE, ET AL.
ESTATE OF GARY K. LEGGETT
Session Date: January 17, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Sumner County No. 83CC12014CV59
Joe Thompson, Judge
appeal arises from an action to recover for emotional
injuries allegedly sustained when the
decedent/defendant's automobile drove into
Plaintiff's business, struck a gas meter, and started a
fire, which destroyed the business. The Plaintiff filed suit
alleging causes of action for negligence and negligence
per se and sought damages for emotional distress.
The Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that
Tennessee law does not recognize a cause of action for
emotional injuries arising out of damage to or loss of
property. The trial court granted summary judgment to
Defendant on the negligent infliction of emotional distress
claims, finding that Plaintiff did not establish that the
injury was the proximate and foreseeable result of the
Defendant's negligence. The court dismissed the remaining
claim on the basis of the prior suit pending doctrine due to
a pending interpleader action filed by Defendant's
liability insurer. Plaintiff appeals; we affirm the judgment
of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Benjamin K. Dean, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Andrew McElroy, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joe
R. Johnson, Estate of Gary Leggett.
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.
RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE
Factual and Procedural History
Lane operated an antique business, gift shop, and garden
center located on Highway 31W in White House, Tennessee. On
January 22, 2013, Gary Leggett was driving his vehicle on
Highway 31W when he rear-ended another vehicle, left the
roadway at a high rate of speed, and ran the vehicle into the
building that housed Mr. Lane's business. The vehicle
struck the building's natural gas meter, resulting in a
fire that burned for several hours and caused the complete
loss of the business. Mr. Lane was not at the business at the
time but returned upon being alerted that it was on fire. Mr.
Leggett died at the scene as a result of the accident.
January 22, 2014, Mr. Lane ("Plaintiff") filed suit
against Mr. Leggett's estate ("Defendant"),
alleging that Mr. Leggett's negligence resulted in a
collision that caused "the Plaintiff's business and
contents [to be] damaged and consumed by a great fire"
and that "[a]s a result of observing the fire and the
circumstances surrounding the same, including having narrowly
escaped being present when the incident occurred, the
Plaintiff has been caused severe mental and emotional
injuries and has had to seek the assistance of a psychologist
and psychiatrist . . . [and] has been diagnosed with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety."
subsequently amended his complaint by naming a different
administrator ad litem,  adding the phrase
"reckless" to his description of the decedent's
operation of his vehicle, and adding the phrase "and his
reckless and wanton acts" to a sentence in the prayer
for relief. Defendant answered, generally denying liability
and asserting that "the Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. . . . More
specifically, Plaintiff is making a claim for Negligent
Infliction of Emotional Distress against this Defendant for
alleged property damage. A relief for said claim is not
provided under Tennessee Law."
subsequently moved for summary judgment, contending that
negligent infliction of emotional distress is not a cause of
action intended to permit recovery for emotional distress
arising in connection with property damage. Along with the
motion, Defendant filed a statement of undisputed facts that
quoted from four paragraphs in the amended
1. Plaintiff, Richard R. Lane, at the time of the incident in
issue, operated an antique business, gift shop and garden
center at 3210 Highway 31W,
White House, Tennessee 37188. (Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint, Paragraph 1).
2. On or about January 22, 2013, the Defendant/Decedent was
driving Southbound on Highway 31W in White House, Tennessee.
(Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Paragraph 4).
3.After having rear ended another vehicle and leaving the
scene at a high rate of speed, the Defendant proceeded down
Highway 31W until such time as he exited the roadway and
collided with . . . the structure of the Plaintiff's
business located at 3210 Highway 31W, White House, Tennessee
37188. (Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Paragraph 4).
4. As a result of the collision between the
Defendant/Decedent and the Plaintiff's business, the
Plaintiff's business and contents were damaged and
consumed by a great fire which was caused by the Defendant
having struck the natural gas meter to the business. The
Plaintiff had just left the building approximately 15 minutes