Byrd v. Hall

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtDROWOTA; REID
Citation847 S.W.2d 208
PartiesJan BYRD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Dr. Thomas K. HALL, Dr. Maxwell E. Huff, and Dr. David Bruce Coffey, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date19 January 1993

Page 208

847 S.W.2d 208
Jan BYRD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Dr. Thomas K. HALL, Dr. Maxwell E. Huff, and Dr. David Bruce
Coffey, Defendants-Appellees.
Supreme Court of Tennessee,
at Knoxville.
Jan. 19, 1993.

Jerrold L. Becker, Scarlett A. Beaty, Knoxville, for plaintiff-appellant.

James G. O'Kane, Knoxville, for defendants-appellees.

OPINION

DROWOTA, Justice.

The sole issue presented in this tortious interference with employment case concerns the proper standard to be applied when evaluating a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Jan Byrd, Plaintiff-Appellant, appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court of Scott County granting summary judgment to Dr. Thomas Hall, Dr. Maxwell Huff, and Dr. David Coffey, Defendants-Appellees. We granted the Plaintiff's Rule 11 application in order to establish a clearer and more coherent summary judgment jurisprudence in view of the increased use of Rule 56 as a vehicle designed to implement the objectives of the Rules of Civil Procedure--the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of litigation. Tenn.R.Civ.P. 1.

TENNESSEE SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

Varying forms of summary judgment proceedings have existed in this country since 1769. Schwarzer, Hirsch and Barrans, The Analysis and Decision of Summary Judgment Motions, 139 F.R.D. 441, 446 (1991). Summary judgment statutes were adopted in various forms by some states, including Tennessee, in the 1800s. Schwarzer, 139 F.R.D. at 446; 6 Code of Tennessee (Williams) §§ 9507-9560 (1932).

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Tennessee eventually adopted summary judgment in its present form, Tenn.R.Civ.P. 56, by order of this Court in 1970. The Rule became effective January 1, 1971, along with the other Rules of Civil Procedure. The committee promulgating the Rules of Civil Procedure regarded Rule 56 as "one of the most important and desirable additions to Tennessee procedure contained in the Rules of Civil Procedure." Rule 56, Advisory Commission Comments. "The committee considers this rule to be a substantial step forward to the end that litigation may be accelerated, insubstantial issues removed, and trial confined only to genuine issues." Id.

Since its adoption, Rule 56 has undoubtedly made its impact felt in literally thousands of cases. As the bench and bar can readily attest, motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 are now fairly routine and are filed almost as a matter of course. For this reason, an analysis of the Rule's provisions and its parameters is appropriate.

At the heart of the summary judgment procedure is the language contained in Rule 56.03 and Rule 56.05. According to Rule 56.03, summary judgment is to be granted if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56.05 provides that the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but his response, by affidavits or [otherwise], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."

The cases construing Tenn.R.Civ.P. 56 make clear that the summary judgment process is designed to provide a quick, inexpensive means of concluding cases, in whole or in part, upon issues as to which there is no genuine dispute regarding material facts. Evco Corp. v. Ross, 528 S.W.2d 20, 24 (Tenn.1975); Dunn v. Hackett, 833 S.W.2d 78, 80 (Tenn.App.1992); Ferguson v. Tomerlin, 656 S.W.2d 378, 382 (Tenn.App.1983). The summary judgment procedure was implemented to enable the courts to pierce the pleadings to determine whether the case justifies the time and expense of a trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538, 552 (1986); J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice, p 56.01 (2d ed. 1992). Consequently, a motion for summary judgment goes directly to the merits of the litigation, and a party faced with such a motion may neither ignore it nor treat it lightly. Ferguson, 656 S.W.2d at 382. This is particularly true since summary judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut but rather an important vehicle for concluding cases that can and should be resolved on legal issues alone. 1 Bellamy v. Federal Express Corp., 749 S.W.2d 31, 33 (Tenn.1988); Brookins v. The Round Table, Inc., 624 S.W.2d 547, 550 (Tenn.1981). On the other hand, the procedure is clearly not designed to serve as a substitute for the trial of genuine and material factual matters. Blocker v. Regional Medical Center, 722 S.W.2d 660, 660-61 (Tenn.1987); Poore v. Magnavox Co., 666 S.W.2d 48, 49 (Tenn.1984); Layhew v. Dixon, 527 S.W.2d 739, 742 (Tenn.1975); Anthony v. Constr. Prods., Inc., 677 S.W.2d 4, 10 (Tenn.App.1984); Ferguson, 656 S.W.2d at 382; Taylor v. Nashville Banner Pub. Co., 573 S.W.2d 476, 480 (Tenn.App.1978).

In determining whether or not a genuine issue of material fact exists for purposes of summary judgment, courts in this state have indicated that the question should be considered in the same manner as a motion for directed verdict made at the close of the plaintiff's proof, i.e., the trial court must take the strongest legitimate view of the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, allow all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and discard all

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countervailing evidence. Downen v. Allstate Ins. Co., 811 S.W.2d 523, 524 (Tenn.1991); Poore, 666 S.W.2d at 49; Dunn, 833 S.W.2d at 80; Wyatt v. Winnebago Industries, Inc., 566 S.W.2d 276, 279 (Tenn.App.1977); Taylor, 573 S.W.2d at 480. Then, if there is a dispute as to any material fact or any doubt as to the conclusions to be drawn from that fact, the motion must be denied. Poore, 666 S.W.2d at 49 ("[I]f the mind of the court entertains any doubt whether or not a genuine issue exists as to any material fact it is its duty to overrule the motion."); Dooley v. Everett, 805 S.W.2d 380, 383 (Tenn.App.1990). The court is not to "weigh" the evidence when evaluating a motion for summary judgment. See Hamrick v. Spring City Motor Co., 708 S.W.2d 383, 389 (Tenn.1986) ("Summary judgment is not ordinarily the proper procedure for determining whether a prima facie case has or has not been overcome by countervailing evidence."); Rollins v. Winn Dixie, 780 S.W.2d 765, 767 (Tenn.App.1989). The court is simply to overrule the motion where a genuine dispute exists as to any material fact. Dunn, 833 S.W.2d at 80; Dooley, 805 S.W.2d at 383. The phrase "genuine issue" contained in Rule 56.03 refers to genuine factual issues and does not include issues involving legal conclusions to be drawn from the facts. Price v. Mercury Supply Co., 682 S.W.2d 924, 929 (Tenn.App.1984). The critical focus is limited to facts deemed "material", Evco Corp. v. Ross, 528 S.W.2d 20, 24-25 (Tenn.1975), which is to say those facts that must be decided in order to resolve the substantive claim or defense at which the motion is directed. Knoxville Traction Co. v. Brown, 115 Tenn. 323, 331, 89 S.W. 319, 321 (1905); Rollins v. Winn Dixie, 780 S.W.2d 765, 767 (Tenn.App.1989); Schwarzer, 139 F.R.D. at 476.

Moreover, the cases make clear that the party seeking summary judgment must carry the burden of persuading the court that no genuine and material factual issues exist and that it is, therefore, entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., Downen, 811 S.W.2d at 542; Jones v. Home Indem. Ins. Co., 651 S.W.2d 213, 214 (Tenn.1983); Williamson Cty. Broadcasting v. W. Cty. Bd. of Ed., 549 S.W.2d 371, 372 (Tenn.1977); Taylor, 573 S.W.2d at 480; Lucas Brothers v. Cudahy Co., 533 S.W.2d 313, 316 (Tenn.App.1975). Once it is shown by the moving party that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must then demonstrate, by affidavits or discovery materials, that there is a genuine, material fact dispute to warrant a trial. Fowler v. Happy Goodman Family, 575 S.W.2d 496, 498 (Tenn.1978); Merritt v. Wilson Cty. Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 656 S.W.2d 846, 859 (Tenn.App.1983). In this regard, Rule 56.05 provides that the nonmoving party cannot simply rely upon his pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. "If he does not so respond, summary judgment ... shall be entered against him." Rule 56.05. If the motion is denied, the moving party "has simply lost a preliminary skirmish and must proceed to trial." Williamson, 549 S.W.2d at 372.

FEDERAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

The federal counterpart to Tenn.R.Civ.P. 56 was adopted in 1938 when the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect. Schwarzer, 139 F.R.D. at 447. Although Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, which is virtually identical to Tenn.R.Civ.P. 56 2, was drafted some 54 years ago, the Rule was infrequently used for most of its existence because it was plagued with ambiguities and restrictive interpretations. Issacharoff, Second Thoughts About Summary Judgment, 100 Yale L.J. 73, 77 (1990); Schwarzer, 139 F.R.D. at 450. However, when the federal courts began to experience the pressure of crowded dockets and parties' mounting litigation costs, some courts and commentators thought the time was right for recognizing

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and developing the potential of summary judgment in helping cope with these problems. Issacharoff, 100 Yale L.J. at 78; Schwarzer 139 F.R.D. at 450. It was in this context that the U.S. Supreme Court decided three cases in 1986 addressing some of the critical issues inherent in the application of Rule 56: Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); and Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

In Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), a libel...

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1868 practice notes
  • State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co., No. M2010–01955–SC–R11–CV.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • March 28, 2013
    ...on affidavits and deposition transcripts, “testimony cannot be disregarded on the basis of a lack of credibility” (citing Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 216 (Tenn.1993))). At this stage of the proceedings, the duty of the trial court was to construe the sworn statements in the light most fav......
  • Blackmon v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., No. W2013-01605-COA-R3-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • May 16, 2014
    ..."If the moving party is unable to make the required showing, then its motion for summary judgment will fail." Id. (citing Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 215 (Tenn. 1993)). If the moving party does make a properly supported motion, the nonmoving party is required to produce evidence of specif......
  • Rye v. Women's Care Ctr. of Memphis, MPLLC
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • October 26, 2015
    ...of the United States Supreme Court3 discussing the standards that apply in summary judgment practice, the decision in Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208 (Tenn. 1993), and the confusion it engendered, and reconsider whether the standard articulated in Hannan is consistent with the history of summa......
  • Camper v. Minor
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • January 29, 1996
    ...infliction of emotional distress that we adopt herein, and that they are entitled to a judgment as matter of law. See Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 214-16 (Tenn.1993). Because the defendants failed to carry their initial burden pursuant to Rule 56, Tenn.R.Civ.P., we cannot approve of the su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1870 cases
  • State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co., No. M2010–01955–SC–R11–CV.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • March 28, 2013
    ...on affidavits and deposition transcripts, “testimony cannot be disregarded on the basis of a lack of credibility” (citing Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 216 (Tenn.1993))). At this stage of the proceedings, the duty of the trial court was to construe the sworn statements in the light most fav......
  • Blackmon v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., No. W2013-01605-COA-R3-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • May 16, 2014
    ...the moving party is unable to make the required showing, then its motion for summary judgment will fail." Id. (citing Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 215 (Tenn. 1993)). If the moving party does make a properly supported motion, the nonmoving party is required to produce evidence of speci......
  • Rye v. Women's Care Ctr. of Memphis, MPLLC
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • October 26, 2015
    ...of the United States Supreme Court3 discussing the standards that apply in summary judgment practice, the decision in Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208 (Tenn. 1993), and the confusion it engendered, and reconsider whether the standard articulated in Hannan is consistent with the history of summa......
  • Camper v. Minor
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • January 29, 1996
    ...infliction of emotional distress that we adopt herein, and that they are entitled to a judgment as matter of law. See Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 214-16 (Tenn.1993). Because the defendants failed to carry their initial burden pursuant to Rule 56, Tenn.R.Civ.P., we cannot approve of the su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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