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Boone v. Town of Collierville

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 8, 2019

WILLIAM L. BOONE
v.
TOWN OF COLLIERVILLE

          Session: June 18, 2019

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-18-0304-1 Walter L. Evans, Judge

         After the dismissal of his federal action, plaintiff filed a state court action alleging a violation of the Public Employee Political Freedom Act. The defendant city thereafter filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that because plaintiff's action was against a state entity, plaintiff could not rely on the saving statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-115. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss but granted an interlocutory appeal. We granted the application for interlocutory appeal and now reverse the decision of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed

          Edward J. McKenney, Jr. and William Joseph Wyatt, Collierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, City of Collierville, Tennessee.

          Donald A. Donati and Bradley Andrew Davis, Collierville, Tennessee, for the appellee, William L. Boone.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, and Carma Dennis McGee, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE

         Procedural History

         On March 27, 2015, Defendant/Appellant Town of Collierville ("Collierville") terminated the employment of Plaintiff/Appellee William L. Boone. On March 25, 2016, Mr. Boone filed a complaint in federal district court against Collierville alleging a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violation and a violation of the Public Employee Political Freedom Act ("PEPFA"). On March 15, 2017, the 1983 claim was dismissed with prejudice, and the PEPFA claim was dismissed without prejudice.

         On March 5, 2018, Mr. Boone refiled his PEPFA claim in the Shelby County Chancery Court. Collierville moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that Mr. Boone failed to file his complaint within 32 days of the dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d). In particular, Collierville argued that Mr. Boone was not entitled to rely on the saving statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-115, because application of the saving statute was barred by sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion but granted permission to seek an interlocutory appeal. This Court granted the interlocutory appeal on December 3, 2018.

         Issue Presented

         This appeal involves a single issue: whether Mr. Boone was entitled to rely on the saving statute found in Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-115 in refiling his PEPFA claim.

         Standard of Review

         In this case, the trial court denied a motion to dismiss on the basis of the expiration of the statute of limitations. The trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is reviewed de novo with no presumption of correctness. Cannon ex rel. Good v. Reddy, 428 S.W.3d 795, 798 (Tenn. 2014). With regard to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we have explained:

A Rule 12.02(6) motion tests "only the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not the strength of the plaintiff's proof or evidence." Webb v. Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc., 346 S.W.3d 422, 426 (Tenn. 2011). The resolution of such a motion is therefore determined by an examination of the pleadings alone. Id. The court should grant the motion to dismiss only if it appears that ...

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