Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/16/2017
Format: 10/16/2017
James Davis d/b/a Davis Auto Repair v. Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil, & Gas
W2016-00870-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

After Appellant failed to comply with the terms of a storm water permit issued to him, he was fined $5,000.00 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The fine was upheld by an administrative law judge and, upon judicial review, by the Shelby County Chancery Court. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/16/17
Belinda Butler Pandey v. Aneel Madhukar Pandey
M2016-01919-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This action presents issues regarding the interpretation and application of a postnuptial agreement previously executed by parties who later filed for divorce. The trial court determined that the parties’ agreement was valid and enforced its terms, including a provision allowing for an award of attorney’s fees to a prevailing party who was attempting to defend the agreement. The trial court granted the wife an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to this provision. In addition, the husband filed two motions seeking the trial judge’s recusal, which the trial court denied. The husband timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment. We further determine that the wife is not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/16/17
In Re: Estate of Donald Carl Battle
M2017-00227-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy
This is a partition case. Appellants petitioned the trial court to order a partition sale of property they own as tenants in common with Appellee. The court ordered the property to be appraised and, upon receipt of the appraisal, held that the Appellee could buy out Appellants’ interest in the property for their portion of the appraised value. Appellants appeal the trial court’s failure to order a sale of the Property in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-27-201. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Raymond Cass Ballard v. Gertrude Cayabas
W2016-01913-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

Father filed a petition to change primary residential parent and for civil and criminal contempt. Because there was no material change of circumstance that affected the wellbeing of the child, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of Father’s petition. We also affirm the trial court’s decision not to find Mother in civil contempt.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
In Re Lyric A.
M2015-02468-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights with respect to her minor child. Father and Grandmother jointly filed a “Petition for Termination and Adoption” to terminate Mother’s parental rights and to allow Grandmother to adopt the child without terminating Father’s parental rights. The trial court granted the petition and Mother appeals. We have determined that petitioners do not have standing to petition the court to terminate Mother’s parental rights in order to allow Grandmother to adopt the child without terminating Father’s parental rights. Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions to dismiss the petition for lack of standing. 

Warren County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
In Re Brennen T.
M2016-01639-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal involves the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their minor child.  Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of each parent’s parental rights on the statutory groundof abandonment for failure to remit child support.  The court further found that termination of each parent’s rights was in the best interest of the child.  The parents appeal.  We affirm. 

Robertson County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Jonah Paul Anders v. Mayla Anders
W2016-02561-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Raymond Hunter, Jr. v. City Of Chattanooga Beer Board
E2017-00017-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

The petitioner seeks reversal of the denial of a beer permit by the city. City’s board asserts that the property is unsuitable for a beer permit as it has lost its zoning status as a “grandfathered in” restaurant, bar, or event hall. The trial court affirmed the board’s action. The petitioner filed this appeal. The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider it. We vacate the trial court’s order and dismiss this case.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Bradley Jetmore v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee
M2016-01792-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
A petitioner seeking to inspect and obtain copies of traffic accident reports prepared by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (“MNPD”) “promptly,” as required by the Tennessee Public Records Act (“TPRA” or “the Act”), filed a petition for injunctive relief. The trial court granted the petitioner the relief requested, and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Donnie Trammell, et al. v. D'eddrick Peoples, et al.
M2016-02198-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones
This is a negligence action concerning injuries sustained from an accident. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We reverse.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/11/17
In Re Estate of Marjorie Ross Potter
W2016-01809-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

Beneficiary of decedent’s estate appeals the judgment holding that the executor did not breach his fiduciary duty in administering the estate and the award of a fee to the executor. Upon a thorough review of the record, we affirm the decision of the Probate Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/11/17
Estate of Evelyn Sample v. Life Care Centers Of America, Inc., Et Al.
E2017-00687-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

The Estate of Evelyn Sample (“the Estate”) appeals the March 13, 2017 order of the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and Life Care Center of Cleveland (collectively “Life Care”) in this health care liability action. We find and hold that Life Care made a properly supported motion for summary judgment negating an essential element of the Estate’s claim, i.e., causation, and that the Estate failed to produce evidence showing a genuine issue of material fact. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment to Life Care.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/11/17
William August Lockler, III v. Pamela Michelle Barr Lockler
E2016-02308-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Eddie Lauderback

This case involves the interpretation of a divorce judgment. William August Lockler, III, and Pamela Michelle Barr Lockler were married on January 3, 2002, and divorced on September 6, 2007. In its judgment, the original trial judge, the Honorable Jean A. Stanley, ordered that “If [wife] is entitled under federal law to receive any portion of [husband’s] military retirement benefits[,] then she is awarded one-half (1/2) of those benefits earned during the parties’ marriage.” After husband retired from military service in December 2014, wife filed a petition on February 20, 2015 to reopen the divorce judgment. She sought one-half of husband’s military retirement that had accrued during their marriage. The trial court granted wife’s petition, holding that Judge Stanley awarded wife a portion of husband’s military retirement benefits. Husband appeals, arguing that wife is not entitled to a portion of his benefits because she is only eligible to receive the benefits under federal law and does not have a right to them. We hold that the trial court correctly concluded that the original trial judge intended to award wife onehalf of husband’s military retirement that accrued during their marriage. Accordingly, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 10/11/17
Jesus Vidal Rodriguez, et al. v. Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC, et al.
M2013-01970-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is an appeal from a jury verdict in favor of the defendants in a products liability action arising out of a deadly vehicle crash in Mexico. The accident was allegedly caused by a separation of the tire tread and resulting blow-out and vehicle rollover. The decedent’s son, daughter, and mother brought suit against the manufacturers of the tire and SUV. The case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. Plaintiffs appeal an instruction the court gave the jury on contributory negligence and several evidentiary rulings. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/10/17
Gary Wayne Garrett v. Tennessee Board of Parole
M2016-01738-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This appeal involves an incarcerated inmate’s filing of a petition for writ of certiorari, claiming that the Tennessee Board of Parole acted arbitrarily and without material evidence in denying his request for parole. The respondent filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the time for filing such a petition had passed. The trial court dismissed the petition as untimely. The petitioner appeals. We reverse and remand for further hearing.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/10/17
Johnny Moffitt v. Orbin McPeake, et al.
W2016-01706-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A man convicted of aggravated assault filed suit for malicious prosecution against the other three persons involved in the altercation that led to his conviction. The trial court determined that the statute of limitations had run on the malicious prosecution claim. We affirm on a different ground: the plaintiff has no claim for malicious prosecution because the aggravated assault case has not been terminated in his favor.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 10/10/17
Arium Shelby Farms v. Nedra Drayton
W2016-01450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/10/17
Jerry L. Lawrence, Et Al. v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, Et Al.
E2016-2169-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This appeal involves an employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit initiated by former employees of a hospital’s Security Services Department. The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital defendants on all claims, holding that plaintiff employees had failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. The employees appeal. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/06/17
In Re Estate of William C. Link
M2016-02202-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Ben Cantrell

Plaintiff, the successor administrator for the decedent’s estate, brought a negligence suit against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County based on the probate clerk’s failure to cite the prior administrator in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 30-2-602. Following the Metropolitan Government’s filing of a motion for summary judgment, the trial court concluded that the asserted claims were barred by the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act’s one-year statute of limitations. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/05/17
Bobbie Harjo Caudill, et al v. Clarksville Health System, GP
M2016-02532-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant medical provider based upon the expiration of the statute of limitations. On appeal, the appellant asserts that the statute of limitations was tolled because at the time the cause of action accrued, the decedent had been “adjudicated incompetent,” as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1- 106. We conclude that the appellant failed to meet her burden to show that the decedent was adjudicated incompetent at the time required to toll the statute of limitations. The trial court’s ruling is therefore affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 10/05/17
The Coal Creek Company v. Anderson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
E2017-00661-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Weaver

This appeal concerns whether a tax on certain property containing oil and gas deposits constitutes an unlawful additional severance tax. The Coal Creek Company (“Coal Creek”) appealed the tax assessments of various county property assessors (“Assessors”). After administrative proceedings and appeals, the Tennessee Assessment Appeals Commission reinstated the original assessments. Coal Creek filed suit in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) seeking judicial review of the Appeals Commission’s decision. Following a bench trial, the Trial Court entered an order dismissing Coal Creek’s complaint. Coal Creek appeals to this Court. We hold, inter alia, that the taxes assessed upon Coal Creek’s property relative to oil and gas remaining in the ground are property taxes, not a severance tax. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/05/17
In Re: Liam S., Et Al.
E2016-02461-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis Roach, II

This appeal involves the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their two minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of each parent’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, and the persistence of conditions which led to removal. Relative to Mother, the court found clear and convincing evidence existed to support the additional grounds of abandonment for failure to visit and to pay child support. The court further found that termination of each parent’s rights was in the best interest of the children. The parents appeal. We affirm the trial court’s judgment as to grounds for termination but vacate the trial court’s judgment as to the best interest of the children and the trial court’s judgment terminating the mother and the father’s parental rights.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 10/04/17
In Re The Estate of Jimmy L. Smith
E2016-02254-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwaine Thomas

In this appeal, the trial court determined that the woman who claimed to be the decedent’s common law wife had failed to establish her status as his wife and heir. The alleged widow asserts that she presented satisfactory evidence to prove that she was the common law spouse. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 10/04/17
In Re Isabella G., Et Al.
M2016-02105-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport

Parents appeal the termination of their parental rights to their two children. The juvenile court found clear and convincing evidence of five grounds against the father and three grounds against the mother and that termination of parental rights was in the children’s best interest. DCS concedes on appeal that persistence of conditions was not an appropriate ground for terminating mother’s parental rights and that abandonment by failure to visit was not an appropriate ground for terminating father’s parental rights. We agree. As to the remaining grounds, we conclude that DCS failed to prove abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home and persistence of conditions as to the father. But the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds of abandonment for wanton disregard for the welfare of the children and substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plans as to both parents. We further conclude that the record contains clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the children’s best interest. Thus, we affirm the termination of parental rights.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/03/17
Kristina Abolins, Et Al. v. Frank Santas, Et Al. - Concurring In Part and Dissenting In Part
M2017-00357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young

I concur in the majority’s holding that the trial court was within its discretion to place a condition on the grant of the motion to set aside the default judgment. I also concur in the conclusion that the attorney’s fees and expenses assessed by the trial court were reasonable. But I respectfully dissent from the grant of an additional thirty days for Frank Santa and Alta Horizon, Inc. (“Defendants’) to comply with the trial court’s January 10, 2017 order. Although the conduct of counsel might justify such relief, in my view, this Court lacks that authority.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/03/17