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Lovell v. Warren County, Tennessee

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 16, 2019

BONNIER. LOVELL
v.
WARREN COUNTY, TENNESSEE

          Session December 3, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. 117 Barry R. Tidwell, Judge

         A woman was incarcerated after being arrested and charged with several crimes. Prior to trial, the charges against her were dropped and she was released. Within a year of her release, the woman filed a claim against the county for false imprisonment. The county moved for summary judgment, asserting that the complaint was barred by the one-year statute of limitations. The trial court granted the county's motion and the woman appealed. We reverse the trial court's judgment and hold that the statute of limitations for false imprisonment claims does not begin to run until the imprisonment ends.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed and Remanded

          Robert Samuel Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bonnie R. Lovell.

          Robert Oliver Bratcher, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Warren County, Tennessee.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Bonnie R. Lovell was arrested on August 16, 2012, and charged with various crimes. She was taken to the Warren County jail, where she remained until August 5, 2013, when the local district attorney general dismissed the charges against her and released her from jail. On June 16, 2014, Ms. Lovell filed a complaint against Warren County pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act ("GTLA"), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-20-101‒313. She sought damages for false imprisonment.[1]

         Warren County answered the complaint and asserted several affirmative defenses. The County then moved for summary judgment, asserting that (1) Ms. Lovell's claim was barred by the statute of limitations, (2) Ms. Lovell sued the wrong governmental entity, and (3) ultimate control of the case rested with the local district attorney general's office rather than with the Warren County Sheriff's office. The trial court awarded the County summary judgment after concluding that Ms. Lovell's complaint was barred by the statute of limitations. The court wrote:

Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-104(a)(1)(A) provides that "except as provide[d] in subsection (a)(2), the following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued: Actions for libel, injuries to the person, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or breach of marriage promise."
To recover under the tort of false arrest and imprisonment, a plaintiff must prove: "(1) the detention or restraint of one against his will and (2) the unlawfulness of such detention or restraint." Coffee v. Peterbilt of Nashville, Inc., 795 S.W.2d 656, 659 (Tenn. 1990). The claim accrues at the time of arrest and imprisonment. Gray v. 26th Judicial Task Force, No. 02A01-9609-CV-00218, 1997 WL 379141, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. W.S., July 8, 1997) (citing Dunn v. Tennessee, 697 F.2d 121, 127 (6th Cir. 1982)). See also Crowe v. Bradley Equipment Rentals and Sales, Inc. No. E2008-02744-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 1241550, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. March 31, 2010). The Court finds that the filing of this lawsuit is clearly outside the one (1) year statute of limitations period, and the case should be dismissed.

With regard to the other two grounds on which the County based its motion, the court found there were genuine issues of material fact that prevented those issues from being decided on summary judgment. Ms. Lovell appealed the trial court's ...


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