Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/20/2019
Format: 08/20/2019
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. v. Phillip W. Vandergriff et al.
E2015-01121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

The plaintiff lender filed this action to quiet title to certain real property and regain possession of said property from its current occupants, one of whom owed a debt to the lender that originated in 1996. At the time of the making of the indebtedness, the debtor executed a deed of trust regarding the subject property to secure the debt. The property was subsequently sold at a delinquent tax sale in 2008. The tax sale purchaser later conveyed title to the property back to the debtor in 2012. Upon the debtor’s failure to make timely payments to the lender in 2013, the lender foreclosed on the subject property pursuant to the 1996 deed of trust.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/17/16
Omni Insurance Company A/S/O Lisa J. Earl v. Dennis R. Nickoloff
E2015-01450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from an accident involving an automobile and a pedestrian that occurred in Anderson County. The pedestrian's insurer, as subrogee of the pedestrian, filed the instant action, alleging that the defendant driver should be held liable for negligence and negligence per se. Following a bench trial, the trial court assessed liability against the driver and awarded the pedestrian's insurer $50,000.00 in damages. The driver timely appealed. On appeal, the driver filed a statement of the evidence, approved by the trial court, that contains insufficient evidence to support the trial court's judgment. We therefore reverse the trial court's judgment.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/02/16
Rodger Lee Moon v. Carolyn O'Day Moon
E2015-01470-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

Husband and Wife were married for approximately three years when Husband filed a complaint seeking a divorce. Wife filed a counter-complaint seeking a divorce as well. The trial court awarded Wife a divorce, classified the parties‟ assets as separate or marital, and divided the marital estate. The trial court also awarded Wife transitional alimony for a period of two years. Husband appealed, arguing the trial court erred in (1) classifying a boat he purchased before the marriage as marital property; (2) dividing the marital estate in an inequitable manner; and (3) awarding Wife transitional alimony. On appeal, we affirm the trial court‟s judgment in all respects and grant Wife‟s request for the attorney‟s fees she incurred in defending Husband‟s appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 04/21/16
Cynthia Rhea Helton v. Gregory Herbert Helton
E2014-01861-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip

This post-divorce appeal concerns the trial court's denial of the husband's motion to terminate his spousal support obligation and to add his current wife as a beneficiary to his life insurance policy. We affirm the court's denial of the termination of the support obligation but reverse the court's denial of the request to amend the life insurance policy.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/03/15
City of Oak Ridge v. Joseph J. Levitt, Jr.
E2014-02354-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The Oak Ridge City Court found the manager of three apartment buildings liable for several violations of the local building code. The manager appealed to the circuit court, and the City moved to amend the cause to add the purported owner of the properties as a defendant. The case proceeded to trial. After the City closed its proof, the trial court noticed that the purported owner of the property had not been properly made a party to the action. Accordingly, the trial court granted the City‟s motion to amend. Although the purported owner moved for a mistrial and/or a continuance, the trial court proceeded on to rule against the purported owner for several violations of the local building code. The purported owner appeals. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings to allow the purported owner of the properties an opportunity to meaningfully respond to the allegations against him in accordance with Rule 15.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 10/21/15
Honey Bunch v. B.F. Bunch
E2014-02121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip

Honey Bunch (“Plaintiff”) filed suit seeking partition by sale of a parcel of real property located in Anderson County, Tennessee. B.F. Bunch (“Defendant”) filed a counterclaim alleging, in pertinent part, that a quit claim deed of a portion of the property was void for lack of capacity, undue influence, or fraud, and that the property at issue should be partitioned in kind. After a trial, the Chancery Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”) found and held, inter alia, that the quit claim deed was valid and that the remaining property should be partitioned by sale. Defendant appeals raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in finding the quit claim deed valid, whether the Trial Court erred in finding that the property should be partitioned by sale, and whether the Trial Court erred in prohibiting Defendant from using a common driveway. We find and hold that the evidence in the record on appeal does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we find no error by the Trial Court. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 10/15/15
In re Conservatorship of Scott D. Melton
E2014-01384-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip

In this conservatorship case, East Tennessee Human Resources Agency was appointed as the financial conservator for the ward. The first annual accounting was approved by all parties. The trial court approved the second annual accounting and the subsequent final accounting following the ward's death. The ward's daughter objected and filed numerous other motions challenging the handling of the ward's finances. The trial court denied each motion and closed the conservatorship. The daughter appeals. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/31/15
State of Tennessee Ex Rel Landle Byrge, et al. v. Nicholas Jay Yeager
E2014-01996-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

The petitioners filed this action seeking to remove the respondent from the position of county law director of Anderson County pursuant to Tennessee's ouster law, found at Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-47-101. The respondent filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted after concluding that the position of county law director is not a public office subject to the ouster law. On appeal, the petitioners argue that the trial court erred in concluding that the position of county law director is not a public office. Because the county law director is subject to oversight by an advisory committee that may remove him or her at any time with the subsequent approval of the county legislature, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/25/15
Southern Trust Insurance Company v. Matthew Phillips
E2014-01581-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal involves the interpretation of an insurance policy in order to determine whether the policy provided coverage for damage caused by arson. The insurer and the insured filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on this issue. The trial court found the policy ambiguous and construed it in favor of coverage, holding that arson was covered under the policy. Accordingly, the trial court granted the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the insured and denied the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the insurer. The insurer appeals. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/10/15
Mary Ridenour, et al v. Covenant Health, et al.
E2014-01408-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from a construction negligence case. Mary Ridenour, individually, and, Jacob Ross Ridenour, a minor by Mary Ridenour (“Plaintiffs”), sued Covenant Health, Rentenbach Engineering Company, and TEG Architects, LLC, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiffs alleged that the absence of shielding in a portion of the radiology facilities in the new emergency department at Methodist Hospital caused Plaintiffs to suffer damages from excessive radiation exposure. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting the statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2000), as a complete defense. The Trial Court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court arguing, in part, that the statute of repose did not run because the absence of the required shielding in the radiology facilities meant the project was not substantially completed on the date as found by the Trial Court. We hold, inter alia, that the radiology facilities, while perhaps defective, were used for their intended purpose and were substantially complete as found by the Trial Court. The construction statute of repose expired and serves to defeat Plaintiffs' claims. We affirm the Trial Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/09/15
Michael Phillips v. Covenant Health, et al.
E2014-01405-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from a construction negligence case. Michael Phillips (“Plaintiff”), sued Covenant Health, Rentenbach Engineering Company, and TEG Architects, LLC, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiff alleged that the absence of shielding in a portion of the radiology facilities in the new emergency department at Methodist Hospital caused Plaintiff to suffer damages from excessive radiation exposure. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting the statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2000), as a complete defense. The Trial Court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals to this Court arguing, in part, that the statute of repose did not run because the absence of the required shielding in the radiology facilities meant the project was not substantially completed on the date as found by the Trial Court. We hold, inter alia, that the radiology facilities, while perhaps defective, were used for their intended purpose and were substantially complete as found by the Trial Court. The construction statute of repose expired and serves to defeat Plaintiff's claims. We affirm the Trial Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/09/15
Keith Gillis v. Covenant Health, et al.
E2014-01409-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from a construction negligence case. Keith Gillis (“Plaintiff”), sued Covenant Health, Rentenbach Engineering Company, and TEG Architects, LLC, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiff alleged that the absence of shielding in a portion of the radiology facilities in the new emergency department at Methodist Hospital caused Plaintiff to suffer damages from excessive radiation exposure. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting the statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2000), as a complete defense. The Trial Court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals to this Court arguing, in part, that the statute of repose did not run because the absence of the required shielding in the radiology facilities meant the project was not substantially completed on the date as found by the Trial Court. We hold, inter alia, that the radiology facilities, while perhaps defective, were used for their intended purpose and were substantially complete as found by the Trial Court. The construction statute of repose expired and serves to defeat Plaintiff's claims. We affirm the Trial Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/09/15
Connie Raby v. Covenant Health, et al.
E2014-01399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from a construction negligence case. Connie Raby (“Plaintiff”), sued Covenant Health, Rentenbach Engineering Company, and TEG Architects, LLC, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiff alleged that the absence of shielding in a portion of the radiology facilities in the new emergency department at Methodist Hospital caused Plaintiff to suffer damages from excessive radiation exposure. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting the statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2000), as a complete defense. The Trial Court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals to this Court arguing, in part, that the statute of repose did not run because the absence of the required shielding in the radiology facilities meant the project was not substantially completed on the date as found by the Trial Court. We hold, inter alia, that the radiology facilities, while perhaps defective, were used for their intended purpose and were substantially complete as found by the Trial Court. The construction statute of repose expired and serves to defeat Plaintiff's claims. We affirm the Trial Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/09/15
Micah Noelle Lewellen, et al v. Covenant Health, et al.
E2014-01410-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This appeal arises from a construction negligence case. Micah Noelle Lewellen, individually, and, Cale Ryan Lewellen, a minor by Micah Noelle Lewellen (“Plaintiffs”), sued Covenant Health, Rentenbach Engineering Company, and TEG Architects, LLC, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiffs alleged that the absence of shielding in a portion of the radiology facilities in the new emergency department at Methodist Hospital caused Plaintiffs to suffer damages from excessive radiation exposure. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting the statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2000), as a complete defense. The Trial Court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court arguing, in part, that the statute of repose did not run because the absence of the required shielding in the radiology facilities meant the project was not substantially completed on the date as found by the Trial Court. We hold, inter alia, that the radiology facilities, while perhaps defective, were used for their intended purpose and were substantially complete as found by the Trial Court. The construction statute of repose expired and serves to defeat Plaintiffs' claims. We affirm the Trial Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/09/15
Jeffrey Richard Palmer v. Bill Kees
E2014-00239-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The plaintiff tenant in this action rented an apartment from the defendant landlord. Attached to the apartment were a wooden deck and staircase leading to the ground below. The tenant filed suit against the landlord for injuries the tenant sustained when a board on the stairs collapsed, causing the tenant to fall. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlord because the tenant could not show that the landlord had knowledge of any dangerous condition on the leased premises. The tenant has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/01/15
Karen Fay Petersen v. Dax Deboe
E2014-00570-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The plaintiff filed the instant action on September 28, 2012, alleging claims against the defendant of breach of contract, misrepresentation, negligent construction, and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Despite several attempts, the plaintiff was unable to obtain personal service of process upon the defendant. The plaintiff subsequently served process upon the defendant via registered mail pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04, but that mailing was returned “unclaimed.” The plaintiff filed a return of service, indicating that service had been properly completed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(11). The trial court entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the defendant had been properly served with process. The defendant in turn moved to set aside the default judgment, and the trial court denied that motion. The defendant has appealed. We affirm the trial court's finding that the defendant was properly served with process. However, we determine that the default judgment was improperly entered in violation of the express language contained in Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(10). We therefore reverse the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to set aside the default judgment and remand this matter for further proceedings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 05/20/15
In re Estate of Mary Pauline Stumpe Schorn
E2013-02245-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip
This is an estate case before this court a second time. The decedent’s eldest son was named the personal representative of his mother’s estate. Two siblings, citing accounting irregularities and other issues, eventually sought their brother’s removal from the personal representative position. The trial court agreed with the siblings and named a substitute personal representative. The initial personal representative appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Anderson County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
Cindy A. Tinnel v. East Tennessee Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists, P.C. et al.
E2014-00906-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip

This is a medical malpractice action. Plaintiff filed a complaint after sending pre-suit notices to Defendants. After voluntarily dismissing the complaint, Plaintiff filed a second set of pre-suit notices before re-filing the complaint. The pre-suit notices were filed within one year of the voluntary dismissal. Defendants moved for summary judgment, alleging that the re-filed complaint was untimely because it was not filed within one year of the dismissal pursuant to the saving statute. Plaintiff responded that the re-filed complaint was timely because the pre-suit notices entitled her to a 120-day extension of the saving statute pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c). The trial court dismissed the action. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
Sharon L. Allen v. Anderson County, Tennessee
E2014-00930-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

This action concerns the sale of three properties Plaintiff purchased at a tax sale held by Anderson County. Plaintiff alleged that Anderson County breached its contract with her by failing to convey marketable title to the properties when the owners of the subject properties had not received proper notice of the tax sale. Anderson County filed a motion to dismiss, asserting, in pertinent part, that the statute of limitations had passed for filing such actions and that it had not breached a contract with Plaintiff. The court dismissed the action, finding that Plaintiff failed to establish that it had entered into a contract with Anderson County, that the statute of limitations for such actions had passed, and that Plaintiff lacked standing to attack the alleged insufficient notice provided to the original property owners. Plaintiff
appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 02/12/15
In Re Jocelyn L.
E2013-02650-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Lantrip

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to have the minor child Jocelyn L. (“the Child”) found dependent and neglected. The Child’s father, James L. (“Father”), was alleged to have sexually abused the Child. The Juvenile Court entered a restraining order against Father. While both Father and the Child’s mother, Amanda L. (“Mother”), were named respondents in DCS’s petition, Mother was named only so as to require her to uphold the restraining order against Father. After a hearing, the Juvenile Court found that the evidence on the allegations against Father did not rise to the level of clear and convincing. The Juvenile Court dismissed the petition. DCS did not appeal. Mother, however, appealed to the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Circuit Court”) for a trial de novo. The Circuit Court found that Mother lacked standing to appeal and dismissed her appeal. Mother now appeals to this Court. We hold that Mother was not an aggrieved party by the Juvenile Court’s order dismissing DCS’s petition and, therefore, lacked standing to
appeal to the Circuit Court. We affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
In Re: Paige A.F., et al.
E2014-00450-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brandon Fisher

The State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Joann P.F. (“Mother”) and Gary A.M. (“Father”) to the minor children, Paige A.F., Tristan J.A.M., and Gaige D.W.M. (“the Children”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Children after finding that clear and convincing evidence was proven of grounds to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights for substantial noncompliance 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), and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to be terminated. Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights to this Court. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s findings made by clear and convincing evidence, and we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
Phillip M. Nall, et al v. The City of Oak Ridge. et al
E2013-02608-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William E. Lantrip

Four sergeants with a municipal police department filed a grievance complaining that there was an unlawful disparity in pay among the sergeants on the force. The personnel board for the municipality denied the grievance. The sergeants appealed. The trial court determined that the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act was applicable under the facts of the case and the personnel board’s decision that it lacked authority to grant the relief sought was supported by material and substantial evidence. We affirm as modified.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 10/10/14
In Re: Shameel S., et al
E2014-00294-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brandon Fisher

Valerie S. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her minor children Shameel S., born November 1996, and LaRiea S., born May 1998, (“the Children”). Acting upon a petition to terminate parental rights filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Children on the ground of severe abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102. Mother argues on appeal that DCS did not exercise reasonable efforts to reunify Mother and the Children in the period before a finding of severe abuse. We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was shown that the ground existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights to the Children for severe child abuse, that clear and convincing evidence was shown that termination was in the Children’s best interest, and that DCS exercised reasonable efforts. We affirm the Juvenile Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/19/14
Mark Coffey v. City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee
E2013-02200-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

This is a retaliatory discharge case in which a former police officer filed suit against his department for back pay, front pay, and other compensatory damages. The trial court found that the police officer did not establish the elements of retaliatory discharge under the Tennessee Public Protection Act and dismissed his suit. The police officer appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/12/14
Joseph J. Levitt, Jr. v. City of Oak Ridge, Et Al.
E2013-02625-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Lantrip

Joseph J. Levitt, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) appeals the dismissal of his suit against the City of Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Appeals, and Denny Boss (“Defendants”) entered by the Chancery Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). We find and hold, as did the Trial Court, that Plaintiff’s suit is barred by res judicata, and we affirm. We further find and hold Plaintiff’s appeal to be frivolous and remand to the Trial Court for an award of damages for frivolous appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/10/14