Donovan v. HastingsAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals upholding that trial court's determination that the plaintiff homeowner's award of attorneys fees and costs under Tenn. Code Ann. 20-12-119(c) was limited to those incurred after the date the defendant contractor filed an amended countercomplaint, holding that the lower courts erred.
Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract for the renovation of a residence. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Defendant filed an amended countercomplaint asserting breach of contract. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims and then dismissed the countercomplaint. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the attorney fee and costs award granted by the trial court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's award of attorney fees and costs, holding that the fees and costs recoverable by Plaintiff in connection with the dismissal of Defendant’s breach of contract claim are not limited to those incurred after the amended countercomplaint was actually filed.
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal
We granted permission to appeal in this case to consider awards of attorney fees and costs after dismissal of a claim pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 20-12-119(c). The plaintiff homeowner entered into a contract with the defendant contractor. The homeowner sued the contractor, and the contractor filed a countercomplaint alleging breach of contract. After his motion to amend was granted, the contractor filed an amended countercomplaint asserting the same breach of contract claim with revised damages. The trial court later granted the homeowner’s motion to dismiss the countercomplaint for failure to state a claim. The homeowner then sought attorney fees and costs pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 20-12-119(c). The trial court granted the motion but excluded fees and costs incurred prior to the date the amended countercomplaint was filed. After the homeowner appealed the amount of attorney fees awarded, a split panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. On appeal, we hold that the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the homeowner’s award of attorney fees and costs under Tennessee Code Annotated 20-12-119(c) was limited to those incurred after the date the amended countercomplaint was filed. We reverse the Court of Appeals, vacate the trial court’s award, and remand to the trial court for reconsideration of the award of reasonable attorney fees and costs.