Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/06/2016
Format: 02/06/2016
Ensureus, LLC v. Douglas S. Oliver, et al
M2014-00410-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

Purchaser of insurance agency sued Seller, alleging breach of contract and misrepresentation. Seller filed a counterclaim seeking amount due on Purchaser’s promissory note.  The trial court found Purchaser failed to prove either breach of contract or misrepresentation, and it awarded Seller the balance due on the promissory note.  Purchaser appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Valerie Cecile Burnett v. David Shaw Burnett
M2014-00833-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

This case involves a mother’s request for a change in the primary residential parent designation for her children. Following a one-day hearing, the trial court found that the mother failed to prove a material change in circumstance as necessary to change the primary residential parent designation. On appeal, the mother argues that the court’s order did not comply with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01 and that the proof showed a material change in circumstance. After reviewing the record, we affirm the trial court’s decision. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Terry Pantuso v. Wright Medical Technology Inc., et al.
W2014-02315-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

In this interlocutory appeal, the defendants appeal the trial court's denial of their motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit on the ground of forum non conveniens. Discerning no abuse of discretion by the trial court, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Chandra L. Berry v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, et al.
W2014-02175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This appeal involves the assignment of a deed of trust. Plaintiff/Appellant purchased a home in Memphis in 2004 and later defaulted on her mortgage. Appellees advised of their intent to foreclose on the home, which prompted Plaintiff to file suit and obtain a temporary restraining order preventing foreclosure. Plaintiff asserted several legal theories, which were all dismissed by the trial court. Plaintiff appealed, and this Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal on all but one fraud claim. Upon remand, the trial court then granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment on the remaining fraud claim. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Tim E. Shaw v. FSGBank, N.A.
E2014-01365-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

In 2007, Tim E. Shaw contacted FSGBank, N.A. (FSG) regarding the refinancing of multiple loans. FSG initiated the processing of his request for refinancing; in the meantime, it extended to him a new loan for $60,000 to enable him to purchase another piece of property for investment purposes. The new loan was secured by a trust deed on property he owned at 430 Highland Avenue in Cleveland, Tennessee. In 2010, after an apparent default by Mr. Shaw on the $60,000 loan, FSG sought foreclosure proceedings on the Highland Avenue property and advertised a trustee sale. As a result, Mr. Shaw filed a complaint against FSG in 2010. He alleged a number of claims, specifically (1) breach of an agreement for future loans; (2) breach of contract; (3) conversion; (4) fraud; and (5) misrepresentation. FSG subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, contending that Mr. Shaw’s complaint failed to state an actionable claim as there was not in existence a written agreement by FSG to make additional loans. Further, FSG claimed that Mr. Shaw’s misrepresentation claim was barred by the statute of limitations and because it was based upon FSG’s alleged failure to make loans it never agreed to make.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Jimmy L. Hensley v. Cocke Farmers Cooperative
E2014-01775-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

Jimmy L. Hensley brought this action to enforce his agreement with a former employer, Cocke Farmer’s Cooperative (the co-op), providing for the payment of severance pay to him in the event his employment was terminated without cause. Each side moved for summary judgment. The trial court held the agreement to be valid and enforceable. Accordingly, it granted Hensley summary judgment, awarding him the severance pay set forth in the agreement. The co-op appeals. We affirm.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
In re L.J., Jr.
E2014-02042-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

J.S.H. (Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, L.J., Jr. (the Child). Mother contends that the trial court erred in its finding – said to be made by clear and convincing evidence – that she abandoned the Child by willfully (1) failing to pay support and (2) failing to visit the Child in the four months immediately preceding the filing of the termination petition. She also challenges the trial court's holding that she failed to provide the Child a suitable home. Mother argues that the trial court erred when it held that termination is in the Child's best interest. Mother has three other children, B.H., J.T., and A.T. The Department of Children's Services (DCS) was awarded temporary legal custody of all of the four children on September 20, 2012, due to the trial court's finding that each was dependent and neglected. Mother's other three children now live with their paternal grandmother. Only Mother's parental rights with respect to L.J., Jr. are at issue on this appeal. We modify the trial court's judgment. As modified, the judgment terminating Mother's rights is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Travis G. McCosh v. Jennifer Burns McCosh
E2014-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This is a post-divorce case. Travis G. McCosh (Father) appeals the trial court’s judgment increasing his child support payment retroactively to the date that Jennifer Burns McCosh (Mother) filed a counterclaim seeking (1) to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan and (2) the recalculation of child support pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. Father also appeals the trial court’s award of $500 in attorney’s fees to Mother. We hold that the proof establishes a significant variance between the amount of the current support order and the amount of the presumptive support based upon the relevant facts before the trial court. The significant variance is due primarily to the fact that Father’s income has increased significantly between the time of the last child support order and the filing of Mother’s petition. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Nonprofit Housing Corporation, et al. v. Tennessee Housing Development Agency
M2014-01588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Three non-profit corporations filed suit alleging that they were wrongfully denied low income housing tax credits. The trial court determined that the plaintiffs’ claims were moot, and we concur.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
Springfield Investments, LLC et al v. Global Investments, LLC et al.
E2014-01703-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This case involves a claim for, inter alia, intentional interference with business relationships. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants, owners and operators of a franchise pursuant to an agreement with Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant (“Wendy's') in Cleveland, Tennessee, interfered with the plaintiffs' ability to timely secure a franchise agreement with Wendy's to build a new restaurant in Cleveland. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants improperly used a non-compete agreement, entered into in 1998 by the defendants and a brother of one of the plaintiffs, to object to Wendy's grant of the new franchise. Following a bench trial, the trial court found, inter alia, that the plaintiffs failed to establish the claim of intentional interference with business relationships. The court did enter a judgment, however, in favor of the plaintiffs for nominal damages in the amount of $500. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
In re Joseph H.
M2014-01765-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sophia Brown Crawford

Two months after the child was born, Father filed a petition to establish paternity and change the child’s surname by deleting Mother’s surname and replacing it with Father’s surname. Mother opposed changing the child’s surname. Following an evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court denied the petition to change the child’s surname upon the finding that Father failed to prove that it was in the child’s best interests. Father appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
Julian Hinson, D/B/A Trivia Time v. Thom O'Rourke
M2014-00361-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Plaintiff, a sole proprietor of an entertainment business featuring trivia and bingo games, filed this action to enforce an Independent Contractor Agreement, a Noncompetition Agreement, and a Contractor Confidentiality Agreement and for violation of the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The defendant asserted that the covenant not to compete was unenforceable and that none of the information provided to him by Plaintiff constituted trade secrets or confidential information. The trial court dismissed all claims finding the covenant not to compete was unenforceable and that none of the information qualified as a trade secret. Following the dismissal of the claims, the defendant filed a motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to the Trade Secrets Act. The trial court denied the motion finding that the claim under the Trade Secrets Act was not brought in bad faith. Both parties appeal. We affirm the trial court in all respects. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
Open Lake Sporting Club v. Lauderdale Haywood Angling Club
W2014-00436-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge William C. Cole

At issue in this case is the interpretation of an agreement that, inter alia, provides for a lease for the use of Open Lake in Lauderdale County by Lauderdale Haywood Angling Club. Following summary judgment proceedings, the trial court determined that the parties' agreement had terminated on two grounds. After declaring that all rights under the agreement had ended, it later required one of the parties to post a bond in order to continue using certain duck blinds for the remainder of the 2013-2014 duck hunting season. Although we conclude that one of the grounds relied upon by the trial court in declaring that the agreement was terminated was in error, we affirm the entry of summary judgment on the other ground. We also affirm the propriety and amount of the bond ordered by the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
Nicholas Grimaldi, D.O. et al v. Ronald Christopher, M.D.
E2014-02556-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This consolidated appeal involves the denial of two motions to alter or amend the court's dismissal of a complaint requesting corporate dissolution of a medical practice and a shareholder derivative suit involving the same medical practice. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
Ronald Christopher v. East Tennessee Spine and Orthopaedic Specialists, P.C.
E2014-02552-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This consolidated appeal involves the denial of two motions to alter or amend the court's dismissal of a complaint requesting corporate dissolution of a medical practice and a shareholder derivative suit involving the same medical practice. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
Royal Properties, Inc. v. The City of Knoxville et al.
E2014-01937-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler

This is an appeal from a judgment in a certiorari review action. The petitioner sought approval for the construction of a surface parking lot as a use permitted on review in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Metropolitan Planning Commission denied the application. The petitioner appealed the denial to the Knoxville City Council, which failed to vote on the matter. The trial court upheld the de facto denial, holding that the Knoxville City Council had not exceeded its jurisdiction, followed an unlawful procedure, acted illegally, arbitrarily, or fraudulently, or acted without material evidence to support its decision. The petitioner appeals. For the reasons discussed herein, we reverse and remand this case to the trial court with instructions to remand to the Knoxville City Council for a definitive ruling on whether the requested surface parking lot is permissible as a use permitted on review.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/25/15
RCR Building Corporation v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01555-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

This appeal concerns the construction of a welcome center along I-65 North in Ardmore, Tennessee. The State entered into an agreement with a contractor to construct the welcome center and the adjacent roadways and parking lots. As construction progressed, the contractor submitted requests for several changes to the scope of the project, which were denied; the State also denied several pay requests for work the contractor or its subcontractors had already completed. The contractor filed suit against the State alleging nine separate claims for damages. The Claims Commission ruled in favor of the contractor on all claims. The State appeals four of the claims, asserting that the Commission erred in awarding damages. Concluding that the evidence does not preponderate against the Commission’s findings of fact, we affirm the Commissioner in all respects.

Court of Appeals 08/24/15
Stasha B. Taylor, et al. v. Melvinie E. Seymore, MD, et al.
W2015-01272-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

This accelerated interlocutory appeal arises from the trial court‘s denial of motions for recusal in two separate health care liability cases. We have consolidated the cases on appeal because they contain common facts and questions of law. Having reviewed the motions under the de novo standard of review required by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the trial court‘s decision to deny both motions.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/15
In re Christopher M.
W2014-02520-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

This appeal involves the termination of a mother's parental rights to her eleven-year-old son. In 2004, the son was adjudicated dependent and neglected due to his mother's substance abuse and was placed in the custody of his maternal grandmother and step-grandfather. In 2012, these same grandparents filed a petition, as prospective adoptive parents, seeking to terminate the mother's parental rights on the statutory ground of persistent conditions. The trial court found that the ground of persistent conditions had not been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The grandparents appeal. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/24/15
Freddie Odell Norris v. Susan Marguriete Norris
E2014-02353-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Warner

This appeal arises from a divorce. Freddie Odell Norris (“Husband”) sued Susan Marguriete Norris (“Wife”) for divorce in the Probate and Family Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court granted a divorce to Husband on the ground of irreconcilable differences and ordered him to pay transitional alimony. Wife appeals to this Court, raising a number of issues. We amend the divorce decree to modify the grounds for divorce, modify the alimony type from transitional to in futuro, and remand this case for a calculation of reasonable attorney's fees for Wife. The judgment of the Trial Court is modified and this matter is remanded to the Trial Court for further proceedings.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 08/24/15
Cecil Sims Irvin v. Bass, Berry, and Sims, PLC, et al
M2014-00671-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This case arises from the 1986 sale of a family farm. One family member filed suit against another family member, who was also an attorney, and his law firm alleging malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud in connection with the sale. The attorney and his law firm filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. Because we find, as did the trial court, that the claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/21/15
Pam Hayes, et al v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2014-01962-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenny W. Armstrong

This appeal involves a dispute stemming from a resolution adopted by the Memphis City Council renaming three public parks. Several organizations and individuals filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the resolution. The Shelby County Chancery Court dismissed the lawsuit, holding that the allegations in the plaintiffs’ complaint were insufficient to establish their standing. On appeal, we hold that the allegations of the complaint are sufficient to establish standing as to one of the organizations, Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp #215. We therefore reverse the trial court’s dismissal as to that organization. We affirm dismissal of the remaining plaintiffs’ claims for lack of standing.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/21/15
Valorie K. Stapleton v. Glen A. Stapleton
E2014-02014-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J.Michael Sharp

In this post-divorce matter, the appellant challenges an award of attorney fees to his former wife in the amount of $15,591.43. We affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 08/21/15
Estate of Walter Bradley by Next of Kin, Irene King et al v. Hamilton County
E2014-02215-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey Hollingsworth

Following his conviction, Mr. Bradley was placed at the Hamilton County Jail in March 2012. Over the next seven months, Mr. Bradley spent several weeks in and out of Erlanger Medical Center and Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute due to his poor health. In October 2012, he passed away from tuberculosis. His sister brought this action for wrongful death and negligence under Tennessee's Governmental Tort Liability Act against Hamilton County. She later amended the complaint in order to add a claim for severe emotional distress she personally suffered as a result of her brother's alleged mistreatment. Hamilton County filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. The trial court consolidated the two motions together and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. The sister appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/21/15
James R. Vandergriff et al. v. Parkridge East Hospital et al.
E2014-02253-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

The parents of a minor child filed a pro se complaint asserting claims on behalf of their daughter and individual claims by each parent. The complaint alleges that the daughter was born with brain injuries and remains severely disabled due to the failure of health care providers to treat her mother for a severe womb infection during two hospitalizations preceding birth. Plaintiffs also allege that the complaint was filed timely, although it was filed ten years after birth, because the defendants fraudulently concealed the fact that the mother was not treated for the infection. The complaint states that the parents learned of the infection in 2012 when they obtained medical records that included a previously-undisclosed placenta pathology report. The defendants responded to the complaint by filing Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motions to dismiss the parents’ individual claims pursuant to the one-year statute of limitations, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-116(a)(1)-(2), and the daughter’s claims based upon the three-year statute of repose, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-116(a)(3).

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/21/15