Mr. Vowell is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Specialist and has been since 1997. He has maintained a litigation practice based in Knoxville, Tennessee, since 1978, with 28 years of class action/complex litigation experience. His first major success on appeal came in 1986 when he won reversal of a $1,250,000 punitive damages award against a trucking company in the 6th Circuit. In a trilogy of decisions by the Tennessee Supreme Court he established the landowner’s right to just compensation when Sprint unlawfully took their land for its fiber-optics cable and then established their right to proceed in a class action. In 2004, in the 7th Circuit, he won reversal of a decision by the United States District Court (Chicago) that had approved a nation-wide settlement that would have destroyed the Tennessee fiber-optics class action litigation, with the Tennessee landowners receiving essentially nothing. In 2001 he argued before the 6th Circuit en banc and won reversal of the district court’s dismissal of a police brutality case. In 2014 and 2016, in the 6th Circuit, he won reversal of the district court’s decision forcing TVA to suspend its new policy of cutting down all of the millions of trees in its right-of-way, many of them 50-100 years old. In 2018, he won reversal of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, with a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court which re-stated the standard for the legality of exculpatory clauses. And in 2019, again before the Tennessee Supreme Court, he won reversal of the dismissal of a workers’ compensation action.
He grew up on a lumber yard in Martin, Tennessee, and graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1975 and the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1978. He is a 1996 graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College near Dubois, Wyoming. He lives in Knoxville with his wife, Mary Alice, their two children, José and Tono, their dog Snoopy and a bearded dragon named Dakota.
Note to Volunteer football fans: Mr. Vowell’s grandfather, Morris Vowell, played tackle on the U.T. football team and was named All Southern in 1916. He holds the Tennessee record for the second longest intercepted pass return (99 yards against Sewannee in 1916). He played side-by-side with his brother, Graham Vowell, who played end, and was also named All Southern, and was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.