Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/12/2017
Format: 12/12/2017
In Re: Estate of Vida Mae McCartt
E2016-02497-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

Appellant brought this action challenging the settlement agreement reached by the contestants in a will contest. Appellant, the legitimated child of Decedent’s deceased son, filed suit to set aside the settlement agreement based on allegations that the will contestants, including Appellant’s half-siblings, i.e., Appellees, engaged in fraud and misrepresentation in an effort to exclude Appellant from her share of Decedent’s estate. Because Appellant had knowledge of the will contest, chose not to participate in the will contest, and there is no evidence that the Appellees acted in bad faith or fraudulently, we conclude that the trial court did not err in refusing to order a share of the Decedent’s estate to be distributed to Appellant. Affirmed and remanded.

Morgan County Court of Appeals 07/25/17
In Re Jonathan S. Jr.,
M2016-01365-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal involves a father’s efforts to modify a permanent parenting plan. The father filed a petition in which he requested to be named the primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child. At the close of the father’s proof, the mother moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that the father failed to carry his burden of proving a material change in circumstance. The trial court agreed, found that the father’s evidence was insufficient to establish a material change in circumstances, and dismissed his petition. The father appealed. On appeal, we conclude that the evidence in the record preponderates against the trial court’s findings. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/24/17
In Re Catherine J.
W2017-00491-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the parental rights of the father, Clyde J. (“Father”) to his minor child, Catherine J. (“the Child”). On August 4, 2016, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights.The matter was heard on January 26, 2017, and the trial court entered a final judgment on February 13, 2017, terminating Father’s parental rights to the Child. Father timely filed a notice of appeal. However, Father failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d) (Supp. 2016) in that he failed to sign the notice of appeal. At the direction of this Court, Father filed an amended notice of appeal that contained his signature on April 7, 2017, more than thirty days from entry of the trial court’s final judgment. Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, we dismiss Father’s appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/24/17
Seth Elliott v. City of Manchester, Tennessee
M2015-01798-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

An inmate of the Coffee County jail was injured when he fell off a truck being driven by another inmate while working on a detail for the City of Manchester.  The inmate filed suit against the city and the county pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act to recover for alleged negligence on the part of the city and county.  The inmate settled his claim against the county.  The city moved to dismiss the suit on the ground that it was immune from suit because the inmate’s recovery was limited to medical treatment for the injury he received; the court agreed and dismissed the suit.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment.    

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/24/17
Terry Justin Vaughn v. City of Tullahoma, et al.
M2015-02441-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

An inmate of the Coffee County jail was injured while working on a detail for the City of Tullahoma in a cemetery; he filed suit against the City and County pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act to recover for asserted negligence that caused his injury. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that each was immune from suit because liability was limited by Tennessee Code Annotated, section 41-2-123, to the inmate’s medical expenses, which had been paid. The trial court granted the motions and dismissed the case. The inmate appeals; discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/21/17
Kimberly Giles Rollick v. Citizens Bank of Blount County, et al.
E2016-01444-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

A plaintiff filed a complaint against three entities asserting claims for breach of contract, among others. The trial court granted each defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal as to two of the three orders dismissing her complaint, and the Court of Appeals granted the third defendant’s motion to be dismissed from the appeal. On appeal, the plaintiff argues the trial court improperly granted the third defendant’s motion to dismiss for procedural reasons, and she complains the trial court refused to provide her with a transcript of the hearings. Finding no merit to the plaintiff’s arguments, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Blount County Court of Appeals 07/21/17
Bobby Joe Pack v. Rebecca Suzanna Rothchild
E2016-00873-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This is an appeal from a final decree of divorce. The Appellant Rebecca Rothchild (“Mother”) challenges the trial court’s division of marital property, its designation of Bobby Pack (“Father”) as the primary custodian of the parties’ children, and its refusal to award her alimony. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/21/17
Mardoche Olivier v. City of Clarksville, et al.
M2016-02474-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This appeal arises out of the alleged wrongful seizure of Plaintiff’s personal property, mainly cars and trailers, which were removed from Plaintiff’s residence by order of the City of Clarksville Building and Codes Director. Instead of appealing the decision of the Building and Codes Director pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 27-9-101 and -102, Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Clarksville (“the City”) and three city officials alleging that the removal and retention of his personal property constituted conversion and inverse condemnation. He also asserted claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The City responded by filing a motion to dismiss the complaint on several grounds. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed all claims. The court ruled that the City had immunity under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”) because Plaintiff failed to allege a policy, practice, or custom which caused his harm. Additionally and alternatively, the court dismissed the claims of inverse condemnation, conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the § 1983 civil rights violations because the complaint failed to allege essential elements of each claim. The court also found the claims were time-barred. As for the defendants who were sued in their individual capacities, the court dismissed the claims because the complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted, and because Plaintiff failed to provide a summons for service of process on each of the defendants. This appeal followed. Plaintiff raises twelve issues for us to consider on appeal. Since Plaintiff did not raise several of these issues in the trial court, they are deemed waived. As for the remaining issues, we find them unavailing for the reasons explained below. Therefore, we affirm the trial court in all respects. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/21/17
Christopher Lea Williams v. John Buraczynski
E2016-01605-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal arises from a motor vehicle accident. Christopher Lea Williams (“Williams”) and John Buraczynski (“Buraczynski”) both worked for Progression Electric, LLC (“Progression”). In January 2015, Buraczynski was driving his vehicle with passenger Williams as part of a carpool arrangement when they were involved in an accident. Williams subsequently claimed he was entitled to and received workers’ compensation benefits. Williams then sued Buraczynski, personally, in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Buraczynski filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Williams’ exclusive remedy was in workers’ compensation. The Trial Court granted Buraczynski’s motion. Williams appealed. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/19/17
Christopher Charles Milner v. Suzanne Cary Milner
E2017-00274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

The January 12, 2017 order to which the Notice of Appeal is directed in this post-dissolution case did not adjudicate a pending motion to modify child support or the pending issue concerning whether the appellant “wrongfully” received benefits from the Social Security Administration for the benefit of the parties’ minor child based upon the step-father’s disability. As such, it is clear that the order appealed from does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below and is not a final judgment from which an appeal as of right would lie. We therefore lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Carter County Court of Appeals 07/19/17
In Re: Bryson F.
E2016-01303-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the mother and stepfather sought termination of the biological father’s parental rights to his child. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination on the statutory ground of abandonment for failure to remit child support. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the child. The father appeals. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 07/17/17
Jonelle Hyde v. South Central Tennessee Development District
M2015-02466-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Defendant that admitted liability for vehicle accident appeals the award of damages to the injured Plaintiff, contending that the awards for lost wages, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, past and future, loss of ability to enjoy life, past and future, and permanent impairment awards, are against the preponderance of the evidence. Upon a thorough review of the record, we modify the award for past medical expenses; affirm the awards for past pain and suffering, permanent impairment, past loss of ability to enjoy life and for loss of ability to enjoy life in the future, and for lost wages; reverse the award for future pain and suffering; and vacate the award for loss of earning capacity and remand the case for further consideration of the award.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County v. RSF Investors, LLC
M2016-02221-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal arises from an enforcement action by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) against the owner of a restaurant located within the Broadway Historic Preservation District in Nashville, Tennessee. Metro commenced the action to require the owner to comply with Metropolitan Code of Laws (M.C.L) § 17.40.410 and the preservation permit the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission (“the Commission”) issued upon the application of the owner. Following discovery, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Metro’s motion and denied the owner’s motion. The order required the owner to remove the portion of the installation that did not comply with the permit. This appeal followed. The owner raises three principal issues. It contends: (1) the glass panels it was ordered to remove do not fall within the purview of the Commission; (2) Metro cannot enforce a permit that has expired; and (3) summary judgment is inappropriate because material facts are in dispute. Metro contends we lack jurisdiction to hear this appeal because the appeal is untimely. We have determined the appeal is timely, and the issues raised by the owner are unavailing. Therefore, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Karen H. Foster v. Douglas S. Foster
M2016-01749-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This post-divorce case involves the interpretation of a paragraph in a marital dissolution agreement regarding the allocation of a portion of Husband’s military retirement benefits to Wife. Both parties petitioned the trial court to interpret the terms of the agreement. The trial court held that the agreement awarded Wife 33% of Husband’s actual disposable military retirement pay at the rank of Captain (his rank at the time of the divorce). On appeal, Husband contends that the award was intended to be alimony in solido calculable at the time of the divorce based on the value of his accrued benefits at that time. He also contends that Wife should be bound by her acknowledgment in pre-litigation discussions of $465.86 per month as the correct amount of the award. Having considered the issues advanced on appeal, we agree with the trial court’s interpretation of the marital dissolution agreement and affirm its judgment in all respects. Additionally, we hold that Wife is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees incurred on appeal pursuant to the terms of the marital dissolution agreement and remand this case to the trial court for a determination of the appropriate amount of those fees.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Trina A. Scott v. Sharfyne L'Nell White
M2015-02488-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

A judgment creditor moved to extend her judgment for an additional ten years under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04, and the trial court issued an order requiring the judgment debtor to show cause why the judgment should not be extended. Almost a year later, the judgment debtor filed a motion for relief from the judgment based upon an error in the certificate of service on the show cause order. In her response, the judgment creditor acknowledged that the address shown for the judgment debtor was incorrect but stated that, after the order was returned by the post office, it was mailed to the correct address. The judgment creditor also asserted that the motion for relief was premature because the court had not yet entered an order extending the judgment. The trial court entered an order extending the judgment for an additional ten years. We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Zella Balentine v. City of Savannah, Tennessee
W2016-01865-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

This appeal results from the trial court’s ruling that the city was allowed to demolish appellant’s home based on her failure to bring the building into compliance as required by the settlement agreement reached by the parties. Based on appellant’s failure to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Rules of the Court of Appeals, we decline to address the merits of the case and dismiss the appeal.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Rickey Joe Taylor v. Town of Lynnville - Concurring
M2016-01393-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

I concur in the majority’s opinion, but I write separately to express my concern regarding one facet of statutory interpretation in this case.

Giles County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Rickey Joe Taylor v. Town of Lynnville
M2016-01393-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

This is an appeal from a dispute litigated under the Tennessee Public Records Act. Although the trial court concluded that the Town of Lynnville violated the Act by denying the petitioner’s request for records, the court held that the denial of records was not willful. Accordingly, the petitioner’s request for attorney’s fees was denied. Having reviewed the record transmitted to us on appeal, we disagree with the trial court’s determination that the denial of records was not willful and reverse the trial court on this issue. In light of our conclusion that the denial of records was willful, we remand the case to the trial court to reconsider its decision to deny an award of attorney’s fees. We also remand for a determination of Mr. Taylor’s costs and attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal.

Giles County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Floyd E. Rayner, III v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al
M2017-00223-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Appellant, an inmate in the custody of Appellee Tennessee Department of Correction, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his petition for declaratory judgment under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, Appellant challenges the Tennessee Department of Correction’s calculation of his criminal sentence, and also challenges the constitutionality of the criminal statutes, under which he was convicted. We conclude that the calculation of Appellant’s sentence comports with the judgments of the criminal court. Appellant’s constitutional arguments challenge his criminal sentence. As such, he has no recourse under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Affirmed and remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
In Re: Quintin S., et al.
E2016-02150-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert M. Estep

The Department of Children’s Services filed this petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and two fathers of four children on various grounds. We affirm the termination of the parental rights of all three parents on multiple grounds, but reverse as to some of the grounds found by the trial court. We agree with the trial court’s decision that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Alexander A. Stratienko, et al. v. Oscar H. Brock, et al.
E2016-01467-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This is a jury case arising from the formation and management of a limited liability company. The jury determined that the Appellee developer was entitled to payment for his membership interest in the LLC. The jury also determined that the Appellant investor, his wife, and the LLC should indemnify the developer for the judgment relating to the lease of an adjacent lot. Because there is material evidence to support the jury’s verdict, we affirm and remand

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Randall Eugene Denton v. Deborah Meadows Denton
W2017-00472-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Appellant, a sixty-nine year old retiree, was found guilty of civil contempt for failure to comply with a marital dissolution agreement. We reverse the trial court’s order incarcerating Appellant “until payment of the debt” and instead order his immediate release from incarceration based upon his inability to pay the debt.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Kevin Cash v. Turner Holdings, LLC a/k/a Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
W2016-02288-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This case involves the application of the doctrine of res judicata. Appellant filed a complaint against appellee alleging retaliatory discharge, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the first lawsuit. The trial court granted appellee’s Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss “in its entirety.” Appellant thereafter filed a second lawsuit against appellee alleging the same causes of action. The trial court granted summary judgment to appellee based on the doctrine of res judicata. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Andrea Renae Hopwood v. Corey Daniel Hopwood
M2016-01752-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this post-divorce proceeding, father appeals the trial court’s finding that he was guilty of civil contempt in failing to pay court-ordered financial obligations relative to the parties’ divorce. We affirm the trial court’s finding that Father was in willful contempt of court, but reverse the trial court’s decision to jail Father until he made an $8,122.43 purge payment.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Charles Stinson, et al. v. David E. Mensel, et al.
M2016-00624-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This appeal involves a dispute between landowners over an easement on Plaintiffs’ property that allows the Defendants to use the easement for ingress and egress to their homes. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the Defendants unlawfully bulldozed the easement, encroached onto Plaintiffs’ property, and used threats and intimidation to prevent the Plaintiffs from coming on or using the non-exclusive easement. Defendants counter-sued, alleging that the Plaintiffs were actually the ones engaging in a campaign of harassment, and that the Plaintiffs were preventing the Defendants from the peace and enjoyment of the easement, which they used as their driveway. Following a bench trial, the trial court concluded that Plaintiffs were liable to Defendants for nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. The trial court also enjoined the Plaintiffs from having any use of the easement. Plaintiffs appealed. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and partially vacate the injunction. Specifically, we affirm the judgment of the trial court with respect to the nuisance claim, reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to the intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy claims, and vacate the permanent injunction against Plaintiffs to the extent that it prohibits them from the lawful use of their property.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 07/12/17