Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/30/2016
Format: 07/30/2016
Ram Tool & Supply Company, Inc. v. HD Supply Construction Supply LTD., et al
M2013-02264-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

A construction tools and materials distribution company filed a complaint against one of its former employees for unlawfully recruiting some of the plaintiff company’s other employees to work for a competitor, alleging breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty. The plaintiff company also named as defendants the competing company and one of the competitor’s employees, asserting these defendants aided and abetted its employee’s breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty. The plaintiff company further alleged all the defendants were liable for engaging in a civil conspiracy. All parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the defendants’ motions on the basis that the plaintiff company’s claims were preempted by the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“TUTSA”). On appeal, we hold that the plaintiff company asserted viable claims against the defendants that do not depend on the company’s trade secrets and are, therefore, not preempted by TUTSA. The trial court’s judgment dismissing the plaintiff company’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty, aiding and abetting, and civil conspiracy is reversed, and the case is remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Central Bank v. Jeff Wilkes, et al.
W2015-02399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

This case arises from a delinquent loan. Appellant is one of the principals of a development company that obtained a loan in the amount of $250,000 from Appellee bank. Appellant was allegedly unaware of this loan. Subsequent to the $250,000 loan, Appellee bank gave the company another loan in the amount of $300,000, which all of the company’s principals, including Appellant, personally guaranteed. The guaranty agreement provided that the principals would personally guarantee all of the company’s debts which “may now or at any time hereafter” be owed to the Appellee bank. One of the company’s other principals paid the $300,000 loan in full. A year later, Appellee bank brought suit against all three principals for the $250,000 loan. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellee bank. Appellant appeals. Affirmed and remanded.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Central Bank v. Jeff Wilkes, et al.
W2015-02079-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

This case arises from a delinquent loan. Appellee is one of the principals of a development company that obtained a loan in the amount of $250,000 from Appellant bank. Appellee was allegedly unaware of this loan. Subsequent to the $250,000 loan, Appellant bank gave the company another loan in the amount of $300,000, which all of the company's principals, including Appellee, personally guaranteed. The guaranty agreement provided that the principals would personally guarantee all of the company's debts which “may now or at any time hereafter” be owed to the Appellee bank. Appellee paid the $300,000 loan in full in exchange for Appellant bank releasing a lien on 32 acres of land owned by the development company. A year later, Appellant bank brought suit against all three principals for the $250,000 loan. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the Appellee, finding that the Appellee affected an accord and satisfaction with Appellant bank. Appellant appeals. Affirmed and remanded.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Melinda K. Fields v. Neil M. Friedman
E2016-00328-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge David W. Tipton

Mother appeals the juvenile court's child support determinations. Because Mother failed to file a brief in compliance with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and failed to present arguments to support her contentions, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Utopia Place, LLC, et al v. Eastern Properties, Inc.-Bellevue, et al
M2014-02196-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

A commercial landlord filed suit against its tenant seeking a declaratory judgment that the purchase option and right of first refusal in their lease were no longer enforceable and damages for tortious interference with business relations. On a motion for summary judgment, the trial court found that all rights of the tenant to purchase the leased premises were void. The landlord subsequently voluntarily dismissed its tortious interference claim, and the trial court entered an order dismissing the claim without prejudice. The order dismissing the claim disposed of the last claim asserted by the landlord. Several months later, the trial court entered an order dismissing the case with prejudice and taxing costs to the landlord. The tenant filed its notice of appeal within thirty days of the order dismissing the case with prejudice. Because we find the notice of appeal untimely, we dismiss the appeal.        

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
In Re: Elias Mc.
M2015-01202-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Petitioners sought to terminate the parental rights of both parents. After a trial, the court found that the grounds of wanton disregard, abandonment by willful failure to visit, and abandonment by willful failure to pay support did not exist as to the father. Petitioners took a voluntary dismissal as to the mother. Petitioners appealed the trial court’s decision as to the father. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
In Re: Elias Mc.
M2015-01202-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Petitioners sought to terminate the parental rights of both parents. After a trial, the court found that the grounds of wanton disregard, abandonment by willful failure to visit, and abandonment by willful failure to pay support did not exist as to the father. Petitioners took a voluntary dismissal as to the mother. Petitioners appealed the trial court’s decision as to the father. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
Geraldine Abbott, et al. v. Mark Abbott, et al.
E2015-01233-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

This appeal involves a dispute concerning a purported right of first refusal in a deed. In a section titled "Right of First Refusal," the deed provided that the purported holders of the right "shall have a right of first refusal to purchase said property and once a price is agreed upon," the holder will have a certain time period in which to raise the funds to pay the purchase price. The trial court found that the provision was enforceable and imposed a "reasonable time" in which the parties could negotiate and agree upon a price. The sellers appealed. We reverse.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
Rosalyn Small v. Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority
W2015-01090-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This appeal arises from the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority's decision to terminate Appellee's employment. Appellee was employed as a police sergeant with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. Appellee received a nine-day suspension from work for insubordination and conduct unbecoming. The suspension also included a requirement that Appellee undergo a fitness for duty assessment before returning to work. Appellee reported for her fitness for duty assessment, but a disagreement with the psychologist performing the assessment over whether she could record the clinical interview resulted in the interview not being completed that day. The Airport Authority consequently terminated Appellee‟s employment on the basis that she was noncompliant with the order to undergo the fitness for duty assessment. Appellee appealed the decision to the Civil Service Commission, which upheld the termination. Appellee then filed a petition for judicial review to the Shelby County Chancery Court, which overturned the Civil Service Commission‟s decision. The Airport Authority appeals.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
In Re: I.E.A., et al.
W2016-00304-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

The case involves the termination of Mother‘s parental rights on the ground of severe abuse. The trial court terminated Mother‘s parental rights to the two children at issue based on two previous severe abuse findings against Mother: (1) a finding as to the children at issue during the dependency and neglect portion of the underlying proceedings; and (2) a finding that the children‘s older half-sibling was the victim of severe abuse prior to the children at issue‘s birth. The trial court further found clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the children‘s best interest. Although we conclude that the trial court erred in relying on a non-final order as res judicata of the ground of severe abuse, we find that the trial court did not err in relying on a prior final order of severe abuse as to the children at issue‘s half-sibling. We also affirm the trial court‘s finding that termination of Mother‘s parental rights is in the children‘s best interests.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
Nancy Spratt v. Donald Bishop
M2015-01352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Marsh

Due to Plaintiff’s failure to reissue summons within one year of the issuance of the original, unserved summons, the trial court granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Plaintiffs’ failure to comply with Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Humphreys County Court of Appeals 07/19/16
Delain L. Deatherage v. John C. Hailey, et al
M2015-02202-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

At issue in this case is whether the parties entered into a contract that granted Plaintiff a right of first refusal to purchase Defendants’ real property. Defendants leased their property to Plaintiff for a twelve-month period. After the lease was renewed several times, Plaintiff inquired with Defendants’ agent as to whether Defendants would be interested in selling the property. The agent informed Plaintiff via email that Defendants did not wish to sell their property at the time, but should they decide to in the future, Plaintiff “would have the first right of refusal.” Defendants subsequently decided to sell the property to a third party and did not provide Plaintiff the opportunity to purchase the property. Plaintiff then filed this action for specific performance and breach of contract, asserting that Defendants granted Plaintiff an enforceable right of first refusal. After discovery, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the purported contract fails for lack of mutual assent and consideration. The trial court granted summary judgment, holding that the language in the email correspondence was too indefinite to create a binding contract. We have determined that the agreement to provide Plaintiff with a right of first refusal was not supported by consideration; thus, it did not constitute a binding contract. Accordingly, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/16
In Re: Bryson C.
M2015-02428-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sam Benningfield


The Juvenile Court for White County (“Juvenile Court”) terminated the parental rights of Briana M. (“Mother”) to the minor child Bryson C. (“the Child”) after finding and holding that grounds existed to terminate for abandonment by willful failure to visit and by willful failure to provide support pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i); for failure to comply with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2); and for persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3). The Juvenile Court also found that it was in the Child’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. Mother appeals to this Court. We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was not shown that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights for abandonment by willful failure to provide support or for failure to comply with the permanency plan, and we reverse that portion of the Juvenile Court’s order terminating Mother’s parental rights for abandonment by willful failure to provide support and for failure to comply with the permanency plan. We further find and hold that the evidence in the record on appeal does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights for abandonment by willful failure to visit and for persistent conditions, and that it was in the Child’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. We, therefore, affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights to the Child.
 

White County Court of Appeals 07/18/16
Blue Sky Painting Company v. Burns Phillips, Commissioner, et al
M2015-01040-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

Company conducting business in Tennessee filed a complaint against the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development seeking a declaratory judgment that the subpoenas issued by the Department for business records violated the company’s right to due process of law and constituted an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and seeking injunctive relief. The trial court granted the Department’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, and the business appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/15/16
Sandra Zoe Jeanette Naylor v. William Lee Naylor
W2016-00038-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

In this divorce appeal, Husband raises several issues concerning marital property and alimony. We modify the trial court‟s alimony award to award Wife $1,644.00 per month pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-5-121(f), but otherwise affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/15/16
Robert Paul Michaels v. Deana Singleton Drinnon, et al.
E2015-00009-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This is a property line dispute involving adjoining landowners. The plaintiff filed the instant action when the defendants began clearing land that the plaintiff asserted was his. The defendants filed a counter-complaint, claiming ownership of the disputed property. Following a bench trial, the trial court determined the location of a boundary line between the parties, thereby awarding to the plaintiff ownership of most of the disputed area. The defendants have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hancock County Court of Appeals 07/15/16
Jason Lamar Howard v. Cynthia Teresa Wallin Howard
E2015-00908-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

In this post-divorce proceeding, Father appeals the trial court’s modification of a permanent parenting plan and child support. Father also appeals the trial court’s refusal to hold Mother in contempt. We affirm the trial court’s decision declining to hold Mother in criminal contempt. However, because the order in the record with regard to both the parenting plan and the civil contempt charge contain insufficient findings of fact or conclusions of law, we vacate and remand those issues to the trial court for reconsideration.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/13/16
In re David C.
E2016-01114-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This is an appeal by the appellant, David C., from an order terminating his parental rights to his minor child of the same name. The order terminating the appellant's parental rights was entered on April 29, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until June 1, 2016, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The Attorney General, on behalf of the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 07/13/16
Betty Kirby v. Sumner Regional Medical Center
M2015-01181-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This is a health care liability action. The plaintiff suffered permanent damage after receiving medical treatment from the defendant hospital. The plaintiff filed suit exactly one year after her hospital stay. The defendant hospital moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to comply with the pre-suit notice and good faith requirements applicable to health care liability actions. The plaintiff later argued that the failure to comply with the necessary requirements should be excused for extraordinary cause as evidenced by the passing of her legal counsel’s son four days prior to the filing of the complaint. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that no extraordinary cause existed. The plaintiff appeals. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/12/16
Jo Elaine Tidwell v. Patsy Burkes
M2015-01270-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Stella L. Hargrove

In this property dispute involving two sisters, the plaintiff instituted the action, seeking to set aside a recorded deed on the basis that the instrument contained a forged signature. The defendant’s counsel, who filed an answer to the complaint, was attorney of record at the time of the trial. On the date of trial, the defendant’s counsel did not appear in court because he had been recently suspended from the practice of law, a fact unknown to the defendant until she appeared for trial. When the trial court elected to proceed with the hearing, the defendant represented herself. Upon the conclusion of the trial, the trial court announced its decision in favor of the plaintiff, determining that the deed contained a forged signature and ordering that the deed be set aside. The court also ordered that the defendant pay all costs, including the expense for the plaintiff’s expert witness. The defendant subsequently retained new counsel, who filed a motion for new trial. The motion was denied. The defendant appeals. Determining that the trial court erred in failing to order a continuance of the trial, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial on the merits.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 07/08/16
In re Estate of Tandy Nathan Dalton
E2014-02204-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

In this probate action, the executrix proposed to distribute the decedent’s real and personal property in a manner that she claimed was in accordance with the decedent’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”). One beneficiary, one of the decedent’s three adult children, objected, claiming that the decedent had granted her an option to purchase one parcel of real property owned by the decedent. The trial court determined that the real property in question was an asset of the probate estate and that the executrix could administer it in accordance with the decedent’s Will. The trial court also determined that a settlement agreement executed by the decedent’s three children precluded the claim of an option to purchase. The beneficiary appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 07/08/16
In re Derrick J. et al.
E2015-01507-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon M. Green

This is a termination of parental rights case. Appellants appeal the trial court’s termination of their parental rights to three minor children on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by failure to provide suitable housing; (2) persistence of the conditions that led to the removal of the children from Appellants’ home; and (3) severe child abuse. As to Appellant/Mother, the trial court also found that Appellee, the Department of Children’s Services, had proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that mother failed to substantially comply with the requirements set out in the permanency plan; mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on this additional ground. Appellants also appeal the trial court’s determination that termination of their parental rights is in the best interests of the children. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Washington County Court of Appeals 07/08/16
BAC Home Loans Servicing v. Inge Goodson
M2014-02566-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

Defendant in detainer action appeals the grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff. In ruling on the motion, the trial court declined to consider testimony from four depositions taken in related federal lawsuits which Defendant argued established disputed issues of material facts and precluded summary judgment. We have determined that three of the four depositions were not admissible and the fourth should have been admitted. Considering the record, we affirm the grant of summary judgment.  

Hickman County Court of Appeals 07/07/16
Christopher J. White, et al. v. Lisa M. Johnson, et al. v. City of Memphis, Tennessee
W2015-01157-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

Intervening plaintiffs appeal from the dismissal of their petition to intervene in this wrongful death action. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/07/16
Allen Riggs v. Richard B. Wright, et al.
W2015-00677-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

The plaintiff filed this case against an adult defendant and his parents, after the adult defendant allegedly attacked the plaintiff. The trial court granted parents’ motion to dismiss, concluding that no special relationship existed between the adult defendant and his parents that would confer a duty on parents to control the adult defendant, a guest in parents’ home. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/07/16