Assigned on Briefs April 1, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 17C-3223
Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr., Judge
inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of
Correction ("TDOC") filed this action in the
Circuit Court for Davidson County seeking monetary damages
from the State of Tennessee for injuries caused by
"negligent acts or omissions" of TDOC employees
acting "within the scope of their employment" in
regard to a prison disciplinary hearing. The State filed a
motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground the trial court
lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Tennessee
Claims Commission had exclusive jurisdiction over the
inmate's monetary claims. The inmate responded by filing
a motion to transfer the case to the Claims Commission. The
trial court denied the motion to transfer and dismissed the
case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
James Powell, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and
Charlotte Montiel Davis, Assistant Attorney General,
Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Tennessee Department
of Correction, Tony Parker, Kevin Genovese, Stacy Oakes,
Calvin Lewis, Josh Pashcall, Timothy Thomas, Dustin Mackin,
Jimmie Baugus, Denny Quillen, Amy Burkhart, and Joseph
G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson II and Kenny W. Armstrong,
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CLEMENT JR., P.J., M.S.
times relevant to the issues raised in the complaint, Chad
James Powell ("Plaintiff") was in the custody of
the TDOC, confined at the Turney Center Industrial Complex in
Only, Tennessee. The defendants named in the complaint
include the TDOC, the warden and deputy warden at the Turney
Center, and several correctional officers and employees of
TDOC. The complaint alleges that the TDOC employees caused
Plaintiff "injury by gross negligent acts or omissions
within the scope of their employment" in the handling of
Plaintiff's prison disciplinary hearing on April 25,
2017. As compensation for his alleged damages,
Plaintiff seeks to recover $90, 000.
some earlier motions and rulings that have no bearing on this
appeal, the State filed a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff opposed the motion and
filed a motion to transfer the case to the Tennessee Claims
Commission. The trial court denied the motion to transfer and
dismissed the case. This appeal followed.
issues presented are whether the trial court erred by
dismissing the complaint for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction and by not transferring the case to the
Tennessee Claims Commission. These issues involve the
construction and application of statutes to the facts of this
case and are questions of law. Wallace v. Metro.
Gov't of Nashville and Davidson Cty., 546 S.W.3d 47,
52 (Tenn. 2018). We review a trial court's conclusions of
law pursuant to the de novo standard of review without any
presumption of correctness. Sallee v. Barrett, 171
S.W.3d 822, 825 (Tenn. 2005). We also review the issue of
subject-matter jurisdiction de novo without a presumption of
correctness. Chapman v. DaVita, Inc., 380 S.W.3d
710, 712-13 (Tenn. 2012).
the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the
underlying claim is controlled by Tennessee's doctrine of
sovereign immunity, which arises from its constitution.
Article I, section 17 of the Tennessee Constitution provides
that "[s]uits may be brought against the State in such
manner and in such courts as the Legislature may by law
direct." Based upon this constitutional provision, no
civil action against the State may be sustained absent
express authorization from the Tennessee General Assembly.
Smith v. Tennessee Nat. Guard, 387 S.W.3d 570, 575
(Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Greenhill v.
Carpenter, 718 S.W.2d 268, 270 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986));
see also Chumbley v. State, 192 S.W.2d 1007, 1008
(Tenn. 1946) ("[A] suit ...