Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hancock v. State

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 28, 2017

TONY E. HANCOCK
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session Date: May 17, 2017

         Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20131030 Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, Tennessee Claims Commission, Middle Division

         Appellant was injured in an automobile collision with a State Trooper. After a trial, the Claims Commissioner found in favor of the State and dismissed the claim. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Claims Commission Affirmed.

          Jon E. Jones, Cookville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tony E. Hancock.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andreé S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Amanda S. Jordan, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE

         Background

         On the night of February 25, 2012, Tennessee State Trooper Bobby Barker ("the Trooper") was driving westbound in a Tennessee Highway Patrol car on State Highway 70 in Cumberland County, Tennessee, a rural two-lane road. As he approached Highland Lane, he collided with Plaintiff/Appellant Tony E. Hancock's ("Appellant") black pickup truck. The rear tires of Appellant's truck were stuck in a ditch, and, as a result, the front end of his truck sat perpendicular across the road, blocking the westbound travel lane. It is unclear whether Appellant was inside or outside of the truck, but he was subsequently found lying nearby in the driveway of a church. Both Appellant and the Trooper were administered blood alcohol tests. Appellant sustained serious injuries, incurring $368, 282.28 in medical expenses.

         On February 20, 2013, Appellant filed a statement of claim in the Tennessee Claims Commission against the State of Tennessee ("the State"). The claim alleged that the Trooper was negligent in operating his patrol car and that the State was liable for its employee's negligence. In the meantime, Appellant was also charged with driving under the influence in connection with the accident. In this criminal case, Appellant filed a motion to suppress the blood alcohol test evidence, and after a full evidentiary hearing, an order was entered suppressing the results because the destruction of the blood sample before Appellant could re-test it constituted spoliation. Appellant also filed a motion to suppress the toxicology report in the civil case on grounds of spoliation and constitutional violations. The Claims Commissioner denied Appellant's motion to suppress.

         The claim was tried before the Claims Commissioner on March 22 and 23, 2016. The recording from the Trooper's dashboard camera was played for the Claims Commissioner, and a still photograph taken from the video recording was admitted into evidence. Appellant testified that he had no memory of the accident, its aftermath, or the five weeks prior thereto. There was no dispute that Appellant suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the collision. The Trooper generally testified that he did not see Appellant's truck in the road until it was too late to avoid a collision. The Trooper could not recall if his high beam headlights were in use at the time of the collision but indicated his belief that such were not legally required. There was no dispute that the Trooper was traveling at an appropriate speed at the time of the collision or that the Trooper's toxicology report showed no evidence of intoxicating substances in the Trooper's system. Both the Trooper and the responding officer testified regarding their inspection of the vehicle and the scene, each noting the odor of alcohol near Appellant's truck. Each party called expert witnesses to testify as to whether the Trooper could have avoided the collision by utilizing his high beam lights and keeping a proper lookout.

         An evidentiary dispute occurred during trial that is relevant to this appeal. Although the Claims Commissioner had previously ruled that constitutional and spoliation issues did not prevent the State from introducing the results of Appellant's toxicology report, at trial, Appellant objected to the admission of this evidence on reliability and chain of custody grounds. The Claims Commissioner nevertheless allowed the report to be admitted into evidence, ruling that the report was self-authenticating.

         At the conclusion of the proof, the Claims Commissioner took the matter under advisement. Each party thereafter submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. On July 24, 2016, the Claims Commissioner issued his written ruling containing detailed and thorough findings of fact and conclusions of law. Therein, the Claims Commissioner found that the Trooper was traveling at a safe speed and maintaining a proper lookout at the time of the collision but had not engaged his high beam headlights pursuant to state law. The Claims Commissioner found, however, that regardless of this failure, "if [the] Trooper [] bears any comparative fault, it is no more than twenty-five percent." In addition, the Commissioner ruled that because the Trooper could not have reasonably foreseen that Appellant's truck would be blocking the highway and the Trooper did not see the truck until it was too late to avoid the collision, the Trooper's negligence was not the proximate cause of the accident. The Commission therefore ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.