Selected Decisions From Mr. Vowell’s Work on Appeal

Sherwood v. Tennessee Valley Authority (Second Appeal)

Sherwood v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 842 F.3d 400 (6th Cir. 2016)

Although TVA announced that it had suspended the 15-foot rule, and reverted to its prior practices after the first appeal, it really didn’t. It really kept right on clear-cutting the right-of-way, eliminating the buffer zones and cutting down virtually all of the trees in the right-of-way, including vast numbers of 50-100-year-old trees, even after announcing that it had stopped. Unfortunately, the trial court accepted TVA’s assurances in spite of vast evidence to the contrary, and dismissed the case, necessitating a second appeal. In the second appeal, Mr. Vowell again won reversal, forcing TVA to really suspend the 15-foot rule, and forcing TVA to agree to make the required environmental impact statement before it would re-implement the 15-foot rule or any other policy that would remove the buffer zones and other trees in the right-of-way.

Currence v. Harrogate Energy

Currence v. Harrogate Energy, LLC, 2015 WL 2257229 (Tenn. App. 2015)

A landowner re-established his fee simple ownership of mineral interests on his property in middle Tennessee. Mr. Vowell preserved the trial court win on appeal.

Sherwood v. Tennessee Valley Authority (First Appeal)

Sherwood v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 590 F.Appx. 451 (6th Cir. 2014)

In 2011 TVA implemented what it called the 15-foot rule through which it would remove virtually all of the millions of trees in its 15,900 mile right-of-way, including the elimination of its historic buffer zones on the edges of the right-of-way, including vast numbers of 50-100-year-old trees, for the first time in its 76-year history, without preparing an environmental impact statement. The 15-foot rule wreaked havoc, ruining the property of thousands of landowners and leaving a massive zone of destruction and erosion. The District Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ challenge to this unlawful activity, and the Plaintiffs, represented by Mr. Vowell, appealed and won, forcing TVA to announce that it was suspending the 15-foot rule and reverting to its prior practices. This was a monumental victory for the Plaintiffs which would have preserved thousands of landowners’ property and would have saved millions of trees from senseless destruction.

Buhl/Meighan v. U. S. Sprint Communications Company

Buhl v. Sprint, 840 S.W.2d 904 (Tenn. 1992), Meighan v. Sprint, 924 S.W.2d 632 (Tenn. 1996), Meighan v. Sprint, 942 S.W.2d 476 (Tenn. 1997)

Mr. Vowell filed this class action in 1988 seeking compensation for thousands of Tennessee landowners after Sprint unlawfully took their land to install its fiber optics cable as part of its nationwide fiber optics network. After winning three appeals to the Tennessee Supreme Court, and one to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the case was settled in 2014, 26 years after it was filed. The first appeal established the cause of action and ended with an order that Sprint would be required to pay the landowners for unlawfully taking their land. The second appeal established the viability of the case as a class action. The third appeal shook off the efforts of a nationwide class action group to steal the case. See more just below.

Smith v. Sprint Communications Company

Smith v. Sprint Communications Company, 387 F. 3d 612 (7th Cir. 2004)

After Mr. Vowell won the third appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court in Buhl/Meighan v. Sprint (see just above), plaintiffs’ attorneys all over the country began filing similar class actions against all of the major fiber optics companies, more than 80 cases in all. At that point, Sprint, Qwest, WilTel, Level 3, and MCI WorldCom attempted to settle all of the fiber optics right-of-way litigation in the country by means of a collusive settlement agreement with an extremely cooperative group of plaintiffs’ lawyers, a settlement in which the landowners would receive essentially nothing. The settlement was approved by the United States District Court in Chicago, and Mr. Vowell and co-counsel appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which reversed the settlement, leaving the Tennessee plaintiffs free to pursue their cases in their cases in Tennessee. The defendants then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which Mr. Vowell successfully defended, preserving the reversal. The cases were then settled.

Moore v. City of Harriman

Moore v. City of Harriman, et al., 272 F.3d 769, 51 Fed.R.Serv.3d 641 (6th Cir. 2001) (en banc)

Five City of Harriman police officers dragged a citizen of Harriman out of his car and assaulting him with Mace after they refused to leave his yard in the middle of the night and he said that he was going to get the mayor. The United States District Court dismissed the case. Mr. Vowell, representing the citizen, appealed, and won reversal in the Sixth Circuit. The case was then heard by the en banc panel of the Sixth Circuit (all thirteen judges), which affirmed the reversal. The case was notable for its 25 page dissenting opinion, which listed some 161 cases that were overruled by the decision. After the en banc panel handed down its decision, the City filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which Mr. Vowell successfully defended, preserving the reversal.

Spangler v. Lockheed Martin

Spangler v. Lockheed Martin, 313 F.3d 356 (6th Cir. 2002)

Mr. Vowell won reversal of the trial court’s dismissal of this federal disability case. The Sixth Circuit held that the employer’s decision to terminate the disability benefits was arbitrary and capricious, and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the Plaintiff.

Womack v. Gettelfinger Farms

Womack v. Gettelfinger Farms, 808 F.2d 446 (6th Cir. 1986) 

Mr. Vowell won reversal of a $1,250,000 punitive damages award against a trucking company.

Selected Appellate Decisions

  • Currence v. Harrogate Energy, LLC, 2015 WL 2257229 (Tenn. App. 2015)
  • Sherwood v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 590 Fed. Appx. 451, 2014 WL 5368863 (6th Cir. 2014)
  • In re Estate of Schorn, 359 S.W.3d 192 (Tenn. App. 2011)
  • Christenberry Trucking & Farm, Inc. v. F & M Mktg. Servs., Inc., 329 S.W.3d 452 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010)
  • Harmon v. Meek, 2008 WL 918513 (Tenn. App. 2008)
  • Ross v. Broadway Towers, Inc., 228 S.W.3d 113 (Tenn. App. 2006)
  • Chapman v. Bearfield, 2005 WL 1981796 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 16, 2005) aff’d and remanded, 207 S.W.3d 736 (Tenn. 2006)
  • Smith v. Sprint Communications Co., L.P., 387 F.3d 612 (7th Cir. 2004)
  • Keith v. Howerton and Easy Money, Inc., 165 S.W.3d 248 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004)
  • Keith v. Howerton and Easy Money Inc., No. E2002-00704-COA-R3CV, 2002 WL 31840683 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2002)
  • Keith v. Howerton and Easy Money, Inc., No. E200002703COAR3CV, 2001 WL 984913 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2001)
  • Keylon v. Hill, No. E200301054COAR3CV, 2003 WL 22927143 (Tenn. App. 2003)
  • Spangler v. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., 313 F.3d 356 (6th Cir. 2002)
  • Frye v. Frye, 80 S.W.3d 15 (Tenn. App. 2002)
  • Gabel v. Gabel, No. E2000-02585-COA-R3CV, 2001 WL 1089521 (Tenn. App. 2001)
  • Moore v. City of Harriman, 272 F.3d 769, 51 Fed.R.Serv.3d 641 (6th Cir. 2001) (en banc)
  • Moore v. City of Harriman, 218 F.3d 551 (6th Cir. 2000)
  • National Gas Distributors v. Sevier County Utility District, 7 S.W.3d 41 (Tenn. App. 1999)
  • Keister v. Lewis, No. 03A01-9807-CH-00225, 1999 WL 76063 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 28, 1999)
  • Meighan v. Sprint, 942 S.W.2d 476 (Tenn. 1997)
  • Pratt v. Smart Corp., 968 S.W.2d 868 (Tenn. App. 1997)
  • Meighan v. Sprint, 924 S.W.2d 632 (Tenn. 1996)
  • Buhl v. Sprint, 840 S.W.2d 904 (Tenn. 1992)
  • National Gas Distributors v. State of Tennessee, 804 S.W.2d 66 (Tenn. 1991)
  • Clinton Seafood, Inc. v. Harrington, No. 1408, 1991 WL 50218 (Tenn. App. 1991)
  • Satterfield v. Satterfield, No. C.A. 1760, 1990 WL 130823 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 12, 1990)
  • Lloyd v. Hensley, No. C.A. 1156, 1988 WL 98740 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 26, 1988)
  • Daniel v. Hopson, No. CA 730, 1988 WL 1734 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 15, 1988)
  • Janzen v. Knox County Bd. of Educ., 790 F.2d 484 (6th Cir. 1986)
  • Ratcliffe v. Ratcliffe, 709 S.W.2d 609 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986)
  • Cox v. Cox, No. C/A 1061, 1986 WL 7434, (Tenn. App. 1986)
  • Womack v. Gettelfinger, 808 F.2d 446 (6th Cir. 1986)
  • Soldano v. Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp., 696 S.W.2d 887 (Tenn. 1985)
  • Knoxville Rod and Bearing v. Bettis Corporation, 672 S.W.2d 203 (Tenn. App. 1983)
  • Kelly v. Adroit, Inc., 480 F. Supp. 392 (E.D. Tenn. 1979), aff’d, 657 F.2d 267 (6th Cir. 1981)