Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/16/2017
Format: 12/16/2017
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
Danny Jones, et al. v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, et al.
W2016-00717-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

The Plaintiffs’ home was sold at foreclosure in May 2011. By way of a suit filed in the Shelby County Chancery Court, the Plaintiffs sought rescission of the foreclosure sale and asserted claims for breach of contract, violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, promissory estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation. The trial court dismissed these claims following the filing of a motion for summary judgment by the Defendants. Discerning no error based on our review of the record, we affirm the action of the trial court for the reasons expressed herein.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Ann Calfee, et al v. Tennessee Department Of Transportation, et al
M2016-01902-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This case involves an attempt by several landowners to challenge a permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation that allowed the placement of water pipelines along two state highways to connect an industrial facility to the Nolichucky River. The trial court dismissed the complaint based on its conclusion that none of the plaintiffs had standing to maintain this action. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Rita Goins v. Eugene Lawson, et al.
E2016-01406-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

Rita Goins (“Plaintiff”) appeals the May 9, 2016 order of the Circuit Court for Campbell County (“the Trial Court”) dismissing her case. Plaintiff’s notice of appeal was filed on July 8, 2016, more than thirty days from the date of entry of the May 9, 2016 final order. As the notice of appeal was not filed timely, we are constrained to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Jennifer Kate Watts v. Scottie Lee Watts
W2016-01189-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

In this divorce case, the parties owned three businesses that comprised a large portion of their marital estate. Prior to trial, they entered into a written agreement providing that they would retain a business valuation expert to analyze two of the three businesses and that they would accept the expert’s findings as conclusive evidence of their value at trial. At the outset of trial, Wife requested a continuance to allow the expert more time to complete the valuations. Despite having ordered Wife to sign a document retaining the expert five days earlier, the trial court denied the continuance and ordered the parties to proceed with trial. As a result, Wife did not present any evidence of either business’s value at trial. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s award of a divorce to Wife. However, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Wife’s request for a continuance and that the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are insufficient to enable a meaningful appellate review of its property division. We also conclude that the trial court’s rulings with regard to the Ferjo art collection, the two rings gifted to Wife during the marriage, and the children’s private school tuition expenses are not supported by the evidence in the record. As such, we affirm the trial court’s permanent parenting plan except that we vacate that portion of the plan concerning the children’s private school tuition expenses. On remand, the trial court should make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether an upward deviation in child support is appropriate in this case in light of the parties’ stated willingness to share the children’s private school tuition expenses equally. We affirm the trial court’s award of the original Ferjo painting to Wife as her separate property. We hold that the Ferjo reproductions should be classified as marital property and the two rings gifted from Husband to Wife during the marriage should be classified as Wife’s separate property on remand. We vacate the remainder of the trial court’s property division and remand to the trial court for an equitable division of martial property consistent with this opinion. Finally, we vacate the trial court’s rulings on spousal support and attorney’s fees and direct the trial court to reconsider those issues on remand following its equitable distribution of marital property.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
In Re: Gabrielle W.
E2016-02064-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

In this appeal the biological father to the child at issue sought to set aside the Final Order of Adoption. Following a hearing, the trial court declared the Final Order of Adoption void on its face, finding that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the biological father to terminate his parental rights. The guardian failed to sign his notice of appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-124(d), requiring us to grant the father’s motion to dismiss the guardian’s appeal and leave in place the trial court’s decision to void the Final Order of Adoption.

Greene County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Dawn Brown v. Maurice Nunley
W2016-00646-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is an appeal from the entry of a six-month order of protection. Because the order of protection has already expired by its terms, we dismiss the appeal as moot.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/10/17
Deborah Lacy v. Hallmark Volkswagen Inc. of Rivergate, et al.
M2016-02366-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A customer at a car dealership filed suit against the sales manager and others for injuries she allegedly sustained due to an assault and battery by the sales manager. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants because Plaintiff failed to submit any affidavits setting forth specific facts that showed a genuine issue existed for trial, as required by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendants. Perceiving no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to Defendants.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/10/17
Nedra B. Drayton v. Cooper Moving Services
W2017-00718-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for judicial recusal filed by Nedra B. Drayton (“Plaintiff”) in her case against Cooper & Cooper Moving, Inc. DBA J. Cooper Self-Storage, Inc., identified in the style of the case below as Cooper Moving Services (“Defendant”). Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Plaintiff, and discerning no reversible error in the Chancellor’s ruling, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/10/17
Charles Beard v. Arvin W. Glass, et al.
M2016-02395-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

The plaintiff filed this action against the defendants, alleging that the plaintiff had been wrongfully expelled from the Prince Hall Masonic organization. The plaintiff further alleged that he had been defamed and his reputation damaged. The action was dismissed by the trial court due to the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff timely appealed. Because the plaintiff has failed to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 and Tennessee Court of Appeals Rule 6, we dismiss this appeal.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 07/07/17
In Re Emmett D.
M2016-01372-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge George L. Lovell

This appeal involves competing petitions to modify a residential parenting schedule in a permanent parenting plan.  The child’s mother sought changes to the day-to-day schedule, a modification of the existing child support order, and to be named sole decision-maker.  The child’s father sought additional parenting time.  Following a trial, the juvenile court modified the residential schedule, granting the father more parenting time.  The court also ordered the father to pay his portion of the child’s preschool tuition, but the court denied the mother’s requests for sole decision-making authority and for attorney’s fees.  Upon review of the record and the juvenile court’s findings concerning the father, we conclude that the court erred in adopting the modified residential schedule.  We, therefore, vacate and remand for further proceedings on this issue.  We affirm in all other respects. 

Maury County Court of Appeals 07/07/17
Bruce Thurman v. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
M2016-02215-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

The owner of a truck was charged with driving on a revoked license, and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security initiated a proceeding to forfeit the truck. An administrative hearing was held, which resulted in an order that the truck be forfeited. The owner sought review of the forfeiture in Chancery Court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, and the court affirmed the forfeiture.  Finding that the seizure of the truck constituted an excessive fine in violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions, we reverse the judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/07/17
In Re: Tanya G.
E2016-02451-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

A mother’s parental rights to her child were terminated on the ground of mental incompetence and upon the finding that termination was in the child’s best interest. Mother appeals, contending that the ground is not supported by the evidence and that termination of her parental rights is not in the best interest of the child. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/07/17
In Re: Zane W.
E2016-02224-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights based on the following grounds: (1) abandonment by wanton disregard for the welfare of the child; (2) persistence of conditions; and (3) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. We reverse the grounds of persistence of conditions and substantial noncompliance. We, however, affirm the remaining ground of abandonment by wanton disregard for the welfare of the child and the trial court’s determination that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/06/17
Betty C. Thomas v. Bank of America, N.A., et al.
M2015-01849-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

Plaintiff appeals the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment to Defendants related to the foreclosure of Plaintiff’s home. She contends the trial court erred in summarily dismissing her complaint. She also contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend. Defendants insist the trial court should be affirmed in all respects. They also contend the appeal should be dismissed due to Plaintiff’s failure to comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. As Defendants contend, Plaintiff’s brief fails to comply with our appellate rules of advocacy and for this reason alone we would be justified in affirming the trial court. Nevertheless, we reviewed the record and the trial court’s actions and affirm the trial court in all respects. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/05/17
In Re Kenya H.
E2017-00130-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of George C. (“Father”) to his minor child Kenya H. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights. Father appealed. We reverse the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan and willful failure to visit, but affirm the ground of wanton disregard. We further affirm that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. The judgment of the Juvenile Court is affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/05/17
In Re: Braxton M. Et Al.
E2016-02172-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Braxton M. and Briley N., the minor children (“the Children”) of Kevin M. (“Father”) and Heather N. (“Mother”). On March 21, 2011, the Washington County Juvenile Court (“juvenile court”) entered an order removing the Children from the parents’ custody and placing them in the physical custody of Mother’s father and stepmother, William N. and Donna N. (“Maternal Grandparents”) in response to a dependency and neglect action initiated by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) due to Briley’s drug-exposed condition at birth.1 In September 2011, the juvenile court entered an order maintaining physical custody of the Children with Maternal Grandparents and directing that the parents would retain the option of petitioning for return of custody at a later date. On April 15, 2015, Maternal Grandparents filed a petition in the Greene County Circuit Court (“trial court”) to terminate the parental rights of the parents and adopt the Children. Mother subsequently surrendered her parental rights to the Children and is not a party to this appeal. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of Father upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the Children by willfully failing to financially support and visit them. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1). Finding Father to be a putative father, the trial court also applied the statutory grounds provided in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(9)(A)(iv)-(v) to find clear and convincing evidence that Father had failed to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the Children and that placing the Children in Father’s legal and physical custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to their physical or psychological welfare. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred in applying an amended version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 36- 1-113(g)(9)(A) not controlling in this action, we further determine the statutory grounds provided in subsection -113(g)(9)(A)(iv)-(v) to be inapplicable to Father under the controlling version of the statute. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Father’s parental rights to the Children.

Greene County Court of Appeals 07/05/17