If a Tennessee Plaintiff Fails to State a Valid Claim, a Defendant may be Awarded Attorney Fees

Way back in April 2011, I previewed a new law being considered by the Tennessee legislature, which would provide for recovery of attorney fees to a party who could quickly get its opponent’s lawsuit dismissed for failure to state a claim, notwithstanding the lack of a written contract between the parties that provided for that relief.

I guess this is old news at this point, but here’s the full citation.

As enacted in July 2012, the law can be found at Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-12-119(c)(1), which provides in part that:

Notwithstanding subsection (a) or (b), in a civil proceeding, where a trial court grants a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court shall award the party or parties against whom the dismissed claims were pending at the time the successful motion to dismiss was granted the costs and reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees incurred in the proceedings as a consequence of the dismissed claims by that party or parties. The awarded costs and fees shall be paid by the party or parties whose claim or claims were dismissed as a result of the granted motion to dismiss.

This, obviously, is a powerful tool to attack meritless claims that fail to state a cause of action under Tennessee law. But, a party seeking relief under this statute must act fast. The statute requires that the motion seeking this relief be filed within sixty (60) days after the moving party received service of the latest complaint, counter-complaint or cross-complaint in which that dismissed claim was made.

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