WARREN COUNTY, TENNESSEE
Session December 3, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. 117 Barry R.
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.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Remanded
Samuel Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Bonnie R. Lovell.
Oliver Bratcher, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Warren County, Tennessee.
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins,
D. BENNETT, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
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.
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