Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/28/2015
Format: 02/28/2015
In Re Austin C.
M2013-02147-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights contending the evidence is insufficient for this court to appropriately review the testimony in the trial court because a portion of the evidentiary record is set forth in a statement of the evidence. We have determined the record is sufficient for proper appellate review because the entirety of Mother’s testimony is set forth in a verbatim transcript of the evidence, in which Mother admits knowing she had a duty to support her child, that she had the capacity to provide support during the relevant period, and she failed to do so. Thus, the record contains sufficient evidence to establish the ground of abandonment by failing to support the child. The evidence also supports the trial court’s finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. We, therefore, affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 08/27/14
Malinda Annette Stills v. Chadburn Ober Harmon
E2014-01180-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This is an appeal from a Restraining Order entered on May 20, 2014. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until June 20, 2014, thirty-one (31) days after the date of entry of the Restraining Order. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Greene County Court of Appeals 08/27/14
Reelfoot Utility District of Lake County, Tennessee v. Samburg Utility District of Obion County, Tennessee, et al.
W2013-01952-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

This appeal involves water service by one utility district to a neighboring utility district. The plaintiff utility district provided water service to the defendant neighboring utility district for many years pursuant to a series of contracts. The last contract included a date certain on which the contract expired. Before the expiration date, the defendant neighboring utility district agreed to begin purchasing its water from a different provider upon expiration of the water service contract with the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed this lawsuit seeking, inter alia, to enjoin the defendant provider and the neighboring utility district from entering into a contract for water services. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant neighboring utility district and denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the defendants were permitted to contract for water services. It then dismissed all remaining claims against the defendants. The plaintiff now appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court in all respects.

Obion County Court of Appeals 08/27/14
In Re Anya G.
E2013-02595-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Anya G. (“the Child”), the minor child of Melisa G. (“Mother”). In October 2011, temporary custody of the Child was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the Child was placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and the Child’s father, Michael G., on December 27, 2012. The petition alleged 1 as statutory grounds for termination abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by an incarcerated parent who exhibited wanton disregard for the welfare of the child prior to incarceration, and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to Mother upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the grounds of (1) abandonment by engaging in conduct prior to her incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the welfare of the child and (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/27/14
First Tennessee Bank National Association v. Shelby Village Mobile Home Park, LLC, Et Al
M2012-02267-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Vanessa Agee Jackson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray

This appeal arises from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and imposition of discovery sanctions. A bank sued holders of an assumption agreement for default, and the holders of the assumption agreement filed a counter-claim against the bank requesting rescission of the assumption agreementduetothe bank’s alleged negligentmisrepresentation of the existence of flood insurance on the property as well as a misrepresentation regarding the value of the property. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the bank and imposed discovery sanctions against the holders of the assumption agreement. Finding no genuine issues of material fact, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. In addition, we have reviewed the record and cannot say the trial court abused its discretion

Court of Appeals 08/26/14
In Re Kyla P.
M2013-02205-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles B. Tatum

Father appeals the termination of parental rights to his child. The maternal grandparents obtained custody of the child shortly after her birth due to evidence of drugs in the child’s bloodstream. When the child was one year of age, Father was incarcerated and remained so two years later when the maternal grandparents filed a petition for termination of parental rights. The juvenile court found statutory grounds for termination of Father’s parental rights and concluded that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate Father’s parental rights. On appeal, Father argues that the evidence did not support the juvenile court’s conclusion that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. We disagree and affirm the juvenile court’s termination of Father’s parental rights.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/26/14
Daniel P. Rousos v. Kristi Boren (f/k/a Rousos)
M2013-01568-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

This appeal arises out of contentious post-divorce proceedings. The parties had equal parenting time with their three sons. Both parents filed a petition to modify the parenting plan and sought to be named primary residential parent. The parties also filed competing petitions for contempt. Following a five-day trial, the trial court named Father the primary residential parent of the oldest son, but it continued the parties’ equal parenting arrangement for the two younger sons. The trial court found Father guilty of two counts of criminal contempt. The court also made an award of attorney’s fees to Mother. Both parties appeal. We dismiss the appeal of the contempt order for lack of a final judgment. We affirm the custody order, vacate the award of attorney’s fees, and remand for further proceedings

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/14
Re/Max-Carriage v. Matthew McLaughlin, Et Al.
M2013-01982-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

Lessor sued lessees for failure to payrent and received a default judgment in general sessions court. Lessee appealed to circuit court and filed a counterclaim for failure to maintain the premises and make repairs. The trial court found for lessor.  Lessees appealed. Due to the lack of a transcript or a proper statement of the evidence, we must affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/26/14
Candace D. Watson v. The City of Jackson
W2013-01364-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Plaintiff in a premises liability action appeals from the trial court’s finding that she was more than fifty percent at fault for her injury. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/26/14
Jeremiah David Hawk v. Erika Leigh Hawk (Ricker)
E2013-02458-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

This post-divorce appeal concerns a parenting plan that provided for equal time between the Parents, who subsequently filed competing petitions to modify, claiming that a material change in circumstances necessitated a change in the parenting plan. The trial court found that a change in circumstances had not yet occurred but awarded Mother approximately 12.5 days of additional parenting time after deciding that the Child should attend school in Mother’s county. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Greene County Court of Appeals 08/26/14
Barry Wood v. Decatur County Tennessee
W2013-02470-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

Applicant filed a petition for writ of certiorari against Decatur County challenging the denial of his beer permit application. The trial court reversed the decision of the local beer board on the basis that the sale of beer was allowed due to Decatur County’s status as a Tennessee River resort district. Because we conclude that Decatur County’s ordinance restricting the sale of beer within two thousand feet of a church remains in effect despite Decatur County’s status as a Tennessee River resort district, we reverse the decision of the trial court. Reversed and remanded.

Decatur County Court of Appeals 08/25/14
Edwin Dennison, et al. v. Glenna Overton
E2013-02290-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Edwin Dennison, Kaye Dennison, Joel Campbell, and Christine Campbell (“Plaintiffs”) sued attorney Glenna Overton (“Defendant”) for legal malpractice. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that Plaintiffs’ claim was barred by the statute of limitations and that Defendant’s actions were not the proximate cause of any loss to Plaintiffs. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Blount County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendant summary judgment after finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs had notice of the alleged negligence and the fact that Plaintiffs had suffered an injury by August of 2009 and, therefore, the suit filed on September 21, 2010 was barred by the applicable one year statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in finding their suit barred by the statute of limitations and whether the Trial Court erred in finding that Plaintiffs could not prove that Defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of any loss to Plaintiffs. We find and hold, as did the Trial Court, that Plaintiffs were on notice of the alleged negligence and loss in August of 2009 and that their suit, therefore, was barred by the statute of limitations. We affirm the Trial Court’s judgment.

Blount County Court of Appeals 08/25/14
Kenneth D. Hardy v. Tennessee State University, et al.
M2013-02103-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

Former police officer at Tennessee State University filed suit against the university, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the chief of the university police department under the Tennessee Human Rights Act,the Tennessee Public Protection Act,and Title VIIof the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and former officer appeals. We vacate the order granting summary judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/22/14
Middle TN Rehabilitation Hospital, LLC. v. Health Services & Development Agency, et al.
M2013-02180-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Amy V. Hollars
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell T. Perkins

This appeal arises from a petition for judicial review of the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency’s decision to deny one and grant the other of two competing applications for a certificate of need to establish a rehabilitation hospital. Discerning no error, we affirm the chancery court’s order upholding the agency’s decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/22/14
Theresa R. Francis v. Robert A. Francis, Jr.
M2013-01957-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

Wife appeals the trial court’s division of property and denial of an award of alimony in this divorce action. We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/22/14
William D. Stalker, et al. v. David R. Nutter, et al.
M2013-02463-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray

In this non-jury case, builders of a home appeal the dismissal of their breach of contract claim against the prospective buyers, the court’s determination that the builders breached the construction and sale agreement, and the order awarding the earnest money deposit to the buyers. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 08/21/14
Shirley M. Cartwright v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company
M2013-02019-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Shirley M. Cartwright (“Plaintiff”) sued Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company (“Defendant”) alleging breach of a contract of insurance. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Maury County (“the Trial Court”) entered an order finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiff’s response to Defendant’s motion was untimely and would not be considered and that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in finding her response untimely, whether the Trial Court erred in granting Defendant summary judgment, and whether the Trial Court erred in denying two other motions filed by Plaintiff. We find and hold that Plaintiff’s response to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment was filed timely. We, therefore, reverse the Trial Court’s decision finding Plaintiff’s response untimely and refusing to consider it. As it was error to refuse to consider Plaintiff’s response to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, we vacate the grant of summary judgment to Defendant and the Trial Court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motions and remand this case to the Trial Court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/21/14
Dorah Elizabeth Johnson v. Jeffrey Walter Johnson
W2013-02248-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

This appeal stems from a divorce proceeding and child support modification. On appeal, the appellant husband challenges several decisions made by the trial court after it had entered an order purporting to be the final decree of divorce. Because prior orders reserved issues not addressed in this divorce decree, we find this divorce decree was not a final order, and thus, subject to revision by later orders. Consequently, we find the trial court had jurisdiction and did not abuse its discretion in later revising awards contained in the non-final divorce decree and affirm the later changes in part. Additionally, in a later order purporting to modify the child support award, we find the trial court failed to properly make findings of facts and conclusions of law in compliance with Rule 52.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and remand in part on this issue.

Crockett County Court of Appeals 08/21/14
First Community Bank, N.A. v. First Tennessee Bank, N.A., et al.
E2012-01422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Wheeler A. Rosenbalm

Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants for fraud, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Tennessee Securities Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 48-1-101, et seq. The claims arose out of the purchase of asset-backed securities that were later deemed unmarketable, causing a significant financial loss to Plaintiff. Defendants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12.02(6), arguing that the claims were untimely, that Plaintiff failed to plead its claims with particularity, and that the losses were caused by general market conditions. Nonresident Defendants also objected to the court’s personal jurisdiction. The trial court dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal to this court, and we affirmed the
dismissal against Nonresident Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction but reversed the dismissal for failure to state a claim as to the remaining defendants. In so holding, this court found that consideration of matters outside the pleadings pertaining to the running of the statute of limitations converted the motions to dismiss into one for summary judgment, thereby requiring remand of the entire case for further discovery. The remaining defendants filed an application for permission to appeal. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application and remanded the case for “consideration of the trial court’s alternative basis of dismissal of [the] complaint, i.e., the failure to state a cause of action or state a claim for which relief can be granted (other than on the basis of the running of the applicable statutes
of limitations or repose).” Upon remand, we reverse the decision of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/20/14
In Re Aireona H.W.
E2014-00241-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

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

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/20/14
Ram Tool & Supply Co., Inc. Et Al. v. HD Supply Construction Supply, LTD. d/b/a Whit Cap Construction Supply, Robert Maples and Tim Pruitt
M2016-02264-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Binkley, Jr.

The parties in this case are competitors. The defendant company opened a branch in Nashville and began competing with the plaintiff; the defendant company hired employees away from the plaintiff and it allegedly worked with a now-former employee of the plaintiff to obtain plaintiff’s confidential information.  The plaintiff filed suit alleging, among other things, breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty by unlawfully recruiting, aiding and abetting such breach,and conspiracyto unlawfully recruit. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants,finding the plaintiff’s claims preempted by the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“TUTSA”). We affirm in part and reverse in part and we remand for further proceedings. Specifically, we find preempted by TUTSA, Ram Tool’s common law breach of fiduciary duty/loyalty claim–and its derivative claims–insofar as they are based upon the misappropriation of trade secrets. However, we find Ram Tool’s common law breach of fiduciary duty/loyalty claim–and its derivative claims–insofar as they are not grounded in the misappropriation of trade secrets, are not preempted by TUTSA; summary judgment was improperly granted as to these claims.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/19/14
Daniel Cohen v. Julie Didier (Cohen)
M2013-01370-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip Robinson

This appeal involves the execution of documents in furtherance of the property division in a divorce decree. The parties were divorced many years ago. To carry out the property division, the final decree of divorce ordered the parties to execute copyright assignments. Twenty-five years later, the ex-husband filed this action to compel the ex-wife to execute the copyright assignments. The ex-wife argued that the action was barred by the ten-year statute of limitations applicable to an action on a judgment. Relying on Jordan v. Jordan, 147 S.W.3d 255 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004), the trial court held that execution of the documents was a ministerial act to effectuate the property division in the divorce decree and was not execution on a judgment, so the action was not barred by the statute of limitations. After the ex-wife still failed to execute the copyright assignment documents, the trial court designated the clerk of the court to act for the ex-wife to execute them, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 70. The ex-wife appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/19/14
In Re: Joel B.
M2012-00590-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alfred L. Nations

Juvenile court entered a default order against mother of minor child declaring the parentage of father and ordering a permanent parenting plan. We have determined that this order is void due to improper notice. We have further determined that the juvenile court erred in ordering the attachment of the minor child, who was living with mother in California.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/18/14
John Wesley Green v. Champs-Elysees, Inc., et al.
M2013-00951-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Philip E. Smith

This appeal arises from a post-judgment discovery dispute. While the plaintiff’s prior appeal from the trial court’s judgment was pending in this court, the plaintiff made a discovery request in the trial court seeking to obtain alleged ex parte communications pertaining to the plaintiff’s attorney, the plaintiff, or the case. The trial court conducted a hearing and entered an order denying the discovery request; this appeal followed.  We have determined that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the plaintiff’s discovery requests; therefore, the order at issue in this appeal is void. Further, this court’s ruling in the prior appeal, which resolved all issues in the underlying case, is now a final judgment. The underlying case is concluded and, thus, no further proceedings are available other than the assessment and collection of costs.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/15/14
William E. Kantz, Jr. v. Herman C. Bell et al.
M2013-00582-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

This dispute concerns a contract for the sale of real property. Believing the seller was impairing the buyer’s ability to close on time in order to sell the property under contract to someone else, the buyer filed this action to enjoin the seller from transferring the property to another and to require the seller to provide documentation necessary to close. The buyer also asserted claims for specific performance of the contract, breach of contract, and conspiracy against the seller, as well as claims for tortious interference with the contract and conspiracy against another defendant. The trial court found that the seller’s discussions with another potential buyer were merely to have a “back-up plan” in the event the buyer did not close; nevertheless, the court granted injunctive relief by extending the deadline to close the sale by thirty days and enjoined the seller from selling the property to another in the interim. One week later, the sale closed. The plaintiff then amended its complaint to limit its claims to breach of contract against the seller, and tortious interference with a contract and conspiracy against the seller and the party alleged to have tortiously interfered with the contract. The defendants filed motions to dismiss for failure to state claims for which relief could be granted pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The trial court found that the seller did not breach the contract because the property was conveyed to the plaintiff pursuant to the terms of the contract and the delay in closing was not a breach of the contract. The court dismissed all other claims but for the conspiracy claims and declared the order a final appealable judgment pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 54.02. The plaintiff appealed. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/15/14