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§31.18 Government Ownership and Control of Property

The Case:  Turner v. City of Bean Station, No. E2013-02630-COA-R9-CV, 2014 WL 7414324 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2014).

The Basic Facts:  Plaintiff sued the city, among others, for injuries allegedly sustained while playing softball in a charity tournament. The city moved for summary judgment on the basis that it neither controlled nor owned the field, and that the GTLA therefore did not apply and the city was immune from suit. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed that decision and dismissed the case against the city.

The Bottom Line:

·         [The city presented evidence that the field in question was owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which had given the city a license to occupy and use the field as a recreational ball park. The city, in turn, leased the license to the local little league, and the little league oversaw the maintenance of the park and field. On the date of the alleged injury, the little league had “subleased” its license to the person running the charity tournament (another of the defendants in this case).] 2014 WL 7414324, at *1.


·         “[In Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-204(a), the GTLA removes governmental liability for] “any injury caused by the dangerous or defective condition of any public building, structure, . . . or other public improvement owned and controlled by [a] governmental entity.”  [To prove a premises liability claim under the GTLA claim, then, a plaintiff must show that the governmental entity both owns and controls the location where the injury occurred.] Id. at *2.


·         “[Through affidavits, discovery, and exhibits, the city showed that it neither owned the ball field in question nor did it control its upkeep and maintenance, and under the GTLA plaintiff would have had to prove both. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that] the City has demonstrated that plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of his premises liability claim…. Consequently, the GTLA does not remove the City’s governmental immunity.” Id. at *4.


After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

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