Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/30/2016
Format: 05/30/2016
In re: Raven S., et al
M2014-00789-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Scott Rosenberg

Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights to two of their children. Upon a finding of dependency and neglect, the juvenile court placed the children in the custody of Mother’s aunt. Subsequently, the Guardian ad Litem petitioned to terminate parental rights. Following a one-day trial, the juvenile court took the matter under advisement. After the elapse of several months, the parents and the Guardian ad Litem filed a motion requesting a decision from the court on the petition to terminate parental rights. The trial court held a hearing on the motion after which it considered additional evidence, primarily related to contact between the children and parents since the previous hearing. At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the court granted the petition to terminate on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support and visit. The court also found termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to be in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father both appeal the statutory grounds for termination and that termination was in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father also assign error to the trial court reopening proof. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Carlene Guye Judd, et al v. Carlton Guye, et al.
M2015-00094-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

This shareholder derivative action involves a closely-held corporation founded by the plaintiff’s parents. In 1995, the parents sold all of the outstanding shares to the plaintiff and her brother on credit. A promissory note and security agreement were executed in conjunction with the sale. After managing the corporation with her brother for several years, the plaintiff filed this derivative action against her brother and parents, seeking to recover corporate funds her brother was allegedly using for personal expenses and to dissolve the corporation. During the litigation, the parents gave the plaintiff notice that they were accelerating the promissory note and exercising their right to recover all of the stock sold to her pursuant to the security agreement. The validity of the parents’ efforts to reclaim the stock went to trial along with the other issues. After a two-day trial, the court determined that the parents’ efforts to reclaim ownership of the shares were ineffective, that the plaintiff owned 50% of the outstanding shares, thus she maintained standing to pursue the relief sought in her complaint, and awarded a judgment to the plaintiff on behalf of the corporation. Pursuant to an agreed order, the trial court appointed a receiver to wind up the corporation’s business. During the pendency of this appeal, but prior to oral argument, all of the corporation’s assets were sold, and its business was wound up. In this appeal, the parents contend the trial court erred by granting the plaintiff any relief because the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claims after the parents reclaimed all of the plaintiff’s shares. Because the corporation was dissolved and all its assets sold, there is no meaningful relief this court can grant the parents in this appeal; therefore, the issue raised by the parents is no longer justiciable. Because the parents presented no justiciable issue for this court to consider on appeal, the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for having to defend a frivolous appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand for a calculation of just damages to be awarded to the plaintiff pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27 1 122.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Service Employees International Union Local 205 v. Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, et al.
M2014-02158-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

After the director of schools notified the union that represents the school district’s service workers that, in accordance with amendments to the law governing the employees of boards of education, he was rescinding the school board’s labor negotiations policy, the union sought a declaratory judgment that the policy was still in effect. The trial court held that the Director did not have authority to rescind the policy and granted summary judgment to the union; the school board appeals. Holding that the amendments negated the policy at issue, we reverse the judgment

Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Federal National Mortgage Association v. Danny O. Daniels
W2015-00999-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

This appeal arises from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff in an unlawful detainer action. The property at issue was sold in a foreclosure sale, and the purchaser assigned its interest in the property to Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed this unlawful detainer action seeking possession of the property from Defendant. The General Sessions Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed to the Circuit Court. In the Circuit Court, Defendant asserted that the property was wrongfully foreclosed because he was not in default at the time foreclosure proceedings were initiated. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed. We affirm.

Haywood County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Susan Weaver Jones v. Knox County Board of Education, et al.
E2015-00304-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal concerns a tenured teacher's challenge to her transfer to a different job position. Susan Weaver-Jones (“Jones”) sued the Knox County Board of Education (“the Board”) and Dr. James McIntyre (“McIntyre”), Superintendent of Knox County Schools, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Jones alleged that her transfer from Instructional Coach to classroom teacher was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The Trial Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. Jones appealed to this Court. We hold that Jones' complaint asserted a claim upon which relief could be granted, and that the Trial Court erred in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this case for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
In re C.M.
M2014-02571-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

This is a dependency and neglect case. Appellants adopted the minor child, who is the subject of this appeal, from China. Thereafter, Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received a referral that the child was dependent and neglected. The Juvenile Court held that the child was dependent and neglected and was the victim of severe abuse at the hands of Appellants. Appellants sought a de novo review in the Circuit Court. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court held that the child was the victim of severe child abuse and was, therefore, dependent and neglected. Appellants appeal the Circuit Court’s substantive ruling and also raise issues concerning the trial court’s pre-trial rulings, evidentiary rulings, and the award of guardian ad litem fees. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/18/15
Timothy James Hardin v. Veronica Hensley-Hardin
E2014-01506-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

This appeal concerns a divorce action in which the trial court referred all issues to a special master. As pertinent to this appeal, the special master recommended awarding the parties a divorce based upon stipulated grounds and found that the husband was entitled to an award of alimony in solido and retroactive child support. The special master's detailed report also contained specific recommendations concerning the classification and division of the marital property. Both parties filed exhaustive exceptions to the report. Following a hearing, the trial court adopted the report. The wife appeals. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 12/18/15
Joel A. Conkin, Administrator with Will Annexed of The Estate Of Mattie L. Mettetal v. Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D., et al.
E2015-00141-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John C. Rambo

Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D. (“Dr. Mettetal”) and Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D., Inc. (“Corporation”) appeal the judgment of the Chancery Court for Washington County (“the Trial Court”) finding and holding, inter alia, that Dr. Mettetal breached his fiduciary duty to Mattie L. Mettetal (“Deceased”), improperly converted Deceased's funds to his benefit and the benefit of his Corporation, and failed to show that the funds were in keeping with gifts pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 34-6-110. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings, and we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/17/15
David Jones, et al. v. City of Union City, Tennessee
W2013-02358-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

This appeal involves three former police officers who were terminated from their employment with the Union City Police Department. They filed this lawsuit claiming that they were terminated solely for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities, in violation of the Tennessee Public Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish an exclusive causal relationship between their refusal to remain silent and their discharge and that the City terminated Plaintiffs for rational and non-pretextual reasons. We affirm.

Obion County Court of Appeals 12/17/15
City of Memphis, et al. v. Tandy J. Gilliland Family LLC, et al.
W2014-02472-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This is the second appeal of this eminent domain case. In the first appeal, City of Memphis v. Tandy J. Gilliland Family, LLC, et al., 391 S.W.3d 60 (2012), this Court held that Appellee City of Memphis, a municipal corporation for the use and benefit of Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division, was entitled to condemn a portion of Appellants’ property to erect poles and other facilities to provide utility services to MLGW customers. In addition to the provision of utility services, Appellee also sought co-location rights to allow telecommunications and cable providers to attach to MLGW’s poles. In the first appeal, Appellants argued that the co-location rights transformed the condemnation from public to private use. In our first opinion, we held that the Pole Attachment Act, 47 U.S.C. § 224, mandated that MLGW would allow co-location rights. On remand, the trial court held that it was bound by the law of the case as set out in our first opinion and denied Appellants discovery concerning the co-location rights before granting those rights to Appellee. In the instant appeal, Appellants contend that our previous holding was incorrect because the Pole Attachment Act specifically exempts MLGW from the definition of “utility.” We agree, and reverse our previous holding to the extent that we held that the Pole Attachment Act is mandatory on MLGW. Because of our erroneous holding, the issues of whether MLGW is entitled to co-location rights and the proper compensation, if any, for these rights have not been addressed in the trial court. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s order insofar as it grants Appellee co-location rights and remand the case for discovery and hearing on these issues. We affirm the trial court’s order insofar as it allows Appellee to condemn Appellants’ property for utility purposes.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/16/15
Terry Holliday v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Nancy Miller-Herron

This is an appeal by the State of Tennessee from the Tennessee Claims Commission’s award of a judgment against it. While he was an inmate in the State’s custody, Plaintiff sustained injuries when he fell out of a pickup truck that was being operated by a State employee. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Claims Commission in which he alleged that the State’s negligence caused his injuries and sought damages for, among other things, the medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the fall. The State argued that it should receive a credit against any award of damages for the medical expenses Plaintiff incurred during his incarceration because it paid those expenses through its contracts with two private medical vendors. The Claims Commission disagreed and held that evidence of payments made by the medical vendors for Plaintiff’s treatment was barred by the collateral source rule. The Claims Commission awarded Plaintiff $125,000 in damages, which included damages for the medical expenses that he allegedly incurred. On appeal, we conclude that because the State was required by law to pay for all medical expenses Plaintiff incurred during his incarceration, the Claims Commission erred in considering the cost of the medical services provided to Plaintiff in calculating his damages. We therefore vacate the Claims Commission’s award of damages and remand this matter for a new trial on the issue of damages.

Court of Appeals 12/16/15
Benita Renee Yocum v. Jason Richard Yocum
E2015-00086-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

This is a divorce action involving a five-year marriage between a husband who was employed overseas at the time of the parties' separation and a wife who had worked primarily during the marriage as a homemaker and caretaker of the parties' three minor children, including a child with special medical needs. Following a hearing in December 2012, during which the husband testified telephonically, the trial court ordered the husband to pay $3,500.00 per month in temporary support. Following subsequent hearings in April and May 2014, during which the husband also testified telephonically, the court, inter alia, granted the parties a divorce on stipulated grounds, delineated a residential co-parenting schedule, entered a judgment against Husband for support arrearage, and set the husband's child support obligation in the amount of $1,842.00 monthly and spousal support obligation in the amount of $1,000.00 monthly. The court reserved remaining issues for a bench trial, which it set for September 23, 2014, with notice that it would not allow the husband to testify telephonically unless the wife waived any objection to such testimony. At the beginning of trial, the court denied the husband's counsel's motion to allow the husband to testify telephonically upon the wife's objection. Also at the beginning of trial, the court ordered that the $1,000.00 previously ordered be continued as an award to the wife of alimony in futuro. The court also directed that its previous orders as to co-parenting time and child support be incorporated as a permanent parenting plan order. At the close of proof, the trial court distributed the marital estate and awarded to Wife $10,500.00 toward her attorney's fees. The husband appeals. Having determined that no income shares worksheet for child support purposes was attached to the final judgment, we vacate the amount of child support awarded and remand for the limited purpose of child support calculation according to the Child Support Guidelines based upon the trial court's previous findings concerning the parties' respective incomes and co-parenting time. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all other respects.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 12/15/15
Kim Lewis Neas v. Patricia Erskine Heffernan Neas
E2015-00292-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This appeal arises from a divorce. After almost 29 years of marriage, Kim Lewis Neas (“Husband”) filed for divorce against Patricia Erskine Heffernan Neas (“Wife”) in the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”). After a trial, the Trial Court, among other things, divided the parties’ marital assets and liabilities. Husband appeals to this Court. The central issues in this appeal include the Trial Court’s valuation of business assets awarded to Husband and the Trial Court’s determination of Husband’s income. Because Wife leaves this marriage with more in assets than Husband and in an otherwise comparable financial position, we reverse the Trial Court’s award of attorney’s fees to Wife. We also modify the allocation of marital debt and remand for the Trial Court to effectuate this new allocation. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Greene County Court of Appeals 12/15/15
Shelby County v. James Crews, et al.
W2014-02053-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen R. Williams

This is the second appeal in this condemnation proceeding in which Shelby County (“the County”) sought to condemn a parcel of real property owned by the Appellees. The original appeal involved our review of the trial court's decision to allow the County to nonsuit its case after a consent order had already been entered granting it ownership in fee simple. We concluded that the entry of voluntary dismissal was inappropriate where (1) the trial court had already granted the County ownership and (2) only the issue of compensation was left to be decided. We accordingly remanded the case for a determination as to the amount of compensation to be paid. Following the remand, the County moved for summary judgment asserting that it was entitled to relief under an adverse possession theory and Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-2-110. The trial court denied this motion. The case was later set for trial to determine the amount of compensation owed as a result of the condemnation. In response to statements made by the County's counsel during trial concerning the County's need for the property, the trial court sustained an oral motion made by the Appellees' counsel to dismiss the condemnation proceeding. A formal order of dismissal was entered in July 2012, pursuant to which the trial court transferred all title to the property from the County back to the Appellees. In the same order, the trial court reserved several issues for later ruling, including the assessment of damages, costs, and credits. After orders were eventually entered resolving these reserved issues, the County filed a timely notice of appeal. Having considered the issues raised on appeal, we reverse the trial court's dismissal of the condemnation action, transfer title to the property at issue back to the County, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/15
David Weatherspoon v. Gayle Minard, MD
W2015-01099-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Plaintiff filed this health care liability action against the defendant doctor in 2000 and voluntarily non-suited it in 2008. Plaintiff re-filed the action in 2009. The defendant moved to exclude the plaintiff's standard-of-care expert for his failure to produce certain financial documents. The trial court granted the motion and excluded the expert five days before the scheduled trial date. Plaintiff requested leave to employ another standard-of-care expert in the five days before trial, which the trial court denied. The trial court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff's entire case because, without a standard-of-care expert, he was unable to state a health care liability claim. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion when it did not permit him to “emergently arrange” for an expert in the five days preceding the scheduled trial date. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/15
Michael Shutes v. Universal Underwriters Service Corporation
W2015-00625-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

The issue presented in this case involves a vehicle services contract Appellant purchased from Appellee. The engine in Appellant's vehicle covered under the contract expired due to a lack of lubrication caused by a combination of engine sludge and low oil. Appellee denied coverage for the repairs under exclusions in the contract. Appellant filed suit alleging breach of contract and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. After a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of Appellee. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/15
Gail D. Smith v. The King's Daughters and Sons Home
W2015-00435-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This is a retaliatory discharge case. Appellant worked for the Appellee nursing home. Appellant reported that patient abuse was occurring at her employer's facility. The Tennessee Department of Health investigated the Appellee's facility, but found no wrongdoing. In response to the Appellant's reporting, Appellee's employees allegedly harassed the Appellant. Appellant notified Appellee that she would not report to work the day after the alleged harassment. However, she also did not report to work or call in the day after that, and Appellee terminated her employment. The trial court granted Appellee's individual employees' motions to dismiss and later granted the Appellee's motion for summary judgment. The trial court also denied the Appellant's oral motion to amend her complaint at the summary judgment hearing. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/11/15
In re B.C.
W2015-00507-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to visit in the four months prior to the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(i). Mother also appeals the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights is in the child's best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Obion County Court of Appeals 12/11/15
Deborah Miller Gentile v. Michael Charles Gentile
M2014-01356-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

This case involves the modification of a permanent parenting plan. Father asked the trial court to name him the primary residential parent, alleging a material change in circumstance. The court denied the request to change the primary residential parent, finding Father had failed to meet his burden of proof, but nonetheless modified the parties’ residential parenting schedule. On appeal, Father argues the trial court applied the wrong standard in determining whether a material change had occurred and erred in finding he had not met his burden of proof. We affirm the trial court’s finding that Father did not prove a material change in circumstance sufficient to justify a change in the primary residential parent; however, we find proof of a material change of circumstance sufficient to meet the lower standard for modification of the residential parenting schedule. Because in modifying the residential parenting schedule the trial court failed to consider the relevant factors in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106(a), we reverse in part and remand with instructions for the trial court to make a determination of whether it is in the child’s best interest to modify the residential parenting schedule and, if so, to modify the schedule accordingly.
   

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/09/15
Wendi Natasha Cook v. Bryan David Cook
M2015-00253-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

In this post-divorce dispute, Father asserts the trial court erred in failing to find a material change in circumstances warranting a change in the residential schedule. We have reviewed the evidence and find that the significant change in Father’s work schedule, the parties’ admitted failure to adhere strictly to the parenting plan, and Father’s remarriage, when taken together, constitute a material change affecting the child’s best interest. Therefore, we reverse the trial court and remand the case for a determination of whether a modification of the residential schedule is in the child’s best interest.  

Putnam County Court of Appeals 12/09/15
William Stephanson McCloud, II v. Kimberly Denise McCloud
E2015-00289-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This is a divorce action in which the trial court granted the husband a divorce and entered a parenting plan, designating the husband as the primary residential parent but awarding the wife substantially equal co-parenting time with the minor child. The husband appeals, raising numerous issues relating to the parenting plan. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 12/09/15
Deanna Mae Baxley v. Clinton Shawn Baxley
E2015-00243-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Douglas Collins

This is an appeal of the general sessions court’s grant of a one-year extension of an order of protection. The respondent, a pro se litigant, appealed the extension to the circuit court. The circuit court initially dismissed the appeal as untimely. Upon further review, the circuit court transferred the appeal to this court for lack of jurisdiction. We hold that the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal. However, a final order for purposes of appeal was never entered. We remand this case for entry of a final order.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 12/09/15
Avery Place, LLC, et al v. Highways, Inc.
M2014-02043-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Subdivision developer brought a breach of contract action against the contractor who had been engaged nine years previously to pave the roads in the subdivision after the contractor refused to complete the second phase of paving for the roads at the price specified in the contract. The contractor moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the provision in the contract relating to the second phase of paving was a separate offer which had not been accepted by the developer and that the action was barred by laches and the statute of limitations. Developer also moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to developer and denied summary judgment to contractor. Contractor appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Putnam County Court of Appeals 12/07/15
Lester G. Murphy, Sr. v. State of Tennessee Child Support Services
M2014-02182-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Haylee Ann Bradley Maples

A mother and father were divorced in 1993, and the mother was granted custody of the two children born of the marriage; the father was ordered to pay child support for their two children in the amount of $50 per week. In 1997 the children came into the custody of their maternal grandfather, and in 2007, the Tennessee Department of Human Services Child Support Division filed a petition to set child support against the father. After a hearing in February 2008 that the father did not attend, the trial court entered an order in March that increased his monthly support obligation and declared that he owed more than $31,000 in arrearages. Thereafter the father filed a pro se petition to modify the support order, asserting that the March 2008 order was defective; his petition was dismissed. On appeal to this court we held that the father was entitled to relief and vacated the order. The father thereafter filed a Motion for Further Relief in the trial court seeking reimbursement of child support payments he made pursuant to the March 2008 order; after a hearing on the motion, the court entered an order in accordance with the Court of Appeals’ opinion and denied father’s motion for further relief. Father appeals; finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the juvenile court.

Humphreys County Court of Appeals 12/07/15
City of Bartlett v. Pamela Moses
W2014-02220-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Upon review of the record transmitted to us on appeal, we conclude that this case should have been appealed to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. As we are without jurisdiction, we must transfer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals in accordance with Rule 17 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/07/15