Real Estate Law - What is required to establish a slander of title claim under Tennessee Law?

Posted on Jan 2 2013 10:34PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The Tennessee Court of Appeals in David Paczko v. SunTrust Mortgages, Inc., No. M2011-02528-COA-R3-CV, 2012 WL 4450896 (Tenn. Ct. App. September 25, 2012) discussed the requirements for a slander of title claim as well as the related claim to quiet title.  This case involved a dispute over the plaintiff’s property that was foreclosed against by the defendants.  The plaintiff sought to enjoin the bank from going forward with the foreclosure proceeding and to clear the title. Paczko at 1. 


The court found that in order to be successful with a claim for slander of title, the plaintiff must establish the following:

(1) that the [plaintiff] has an interest in the property, (2) that the defendant published false statements about the title to the property, (3) that the defendant was acting maliciously, and (4) that the false statements proximately caused the plaintiff a pecuniary loss.

Paczko at 3.  (citing Brooks v. Lambert, 15 S.W.3d 482, 484 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999)).  The court further noted that in order to bring an action to quiet title, the plaintiff must “have an interest in the property at issue."  Once the interest in the property ceases, the plaintiff no longer has a justiciable claim for an action to quiet title. Paczko at 3.


In this case the court found that because the plaintiffs acknowledged the property was foreclosed upon and sold during the pendency of the lawsuit and they were not seeking to recover the property, they no longer had an interest in the property. Paczko at 3.  The fact the case was justiciable and able to be decided by the court when the lawsuit was filed does not mean that the court still has jurisdiction over the case once the plaintiff lost possession of the property. Paczko at 3.  The court noted that "cases must be justiciable not only when they are first filed but must also remain justiciable throughout the entire course of the litigation, including the appeal."  Paczko at 3. (citing McIntyre v. Traughber, 884 S.W.2d 134, 137 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1994)).  Since the plaintiff no longer had an interest in the property and that was a required element of their claim, the claims for slander of title and to quiet title were moot and could not be decided by the court. 


This case is important to consider when the original basis for a lawsuit is no longer present at some point during the pendency of the suit.  Just because the plaintiff had a valid cause of action at the beginning of the suit does not mean that the cause of action remains viable if there is a material change to an essential component of the claim.

TAGS: Defenses, Real Estate, Civil Procedure, Slander/Libel
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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