Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/02/2014
Format: 09/02/2014
Shontel S. Ross, et al. v. Deidra L. Grandberry, M.D., et al.
W2013-00671-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Plaintiff filed a healthcare liability action in the general sessions court. At a docket call, defendant Methodist appeared and tendered a confession for the full $25,000 jurisdictional limit of the general sessions court. Plaintiff immediately sought to non-suit her claims against Methodist. The general sessions court denied Methodist’s tendered confession and it entered an order non-suiting Methodist. Plaintiff then refiled her suit against Methodist in the circuit court and Methodist moved for summary judgment based upon its tendered confession of judgment in the general sessions court. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Methodist. We reverse the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and we remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Linus Thornton v. James A. Massey
W2013-01022-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. KIrby
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

This is the second appeal in this breach of contract case. The defendant property owner leased his recreational farm on a yearly basis to the plaintiff lessee. Their agreement included a provision that, when the farm sold, the plaintiff would received a percentage of the proceeds of the sale. The defendant eventually divided the farm into several parcels and sold the parcels at auction to different purchasers. The plaintiff asserted his right to a percentage of the proceeds. Thereafter, for reasons that are disputed, none of the sales of the various parcels of the farm closed. The plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the defendant owner, asserting that he was entitled to a percentage of the total sale price that would have been realized had all of the sales closed. After a trial, the trial court held in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed. In the first appeal, the appellate court affirmed in part but vacated the judgment and remanded for the trial court to make a factual finding as to whether the sales failed to close because of the purposeful actions of the defendant. On remand, the trial court found that the closings on the sales failed to take place because of the defendant owner’s purposeful actions. The trial court found that the defendant prevented the sales from closing in order to avoid paying the plaintiff the percentage owed him under the parties’ lease agreement. The trial court reinstated the damage award in favor of the plaintiff and awarded prejudgment and post-judgment interest. The defendant now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Mountain Wood Products, LLC v. Autumn Creek Firewood, LLC
E2013-01577-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

This appeal involves a contract dispute. The appellant distributor challenges the damages awarded to the appellee supplier under a supply contract for bagged firewood. Additionally, the supplier challenges the trial court’s failure to award damages for lost profits and tortious interference with prospective business. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bledsoe County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
In Re Zoey F.
E2013-02603-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Philyaw

The Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated the parental rights of Johonauan J. R. (“Father”) to the minor child Zoey F. (“the Child”) on the grounds of willful failure to visit, wanton disregard for the welfare of the child, and substantial noncompliance with the statement of responsibilities in the permanency plan. Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. As there is uncertainty regarding the time frame relied upon by the Juvenile Court for the ground of willful failure to visit, we modify the Juvenile Court’s judgment to exclude the ground of willful failure to visit. Otherwise, we find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights and that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
In Re Victoria W. Et Al.
M2013-02331-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge N. Andy Myrick, Jr.

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights as to her two children. Father’s rights were also terminated, but he does not appeal. The court found the Department of Children’s Services established three grounds fortermination of mother’s parental rights:1) severe child abuse pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(4); 2) mental incompetence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(8)(B);and 3) persistence of conditions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(3). In a previous dependency and neglect proceeding, the Lincoln County Juvenile Court found that Mother committed severe child abuse by failing to protect her minor daughter from sexual abuse by a neighbor. That judgment was not appealed; as a consequence, the severe abuse findings are res judicata. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(4), a court may terminate parental rights when the parent was found to have committed severe child abuse under any prior order of a court. The court also found that the Department had proven two additional grounds, mental incompetence and persistent conditions. The juvenile court also found that termination of both parents’ rights was in the children’s best interest. We therefore affirm.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 05/29/14
Archie Wolfe v. William C. Felts, Jr., et al.
W2013-01995-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

In this premises liability action, Plaintiff/Appellant was allegedly injured when he slipped and fell on the subject property. The trial court granted a directed verdict to the Appellees, who are the property owners/occupiers. The basis for the directed verdict was that Appellant failed to submit evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude either that the Appellees knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on the property, or that Appellees caused or created a dangerous condition on the property. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/29/14
Kirby Miranda Gentry v. Michael Anthony Gentry
E2013-01038-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

In this post-divorce case, the trial court entered an order on March 12, 2012, incorporating a permanent parenting plan. The order states that “[t]his matter shall be reviewed in one year.” On April 18, 2013, the court entered an order stating that “the Court, sua sponte, finds that the Permanent Parenting Plan attached to the Order of [March 12, 2012], should in fact be a Temporary Parenting Plan and by this Order [the court] corrects such.” We hold that under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-404(a) (2010), which provides that “[a]ny final decree or decree of modification in an action for absolute divorce . . . involving a minor child shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan,” the parenting plan incorporated by the trial court’s March 12, 2012 order was a permanent plan. Because of the mandatory statutory language, the trial court was without authority to subsequently “convert” it to a temporary parenting plan. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
In Re C.L., et al.
E2013-02035-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James W. McKenzie

A.L. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her rights with respect to her five minor children (collectively, when referring to all five, “the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) placed the Children in temporary state custody based on the youngest child’s exposure to methamphetamine in utero. The court found that Mother’s conduct constituted severe abuse against that child; consequently, the court relieved DCS of its obligation to make reasonable efforts toward reunification of the Children with Mother. Some 17 months after the Children were placed in foster care, DCS initiated these termination proceedings. After a bench trial, the court terminated Mother’s rights based on its finding of multiple grounds for termination and its further finding that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Both findings were said by the trial 1 court to be made by clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
In Re K.P., et al.
E2013-01636-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

This is a dependency and neglect case. R.P. (“Mother”) appeals the trial court’s finding that he severely abused her minor daughter, K.P. The Department of Children’s Services petitioned the juvenile court to declare K.P. and her sister, K.J. (collectively, “the Children”) dependent and neglected. Following a hearing, the juvenile court found 1 that the Children were dependent and neglected in the care of Mother and her then-boyfriend, B.J.2 The juvenile court further found that B.J. committed severe abuse against K.P.,3 but that Mother did not. DCS appealed to the trial court. Following an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) that the Children were dependent and neglected and (2) that Mother committed severe child abuse against K.P. in that she failed to protect K.P. from abuse at the hands of B.J. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
Lisa M. Paterson Potter v. Scott D. Paterson
E2013-01569-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor G. Richard Johnson

This post-divorce case involves the application of Supreme Court Rule 40A, which governs the appointment, role and duties of a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem in this case, Janice Russell, was appointed on November 7, 2008. She filed a motion requesting the court to hold her ward’s father, appellant Scott D. Paterson (“father”), in contempt. After father filed a response pointing out that Rule 40A, § 9(a)(4) did not authorize a guardian ad litem to file a contempt motion, the trial court, in response, entered an order on March 17, 2010, appointing Ms. Russell “attorney ad litem.” Subsequently, Rule 40A, § 9 was amended to allow a guardian ad litem to “take any action that may be taken by an attorney representing a party pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure.” After the amendment took effect, Russell referred to herself in her filings as “guardian ad litem.” The trial court followed suit in its final order. On January 20, 2011, the trial court entered an order that disposed of all matters relating to custody of the child. More than a year later, father filed a petition to modify his child support. On May 16, 2013, the guardian ad litem filed a “motion for emergency hearing and motion for contempt.” On May 20, 2013, the trial court conducted a hearing, after which it entered an order holding father in contempt on four counts, sentencing him to 40 days in jail, suspending all of his parenting time, and reducing contact with his daughter to one telephone call per week. Father appeals. We hold that, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 40A, § 5, the guardian ad litem’s appointment terminated when, with the passage of time, the court’s order disposing of the custody matters became final. Hence, the guardian ad litem had no authority to file her motion for “emergency hearing” and for contempt. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
Tanya L. Cooper v. Virginia A. Everett
W2013-02865-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter. Thus, the appeal is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
In the Matter of: Jamazin H. M.
W2013-01986-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Christy R. Little
Trial Court Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights on numerous grounds. We affirm the trial court’s finding that grounds for termination exist, due to incarceration under a ten year sentence, severe child abuse, persistent conditions, and abandonment by an incarcerated parent, and we affirm the trial court’s finding that termination is in the child’s best interest. We vacate the trial court’s finding of willful failure to pay child support but otherwise affirm the order as modified.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
James G. Akers v. McLemore Auction Company, LLC, Et Al.
M2012-02398-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Plaintiff in action to recover for negligence, professional negligence, breach of duty, constructive fraud, constructive breach of contract, and inducement of failure to perform a lawful contract, appeals dismissal of various parties and claims; plaintiff also appeals a portion of the jury instructions, the jury’s verdict awarding him $474.00, and the denial of his motion for a new trial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/27/14
City of Gatlinburg v. Stuart H. Kaplow, et al.
E2013-01941-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This case presents issues regarding the interpretation and enforceability of an agreed order entered into between the parties before the Gatlinburg Board of Appeals and Adjustments (the “Board”). Defendant, Stuart H. Kaplow, leases certain real property improved with rental units from defendant, Maury R. Greenstein, which property is located within the City of Gatlinburg. The City of Gatlinburg (the “City”), through its building official, issued notices of condemnation to the defendants regarding certain units on this property and informed the defendants that the units would be demolished if repairs were not made. The defendants appealed to the Board. During those proceedings, the parties entered into an agreement with respect to the property and memorialized this agreement in the form of a written order, which was signed by the defendants and their counsel. A few months later, the City filed the instant action, seeking a declaration that (1) the defendants’ further attempts to appeal to the Board were void and ineffectual pursuant to the terms of the agreed order and (2) the defendants had materially breached the agreed order such that the City had no obligation to issue building permits. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that the defendants had materially breached the terms of the agreed order. The court also found that the defendants had forfeited their right to further appeal to the Board. The court therefore ruled that the City could demolish the condemned units and impose a lien against the real property for the demolition and cleaning costs. Defendants have appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/27/14