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Keenan v. Hollifield

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 25, 2018

JASON KEENAN
v.
JEFFERY L. HOLLIFIELD

          Session May 29, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 1-127-16 Kristi M. Davis, Judge

         Jason Keenan sued Jeffrey L. Hollifield for damages arising out of a two-vehicle collision on Interstate 40 in Knox County. By way of an order entered August 9, 2017, the plaintiff took a voluntary nonsuit, pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.01(1). On the same date, the defendant filed a motion for discretionary costs. Following a hearing on September 8, 2017, the trial court, in an order entered September 15, 2017, denied the defendant's motion. Defendant appeals, arguing that he is entitled to discretionary costs of $814.66. We reverse the trial court's judgment and award the defendant discretionary costs of $814.66.

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

          Terrill L. Adkins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant,

          Jeffery L. Hollifield. Ameesh A. Kherani, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jason Keenan.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         The relevant facts pertaining to the defendant's motion for discretionary costs are not in dispute. The issue is addressed in the trial court's order of September 15, 2017, which was drafted by counsel for the defendant. In that order, the trial court states the following:

…the Defendant filed a timely and properly supported motion for discretionary costs demonstrating (1) that the defendant is the prevailing party under Tennessee law, (2) that the discretionary costs being sought are contemplated by and included in Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.04(2), (3) that the costs were necessary and reasonable, and (4) that the Defendant has not engaged in conduct during the litigation that would justify depriving [him] of the costs the Defendant is requesting…

         Following these finding by the trial court, the court added the following by typewritten material: "…this Court, as a general matter, will not grant discretionary costs in response to a plaintiff's voluntary dismissal unless there are special circumstances that would justify an award of discretionary costs." In the margins of the order, the trial court penned the following:

Otherwise, this court views the taxing of discretionary costs following a routine voluntary dismissal as being punitive against the party who, after fully evaluating the case, concludes it is not prudent to continue the claim. In this case, for example, counsel for the plaintiff stated that the decision to voluntarily dismiss the case was made after completion of discovery depositions and a full opportunity to evaluate the claim. The court disagrees, in general, with the defendant's argument that discretionary costs should always be granted to a prevailing party upon a showing of the reasonableness and necessity of ...

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