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Evans v. Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 22, 2018

JOHN B. EVANS
v.
PIEDMONT NATURAL GAS CO., INC.

          Session August 24, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 13C4240 Kelvin Jones, Judge

         John B. Evans ("Plaintiff") appeals the December 13, 2016 order of the Circuit Court for Davidson County ("the Trial Court") granting summary judgment to Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc. ("Piedmont") after finding and holding that there was no evidence that Piedmont or its agent had committed any intentional, reckless, or malicious act which caused the damages claimed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff additionally raises an issue regarding the Trial Court's grant of discretionary costs to Piedmont, which included costs taxed to Piedmont by this Court in a previous appeal. We find and hold that Piedmont made a properly supported motion for summary judgment and that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate specific facts in the record showing that Piedmont or its agent had committed any intentional, reckless, or malicious act. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment. We further find and hold that costs taxed to Piedmont by this Court in the previous appeal are not properly included in an award of discretionary costs pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.04. We, therefore, modify the award of discretionary costs by reducing the discretionary costs from $1, 133.00 to $643.00.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed as Modified; Case Remanded

          Keith C. Dennen, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, John B. Evans.

          William B. Jakes, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc.

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which RICHARD H. DINKINS and THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE

         Background

         This is the second time that this case has been before us on appeal. By way of background, we quote from our Opinion in the first appeal, Evans v. Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc. ("Evans I"), wherein we stated:

In 1984, a contractor for Nashville Gas Company ("Nashville Gas") installed a natural gas pipeline through the west side of property now owned by John Evans. At some point, which is not clear from the record, a sewer line was also installed on the west side of the property. Mr. Evans acquired the property in March 2012.
In January 2013, sewage overflowed into the basement of the home located on Mr. Evans's property. In response to the overflow, Mr. Evans called a plumber who excavated the sewer line. Mr. Evans claims the excavation revealed that the sewer line had been damaged with a backhoe or similar machine. According to Mr. Evans, no dig permits for his property had been issued except for the gas line installation by Nashville Gas in 1984. Therefore, he asserts that Nashville Gas must have damaged his sewer line during the installation of the gas line in 1984. He also alleges that the installer improperly used plastic joint tape to repair the damage and buried the line nearly three feet deep.

         On June 26, 2013, Mr. Evans sued Piedmont Natural Gas Company ("Piedmont") in Davidson County General Sessions Court. In its entirety, his general sessions warrant stated that he sought:

Damages due to the intentional destruction of property to wit; a sewer line, in connection with the installation of a gas pipeline by the Defendant and/or its agents, and the intentional concealment of said destruction, and damages accruing from the backup of waste into the home as a result of that destruction, together with the consequential and punitive damages, all in an amount under $25, 000.00 dollars.

         On August 19, 2013, the general sessions court awarded Mr. Evans $4, 179.40 in compensatory damages. Then, after a separate hearing conducted two months later, the ...


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