The Tennessee Supreme Court does not have to review any personal injury case or wrongful death case. If a litigant is unsuccessful in the Court of Appeals, he or she can ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to consider the case, but the Court has absolute discretion over whether it will hear the case.
What are the odds that the Court will hear any personal injury or wrongful death case? Here are the numbers: For the year ended June 30, 2011, the Court was asked to consider 952 civil cases. Civil cases include personal injury cases include personal injury and wrongful death cases, divorce cases, contract cases, and all other types of cases other than criminal cases. How many cases did the Court accept? 54. So, in general the odds are about 1 in 19.
The Court looks for cases of important public interest and cases where the three divisions of the Court of Appeals have differing views on the law. The Court rarely takes cases where the only complaint is that the jury reached the wrong result. The Court lacks the resources to accept the appeal of all of the cases it would like to hear.
The bottom line is that the Tennessee Supreme Court can hear very few cases in a given year, and that most cases that are not settled out of court are won or lost at trial. Contrary to popular belief, the Court of Appeals rarely changes the result reached by juries on issues of fact and the chance that the Tennessee Supreme Court will change a jury verdict because it believes the jury got the facts wrong is even more rare.
Do you want to learn more about the litigation process. Our Legal Guide, "Understanding the Steps in the Litigation Process," can help