§69.2 Acts or Omission of State Employees

The Case: Younger v. State , 205 S.W.3d 494 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006).

The Basic Facts: An inmate in a prison operated by a private company, CCA, filed a claim against the State for medical malpractice pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307.

The Bottom Line:

  • "Mr. Younger brought his claim before the Commission under T.C.A. § 9-8-307 (Supp. 2005), which sets out the jurisdiction of the Claims Commission and provides, in relevant part, as follows:
    (a)(1) The commission or each commissioner sitting individually has exclusive jurisdiction to determine all monetary claims against the state based on the acts or omissions of 'state employees,' as defined in § 8‑42‑101(3), falling within one (1) or more of the following categories:

    (D) Legal or medical malpractice by a state employee; provided, that the state employee has a professional/client relationship with the claimant."
    205 S.W.3d at 498.
  • "T.C.A. § 8‑42‑101(3)(A) (Supp. 2005) defines a 'state employee,' in relevant part, as:
    'State employee' means any person who is a state official, including members of the general assembly and legislative officials elected by the general assembly, or any person who is employed in the service of and whose compensation is payable by the state, or any person who is employed by the state whose compensation is paid in whole or in part from federal funds, but does not include any person employed on a contractual or percentage basis."
    Id .
  • "In the instant case, the State provides the Affidavit of Donna White. As set out above, this Affidavit indicates that none of the medical aid rendered to Mr. Younger was administered by an employee of the State. Rather, each of these individuals was an employee of an independent contractor. Mr. Younger provides no evidence to contradict Ms. White's assertions." Id. at 498-99.
  • "This Court has previously held that CCA employees are not state employees. See Martin v. State, No. M1999‑01642‑COA‑R3‑CV, 2001 WL 747640 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 5, 2001). The Martin Court noted that, under the Private Prison Contract Act of 1986 (as codified at T.C.A. §41-24-107(b)), the sovereign immunity of the State does not apply to private contractors, such as the CCA. Martin, at *2. The Martin Court specifically stated that, '[w]here the acts complained of were not committed by state employees, the State enjoys sovereign immunity.' Consequently, as the Commission correctly found, the proper defendant for negligence claims arising from the action of private contractors, or their employees, in operating correctional facilities is the contractor, and not the State. See also Greer v. Corrections Corp. of America, No. 01A01‑9604‑CH‑00150, 1996 WL 697942, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 6, 1996) (no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed)." Id. at 499.

Other Sources of Note: Williams v. State , 139 S.W.3d 308 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004) (holding that court-appointed attorney who represented defendant in a criminal trial was not a "state employee" within the scope of the statute governing jurisdiction of Claims Commission to preside over suits against the State).

Recent Cases: Smith v. State , No. E2007-00809-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 699062 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 17, 2008) (concluding that the evidence does not preponderate against the Claims Commission's findings that the State negligently created or maintained a dangerous condition on state-controlled property due to improper lighting in parking garage, that the attack on the plaintiff was foreseeable, and that the State had adequate notice of the dangerous condition).

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.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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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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