Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Randolph v. White County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 24, 2019

PATRICIA RANDOLPH
v.
WHITE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL.

          Session May 7, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for White County No. CC2880 Larry B. Stanley, Jr., Judge.

         A mother brought suit against White County and its Sheriff for negligent infliction of emotional distress arising out of a situation in which the Sheriff erroneously informed the mother that her son had been shot and killed by deputies. The trial court dismissed the suit, ruling that the Sheriff was immune from suit under the Governmental Tort Liability Act and White County was immune from suit by application of the public duty doctrine. Mother appeals, asserting that neither defendant is immune from suit. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

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

          Richard M. Brooks, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Patricia Randolph.

          Michael T. Schmitt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, White County, Tennessee, and Oddie Shoupe, White County Sheriff.

          Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Carma Dennis McGee, J., joined.

          OPINION

          RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural History[1]

         On April 13, 2017, White County Sheriff's deputies and Sparta police officers were involved in a high-speed chase of a pickup truck on Highway 111; the pursuit ended when the deputies shot and killed the driver, who had been identified by Dekalb County 911 dispatch as Michael Dial. Heather Ramsey, daughter of Patricia Randolph, the plaintiff in this case, received a call from one of her friends telling her that a post on social media stated that Ms. Randolph's son, Jason Kirby, was the driver who had been killed; Ms. Ramsey conveyed this information to Ms. Randolph. Ms. Randolph then went to the hospital to find out what had happened to her son; on the way to the hospital, she came upon the scene of the shooting. Upon her arrival, the Sheriff of White County, Oddie Shoupe, called Ms. Randolph over to where he was and told her that her son had fired at his deputies and they had to "take him out." Ms. Randolph continued to the hospital, where hospital personnel confirmed that it was her son who had been killed. While at the hospital, however, Ms. Randolph received a call from her ex-husband, who told her that there had been a mistake and that her son had not been killed. At some point, Jason Kirby learned of the report that he had been killed and went to his mother's home to show her that he was alive.

         On April 12, 2018, Ms. Randolph filed suit against White County and Sheriff Shoupe, individually and in his official capacity, pursuant to the Governmental Tort Liability Act ("GTLA"), Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-20-101, et seq., and common law, to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendants moved pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) to dismiss the suit, contending that White County was immune from suit by application of the public duty doctrine and that Sheriff Shoupe was entitled to immunity under section 29-20-310(b) and by application of the public duty doctrine. Ms. Randolph responded, contending that the public duty doctrine did not immunize White County from suit because the special duty exception to the doctrine applied; she conceded that Sheriff Shoupe was immune from suit in his official capacity but argued that he could be held liable in his individual capacity.

         At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, Ms. Randolph orally moved that she be allowed to take discovery before the court ruled on the motion to dismiss; the court denied the motion. The court granted Defendants' motion and dismissed the suit, ruling that: White County's immunity from suit had been removed by section 29-20-205(2) of the GTLA and that, as a consequence, by application of section 29-20-310(b), no claim could be brought against Sheriff Shoupe; and, White County was immune from suit pursuant to the public duty doctrine.

         Ms. Randolph appeals, presenting the following issues for review:

1. Whether the trial court erred in granting Defendant White County, Tennessee, immunity pursuant to the common law public duty doctrine.
2. Whether the trial court erred in finding that the special duty exceptions to the public duty doctrine do not apply, thus retaining immunity for Defendant, White County, Tennessee, under the common law public duty doctrine.
3. Whether the trial court erred in granting the Defendant Oddie Shoupe, in his individual capacity, immunity pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act.
4. Whether the trial court erred in denying Plaintiff's oral motion for discovery.

         II. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss is to determine whether the pleadings state a claim upon which relief can be granted; such a motion only challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Webb v. Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc., 346 S.W.3d 422, 426 (Tenn. 2011). It does not challenge the strength of the plaintiff's proof. See Bell ex rel. Snyder v. Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A., 986 S.W.2d 550, 554 (Tenn. 1999). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, we must liberally construe the complaint, presuming all factual allegations to be true and giving the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See Pursell v. First American National Bank, 937 S.W.2d 838, 840 (Tenn. 1996); Trau-Med of Am., Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 71 S.W.3d 691, 696-97 (Tenn. 2002). Thus, a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claim that would warrant relief. See Doe v. Sundquist, 2 S.W.3d 919, 922 (Tenn. 1999); Fuerst v. Methodist Hospital South, 566 S.W.2d 847, 848 (Tenn. 1978). Making such a determination is a question of law. Burks v. Savannah Indus. Dev. Corp. of the City of Savannah Tennessee, No. W2018-00166-COA-R3-CV, 2018 WL 5307091, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2018) ("the scope of review after the grant or denial of a motion to dismiss involves a question of law") (citing Trau-Med of Am., Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 71 S.W.3d 691, 696-97 (Tenn. 2002)). Our review of a trial court's determinations on issues of law is de novo, with no presumption of correctness. Frye v. Blue Ridge Neuroscience Center, P.C., 70 S.W.3d 710, 713 (Tenn. 2002); Bowden v. Ward, 27 S.W.3d 913, 916 (Tenn. 2000); Ganzevoort v. Russell, 949 S.W.2d 293, 296 (Tenn. 1997).

         III. Analysis

         A) The County's Immunity

         The GTLA is premised on article I, section 17, of the Tennessee Constitution, which provides that suits against the State "may only be brought 'in such manner and in such courts as the Legislature may by law direct.'" Vaughn v. City of Tullahoma, No. M2015-02441-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 3149602, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 21, 2017) (quoting Tenn. Const. art. I, § 17). The GTLA codified the common law rule that "all governmental entities shall be immune from suit for any injury which may result from the activities of such governmental entities." Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-201(a). Subject to exceptions not applicable in this action, section 205 removes the immunity granted in section 201(a) in cases where the injury was "proximately caused by the negligent act or omission of any employee within the scope of his employment"; the parties do not dispute that White County's immunity is removed by section 205.[2]

         Notwithstanding the effect of the GTLA, White County argued, and the trial court agreed, that it was nevertheless immune from suit by application of the public duty doctrine, which is "a common law affirmative defense that . . . provides immunity to public employees [and governmental entities] from suits for injuries that are caused by their breach of a duty owed to the public at large." Karnes v. Madison County, No. W2009-02476-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 3716458, *2 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.