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Tennessee Human Rights Act

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CaseLarry Sneed v. The City of Red Bank

Issue:  Does the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act apply to claims brought against a municipality pursuant to the Tennessee Human Rights Act?

Facts:  Larry Sneed was discharged as Chief of Police for Red Bank and filed suit against several city officials as well as the city of Red Bank. Mr. Sneed alleged violations of the Tennessee Human Rights Act and the Tennessee Public Protection Act and requested a jury trial on both claims. Red Bank filed a motion to transfer from chancery court to circuit court and asked to proceed without a jury trial pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act. The trial court granted the transfer and ordered the case be tried without a jury on the Tennessee Public Protection Act claim, but held that the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act did not preclude a jury trial on the Tennessee Human Rights Act claim.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court reversed the trial court and held that in the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act applies to claims brought against a municipality pursuant to the Tennessee Human Rights Act, thereby requiring the claim be tried in circuit court without the intervention of a jury

Review Granted:  November 12, 2013.  The court also granted a motion to file an amicus brief by the Tennessee Employment Lawyers Association.

Prediction:  David thinks the supreme court is likely to affirm. As the intermediate court explained, the doctrine of sovereign immunity applies only to governmental entities and a distinction between a private citizen and a governmental entity is necessary. Unless an act specifically provides otherwise, the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act governs claims brought against a governmental entity.