Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/16/2017
Format: 08/16/2017
Latisia Upshaw v. Sunrise Community Of Tennessee, Inc.
E2016-01005-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

This appeal concerns a claim of retaliatory discharge. After a trial before a jury, judgment was entered against the defendant employer. The plaintiff was awarded $225,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. The employer appeals. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/16/17
In Re Estate of Charles Edward Fant, III
W2016-02498-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

This is a will contest. The affidavit attached to the purported will was signed, in the presence of the testator, by two witnesses. At the hearing on the will contest, both witnesses and the notary public testified as to the validity of signatures on the purported will. The trial court held that the will and accompanying affidavit were not in strict compliance with the statute and denied admission of the will to probate. On appeal, the proponent of the purported will argues that the will satisfied the recent statutory requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-104(b) such that the signatures of both witnesses were integrated into the will. Concluding that the witnesses’ signatures were integrated into the will pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-104(b), and that the other statutory requirements were met, we reverse the trial court’s ruling.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/15/17
Sue Ann Templeton v. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District
W2016-02419-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment in a Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”) premises liability case. Appellant was exiting Jackson-Madison County General Hospital/Appellee when she was hit by an automatic door, fell, and sustained a broken femur. Appellee moved for summary judgment on the ground that it was immune from suit under the GTLA. Appellant argued that Appellee failed to make a reasonable inspection of the automatic door, so as to discover the alleged dangerous or defective condition. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, finding that the condition was not dangerous or defective, the condition was latent, and Appellee had no actual or constructive notice of the condition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/15/17
In Re Nevaeh B. - Dissent
W2016-01769-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Van McMahan

The majority opinion dismisses this appeal due to the failure of the appellant, Makayla B., the child’s mother, to sign the notice of appeal as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d). The majority has concluded, “[i]n the absence of full compliance with the statutory requirements, this Court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the appeal.” I recognize that the majority opinion is based on a prior Court of Appeals decision, but I respectfully disagree with the decision and the notion that Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d) is jurisdictional or that the statute compels this court to dismiss appeals in parental termination cases when the parent fails to sign the notice of appeal without affording the parent the opportunity to cure the defect.

Chester County Court of Appeals 08/14/17
In Re Nevaeh B.
W2016-01769-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Van McMahan

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Appellant’s parental rights to the minor child by order of July 15, 2016. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. However, Appellant failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d) (Supp. 2016) in that she failed to sign the notice of appeal. Because this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, we dismiss the appeal.

Chester County Court of Appeals 08/14/17
In Re Audrina E. et al.
E2017-01178-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Klyne Lauderback, Jr.

This is an appeal from an order terminating the parental rights of the appellant to his minor children. The only notice of appeal filed by the appellant within the time provided in Rule 4(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure for the filing of a notice of appeal did not comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d), which states: “Any notice of appeal filed in a termination of parental rights action shall be signed by the appellant.” Because this notice of appeal was insufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court, this appeal is dismissed.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 08/14/17
Homelift Of Nashville, Inc v. Porta, Inc.
M2016-00894-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

This appeal involves a claim for attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses incurred by a third-party defendant in a wrongful death action. The third-party plaintiff filed the third-party complaint against the third-party defendant seeking indemnity. A jury found both the third-party plaintiff and third-party defendant at fault for the death in the underlying action, but because the third-party plaintiff was allocated more than 50% of the fault, the jury determined that the third-party plaintiff was not entitled to indemnification. The third-party defendant filed a post-trial motion for attorney’s fees and expenses incurred in defending the third-party action. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Although we conclude that it did not lack subject matter jurisdiction, we affirm the denial of the third-party defendant’s motion.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
In Re Jayden R., et al. - dissenting
M2016-02336-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William M. Locke

The majority opinion dismisses this case due to the failure of Mother and Father to sign the notice of appeal pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d).  I recognize that the majority opinion is based on a prior Court of Appeals decision, but I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion.

Warren County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
In Re Jayden R., et al.
M2016-02336-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William M. Locke

This appeal concerns termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Warren County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Dara C. (“Mother”) to her minor children Jayden R., Kara C., and Jaxson C. (collectively, “the Children”). DCS also sought to terminate the parental rights of Jonathan C. (“Father”) to Kara C. and Jaxson C. After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children and Father’s parental rights to Kara and Jaxson. Mother and Father appealed. DCS argues that Mother’s and Father’s failure to sign their notices of appeal renders this appeal jurisdictionally deficient. We agree that Mother’s and Father’s failure to sign their notices of appeal as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d) renders this appeal jurisdictionally deficient, and it is dismissed on that basis. Even if the appeal were not jurisdictionally deficient, we would, given this record, affirm the Juvenile Court’s judgment terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. We dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Warren County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
In Re: Michael B., Jr., Et Al
E2017-00486-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon M. Green

The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate Mother’s parental rights to her two children on the grounds of abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. The trial court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the children’s best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
Alfonzia Biles, et al. v. Tiffany Roby
W2016-02139-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O.Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This case involves residential property that was purchased after a foreclosure. The purchaser filed this detainer action against the original homeowners, who refused to vacate the property. The general sessions court ruled in favor of the purchaser, and after a de novo trial in circuit court, the circuit court ruled in favor of the purchaser as well. We do the same. The decision of the circuit court is hereby affirmed and remanded for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. James T. Jones, et al
M2016-02423-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s claim for failure to prosecute and for failing to respond to affirmative defenses. The trial court also denied plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment. Because disposition of litigation on the merits is favored over procedural dismissals, we reverse. 

Hickman County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
Dewayna M. Killen v. Phillips Wrecker Service And Garage
E2016-02306-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This dispute stems from an agreement for the purchase and installation of a used automobile motor. The parties to the agreement both claim the other breached the agreement. Following a trial, the circuit court determined that the purchaser breached the agreement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
In Re: Kendall H.
E2017-01034-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This is an appeal from an order terminating the parental rights of the appellant to her minor child, Kendall H. The only Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant was signed only by her attorney. The appellees have filed a motion to dismiss this appeal arguing that the Notice of Appeal was insufficient to invoke this Court’s jurisdiction because it did not comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-124(d), which states: “Any notice of appeal filed in a termination of parental rights action shall be signed by the appellant.” The absence of appellant’s signature on the notice of appeal deprives us of jurisdiction in this case. Accordingly, this case is dismissed.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
Deborah J. Meadows v Ronald E. McCarter Et Al.
E2017-00525-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

The Defendant, Ronald E. McCarter (“Defendant”), seeks to appeal from a ruling of the Trial Court which does not constitute a final judgment. Specifically, the ruling to which the Notice of Appeal is directed in this case did not resolve the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to the Plaintiff, Deborah J. Meadows (“Plaintiff”), nor did it fully resolve Plaintiff’s claims against Tiffany Sharp. As such, it is clear that there is not a final judgment from which an appeal as of right would lie. We therefore lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal

Sevier County Court of Appeals 08/11/17
Timothy Alan Portice v. Roshawnda Lynn Foster Portice
E2016-01682-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This case involves a post-divorce motion for contempt. In her motion, Appellant/Wife averred that Appellee/Husband was in violation of the final decree of divorce. The trial court did not find Appellee in contempt, but entered an order enforcing its final decree of divorce regarding sale of the marital residence, Appellant’s access to the marital residence, and division of Appellee’s 401-K. The trial court also declined to award Appellant half of Appellee’s 2015 tax return. Because the trial court’s order, on the motion for contempt, appears to deviate from its previous order regarding division of Appellee’s 401-K, we reverse this portion of the trial court’s order. The order is otherwise affirmed.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 08/10/17
Frederick Copeland v. Healthcare/Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital LP ET AL.
W2016-02499-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee. Following Appellant’s knee surgery, Appellee provided Appellant transportation, by wheelchair van, from the rehabilitation hospital to a follow-up appointment with his surgeon. Prior to transport, Appellant signed an exculpatory agreement, releasing Appellee from all claims of ordinary negligence. Appellant was injured when he fell while trying to enter the van and filed suit against Appellee for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, finding that the exculpatory agreement was enforceable. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/10/17
Billy Butler, ET AL., v. Malvin Carvin Pitts, Jr., ET AL.
W2016-01674-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

This is the second appeal of this easement case.  Appellants, the servient land owners, appeal the trial court’s award of a monetary judgment in favor of Appellees, the owners of the dominant estate.  On remand, the parties agreed to have the trial court determine the precise location of the easement, but the trial court refused to hear the issue, and also refused to allow Appellants to make an offer of proof.  We vacate the damage award due to the trial court’s failure to make sufficient findings.  We also conclude that the trial court erred by refusing to determine the location of the easement.  Vacated and remanded.

Haywood County Court of Appeals 08/10/17
Betty Graham v. Stacy Lynn Archer, Et Al.
E2016-00743-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This is an invasion of privacy case filed by Betty Graham. It arises out of disclosures made by the defendants in an underlying health care liability action. In the underlying case, the defendants moved to dismiss Graham’s case on the ground that she (1) had failed to file a statutory-mandated pre-suit notice and (2) had failed to file with her complaint a certificate of good faith, all as required by the Health Care Liability Act (the Act). Graham claims that she could not comply with the Act because the defendants failed to provide her with the relevant medical records. To demonstrate that they had complied or attempted to comply with Graham’s requests for records, the defendants filed in the earlier case two affidavits detailing their response to her requests. After the dismissal of her health care liability action, Graham filed this case for invasion of privacy, alleging that the defendants had wrongfully disclosed her personal medical information by filing the affidavits in the underlying case. The trial court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. Graham appeals. We affirm

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/10/17
Judith Husk v. Brandon Thompson
M2016-01481-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Howard W. Wilson

The trial court granted a default judgment against the appellant for claims of conversion, unjust enrichment, and malicious prosecution.  Immediately after granting the default judgment, the trial court awarded the appellee damages without hearing proof.  The appellant filed a motion to set aside the default judgment.  The trial court denied the appellant’s motion.  We affirm the trial court’s decision in all regards except for its award of damages.  The case is remanded for a hearing on damages.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/10/17
Sandra Kay Clary v. Deidra A. Miller, et al
M2016-00794-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L.Young

This appeal concerns the dismissal of a health care liability action for noncompliance with the Health Care Liability Act, specifically Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121 (Supp. 2016). Before filing this action, the plaintiff gave timely written pre-suit notice of her health care liability claim, including the required medical authorizations, to all potential defendants. But when she filed her complaint, the plaintiff failed to provide copies of the medical authorizations as required by statute. Both defendants filed motions to dismiss based on the missing documents. The trial court determined that the plaintiff had substantially complied with the statute and that the defendants were not prejudiced by the omission. Even so, the court dismissed the complaint with prejudice after concluding that strict compliance with the statute was required when the defendant was a governmental entity. Upon review, we conclude that substantial compliance with the documentation requirement in Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(b) is sufficient even when the defendant is a governmental entity. Thus, we reverse the dismissal of the complaint.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 08/08/17
In Re: Ethan R.
W2016-00201-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

Mother appeals judgment holding her in criminal contempt of court, contending that the court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the order as to which she was found in contempt, that she was not given the notice required by Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure 42(b), and that she was improperly served with the contempt petition. Upon a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/08/17
Donna Maria Vetrano, et al. v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02474-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett

Former inmate and her husband filed a complaint against the State of Tennessee, alleging that state employees negligently supervised and retained a prison guard who sexually assaulted the inmate.  The Tennessee Claims Commission determined it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim and dismissed the complaint.  We conclude that the former inmate’s claim falls within a category of claims for which the Claims Commission has exclusive jurisdiction, specifically the “[n]egligent care, custody and control of persons.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307 (Supp. 2016).  We also conclude the complaint does not seek to hold the State liable for the willful, malicious, or criminal act of a state employee.  Accordingly, we reverse.

Court of Appeals 08/08/17
Marcus Johnsonv. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
E2016-02260-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart

An inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction filed a petition for writ of certiorari challenging the revocation of his parole. Because the inmate failed to file his petition within the sixty-day period required by statute, the chancery court lacked jurisdiction. We, therefore, affirm the chancery court’s judgment dismissing the case.

Bledsoe County Court of Appeals 08/08/17
Tom Slagle, et al v. The Church Of The First Born Of Tennessee, et al
M2015-00297-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

A dispute among members of a church arose over control of the church. One group of church members incorporated, and then individual members of the church filed suit against the corporation and a second entity that operated a school on church property. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court determined that the organizational structure of the church was “connectional” or “hierarchical” in nature and that all property of the church was under the control of the church’s board of deacons. Because we conclude that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude entry of summary judgment, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 08/07/17