Davidson County General Sessions Court (also known as “small claims” court) is the wild, wild west of our local courts. Things move fast, many parties are not represented by lawyers, and there are dozens of cases on each docket. Because the jurisdiction of General Sessions goes up to $25,000 (sometimes more) and a creditor can get a judgment in as little as a month, I file a number of my Nashville creditor lawsuits there.
The prevailing party usually writes up his own judgment, and, in the rush of cases, the judgment may sometimes include a clerical error, either in the name of the parties, the computation of the amount of the judgment, or other terms. When there’s an error, the party has the right to appeal the whole thing under Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-5-108, but the best practice is to move to correct the “clerical error” in the judgment under Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-15-727.
The application of that statute was discussed in a Tennessee Attorney General Opinion (No. 04-090, May 10, 2044), applying Rule 60.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure applies in Sessions Courts.
Interestingly, the Opinion says that a litigant can only “correct” a “clerical error” in a judgment, and expressly stops short of any relief that a litigant might have under Rule 59 to “alter or amend” a judgment. This means that alleged errors on a point of law are not in the same category as clerical errors and cannot be changed.
So, if you get back to your office and realize you’ve written the wrong amount on the Judgment–or the wrong responsible party–you’ve got relief. Rule 60.01 does not contain a time limitation, and corrections may be made at any time upon the court’s initiative or upon motion of either party. Parties whose rights may be modified by the correction must be given notice of the Motion. Decisions to correct are within the discretion of the Judge. Obvious errors are usually corrected.