Dispute over COVID Vaccine Rendered Moot in Nashville, Tennessee Parenting Dispute: Lee v. Boyett

May 15, 2023 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

Facts: Father and Mother are the divorced parents of two children, and they share joint decision-making authority for the children’s nonemergency healthcare decisions.

Previously, both parents agreed for the children to stay up to date on their vaccinations.

But they disagreed about whether the children should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Mother wanted the children to be vaccinated as soon as possible, and Father did not want them to receive the vaccine at all.

At an impasse, Mother filed a motion asking the trial court to allow the children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

After a hearing, the trial court ruled that the children faced serious risk from the COVID-19 virus, so vaccinating them constituted an emergency healthcare decision under the parenting plan. The children were ordered to be vaccinated as soon as possible. To ensure swift compliance with its ruling, the trial court ordered Father to surrender custody to Mother and suspended Father’s parenting time until the children received the first dose of the vaccine.

Later that same day, Father filed his appeal along with a motion for an emergency stay pending appeal, which the Court of Appeals denied.

Both children then received the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot.

The Court found the appeal was not justiciable because it was rendered moot by the children receiving the vaccine:

Before reaching the issues raised by Father and Mother on appeal, we must first consider whether this case remains justiciable given postjudgment facts. For this Court to render an opinion, we must be faced with a genuine and existing controversy. A case must remain justiciable from the time it is filed until the moment of final appellate review. A moot case is no longer justiciable because it has lost its character as a present, live controversy and no longer serves as a means to provide relief to the prevailing party. Mootness can result from a court decision, acts of the parties, or some other reason occurring after commencement of the case. Determining whether a case is moot presents a question of law.

We conclude that this case is moot. We can no longer provide relief to Father. Father appealed the trial court’s order directing both Son and Daughter to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He asks this Court to vacate the trial court’s order and remand the case for “appropriate proceedings.” Yet while this appeal was pending, Son received both doses of the vaccine, and Daughter received her first dose. Because both children have already received the vaccine, a ruling by this Court would have no practical effect.

The Court dismissed the appeal as moot.

K.O.’s Comment: This is a “memorandum opinion,” which means it may not be published, cited, or relied upon for any reason in any unrelated case. For this reason, I do not normally write about memorandum opinions. I did so here because this case illustrates a common application of the mootness doctrine in family-law disputes. This is something readers of this blawg need to be aware of. I’m not saying this case needs to be published, but it should not be relegated to “memorandum opinion” status. The Court should use that designation sparingly and only with opinions that have absolutely no application outside the case at hand. This is not such a case.

Source: Lee v. Boyett (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, April 28, 2023).

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Dispute over COVID Vaccine Rendered Moot in Nashville, Tennessee Parenting Dispute: Lee v. Boyett was last modified: May 7th, 2023 by K.O. Herston

1 people reacted on this

  1. Well, that’s a pretty scary “non-precedent”. Coming next to a court near you are going to be the cases where the State has custody.

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