Session February 23, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Smith County No. 15-CV-91 John D.
Wootten, Jr., Judge
brought an action against a local utility district for
damages allegedly arising from the construction and
maintenance of a water line on plaintiff's property.
Plaintiff also sought injunctive relief. The utility company
moved to dismiss, asserting that it was immune from suit or,
alternatively, that plaintiff's action was barred by the
applicable statute of limitations. The trial court granted
the utility company's motion. The court concluded that
plaintiff's claim for damages were barred by the
Governmental Tort Liability Act. The court further concluded
that plaintiff's request for injunctive relief was barred
by the GTLA's one-year statute of limitations. And the
court determined that the action would be barred by the
one-year statute of limitation applicable to governmental
takings. We conclude that the gravamen of plaintiff's
claim was for inverse condemnation, and the action was time
R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed
Frank Lannom and Donnavon Vasek, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Gene Parish.
K. Murrie and Thomas I. Carlton, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee,
for the appellees, Smith Utility District, and Mack Gann.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S. and Andy D. Bennett
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
letter dated February 18, 2013, Mack Gann, an employee of the
Smith Utility District, contacted Gene Parish to ask whether
Mr. Parish, as a resident of Ben Gentry Lane, would be
interested in the installation of a water line. According to
a subsequently filed complaint, the allegations of which we
assume to be true, Mr. Parish initially declined the offer of
public water access. But eventually Mr. Parish agreed to
"get the process started" after his neighbors
promised to contribute $1, 000 towards the costs of
later point in time, when he went to pay his meter fee, Mr.
Parish discovered to his dismay that his neighbors had
withdrawn their prior offer to help pay for the installation
of the water line. According to Mr. Parish, he then requested
additional time from Mr. Gann to "resolve their
unaddressed issues." By this point, however,
installation of the water line had apparently started, and
Mr. Gann refused to stop.
or about August 26, 2013, " Mr. Parish told Mr. Gann
that he and Smith Utility District were "trespassing on
[his] land without any right or authority to do so." Mr.
Parish also demanded that Mr. Gann and Smith Utility District
leave the property and never return. Mr. Gann refused and
claimed a right to be on Mr. Parish's property by virtue
of an easement. Mr. Parish disagreed and told Mr. Gann that
the easement was only for ingress and egress.
April 7, 2015, Mr. Parish filed a complaint for trespass
against Smith Utility District and Mr. Gann seeking damages
and injunctive relief. The complaint claimed that Smith
Utility District and Mr. Gann "[d]uring the months of
August, September, and October of 2013, . . . entered onto
the property . . . by physically driving heavy construction
equipment on the property and . . . excavating to install a
water line." Mr. Parish also argued that Smith Utility
District and Mr. Gann "continue to enter onto the
property . . . on a periodic time schedule."
Utility District and Mr. Gann moved to dismiss Mr.
Parish's complaint for failure to state a claim upon
which relief could be granted. See Tenn. R. Civ. P.
12.02(6). They argued that they were immune from suit under
the Governmental Tort Liability Act ("GTLA") and