DONNA MARIA VETRANO, et al.
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Session Date: September 7, 2016
from the Tennessee Claims Commission, No. T20160051, Robert
N. Hibbett, Commissioner
inmate and her husband filed a complaint against the State of
Tennessee, alleging that state employees negligently
supervised and retained a prison guard who sexually assaulted
the inmate. The Tennessee Claims Commission determined it
lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim and
dismissed the complaint. We conclude that the former
inmate's claim falls within a category of claims for
which the Claims Commission has exclusive jurisdiction,
specifically the "[n]egligent care, custody and control
of persons." Term. Code Ann. § 9-8-307 (Supp.
2016). We also conclude the complaint does not seek to hold
the State liable for the willful, malicious, or criminal act
of a state employee. Accordingly, we reverse.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Tennessee
Claims Commission Reversed and Case Remanded
M. McMillan, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Donna
Marie Vetrano and Ronald David Coggins.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andree S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Jennifer L.
Brenner, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of
NEAL McBRAYER, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. MICHAEL SwiNEY, C.J., and Andy J. Bennett, J.,
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
Maria Vetrano and Ronald David Coggins (collectively
"Claimants") filed a claim against the State
seeking injunctive relief and compensatory damages after Ms.
Vetrano was allegedly sexually assaulted by a prison guard
while she was an inmate at the Tennessee Prison for
Women. Claimants averred that state employees
negligently supervised and retained the prison guard who
assaulted Ms. Vetrano.
addition to the claim against the State, Claimants filed a
separate suit against the prison guard in the Circuit Court
for Davidson County, Tennessee. By statute, they could not
pursue the circuit court action unless the Claims Commission
determined that the prison guard acted outside the scope of
his employment. Id. § 9-8-307(b).
Consequently, Claimants filed a motion with the Claims
Commission seeking such a determination and a motion to
transfer their claim against the State to circuit court.
the Claims Commission, the State filed a motion to dismiss.
The State asserted that the Claims Commission lacked
jurisdiction because the State could not be liable "for
the willful, malicious, or criminal acts of state
employees." See id. § 9-8-307(d). The
State also asserted that the Commission lacked jurisdiction
to hear claims arising from the negligent supervision and
retention of state employees.
Claims Commission granted the State's motion and
dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The Commission agreed that the prison
guard's actions were outside the scope of his employment
and that Claimants could ...