Legal Information: Tennessee

Statutes: Tennessee

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Updated: 
May 9, 2019

29-41-107. Pre-filing restrictions; applications for permission to institute civil action

(a) Except as provided in this section, a person whom a court of record has determined to be an abusive civil action plaintiff and against whom prefiling restrictions have been imposed is prohibited from instituting a civil action against the abusive civil action defendant for the period of time the prefiling restrictions are in effect, or from continuing a civil action that was instituted against the same civil action defendant prior to the date the person was determined to be an abusive civil action plaintiff.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) and consistent with the Constitution of Tennessee, Article I, § 17, an abusive civil action plaintiff against whom prefiling restrictions have been imposed may seek permission to file a civil action using the procedure set out in subsection (c).

(c)(1) An abusive civil action plaintiff against whom prefiling restrictions have been imposed pursuant to this chapter who wishes to institute a civil action in a court of record during the time the abusive civil action plaintiff is under filing restrictions must first appear before the judge who imposed the prefiling restrictions to make application for permission to institute the civil action.

(2)(A) The judge may examine witnesses, including the abusive civil action plaintiff and the civil action defendant, to determine if the proposed civil action is or is not an abusive civil action and if there are reasonable and legitimate grounds upon which the complaint is based.

(B) There is a rebuttable presumption that any proposed civil action is an abusive civil action if any of the defendants in the proposed action were civil action defendants in one (1) or more of the actions that were the basis for the person being declared an abusive civil action plaintiff.

(3)(A) If the judge who imposed the prefiling restrictions believes that the civil action the abusive civil action plaintiff is making application to file will be an abusive civil action, the application shall be denied and the judge shall determine a time when the person may next make application to file a civil action.

(B) If the judge reasonably believes that the civil action the abusive civil action plaintiff is making application to file will not be an abusive civil action, the judge may grant the application and issue an order permitting the filing of the civil action. The order shall be attached to the front of the complaint when the abusive civil action plaintiff files the civil action with the clerk. The defendant to the action shall be served with a copy of the order at the same time the complaint is served.

(4) The findings of the judge shall be reduced to writing and made a part of record in the matter. If the abusive civil action plaintiff disputes the finding of the judge, the abusive civil action plaintiff may appeal to the presiding judge of the judicial district of the sanctioning judge. If the sanctioning judge is the presiding judge, the presiding judge shall randomly select two (2) other judges of courts of record in the judicial district to review the findings of the sanctioning judge. If there are not two (2) other judges in the judicial district available, the presiding judge may select a judge from an adjoining judicial district to review the findings. If the presiding judge or both reviewing other judges believe that the civil action the person is making application to file is not an abusive civil action, the findings of the sanctioning judge are overruled and both judges shall sign an order permitting the filing of the action. The order shall be entered and attached to the complaint and the defendant shall be served with a copy of the order at the same time the complaint is served.

(d) If the application for the filing of a civil action is granted pursuant to this section, the period of time commencing with the filing of the application requesting permission to file the action and ending with the issuance of an order permitting filing of the action shall not be computed as a part of an applicable period of limitations within which the civil action must be instituted.

(e) If after an abusive civil action plaintiff has made application and been granted permission to file a civil action pursuant to this section, the judge with jurisdiction over the action determines that the person is attempting to add parties, amend the complaint, or is otherwise attempting to alter the parties and issues involved in the civil action in a manner that the judge reasonably believes would make the action an abusive civil action, the judge may order a continuance or nonsuit of the action and return it to the presiding judge for further disposition.

(f)(1) If a civil action defendant is served with a complaint from an abusive civil action plaintiff who filed a civil action in a judicial district in which the person has not been determined to be an abusive civil action plaintiff, and the complaint does not have an attached order from the judge who imposed the prefiling restrictions, the civil action defendant may obtain a certified copy of the order finding the person to be an abusive civil action plaintiff in another jurisdiction and send it to the judge where the new civil action was filed and the judge who imposed the prefiling restrictions.

(2) If it is brought to the attention of the court, or on the court's own motion, that a person against whom prefiling restrictions have been imposed has filed a civil action or continued a legal proceeding in the sanctioning judge's judicial district, or in another judicial district, without application to do so being granted by the sanctioning judge pursuant to this section, or the abusive civil action plaintiff has attempted to file an action through another party, the court in which the civil action is pending shall dismiss the action or revoke the continuance. The sanctioning judge may take whatever action against the abusive civil action plaintiff deemed necessary for a violation of the court's order.

(3) If an abusive civil action plaintiff against whom prefiling restrictions have been imposed files a civil action and the order granting permission to file the action is not attached to the complaint or served on the defendant, the defendant is under no obligation or duty to respond to the complaint, answer interrogatories, appear for depositions, or any other responsive action required by rule or statute in a civil action.

(g) If the judge who imposed the prefiling restrictions is no longer serving in the same capacity in the same judicial district where the restrictions were placed, any other judge in that judicial district may perform the review required and permitted by this section.