Pleading, Discovery, and Pretrial Motion Practice (excluding Motions in Limine)

Stay, Motion to

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

Opinions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Opinions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals


Wilder v. Wilder, No. E2022-00990-COA-R3-CV, p. 6-8 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 27, 2023). 

Our review is de novo upon the record, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact of the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Bogan v. Bogan, 60 S.W.3d 721, 727 (Tenn. 2001). A trial court’s conclusions of law are subject to a de novo review with no presumption of correctness. S. Constructors, Inc. v. Loudon Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 58 S.W.3d 706, 710 (Tenn. 2001). Regarding the factors that courts consider in ruling on a motion to continue, we have stated:

“Decisions regarding continuances are fact-specific” and “motions for a continuance should be viewed in the context of all the circumstances existing when the motion is filed.” Nagarajan v. Terry, 151 S.W.3d 166, 172 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003). This Court has held that the party seeking a continuance carries the burden to prove the circumstances that justify the continuance. Osagie v. Peakload Temporary Services, 91 S.W.3d 326, 329 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002). In order to meet this burden, the moving party must supply some “strong excuse” for postponing the trial date. Barber & McMurry, Inc. v. Top-Flite Development Corp. Inc., 720 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986) (citing Levitt & Co. v. Kriger, 6 Tenn. App. 323 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1927)). Factors relevant to the trial court’s decision include: “(1) the length of time the proceeding has been pending, (2) the reason for the continuance, (3) the diligence of the party seeking the continuance, and (4) the prejudice to the requesting party if the continuance is not granted.” Nagarajan, 151 S.W.3d at 172.

Howell v. Ryerkerk, 372 S.W.3d 576, 580-81 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012) (footnote omitted). A trial court’s decision on a motion to continue is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. Id. at 579 (citations omitted). Likewise, a trial court’s decision to permit or deny the withdrawal of counsel is discretionary. Banks v. Univ. of Tenn., No. M2017-01358- COA-R3-CV, 2018 WL 3621082, at *7 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 30, 2018), perm. app. denied Jan. 17, 2019.

In Lee Med., Inc. v. Beecher, 312 S.W.3d 515 (Tenn. 2010), the Tennessee Supreme Court discussed the abuse of discretion standard at length, stating:

The abuse of discretion standard of review envisions a less rigorous review of the lower court’s decision and a decreased likelihood that the decision will be reversed on appeal. Beard v. Bd. of Prof’l Responsibility, 288 S.W.3d 838, 860 (Tenn. 2009); State ex rel. Jones v. Looper, 86 S.W.3d 189, 193 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000). It reflects an awareness that the decision being reviewed involved a choice among several acceptable alternatives.Overstreet v. Shoney’s, Inc., 4 S.W.3d 694, 708 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999). Thus, it does not permit reviewing courts to second-guess the court below, White v. Vanderbilt Univ., 21 S.W.3d 215, 223 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999), or to substitute their discretion for the lower court’s, Henry v. Goins, 104 S.W.3d 475, 479 (Tenn. 2003); Myint v. Allstate Ins. Co., 970 S.W.2d 920, 927 (Tenn. 1998). The abuse of discretion standard of review does not, however, immunize a lower court’s decision from any meaningful appellate scrutiny. Boyd v. Comdata Network, Inc., 88 S.W.3d 203, 211 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002).

Discretionary decisions must take the applicable law and the relevant facts into account. Konvalinka v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hosp. Auth., 249 S.W.3d 346, 358 (Tenn. 2008); Ballard v. Herzke, 924 S.W.2d 652, 661 (Tenn. 1996). An abuse of discretion occurs when a court strays beyond the applicable legal standards or when it fails to properly consider the factors customarily used to guide the particular discretionary decision. State v. Lewis, 235 S.W.3d 136, 141 (Tenn. 2007). A court abuses its discretion when it causes an injustice to the party challenging the decision by (1) applying an incorrect legal standard, (2) reaching an illogical or unreasonable decision, or (3) basing its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence. State v. Ostein, 293 S.W.3d 519, 526 (Tenn. 2009); Konvalinka v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hosp. Auth., 249 S.W.3d at 358; Doe 1 ex rel. Doe 1 v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville, 154 S.W.3d at 42.

To avoid result-oriented decisions or seemingly irreconcilable precedents, reviewing courts should review a lower court’s discretionary decision to determine (1) whether the factual basis for the decision is properly supported by evidence in the record, (2) whether the lower court properly identified and applied the most appropriate legal principles applicable to the decision, and (3) whether the lower court’s decision was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions. Flautt & Mann v. Council of Memphis, 285 S.W.3d 856, 872-73 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008) (quoting BIF, a Div. of Gen. Signal Controls, Inc. v. Service Constr. Co., No. 87-136-II, 1988 WL 72409, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 13, 1988) (No Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed)). When called upon to review a lower court’s discretionary decision, the reviewing court should review the underlying factual findings using the preponderance of the evidence standard contained in Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d) and should review the lower court’s legal determinations de novo without any presumption of correctness. Johnson v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., 146 S.W.3d 600, 604 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004); Boyd v. Comdata Network, Inc., 88 S.W.3d at 212.

Beecher, 312 S.W.3d at 524-25.

Waddell v. Waddell, No. W2020-00220-COA-R3-CV, p. 25 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 14, 2023).

We review a trial court’s ruling on a motion for continuance under an abuse of discretion standard. See Sliger v. Sliger, 181 S.W.3d 684, 687 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005).

Grose v. Kustoff, No. W2021-00427-COA-R3-CV, p. 9 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 29, 2022).

Moreover, with respect to such motions, our Supreme Court has explained that questions of stay or continuance are matters entrusted to the sounddiscretion of the trial judge. See Blake v. Plus Mark, Inc., 952 S.W.2d 413, – 415 (Tenn. 1997). An appellate court cannot interfere with the trial court’s decision unless such decision constitutes an abuse of discretion and causes prejudice to the party seeking the stay or continuance. Id.; see also Rachels v. Steele, 633 S.W.2d 473, 475 (Tenn. App. 1981).

Sanjines v. Ortwein & Assoc., P.C., 984 S.W.2d at 909.


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