SHARYN HAYNES, ET AL.
WAYNE COUNTY, TENNESSEE
Session Date: March 7, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Wayne County No. 4525 Russell
an appeal from the trial court's grant of summary
judgment to the defendant, Wayne County, in a wrongful death
action filed under the Governmental Tort Liability Act. The
plaintiff's grandson committed suicide several hours
after being released from the defendant's jail. The
plaintiff filed this wrongful death action alleging that his
death was caused by the defendant's negligence in
releasing him from custody in an intoxicated state without a
mental health evaluation and without notifying his family of
suicidal threats that he made while incarcerated. Having
reviewed the record, we conclude that the plaintiff's
evidence at the summary judgment stage is insufficient to
establish that the defendant breached its duty of care to the
decedent or that its conduct was a proximate cause of his
death. We therefore affirm the trial court's grant of
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Russell Belk and Taylor Sutherland, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellant, Sharyn Haynes.
Beale Williams and Ross V. Smith, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Wayne County, Tennessee.
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins,
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE
Background and Procedural History
decedent, twenty-year-old Philip Haynes, was arrested for
underage consumption, public intoxication, and resisting
arrest in the early morning hours of July 17, 2010. Mr.
Haynes, his cousin, and another man had stopped to use the
restroom at a truck stop in Clifton, Tennessee. All three men
had been drinking, but Mr. Haynes was the most intoxicated of
the group. Mr. Haynes caught the attention of police officers
in the truck stop's parking lot when he stumbled getting
out of the car. The officers asked the men to step out of the
car and instructed them to sit on a nearby trailer while they
investigated. While they were sitting on the trailer, Mr.
Haynes became upset.
to his cousin, Mr. Haynes started crying and saying
"this is it" repeatedly. The cousin, fearful that
Mr. Haynes would try to get back into the car and follow
through on past threats to commit suicide by running into a
semi-trailer truck, tried to calm Mr. Haynes. Despite his
efforts, Mr. Haynes attempted to run back to the car. The
officers stopped Mr. Haynes before he reached the car and put
him in handcuffs. The officers placed Mr. Haynes under arrest
and transported him to the Wayne County Jail.
officers arrived at the Wayne County Jail with Mr. Haynes at
approximately 3:00 a.m. There, they transferred him to the
custody of Wayne County Sheriff's Deputies Jonathan
Prince and Kevin Clayton. According to Deputy Prince, Mr.
Haynes was "really, really intoxicated to the point of
passing out" when he arrived at the jail. Mr. Haynes had
vomited on himself in the patrol car and was unable to walk
into the jail without assistance. After they walked him into
the jail, Mr. Haynes asked Deputies Prince and Clayton if
their guns were real. When the deputies replied that they
were, Mr. Haynes asked the deputies to shoot him. Deputy
Clayton reported Mr. Haynes's statement to the booking
officer, Correctional Officer Kent Dugger. As part of the
booking process, Officer Dugger asked Mr. Haynes a series of
standard medical questions and recorded his answers on a
medical form. The medical form reflects that Mr. Haynes told
Officer Dugger that he was suffering from depression and had
attempted to commit suicide "several times" in the
his concern that Mr. Haynes posed a suicide risk, Officer
Dugger put Mr. Haynes in a suicide prevention suit and placed
him on suicide watch in an isolated cell with cameras.
Officer Dugger monitored Mr. Haynes for the remainder of his
shift, and Mr. Haynes slept in his cell without incident. At
the time, a non-profit health care organization called
Centerstone had a mobile crisis response team that would
evaluate and provide mental health services to suicidal
inmates at the jail free of charge. The jail did not have a
contract with Centerstone, but Officer Dugger was aware of
its services and had called Centerstone in the past when an
inmate attempted to hang himself in his cell. Officer Dugger
testified in his deposition that he elected not to call
Centerstone to evaluate Mr. Haynes because Mr. Haynes had
only made a suicidal threat as opposed to an actual suicide
attempt. In any event, Centerstone's policies stated that
services to intoxicated individuals would not be offered
until the individual was no longer in an intoxicated state.
Wayne County Sheriff Rick Wilson also testified in his
deposition that Centerstone's mobile crisis response team
would not come to the jail to evaluate intoxicated inmates.
Officer Dugger's shift ended at 6:00 a.m., he was
replaced by Correctional Officer Justin Sanders. Officer
Dugger advised Officer Sanders of Mr. Haynes's suicidal
threat and that Mr. Haynes was on suicide watch. He also
advised Officer Sanders that Mr. Haynes would be eligible for
release after Officer Sanders finished making his morning
rounds. Officer Sanders testified in his deposition that he
offered breakfast to Mr. Haynes around 6:30 a.m., but Mr.
Haynes declined it. Between one and two hours later, Mr.
Haynes called for Officer Sanders and requested a blanket.
Rather than give Mr. Haynes a blanket, Officer Sanders
informed Mr. Haynes that he was eligible to be released.
Officer Sanders testified that he then asked Mr. Haynes if he
remembered making a suicidal threat the night before.
According to Officer Sanders, Mr. Haynes replied in a joking
manner that he remembered making the statement but was just
drunk and did not mean it. Officer Sanders then removed Mr.
Haynes from his cell and began filling out paperwork for his
release from custody. According to Officer Sanders, the
release process took about an hour and Mr. Haynes seemed fine
during that time. Officer Sanders testified that Mr. Haynes
was joking and laughed about the vomit on his clothes.
Officer Sanders testified that he did not feel that there was
any need to contact a medical provider before releasing Mr.
Haynes because Mr. Haynes was fine.
Sanders released Mr. Haynes from the Wayne County Jail at
approximately 9:30 a.m. Sometime around 10:00 a.m., Mr.
Haynes called his cousin who had been with him the night
before and asked to be picked up from a McDonald's
restaurant. Because he did not have a car, the cousin told
Mr. Haynes's grandmother and guardian, Sharyn Haynes,
that Mr. Haynes had been arrested and needed to be picked up.
Ms. Haynes and the cousin drove to the McDonald's to pick
up Mr. Haynes, but he was not there when they arrived. After
driving to the jail to look for him there, they eventually
found Mr. Haynes walking on the side of the road. Ms. Haynes
testified in her deposition that Mr. Haynes appeared to be
still intoxicated when they picked him up. She also testified
that Mr. Haynes appeared to be angry with himself and that
they sat in silence on the ride back to her house. Ms. Haynes
drove Mr. Haynes to her house and left him there alone while
she took the cousin back to his mother's house. Mr.
Haynes fatally shot himself shortly thereafter at
approximately 11:49 a.m.
2011, Ms. Haynes (hereinafter "Plaintiff"), acting
as Mr. Haynes's heir and next friend, filed a wrongful
death action against Wayne County
("Defendant"). Her complaint alleged that Mr.
Haynes's death was the result of Defendant's
negligence in releasing him from custody in an intoxicated
state without having him evaluated by a mental health
professional and without notifying his family of the suicidal
threats that he made while incarcerated. In its answer,
Defendant denied the allegations of negligence and asserted
that any negligent conduct on its part was not the proximate
cause of Mr. Haynes's death. Following a period of
discovery, Defendant filed a properly supported motion for
summary judgment in July 2015. Plaintiff opposed the motion
in September 2015. In October 2015, the trial court granted
Defendant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that
Defendant had negated the breach of duty and proximate
causation elements of Plaintiff's negligence claim.
Thereafter, Ms. Haynes filed a timely notice of appeal to
Haynes presents the following issue on appeal, as we have
1. Whether the trial court erred in granting Defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
Wayne County presents the following additional issue, as we
have restated it:
1. Whether Ms. Haynes has standing to bring this cause of
Standard of Review
an appeal from the trial court's grant of a motion for
summary judgment. We review a trial court's summary
judgment ruling de novo with no presumption of correctness.
Abshure v. Methodist Healthcare-Memphis Hosps., 325
S.W.3d 98, 103 (Tenn. 2010). In doing so, we must make a
fresh determination as to whether the requirements of Rule 56
of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure have been
provides that summary judgment is appropriate when "the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04. When the party
moving for summary judgment will not have the burden of proof
at trial, it may satisfy its initial burden of production
either (1) by affirmatively negating an essential element of
the nonmoving party's claim or (2) by demonstrating that
the nonmoving party's evidence at the summary judgment
stage is insufficient to establish the nonmoving party's
claim or defense. Rye v. Women's Care Ctr. of
Memphis, MPLLC, 477 S.W.3d 235, 264 (Tenn. 2015). If the
moving party fails to meet its initial burden of production,
then the nonmoving party's burden is not triggered, and
the court should dismiss the motion for summary judgment.
Town of Crossville Hous. Auth. v. Murphy, 465 S.W.3d
574, 578-79 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) (citing Martin v.
Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 271 S.W.3d 76, 83 (Tenn. 2008)). If,
however, the moving party does make a properly supported
motion for summary judgment, then the burden of production
shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of
a disputed fact requiring trial. Id. at 578 (citing
Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 215 (Tenn. 1993)).
survive a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the
nonmoving party "'may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of its pleading, ' but must
respond, and by affidavits or one of the other means provided
in Tennessee Rule 56, 'set forth specific facts'
at the summary judgment stage 'showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Rye,
477 S.W.3d at 265 (quoting Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.06). The
nonmoving party must demonstrate the existence of specific
facts in the record that could lead a rational trier of fact
to find in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. If
adequate time for discovery has passed and the nonmoving
party's evidence at the summary judgment stage is
insufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact for trial, then the motion for summary judgment
should be granted. Id. As such, even when the
determinative issue is ordinarily a question of fact for the
jury, summary judgment is appropriate if the uncontroverted
facts and inferences to be drawn from those facts make it
clear that a reasonable person can reach only one conclusion.
White v. Lawrence, 975 S.W.2d 525, 529-30 (Tenn.
contends Plaintiff lacks standing to file a wrongful death
action on behalf of Mr. Haynes. Although Plaintiff initiated
this appeal from the trial court's grant of summary
judgment, we must address the issue of standing first because
deciding the case on summary judgment presupposes that
Plaintiff had standing to file the action.
Plaintiff's Standing to Initiate a Wrongful Death
is the doctrine by which the courts determine whether a
particular litigant is entitled to pursue judicial relief as
to a particular issue or cause of action. Am. Civil
Liberties Union of Tenn. v. Darnell, 195 S.W.3d 612, 619
(Tenn. 2006). Grounded in concern for the proper-and properly
limited-role of the courts in a democratic society, the
doctrine of standing precludes courts from adjudicating an
action at the instance of one whose rights have not been
invaded or infringed. Id. (citing Warth v.
Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975); Mayhew v.
Wilder, 46 S.W.3d 760, 767 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001)).
Persons whose rights or interests have not been affected have
no standing and are, therefore, not entitled to judicial
relief. State v. Harrison, 270 S.W.3d 21, 28 (Tenn.
2008). The sort of distinct and palpable injury that will
create standing must be an injury to a recognized legal right
or interest. Id. Such a legal right or interest may
be created or defined by statute. Id. "When a
statute creates a cause of action and designates who may
bring an action, the issue of standing is interwoven with
that of subject matter jurisdiction and becomes a
jurisdictional prerequisite." Osborn v. Marr,
127 S.W.3d 737, 740 (Tenn. 2004).
death actions are governed purely by statute in Tennessee. At
common law, there was no action that survivors could bring
for the wrongful death of a relative. Foster v.
Jeffers, 813 S.W.2d 449, 452 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1991). As a
result, it was more economically prudent in some cases to
kill a person than to merely inflict a nonfatal injury.
Id. To negate that moral dilemma, legislatures
enacted wrongful death statutes aimed at keeping a
decedent's cause of action from dying with the decedent.
Id. Tennessee's wrongful death statute provides:
The right of action that a person who dies from injuries
received from another, or whose death is caused by the
wrongful act, omission, or killing by another, would have had
against the wrongdoer, in case death had not ensued, shall
not abate or be extinguished by the person's death but
shall pass to the person's surviving spouse and, in case
there is no surviving spouse, to the person's children or
next of kin[.]
Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-5-106(a). Notably, the statute does
not create any right of action existing independently of that
which the decedent would have had, if he or she had survived.
Kline v. Eyrich, 69 S.W.3d 197, 206-07 (Tenn. 2002).
Although the living beneficiaries of the action may seek
limited recovery for their own losses in addition to those of
the decedent, the right of action itself remains one that is
single, entire, and indivisible. Id. at 206 (citing
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