Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014
In Re: Ramon E.A.V., et al
E2013-01562-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge A. Benjamin Strand, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case. Following a hearing, the trial court found clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of the father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of (1) abandonment due to failure to visit and (2) failure to comply substantially with the permanency plan. The trial court further concluded that clear and convincing evidence revealed that termination was in the best interest of the children. The father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 02/25/14
In Re: Destiny M.
W2013-01802-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Van McMahan

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother/Appellant appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights on grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(1) as defined at Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv), and persistence of conditions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(3). Mother also appeals the trial court’s determination that termination of her parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because there is clear and convincing evidence in the record to support the trial court’s decision, we affirm and remand.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 02/24/14
In Re: Thomas A.H.
E2013-01449-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Benjamin Strand, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother to the Child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Mother’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions and mental incompetence and that termination of her rights was in the Child’s best interest. Mother appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 02/21/14
In Re: Jacob C.H. and Lillianna J.H.
E2013-00587-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

George H. (“Father”) and Hollie H. (“Stepmother”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Wendy H. (“Mother”) to the minor children Jacob C. H. and Lillianna J. H. (“the Children”) and to allow Stepmother to adopt the Children. After a trial, the Trial Court entered its final order terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children after finding and holding, inter alia, that clear and convincing evidence existed of grounds to terminate Mother’s parental rights to the Children pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102 for willful failure to visit and willful failure to support, and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. We affirm the termination of Mother's parental rights to the Children.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 02/20/14
Maryam Mubashir v. Mubashir Mahmood
E2013-00480-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Thomas R. Frierson, II

This appeal arises from a divorce. Maryam Mubashir (“Wife”) sued Mubashir Mahmood (“Husband”) for divorce in the Chancery Court for Hamblen County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court granted the divorce. Husband appeals, raising numerous issues concerning parenting time, arrearages, and alimony. We modify the judgment of the Trial Court as it pertains to certain arrearages and Husband’s parenting time with the parties’ children. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 02/19/14
David A. and Kasey H. v. Wand T.
M2013-01327-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case. Father’s parental rights were terminated on the ground of abandonment for willful failure to visit and willful failure to support. Because the trial court’s order terminating Father’s parental rights fails to set forth sufficient findings, we are unable to adequately address the issue of abandonment in this case. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the chancery court and we remand for entry of an order that sets forth sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the termination of Father’s parental rights.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 02/18/14
John Wesley Green, Individually and as Shareholder of Champs-Elysees, Inc. v. Champs-Elysees, Inc., et al
M2013-00232-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal stems from the denial of a Rule 60.02 motion, filed by an attorney on his own behalf, to set aside an order. The attorney tried unsuccessfully to derail a sheriff’s sale of his client’s property through the use of an elaborate contrivance. In the aftermath, contempt charges were filed against the attorney. In the ensuing civil contempt proceedings, the trial court entered an order that concluded that the trial court was unable to hold the errant attorney in civil contempt of court. The order included obiter dictum in which the trial court questioned the attorney’s veracity as an officer of the court, stated that he could have been held in criminal contempt had he been charged with such, and referred the matter to the Board of Professional Responsibility. Over five years later, the attorney and his client filed the Rule 60.02 motion that is the subject of this appeal, asking the trial court to set aside the order with the offending dicta. The trial court dismissed the Rule 60.02 motion, finding that it either did not have subject matter jurisdiction to set aside the order or, in the alternative, that the motion to set aside was untimely and without merit. The attorney and his client appeal. We reverse the trial court’s holding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the Rule 60.02 motion, but affirm the trial court’s alternative holding that the motion to set aside is untimely and wholly without merit. In light of improper statements made in the attorney’s appellate brief about the trial judge, we also find it necessary to refer the appellant attorney to the Board of Professional Responsibility.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/18/14
In Re: William T. H.
M2013-00448-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. L. Rogers

Mother and Stepfather filed petition seeking to terminate biological Father’s parental rights and to permit Stepfather to adopt Child. Trial court found Father had abandoned Child by failing to visit or support Child in the four months preceding the petition’s filing and that it was in Child’s best interest to terminate Father’s rights. Father appealed. We reverse the trial court’s judgment terminating Father’s rights because the evidence was not clear and convincing that it is in Child’s best interest that Father’s rights be terminated.

Court of Appeals 02/18/14
Priscilla Lee Slagle v. Lawrence Fred Slagle
E2013-01480-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge John R. Officer

Lawrence Fred Slagle (“Husband”) appeals the Trial Court’s finding that he has the ability to pay to purge his civil contempt. We find no error in the Trial Court’s determination that Husband failed to make a prima facie showing that he had an inability to pay the purge amount, and we affirm.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 02/18/14
Keryl Fillers, as personal representative of the Estate of John J. Craig v. Dwight A. Collins, et al
E2013-01210-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler

This appeal involves Wife’s attempt to set aside a judgment entered against her relating to her failure to fulfill seven promissory notes. The trial court granted Wife’s motion to set aside, in part, affirming her liability for three of the seven notes but holding that Wife was not liable for the remaining notes. Wife appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 02/18/14
Valerie Ann Tipton v. Joel David Constance
E2014-00143-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James W. McKenzie

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the Trial Court’s denial of a Motion to Recuse in a post-divorce proceeding. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Petitioner/Former Husband, Joel David Constance (“Petitioner”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, we affirm the Trial Court.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 02/14/14
Rebecca Little v. City of Chattanooga
E2013-00838-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This appeal questions the propriety of the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 10-7-505(g) (Supp. 2013). The statute provides that an award of fees and costs can be made when a municipality wrongfully fails to disclose public documents requested pursuant to the Public Records Act. In the prior appeal of this action, this Court determined that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to award the plaintiff fees and costs she incurred in seeking the disclosure of public documents from the City of Chattanooga pursuant to the referenced statute. Upon remand, the plaintiff filed a petition seeking attorney’s fees and costs exceeding $70,000.00. The trial court found that the total fees and costs sought by the plaintiff were unreasonable and excessive, and the court reduced the amount of fees awarded to $50,284.50. The court also reduced the costs awarded for mileage and court reporter charges. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for entry of an award of the full amount of fees and costs sought.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 02/14/14
Rebecca Coleman, DVM v. The Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, A Tennessee not for profit organization and Ginger Morgan
W2012-02687-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This appeal involves a veterinarian’s common law and statutory claims for retaliatory discharge and her claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant employer filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim because the veterinarian had not introduced expert proof to support her claim. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment on the retaliatory discharge claims. Both parties filed applications for interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which were granted by the trial court and by this Court. We reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, and we affirm the trial court’s denial of summary judgment on the retaliatory discharge claims. This matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/14/14