Law of the Case Doctrine

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Opinions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Allen v. American Yeast Inc., No. W2021-00956-COA-R3-CV, p. 7-8 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 15, 2023).

As this Court has previously discussed concerning a trial court’s responsibility on remand:

After a case has been appealed, a trial court does not reacquire jurisdiction over the case until it receives a mandate from the appellate court. Once the mandate reinvests the trial court’s jurisdiction over a case, the case stands in the same posture it did before the appeal except insofar as the trial court’s judgment has been changed or modified by the appellate court. 215 Tenn. 485, 497, 387 S.W.2d 781, 786 (1965). The appellate court’s opinion becomes the law of the case, Tenn.App. 582, 786, 442 S.W.2d 661, 662-63(1967), foreclosing and excluding any complaint, constitutional or otherwise, as to the issues addressed and decided in the appellate court’s opinion. 735 S.W.2d 464, 469 (Tenn.Ct.App.1987). Thus, the trial court does not have the authority to modify or revise the appellate court’s opinion, McDade v. McDade, 487 S.W.2d 659, 663 (Tenn.Ct.App.1972), or to expand the proceedings beyond the remand order. 735 S.W.2d at 470. The trial court’s sole responsibility is to carefully comply with directions in the appellate court’s opinion. 215 Tenn. at 497-98, 387 S.W.2d at 786-87.

Earls v. Earls, No. M1999-00035-COA-R3-CV, 2001 WL 504905, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 14, 2001) (internal footnote omitted). The law of the case doctrine “promotes the finality and efficiency of the judicial process, avoids indefinite relitigation of the same issue, fosters consistent results in the same litigation, and assures the obedience of lower courts to the decisions of appellate courts.” Memphis Publ’g Co. v. Tenn. Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Bd., 975 S.W.2d 303, 306 (Tenn. 1998).

Joshlin v. Halford, No.W2020-01643-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 6, 2023).

“[W]hen an initial appeal results in a remand to the trial court, the decision of the appellate court establishes the law of the case which generally must be followed upon remand by the trial court, and by an appellate court if a second appeal is taken from the judgment of the trial court entered after remand.” Memphis Publ’g Co. v. Tenn. Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Bd., 975 S.W.2d 303, 306 (Tenn. 1998). Thus, “under the law of the case doctrine, an appellate court’s decision on an issue of law is binding in later trials and appeals of the same case if the facts on the second trial or appeal are substantially the same as the facts in the first trial or appeal.” Id. Simply put, “a court will generally refuse to reconsider an issue that has already been decided by the same court in the same case.” In re Neveah W., 525 S.W.3d 223, 236 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017). There are limited circumstances when redetermination of a previously decided issue may be justified, see id., but Plaintiffs do not argue that any of those exceptions exist here. As such, we decline to reconsider the issues already decided by this Court in Joshlin I.


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