Violation of a Tennessee Procedural Rule Results in Litigant Losing Her Right to an Appeal

Tennessee courts are serious about their procedural rules. In part, this is because the Tennessee civil court system hears hundreds of thousands of cases a year. In an effort to ensure the orderly administration of justice, the courts have implemented a series of procedural rules that litigants are required to follow. When litigants do not follow these rules, they risk losing very important trial rights that may result in a forgone opportunity.

car-crash-274334-mPeterson v. Lepard: Failure to File an Appeal

In a recent case in front of the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Jackson, a plaintiff lost her right to an appeal because she failed to file a timely notice of appeal. The facts of the case are as follows: Peterson was hit by another car that was being pulled over by the police. Peterson named 3 defendants in total, the police and two other drivers who were involved in the collision. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the case for “failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The court granted the defendants’ motion and dismissed the case.

Peterson disagreed with the court’s ruling and wanted to appeal the judgment. However, Peterson failed to follow two procedural rules implemented by the court: (1) She did not pay the standard court costs for an appeal from General Sessions Court; and (2) she did not submit a surety bond to secure the costs of the appeal within ten days after the entry of the General Sessions Court’s judgment.

The Court of Appeals Affirms the Trial Court’s Dismissal

The court of appeals held that Peterson filed her appeal too late and that she waived her right to appeal the result. The court pointed to a rule that required “an appeal from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court must be perfected within ten days after entry of the General Sessions Court’s judgment.” Because Peterson failed to do so (she actually filed the necessary paperwork and paid the fine just one day late), the lower court actually didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case at all. The court noted that “the requirement of a bond in order to perfect an appeal from an inferior court to the circuit court is not a formality. The appeal is not perfected without it.”

Without a perfected appeal, there is no jurisdiction. And without jurisdiction, a court cannot enter a legally binding order. Therefore, dismissal of Peterson’s appeal was appropriate.

Are You Considering Bringing a Tennessee Personal Injury Action?

If you have recently been involved in an accident and are considering filing a Tennessee personal injury cause of action, you should speak to an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney. In too many cases, litigants end up forfeiting their rights due to sloppy legal work. At Matt Hardin Law, the diligent and professional attorney work hard to ensure that your case is handled with the utmost importance. With years of experienced in Tennessee personal injury law, Matt Hard Law has the experience you need to recover for your personal injury claim. Click here, or call 615-200-1111 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court of Appeals Decision Further Defines Landowner Liability When Land Is Being Used for Recreational Activity, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published March 17, 2014.

Tennessee Court of Appeals Opinion Explains How to Allocate Responsibility in Negligence Cases, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published March 31, 2014.

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