Session August 13, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 16C2469 Don R.
Ash, Senior Judge.
claims on the plaintiff's case in chief in this case have
been non-suited. This is an appeal only from three orders for
sanctions entered against plaintiff's attorney. In the
first order, the trial court awarded opposing counsel
attorney's fees and prohibited the attorney from making
any threatening, insulting, or embarrassing communications
regarding opposing counsel. In the second and third orders,
the trial court found that the attorney had continued the
prohibited conduct, suspending him from the practice of law
in the Circuit Courts of Davidson County for a total of 240
days and awarding opposing counsel their attorney's fees.
The attorney appealed the three orders. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
P. Manookian, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro se. 
Gideon, Jr. and J. Blake Carter, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellee, HCA Health Services Of Tennessee, Inc. d/b/a
Summit Medical Center.
Phillip North, J. Eric Miles and Matthew J. Buchbinder,
Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Toby Smith and
Middle Tennessee Pulmonary Associates, PLLC.
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Carma Dennis McGee, J.,
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.
and Procedural History
appeal arises from a healthcare liability action filed on
September 16, 2016, in the Circuit Court of Davidson County
(the "trial court"), in which Plaintiff Steven
Shao, the surviving husband of Elizabeth Shao, sued Toby
Smith, M.D., Middle Tennessee Pulmonary Associates, PLLC, and
HCA Health Services of Tennessee, Inc., doing business as
Summit Medical Center; however, the only issues before this
Court pertain to three orders entered by the trial court that
imposed various sanctions against Mr. Shao's counsel,
Brian Manookian. In the underlying healthcare liability
action, Defendants Dr. Smith and Middle Tennessee Pulmonary
Associates, PLLC were originally represented by Nashville
attorney Michael Geracioti of the firm Levine, Orr and
Geracioti. Several months after the case was filed, Mr.
Geracioti unexpectedly passed away on the morning of March
16, 2017. On that same day, at 12:48 PM, Mr. Manookian's
partner, Brian Cummings, sent an email to Mr. Geracioti's
associate, expressing his condolences and alerting her to
outstanding items due in several cases. Then, at 3:58 p.m.,
on the same day, Messrs. Cummings and Manookian filed a
Motion for Default Judgment against Mr. Geracioti's
clients, Dr. Smith and Middle Tennessee Pulmonary Associates,
PLLC. Four days later, on March 20, 2017, Mr. Manookian sent
a letter to Mr. Geracioti's associate, threatening to
assert an $8, 000, 000 claim against her clients, her law
firm, and the estate of Mr. Geracioti. A hearing was
subsequently held, and, on April 24, 2017, the trial court
entered an order, denying Messrs. Cummings and
Manookian's Motion for Default Judgment. Additionally,
the trial court publically reprimanded Messrs. Cummings and
Manookian "for conduct that is unbecoming [of] members
of the Bar and officers of the court[, ]" stating the
This Court is profoundly disappointed in the conduct of
plaintiff's counsel and the timing and manner in which
the Motion for Default was presented. Being a zealous
advocate does not mean that one abandons all sense of
professionalism, courtesy and common decency. It is clear
that counsel for plaintiff was attempting to gain a tactical
advantage by aggressively pursuing the claim for default on
the very day of Mr. Geracioti's death[.]
August 17, 2017, attorney C.J. Gideon, counsel for Defendant
HCA Health Services of Tennessee, mailed a letter to Mr.
Manookian setting forth alleged deficiencies in discovery
responses. Mr. Manookian responded via email on August 19,
2017. The contents of Mr. Manookian's August 19, 2017
email-which referenced Mr. Gideon's son and
daughter-served as the basis for a motion for sanctions
against Mr. Manookian, filed by Mr. Gideon on August 24,
2017. The trial court held a hearing on the
motion on September 21, 2017 and, on September 28, 2017,
Judge Thomas Brothers entered an order sanctioning Mr.
Manookian (the "September 2017 Order"). In the
September 2017 Order, the trial court found that Mr.
Manookian's August 19, 2017 email "can only be
construed as a threat against the livelihood of Mr.
Gideon's child." The trial court continued: "At
a minimum this communication was a thinly veiled threat to
embarrass Mr. Gideon, his child, and his family. It can also
be viewed as a blatant act of attempted intimidation meant to
secure some tactical advantage over opposing counsel."
Finding Mr. Manookian's conduct "repellent and
shameful[, ]" the trial court prohibited Mr. Manookian
"from making any communication to counsel in this case
that threatens, insults, disparages, demeans, or embarrasses
them and/or their family members" and awarded Mr. Gideon
$5, 550.00 in attorney's fees.
Mr. Geracioti's death, Phillip North of the law firm
North, Pursell & Ramos, PLC was substituted as counsel of
record for Defendants Dr. Smith and Middle Tennessee
Pulmonary Associates, PLLC. On June 15, 2018, Mr. North filed
a motion for sanctions against Mr. Manookian due to an email
sent by the latter to the former on Good Friday, March 30,
2018. The email is reproduced, in part, as follows:
I am E-Mailing to provide written notice that Plaintiff
intends to pursue sworn testimony regarding ex parte
statements made by [Judge] Brothers about this case . . . via
affidavit from the Honorable Hamilton Gayden.
In addition . . . Plaintiff does not oppose:
1. Judge Gayden disclosing his actual experience, and
resulting opinion, of Phillip North's reputation for
truthfulness, honesty and fidelity; and/or
2. Judge Gayden disclosing his actual experience, and
resulting opinion, on Phillip North's propensity for
dishonesty, exaggeration, and falsehood.
you have a wonderful and relaxing Easter weekend.
email, Mr. Manookian copied all counsel in the case as well
as the Special Master for the Circuit Courts of Davidson
County. After Mr. North filed the June 15, 2018 motion for
sanctions, Mr. Manookian sent another email to Mr. North on
June 22, 2018, wherein he alleged that Mr. North had
falsified the certificate of service on the June 15, 2018
motion for sanctions. This email served as the basis for another
motion for sanctions against Mr. Manookian, filed by Mr.
North on July 20, 2018. On July 31, 2018, the Tennessee
Supreme Court ordered that the June 15 and July 20, 2018
motions for sanctions be heard by Senior Judge Don
On September 28, 2018, Judge Ash granted both motions,
suspending Mr. Manookian from the practice of law in Davidson
County Circuit Courts for 60 days and awarding Mr. North his
attorney's fees in the amount of $37, 164.00 (the
"September 2018 Order"). Additionally, the trial
court ordered Mr. Manookian to complete an ethics course
"focusing on civility and professionalism."
Regarding Mr. Manookian's civility and professionalism,
the trial court stated the following:
Sadly, Mr. Manookian has traveled down a path where he has
chosen to continue verbal attacks on opposing counsel rather
than to follow a judge's explicit orders. He has been
reprimanded by a court, instructed to stop this
unprofessional behavior, and forced to pay attorney fees for
his actions; yet, he continues this vendetta. His actions not
only damage his ...