Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/24/2016
Format: 09/24/2016
In Re Efrian F.
W2016-01431-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and this matter must be dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/01/16
Anita V. Wadhwani v. Peter L White
M2015-01447-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip E Smith

In this post-divorce matter, the parties have been litigating for several years regarding issues of co-parenting time, child support, and contempt. In 2013, the trial court reduced the father’s child support obligation based upon its finding that a significant variance existed between the prior child support amount and the new amount calculated utilizing the father’s income. The trial court ordered that such modification would begin as of May 2012, when the State of Tennessee filed a petition seeking modification on the father’s behalf. The father attempted to file an appeal of this matter in 2013, but the appeal was dismissed due to lack of a final order. Following remand, the trial court reviewed and adjusted the child support modification based upon demonstration of the father’s income from all sources, including an inheritance he received from a relative. A final order was entered July 27, 2015. The father has appealed the trial court’s judgment. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
Andrea Scott et al v. Carlton J. Ditto et al.
E2014-02390-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This action involves a dispute between the holders of conflicting claims to the ownership of a residential lot in Chattanooga. The City sold the property at a delinquent tax sale. Unbeknownst to those involved in the tax sale, the property had earlier been sold at a foreclosure sale conducted by the holder of a deed of trust on the property. After a dispute arose between Andrea Scott, who had bought the property from a successor to the purchaser at the foreclosure sale, and Carlton J. Ditto, who bought the property at the tax sale, Scott filed this action against Ditto and others to quiet title to the property. Ditto filed a counterclaim. He also filed a cross-claim against several of the defendants. The trial court granted Scott summary judgment based on its determination that she was a bona fide purchaser without notice of the tax sale to Ditto and that she had recorded her deed first. The trial court dismissed Ditto’s cross-claim. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the cross-claim against the lender and others, because Ditto does not have standing to challenge the foreclosure sale. With respect to the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Scott, we hold that the evidence presented by Ditto in opposition to summary judgment establishes a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Scott had notice of Ditto’s interest in the property prior to her purchase of that property. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
In re Savannah F. et al.
E2016-00064-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The trial court terminated the parental rights of Mother and Father to their three children on the grounds of persistence of conditions and severe abuse. Because there was no judicial finding of dependency, neglect, or abuse removing the children from the custody of Mother and Father more than six months prior to the termination hearing, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(3), we reverse the trial court’s determination that the ground of persistence of conditions was shown by clear and convincing evidence. Because we affirm the trial court’s determination of severe abuse and its determination that termination is in the children’s best interests, however, we affirm the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their three children.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
In re Savannah F. et al.
E2015-02529-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The trial court terminated the parental rights of Mother and Father to their three children on the grounds of persistence of conditions and severe abuse. Because there was no judicial finding of dependency, neglect, or abuse removing the children from the custody of Mother and Father more than six months prior to the termination hearing, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(3), we reverse the trial court’s determination that the ground of persistence of conditions was shown by clear and convincing evidence. Because we affirm the trial court’s determination of severe abuse and its determination that termination is in the children’s best interests, however, we affirm the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their three children.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
Eric G. Glasgow v. K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.
E2015-01653-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This is an appeal from a jury verdict in a premises liability action in which the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that he sustained injury while using the restroom in a grocery store operated by the defendant. The court denied the defendant’s request for a directed verdict and submitted the case to the jury, which awarded $350,000 in compensatory damages. Following the denial of post-trial motions, the court approved the verdict but reduced the award to conform to the amount of damages pled. The defendant appeals, claiming the reduced award is not supported by material evidence. We affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
In re Samuel P.
W2016-01592-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge William A. Peeler

This accelerated interlocutory appeal arises from the trial court's denial of a motion for recusal filed by a father in a custody proceeding. After carefully reviewing the trial court's ruling pursuant to the de novo standard of review required under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motion for recusal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/16
Randal L. Arthur v. Pamela Stewart, et al.
M2015-01628-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

A boat repairman sued boat owners in general sessions court for a portion of the cost to repair their boat. The repairman was awarded less than he sought and appealed the case to the circuit court. The circuit court awarded the same amount to the repairman, and the repairman appealed the judgment to this Court. The record contains a statement of evidence, but it contains no transcript of the proceedings or any exhibits. We are unable to conduct a meaningful review based on the record in this case and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In re C.D.
M2016-00275-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of G.D. (Mother) to her child, C.D. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of one ground supporting termination. The court also found, by the same quantum of proof, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Grenda Harmer v. Turney Center Disciplinary Board et al.
M2016-00506-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

An inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction housed at the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only, Tennessee, filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari seeking review of his prison disciplinary conviction. The trial court dismissed the petition on the grounds that the inmate failed to pay prior court costs, violating Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-812, and filed an affidavit of indigency that contained falsities, violating Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-804. This appeal followed. We affirm the dismissal of the petition for writ of certiorari on the basis that Petitioner failed to disclose all previously filed lawsuits in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-805 but modify it to the extent that the petition is dismissed without prejudice. 

Hickman County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Tennessee Commercial Roe Fishermen's Association, et al. v. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, et al.
M2015-01944-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This lawsuit was brought by two associations of commercial fishermen challenging proclamations enacted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission (“TWRC”) that affect, among other matters, the species and sizes of fish that may be harvested, the types of equipment that may be used, the permissible locations for fishing, and fishing seasons. On appeal, the fishermen argue that the proclamations are invalid because the actions of the TWRC violated the Open Meetings Act and procedural due process, because the proclamations violate substantive due process, and because one of the commissioners had an impermissible conflict of interest. We find no merit to the fishermen’s arguments and, therefore, affirm the decision of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
John P. Branham v. The Metropolitan Government of Nashville - Davidson County, Tennessee, et al.
M2015-00455-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

Landowner filed an action against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County (“Metro”) on theories of inverse condemnation, detrimental reliance, and negligence to recover for damages to his home which occurred as a result of landslides on his property. Following trial, the court entered judgment in Metro’s favor on all claims. On appeal, landowner contends that the evidence preponderates against the court’s findings of fact as to the cause of the landslides and the finding that Metro’s expert witness was credible; that the court erred as a matter of law in holding that Metro’s actions were not purposeful or intentional for the purposes of an inverse condemnation claim; and that the court erred in not crediting his testimony in the valuation of his property. Metro asks this court to reverse the trial court’s determination that it owns the portion of land adjacent to landowner’s property in fee simple. We reverse the determination that Metro owns the land adjacent to the landowner’s property; in all other respects we affirm the judgment.    

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Christine Greenwood v. National Dentex Corporation, et al.
W2015-01889-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is a saving statute case, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-1-105. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s third product-liability case, which was filed within one year of the dismissal of her second lawsuit, but more than one year after the entry of the initial nonsuit in Appellant’s first lawsuit. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Peggy L. Smith, Individually and as Trustee of Peggy L. Smith Trust v. Hi-Speed, Inc., et al.
W2015-01613-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This is a breach of contract case related to a commercial property located in Arkansas. Plaintiffs also asserted claims for unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, equitable estoppel, and promissory estoppel. Following a hearing on Defendants‘ motion for partial summary judgment, the trial court dismissed all of the claims except for an alleged breach of contract by Defendant Hi-Speed, Inc. After a bench trial on this remaining claim, the trial court determined that the Plaintiffs were not entitled to any damages. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Beacon4, LLC v. I & L Investments, LLC
E2015-01298-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody
This case involves a contract dispute over the construction of a “Fireworks Over America” retail store in Blountville, Tennessee (“FOA Project”). The defendant company, I & L Investments, LLC (“I & L”), sought to build the store on an 11.71-acre tract of undeveloped property that it had acquired in November 2010. A contracting and development corporation, Altera Development, Inc. (“Altera”), submitted a bid to complete the site work and building construction for the FOA Project.1 At this time, the plaintiff contractor, Beacon4, LLC (“Beacon4”), had been entering into a relationship with Altera in which Altera would market and secure construction work to be performed by Beacon4. Upon I & L’s acceptance of Altera’s bid, Beacon4 eventually became the designated contractor for both the building and site portions of the FOA project, which was divided into two contracts. On January 28, 2011, Beacon4 obtained its Tennessee general contractor’s license with a monetary limit of $1,100,000.00 plus ten percent. On February 7, 2011, I & L and Beacon4 entered into a site contract, valued at $795,486.00, and a building contract, valued at $1,097,115.00. A certificate of occupancy was granted for the FOA store on May 17, 2011. One year later, Beacon4 filed a complaint alleging that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act of 1991, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 66-34-101 to -602, and breached the parties’ site contract. Beacon4 sought, inter alia, enforcement of a mechanics’ and materialmen’s lien in the amount of $212,856.02 allegedly owed under the site contract. I & L conceded that it had withheld a retainage of $46,942.75 but otherwise asserted affirmative defenses, including, inter alia, that Beacon4 had willfully and grossly exaggerated the lien claim and had violated the Tennessee Contractor’s Licensing Act of 1994, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 62-6-101 to 62-6-521, by dividing the Project into two contracts in order to circumvent its monetary licensing limit. I & L also filed a counterclaim, alleging that Beacon4 had violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-18-104(b)(35). Following a five-day bench trial, the trial court dismissed I & L’s counterclaim and entered a judgment in favor of Beacon4, finding that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act and breached the parties’ site contract. The court awarded to Beacon4 $150,390.04 plus six-percent interest per annum, reasonable attorney’s fees, and, upon a post-trial motion, out-of-pocket expenses. The court also granted a lien in favor of Beacon4 on the title to I & L’s Blountville FOA store property. I & L has appealed the trial court’s judgment, and Beacon4 has raised an issue regarding the statutory penalty provided in the Prompt Pay Act and has requested attorney’s fees on appeal. Having determined that the trial court made a typographical error in entering the final award of interest to Beacon4, we modify the award of interest from $32,715.76 to $31,715.76. We affirm the judgment in all other respects. Having also determined that an award to Beacon4 of reasonable attorney’s fees on appeal is appropriate under the PPA, we remand for the trial court to determine reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by Beacon4 during the appellate process. 
 
Sullivan County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In re Adonnias P. et.al.
E2016-01102-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The Notice of Appeal in this termination of parental rights case was filed pro se by the appellant/mother on May 26, 2016. In it, she indicates her desire to appeal from a final judgment entered on May 5, 2015. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In Re D.R.S.
E2015-01991-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of J.R.S. (Mother) and J.R.S.1 (Father) with respect to their child, D.R.S. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination of the rights of each parent. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother and Father appeal. We affirm as modified.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
In Re E.S.L.
E2015-01709-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon M. Green

This is a termination of parental rights case. M.L. (Mother) and M.O. (Stepfather) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of L.D.D. (Father) to his child, E.S.L. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of two grounds supporting termination. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
Tadd Timothy Brown v. Dawn Veronica Brown
M2015-01318-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna B. Johnson

This appeal arises from a finding of criminal contempt in a child support matter. Dawn Veronica Brown (“Mother”) filed a petition for contempt against her ex-husband Tadd Timothy Brown (“Father”) in the Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Trial Court”). In her petition, Mother alleged numerous violations by Father of the parenting plan and marital dissolution agreement, including that Father had failed to pay child support toward their minor child (“the Child”). After a trial, the Trial Court found Father guilty on twelve counts of criminal contempt. Father appeals. We find and hold that the evidence is sufficient to sustain Father’s convictions for failure to pay child support. However, we reverse the count found against Father for his refusal to turn the Child over to maternal relatives rather than Mother over one specific summer week, and modify his sentence accordingly. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Hardin, Parkes, Kelley & Carter, PLLC v. William Rick Holt
M2015-02010-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A law firm sued a former client for unpaid attorney’s fees. The trial court awarded the firm a judgment. The former client appealed but provided no transcript or statement of the evidence. Consequently, we must affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Save Rural Franklin, et al v. Williamson County Government, et al.
M2014-02568-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin, III

Organizations representing property owners in close proximity to a proposed subdivision filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of the regional planning commission’s approval of the proposed subdivision. The planning commission and parties with an interest in the proposed subdivision filed motions to dismiss. After determining that the petition was untimely and the petitioning organizations lacked standing, the chancery court granted the motions to dismiss. The court also determined that the planning commission had acted legally in approving the subdivision. The petitioning organizations appealed. Following our review, we conclude that the statutory period for filing a petition for writ of certiorari began to run from approval of the preliminary plat for the proposed subdivision. Because the petition was filed more than sixty days after the preliminary plat was approved, the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition. Therefore, we affirm the chancery court’s dismissal of the petition.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Daniel Ray Hauf v. Lora Marie Hauf
M2015-00736-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

This appeal involves an obligor’s petition to terminate his $1,500 monthly alimony obligation due to his retirement from overseas contractual government employment. The trial court held that a substantial and material change in circumstances occurred when the obligor elected to not renew his employment contract due to a change in his work schedule and reduced the alimony payments to $900 per month. The recipient appeals. We hold that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s factual findings. Based on our review of the evidence, the obligor failed to demonstrate that a substantial and material change in circumstances had occurred such that a modification of his spousal support obligation was warranted. We reverse the trial court’s decision, reinstate the previous alimony award, and remand for further proceedings.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Arron Wesley Frazier v. Lee Anne Frazier
E2016-01476-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for recusal filed by Lee Anne Frazier (Wife) in the parties' divorce proceedings. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Wife, as well as the answer in opposition filed by Arron Wesley Frazier (Husband), we conclude that the Trial Court should have granted the motion because the unique circumstances of this case create an appearance of bias on the part of the Trial Court Judge that required his recusal. We therefore reverse the order of the Trial Court and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Suntrust Bank v. Angela Christina Best a/k/a Christina Best
E2015-02122-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

Angela Christina Best (“Best”) appeals the decision of the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to SunTrust Bank (“SunTrust”) and awarding SunTrust a judgment against Best in the amount of $379.60 plus post-judgment interest and attorney fees. Best raises issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in exercising jurisdiction after finding that the contract at issue in this case contained an arbitration clause, whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment both on SunTrust’s complaint and on Best’s counterclaim, and whether the Trial Court erred in granting SunTrust’s attorney’s fees allegedly in excess of those allowed under the contract. We find and hold that the arbitration clause in the contract never was triggered, that SunTrust made a properly supported motion for summary judgment, that Best failed to show any genuine disputed issues of material fact, and that SunTrust was entitled to summary judgment both on the complaint and on Best’s counterclaim. We further find and hold that the attorney’s fees awarded were in excess of those allowed under the contract. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment and modify the award of attorney’s fees to comply with the contract.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
In Re Lillian D.
E2016-00111-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case involving a two-year-old child, Lillian D. (“the Child”). On October 7, 2013, the Knox County Juvenile Court granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). The Child was immediately placed in foster care, where she has remained since that date. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child’s biological mother, Penelope D. (“Mother”), in the Knox County Juvenile Court on January 26, 2015.1 Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was mentally incompetent to care for the Child and that the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from Mother’s custody still persisted. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that terminating Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16