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Byrd v. Mrs. Grissom's Salads, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 26, 2019

JOEEL BYRD ET AL.
v.
MRS. GRISSOM'S SALADS, INC.

          Dated: September 24, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 14C4360 Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr., Judge

         Both the plaintiffs and the defendant have appealed from an order granting in part and denying in part the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The trial court determined that there was no just reason for delay and directed the entry of a final judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. Because the partial summary judgment is not appropriate for certification as a final judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02, we dismiss the appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Luvell L Glanton, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Joeel Byrd, and Lavondia Byrd.

          Joseph R. Wheeler, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mrs. Grissom's Salads, Inc.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., Andy D. Bennett, and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          PER CURIAM

         This appeal arises out of a fatal motor vehicle accident. Dimitra Byrd was driving on Interstate 24 when she was involved in a collision with a refrigerated box truck driven by Jeffrey Craddock and owned by Mr. Craddock's employer, Mrs. Grissom's Salads, Inc. Both Ms. Byrd and her passenger were killed. Plaintiffs Joeel Byrd and Lavondia Byrd, as next of kin to Dimitra Byrd ("Plaintiffs"), along with several other plaintiffs, filed suit against Mr. Craddock and Mrs. Grissom's Salads, Inc. ("Defendant").[2]

         After several years of protracted litigation, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. On December 4, 2018, the trial court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part. Among other rulings, the trial court granted Defendant a summary judgment as to any claims for negligent hiring, training, supervision, or retention but denied summary judgment as to the claims of general negligence and negligence per se. On May 2, 2019, the trial court entered a memorandum opinion granting the parties permission to appeal under Tenn. R. App. P. 9.[3] However, no Tenn. R. App. P. 9 application was ever filed in this court. On June 18, 2019, the trial court entered an order clarifying its memorandum opinion, finding no just reason for delay, and directing the entry of a final judgment under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. Both Plaintiffs and Defendant filed timely notices of appeal.

         This court has reviewed the record on appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 13(b) to determine if the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal. Based on that review, we have determined that the order appealed is not appropriate for certification as final under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02.

         A party is generally entitled to an appeal as of right only after the trial court has entered a final judgment that resolves all the claims between all the parties, leaving nothing else for the trial court to do. Tenn. R. App. P. 3(a); In re Estate of Henderson, 121 S.W.3d 643, 645 (Tenn. 2003); State ex rel. McAllister v. Goode, 968 S.W.2d 834, 840 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997). The trial court may also direct the entry of a final judgment "as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties" under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02(1). However, the trial court's authority to direct the entry of a final judgment is not absolute. Crane v. Sullivan, No. 01-A-01-9207-CH-00287, 1993 WL 15154, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 27, 1993). First, Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02 requires that the order certified as final actually adjudicate one or more of the claims or parties. Bayberry Assocs. v. Jones, 783 S.W.2d 553, 557 (Tenn. 1990). Second, the trial court must determine that there is "no just reason for delay." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02(1).

         The determination of whether an order disposes of a separable claim is a question of law reviewed de novo. Brown v. John Roebuck & Assocs., Inc., No. M2008-02619-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 4878621, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 16, 2009).

If the trial court certifies a judgment as final, but it is not conclusive as to an entire claim or party, an appeal from it will be dismissed even though the trial court decided to treat the order as final. Without a final adjudication of ...

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