Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 03/30/2017
Format: 03/30/2017
Christy L. Bradley, et al. v. Laura Bishop, M.D., et al.
W2016-01668-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This is a health care liability action wherein a trial by jury resulted in judgment for the defendants. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, asserting that: (1) the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motions in limine, which restricted plaintiffs’ ability to adequately cross-examine defendants’ expert witnesses regarding the “best possible care”; (2) the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motions in limine, which restricted plaintiffs’ ability to present evidence relating to medical expenses; (3) the trial court failed to give a curative instruction after defendants’ opening statement; and (4) the weight of the evidence was against the jury verdict. The trial court denied the post-trial motion and affirmed the jury verdict as the thirteenth juror. Plaintiffs appealed. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/30/17
Akilah Louise Wofford, et al. v. M.J. Edwards & Sons Funeral Home, Inc., et al.
W2015-02377-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This appeal arises from the certification of a class. Numerous individuals (“Plaintiffs”), some next of kin and some who had contracted for funerals of loved ones, filed suit against certain funeral homes (“Defendants”) in the Chancery Court for Shelby County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiffs alleged that the funeral homes abandoned human remains to an unlicensed cemetery, Galilee Memorial Gardens (“Galilee”), where the remains were disposed of improperly. Plaintiffs sought to bring their claims, which include breach of contract and a request for equitable relief, as a class. After a hearing, the Trial Court granted class certification. Defendants appeal to this Court. We find and hold, inter alia, that the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion, and we find no error by the Trial Court in granting class certification. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
In Re: Jalen O-H.
M2016-01484-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Jennifer N. Wade

Father appeals an order of the trial court setting current child support, awarding retroactive child support, and changing the child’s last name to a hyphenated name comprised of Father and Mother’s surnames. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.     

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
Jane Bingham Street v. Ed Street
E2016-00531-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

In this divorce case, Ed Street (Husband) appeals the trial court’s division of property, arguing that he should not have been assigned all of the debt associated with the business assets awarded to him. Husband also asserts that the trial court erred in granting Jane Bingham Street (Wife) an award of monthly alimony in futuro of $2,000. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
Sinan Gider v. Lydia Hubbell
M2016-00032-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This case involves the modification of an agreed parenting plan under which the child’s mother was the primary residential parent. After the father obtained an injunction to prevent Mother from homeschooling the child, the mother sought to obtain sole decision-making authority. The father then filed a petition seeking to be named primary residential parent and sole decision maker. The juvenile court granted both of the father’s requests and denied the mother’s request. The court also placed several limitations on the mother’s visitation and enjoined her use of social media and from making disparaging remarks about the father to the child or in the child’s presence. We conclude that certain of the restrictions placed on Mother’s communications were overly broad or vague. Accordingly, we modify the injunction the juvenile court placed on Mother’s communications. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
George Campbell, Jr. v. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
M2016-01683-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove
This appeal involves an inmate/Appellant’s petition for the release of public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act. Appellant sought the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (“TBI”) records concerning a criminal investigation. Citing the exemption for TBI investigative records under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 10-7-504(a)(2)(A), the trial court denied Appellant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed his Tennessee Public Records Act petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Wayne County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
Richard Lane, et al v. Estate of Gary K. Leggett
M2016-00448-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This appeal arises from an action to recover for emotional injuries allegedly sustained when the decedent/defendant’s automobile drove into Plaintiff’s business, struck a gas meter, and started a fire, which destroyed the business. The Plaintiff filed suit alleging causes of action for negligence and negligence per se and sought damages for emotional distress. The Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Tennessee law does not recognize a cause of action for emotional injuries arising out of damage to or loss of property. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendant on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claims, finding that Plaintiff did not establish that the injury was the proximate and foreseeable result of the Defendant’s negligence. The court dismissed the remaining claim on the basis of the prior suit pending doctrine due to a pending interpleader action filed by Defendant’s liability insurer. Plaintiff appeals; we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
In Re: B.T.
E2016-00204-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

On October 3, 2015, the Jefferson County Sheriff filed a petition in the Jefferson County Juvenile Court requesting the court to “make inquiry into” an alleged violation of the adult crime of first degree murder by B.T., an eleven-year-old boy. The juvenile court initially set an adjudicatory hearing for October 28, 2015, but the court later granted two continuances at the request of the State. B.T. filed a petition for writ of certiorari and motion to dismiss in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County seeking dismissal of the petition against him on the basis that the juvenile court erred in granting the continuances. On January 6, 2016, the circuit court held a hearing on the respondent’s filings. The court took the matter under advisement pending the juvenile court’s adjudicatory hearing scheduled for January 22, 2016. B.T. appeals. We affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 03/29/17
In Re Ja'Miya T.
W2016-01433-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Appellant/Father’s parental rights on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support; and (2) persistence of conditions. Because the grounds for termination of Father’s parental rights are met by clear and convincing evidence, and there is also clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/28/17
Dialysis Clinic, Inc. v. Kevin Medley, et al
M2017-00269-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Appellants appeal the trial court’s denial of their motion to recuse on the ground that the trial court conducted an impermissible ex parte communication with counsel for the opposing party. The dispute in this case stems from Appellants’ pursuit of several documents that the opposing party claimed were privileged. In the course of hearing proof on the claimed privilege, the trial court announced its intention to conduct an ex parte hearing concerning the documents with only the opposing party present. Appellants did not object to the hearing. After the hearing was conducted, however, Appellants moved to recuse the trial judge on the basis that he had engaged in prohibited ex parte communications. The trial court promptly denied the recusal motion. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
In Re Proceeding To Enforce Judgment Against National Partitions, Inc.
E2016-00339-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

American Plastics Technologies, Inc. (APT) and RAO Design, International, Inc. (RDI) (collectively the Plaintiffs) brought this action in the trial court seeking to enroll an Illinois judgment against National Partitions (NP). The judgment had been awarded by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. NP filed an answer questioning the jurisdiction of the Illinois court. NP coupled its answer with a counterclaim asserting that the Plaintiffs had been guilty of the initial breach of the contract. Following a hearing, the trial court decreed registration of the Illinois judgment and ultimately dismissed NP‘s counterclaim. NP appeals. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
Bobby Murray, et al. v. Dennis Miracle, et al.
E2015-00766-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

This is the third appeal in this suit; on remand from the prior appeal the court considered whether a discovery sanction previously imposed upon Plaintiffs was reasonable and the amount of damages to be awarded Defendants for defending the previous appeal, which was deemed frivolous. The trial court upheld the discovery sanction and awarded Defendants $8,488.50 in damages for the prior appeal. Plaintiffs appeal, contending that the trial court abused its discretion in affirming the prior sanction and in making the award for the frivolous appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court; we declare this appeal frivolous and remand the case for a determination of damages.

Roane County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
In Re Lukis B.
M2016-00357-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen
The father appeals the circuit court’s adjudication that his child is dependent and neglected due to the father’s mental illness and paranoid behavior, which make the father unfit to properly care for his child. The father contends the circuit court erred in determining that, at the time of trial, his child was dependent and neglected. Finding the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s ruling, we affirm.
 
Maury County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
Mrs. Bobby Patterson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01498-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett
The Appellant appeals the dismissal of a complaint filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission. Because the record does not support the Claims Commission’s grounds for dismissing the case, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
 
Court of Appeals 03/24/17
James R. Goan et al. v. Billy B. Mills
E2016-01206-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Plaintiff James R. Goan’s mail delivery vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Billy B. Mills as Plaintiff was delivering mail. The Plaintiff and his wife, Judy Goan, sued Mills. During settlement negotiations, Plaintiffs offered to settle for $100,000, the limits of Defendant’s insurance policy. Defendant accepted the offer on December 4, 2013. Over a year later, Defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that there had been no meeting of the minds and no enforceable agreement. The trial court enforced the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
In Re Charles A.
E2016-01757-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of abandonment and persistence of conditions. Because the record does not contain an adjudicatory order of dependency and neglect, we reverse the ground of persistence of conditions. We affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment and on the trial court’s finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
In Re: Hailey O., et al.
E2016-01657-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The father of two children appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit them within the four month period preceding his incarceration and by engaging in conduct prior to his incarceration that exhibits a wanton disregard for the welfare of the children. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment in all respects.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/23/17
In Re Ashton V.
M2016-00842-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Brown
This appeal arises from a juvenile court’s modification of a primary residential parent designation. The mother appeals the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that a change in the primary residential parent was in the child’s best interest. The mother also challenges the juvenile court’s denial of her Rule 60.01 motion. Upon review, we conclude that the juvenile court erred in relying on a report that was not entered into evidence at the hearing, but the error was harmless. Even excluding the report, the evidence does not preponderate against the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that modification of the primary residential parent designation was in the child’s best interest. We further conclude that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying the mother’s Rule 60.01 motion.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Joe Patton Rogers, et al. v. Bradley Dean Hadju, et al.
W2016-00850-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

Appellants filed this lawsuit against Appellees for damages resulting from the alleged negligence of Appellees’ subcontractor. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, ruling that they could not be vicariously liable for the subcontractor’s negligence because the uncontroverted facts conclusively established that the subcontractor was an independent contractor. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Associates Asset Management, LLC v. Angela Blackburn
W2016-00801-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This is a breach of contract case. After Appellant purchased a package of default loans, which contained Appellee’s second mortgage note, Appellant waited almost four years to file suit against Appellee for breach of contract. Appellee raised laches as an affirmative defense. The trial court held that gross laches applied to bar Appellant’s lawsuit. We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in applying gross laches to bar Appellant’s claim in that Appellee’s injuries were only economic, and Appellee failed to pursue her claims for predatory lending, misrepresentation, and/or lender misconduct. Reversed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Jamie Joy Williams v. Deadrick Donnell Woods, Sr.
W2016-00935-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a child support action involving one child, who was born in 1995 and had reached the age of majority by the time of trial. Upon the father’s voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the trial court entered an order of legitimation in April 1996. The State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the mother, filed a petition to modify a child support order in April 2002. The father filed a motion to dismiss, and the State subsequently withdrew the petition because no prior child support order had been established. The mother then filed a petition for child support in September 2014. Following a bench trial before a special judge, the trial court established the father’s retroactive child support obligation in the amount of $79,647.00, giving credit to the father for $59,229.00 he previously had paid toward the child’s support and expenses. The court incorporated three income shares worksheets representing three different time periods during the child’s minority. The father has appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the trial court erred by finding that the child had resided with the mother for 285 days per year during the time period of January 1, 2010, through May 31, 2014, because the child resided with the mother’s stepfather on weekdays while attending high school. To correct an apparent mathematical error in the judgment, we modify the number of months for which the first income shares worksheet is to be applied from eighty-one to ninetytwo and the number of months for which the third income shares worksheet is to be applied from sixty-four to fifty-three, resulting in a total reduction in the father’s retroactive child support obligation from $79,647.00 to $74,818.00. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Quinton Clovis v. Tennessee Human Rights Commissions
M2016-01534-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman
This appeal arises from a complaint filed with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in which Plaintiff alleged he was denied public accommodation at the Metropolitan Public Library in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-301 and -501. More specifically, Plaintiff contended that the Library discriminated against him based on his Christian beliefs and in retaliation for filing a previous religious discrimination complaint against the Library. After conducting an investigation, the Commission found no reasonable basis for Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff appealed the Commission’s decision to the Davidson County Chancery Court. Following a hearing, the chancery court upheld the decision of the Commission. This appeal followed. We
affirm.
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Clayton Eddy Powers v. A&W Supply, Inc.
E2016-01489-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arose from a contract dispute between the plaintiff employee and the defendant corporation regarding shares of corporate stock. The parties signed an agreement in June 1993, which provided that the plaintiff would become vested with the right to receive two and one-half percent of the total number of issued and outstanding shares of the corporation’s capital stock so long as the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation from the date of said agreement until the vesting date of December 31, 2001. It is undisputed that the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation on the vesting date. Following the vesting date, the corporation never delivered stock certificates to the plaintiff or recognized the plaintiff as a shareholder within the company. The corporation terminated the plaintiff’s employment in October 2014, and in November 2014, the plaintiff made his first inquiry about his ownership interest in the stock to which he was entitled under the agreement. The defendant company denied that the plaintiff owned any stock in the company. The plaintiff thereafter filed an action against the corporation, seeking specific performance, declaratory judgment, and damages resulting from breach of contract. The plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment, requesting a determination that the plaintiff was automatically vested in two and one-half percent of the total number of shares of the corporation’s capital stock. The defendant also filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that because the corporation never took action to transfer the shares of capital stock to the plaintiff on the vesting date, the plaintiff’s cause of action accrued in 2001, rendering the plaintiff’s present action time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court determined that the plaintiff was vested with ownership of the shares on the vesting date and that the plaintiff’s action was not barred by the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Steven Yen v. University of Tennessee Knoxville
M2016-00875-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle
This is an appeal of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s termination of a tenured faculty member. After the University terminated Appellant, he appealed the validity of his termination to an administrative hearing officer pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Following a contested hearing, the hearing officer upheld the University’s termination of Appellant. Appellant then petitioned the chancery court to reverse the decision of the hearing officer. The chancery court held that there was substantial and material evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s decision to affirm the termination of Appellant’s employment and tenure. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
In re Conner C., et al.
M2016-01669-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Mother appeals the circuit court’s dismissal of her de novo appeal of the juvenile court’s dependency and neglect order.  We agree with the circuit court that the juvenile court’s adjudicatory order was not a final order subject to appeal to the circuit court.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 03/20/17