Kampmeyer v. State, M2019-01196-SC-R11-CV

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtHOLLY KIRBY, JUSTICE.
Decision Date13 January 2022
PartiesSTEVEN KAMPMEYER ET AL. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
Docket NumberM2019-01196-SC-R11-CV

STEVEN KAMPMEYER ET AL.
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

No. M2019-01196-SC-R11-CV

Supreme Court of Tennessee

January 13, 2022


April 28, 2021 Session [1]

Appeal by Permission from the Court of Appeals Tennessee Claims Commission, Middle Division No. T20190265-1 Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner

This case involves claims against the State of Tennessee asserted by a husband and wife. The claimant husband suffered injuries when his car collided with a Tennessee state vehicle parked in the roadway. He gave written notice of his claim to the Tennessee Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Division did not resolve it, so the Division transferred the claim to the Tennessee Claims Commission. The husband and wife then filed a complaint with the Claims Commission. The complaint contained a loss of consortium claim by the wife that was not in the written notice the husband gave to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Claims Commission complaint was filed within the applicable one-year statute of limitations. The Claims Commission granted the State's motion to dismiss the wife's loss of consortium claim as time-barred because she did not give the Division of Claims and Risk Management written notice of her claim within the limitations period. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The claimants appeal, relying on the holding in Hunter v. State, No. 01-A-01-9210-BC00425, 1993 WL 133240 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 1993), that a complaint filed with the Claims Commission within the statute of limitations fulfills the requirement in Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(a)(1) that claimants give timely written notice of their claim against the State to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. We reject this argument, overrule Hunter v. State, and affirm the Claims Commission's dismissal of the wife's claim for loss of consortium.

1

Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Appeals Affirmed

Sidney W. Gilreath and Cary L. Bauer, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Steven Kampmeyer and Melissa Kampmeyer.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Meghan Murphy, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Holly Kirby, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Roger A. Page, C.J., and Sharon G. Lee and Jeffrey S. Bivins, JJ., joined. Cornelia A. Clark, J., not participating. [2]

OPINION

HOLLY KIRBY, JUSTICE.

Factual and Procedural History[3]

On December 11, 2017, Tennessee Department of Transportation ("TDOT") employees parked two TDOT trucks on an overpass in the center lane of State Highway 111 in Sequatchie County, Tennessee, not far from the exit to Dunlap, Tennessee. After exiting the trucks, two TDOT employees applied a de-icing agent to the overpass. The TDOT employees placed no signs or other devices to warn oncoming drivers of the presence of the trucks in the middle of the highway. As the employees worked on the overpass, neither TDOT vehicle displayed hazard signals.

Meanwhile, Plaintiff/Appellant Steven Kampmeyer, a Florida resident, was driving his vehicle north on State Highway 111 toward that same overpass and the TDOT vehicles parked in the middle of the road. Mr. Kampmeyer's vehicle plowed into the rear of one of the TDOT vehicles. Mr. Kampmeyer suffered extensive injuries in the collision, including a broken leg, broken facial bones, and traumatic brain injury.

On August 9, 2018, Mr. Kampmeyer filed written notice of a claim for damages with Tennessee's Division of Claims and Risk Management. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(c), once ninety days passed without resolution of Mr. Kampmeyer's claim, the Division of Claims and Risk Management transferred the claim to the Tennessee

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Claims Commission. Both entities are housed administratively within the Tennessee Department of Treasury.[4]

On December 5, 2018, Mr. Kampmeyer and his wife, Plaintiff/Appellant Melissa Kampmeyer, jointly filed a complaint with the Claims Commission based on the same factual allegations in the written notice Mr. Kampmeyer filed with the Division of Claims and Risk Management. The complaint alleged that TDOT violated Tennessee law and its own safety standards. It also contained a claim for loss of consortium by Mrs. Kampmeyer that had not been included in the written notice of claim Mr. Kampmeyer filed with the Division of Claims and Risk Management.

In response, the State filed a motion to dismiss. In pertinent part, the State argued that Mrs. Kampmeyer did not give written notice of her claim against the State to the Division of Claims and Risk Management as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(a)(1).[5] As a result, the State asserted, her claim for loss of consortium was barred by the one-year statute of limitations.

In reply, the Plaintiffs acknowledged that Mr. Kampmeyer's notice of claim with the Division of Claims and Risk Management did not include Mrs. Kampmeyer's claim for loss of consortium. They noted, however, that the Kampmeyers' joint complaint was filed with the Claims Commission within the one-year statute of limitations. Consequently, as to Mrs. Kampmeyer, the Claims Commission should have treated the complaint as a written notice of claim mistakenly filed with the Claims Commission instead of the Division of Claims and Risk Management and transferred it to the Division. For those reasons, they contended, the Claims Commission should deem Mrs. Kampmeyer's consortium claim timely.

The Claims Commission granted the State's motion to dismiss Mrs. Kampmeyer's consortium claim. It held Mrs. Kampmeyer was a separate claimant and had to give written notice of her claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management within the statute of limitations. Because she had not, the Claims Commission dismissed her claim.

At Mrs. Kampmeyer's request, the Claims Commission made its dismissal order final and appealable pursuant to Rule 54.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Mrs. Kampmeyer then appealed to the Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed with the Claims Commission that Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(a)(1) required Mrs. Kampmeyer to give written notice of her loss of consortium claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. Kampmeyer v. State,

3

No. M2019-01196-COA-R3-CV, 2020 WL 5110303, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2020), perm. app. granted, (Tenn. Jan. 13, 2021). It affirmed the dismissal of Mrs. Kampmeyer's claim.

The Kampmeyers then sought permission to appeal to this Court, which was granted.

Analysis

The only issue in this appeal is whether the Claims Commission erred by dismissing Mrs. Kampmeyer's claim for loss of consortium.[6] Resolving this issue requires us to interpret statutes governing the Tennessee Claims Commission and the Division of Claims and Risk Management. Issues of statutory interpretation present a question of law, which we review de novo on appeal, giving no deference to the lower court decision. In re Kaliyah S., 455 S.W.3d 533, 552 (Tenn. 2015).

The Tennessee Claims Commission was created by the General Assembly to adjudicate certain types of claims against the State.[7] Mullins v. State, 320 S.W.3d 273, 279 (Tenn. 2010) (citing 1984 Tenn. Pub. Acts, ch. 972, §§ 1, 5(a) (codified as amended at Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-301(a), -305(1) (2020 & Supp. 2021))). When the legislature created the Claims Commission, it also created the Division of Claims and Risk Management[8] in order to facilitate informal settlement of claims against the State.[9]Currently, both are housed within the Department of Treasury.

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This Court has summarized the process of giving initial written notice of a claim to the Division of Claims and Risk Management and filing a complaint with the Claims Commission:

The Claims Commission Act sets forth a structure designed to afford the State ample opportunity to resolve a claim administratively, without the need for a lawsuit. Thus, it requires a written notice with basic information about the claim, and provides that the applicable statute of limitations is tolled by the filing of the notice. Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-402. The Act then gives the Division of Claims a "ninety-day settlement period" in which it is to investigate the claim and "make every effort" to either honor or deny it. Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-402(c). If the Division decides to honor the claim, the statute addresses its efforts to settle with the claimant. Id. If the claim is either honored or denied within the 90-day "settlement period," the claimant is informed of his right to file a claim with the Claims Commission. However, if it is neither honored nor denied during the settlement period, the claim is automatically transferred to the administrative clerk of the Claims Commission for adjudication. Id.
. . . [I]f the matter is not settled during the 90-day settlement period and is transferred to the Claims Commission's administrative clerk, the Claims Commission regulations provide that the claimant "shall file a complaint . . . ." Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0310-01-01-.01(2)(d)(3). Thus, under the Claims Commission Act and the accompanying regulations, the written notice and the complaint serve different functions. The written notice triggers a protected 90-day "settlement period" designed to facilitate the resolution of claims without litigation. The State is neither expected nor required to file an answer to the notice of the claim, and the claimant is not entitled to discovery during the protected settlement period. To adjudicate the claim, the notice alone will not suffice; the claimant must also file a complaint that complies with Rules 8 and 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

Moreno v. City of Clarksville, 479 S.W.3d 795, 804-05 (Tenn. 2015) (footnote and some citations omitted).

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