Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/01/2015
Format: 02/01/2015
Joshua Wayne Taylor v. Mary Katherine Taylor
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jacqueline S. Bolton

This is a post-divorce case stemming from the parties’ competing pleadings, both of which sought a modification of their earlier-filed agreed permanent parenting plan as well as other relief. Within a few months of their divorce, Mary Katherine Taylor (“Mother”) had filed a petition to modify the residential parenting schedule. Joshua Wayne Taylor (“Father”) filed a counterclaim also seeking a modified residential schedule and, furthermore, a change in the custody designation. Following a bench trial, the court found that there was no material change in circumstances warranting a change in the identity of the primary residential parent, but that there was a material change supporting a modification  of the residential schedule. The court ordered a new schedule that substantially increased Mother’s parenting time and provided Father with only standard visitation. The court dismissed each party’s attempt to find the other in contempt. Father appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/30/14
Phillip Dean Patrick v. Nelson Global Products, Inc.
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

This is a retaliatory discharge action filed by Phillip Dean Patrick (“Plaintiff”), a former employee of Nelson Global Products, Inc. (“the Employer”). Plaintiff alleged that, on a day during his employment, he was standing nearby when a co-worker sustained a work-related injury. Plaintiff alleged that he was unlawfully terminated after the injured co-worker filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. According to Plaintiff, the co-worker’s filing was a “substantial factor” in the Employer’s decision to discharge him. The trial court granted the Employer’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/30/14
David M. Dulaney, Et Al. v. Don Walker Construction, Et Al.
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

David M. Dulaney and Traci L. Dulaney (“Plaintiffs”) sued Don Walker Construction (“Walker Construction”) and Rhonda P. Walker (collectively “Defendants”) with regard to real property and a house constructed and sold by Defendants to Plaintiffs. After a trial, the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) entered its judgment finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs had failed to prove negligent construction and had failed to prove misrepresentation and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiffs appeal. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/30/14
Donald E. Price v. Oxford Graduate School, Inc.
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart

This is a breach of contract case in which an administrator filed suit against a school for unpaid severance pay. The school claimed that the administrator did not provide the requisite 30-day notice for severance pay pursuant to the terms of his contract. The trial court found that the administrator satisfied the notice requirement under the term of his contract and awarded him damages. The school appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 07/30/14
Jamia Rentz v. Michael Rentz
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This appeal arises from the Parties’ numerous post-divorce issues. As relevant to this appeal, Father filed a petition to correct his child support obligation, alleging that his alimony payments to Mother should have been considered as income in setting his support obligation. Father also sought to modify his support obligation in recognition of the birth of his new son and his payment of health insurance. Following numerous hearings, the trial court declined to consider Father’s alimony payments in setting the support obligation but modified the obligation to reflect the birth of Father’s son and the payment of health insurance. The court awarded Mother attorney fees. Father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/30/14
Circle C Construction, LLC v. D. Sean Nilsen, Et Al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

The issue in this case is whether a tolling agreement between the parties precludes the application of the savings statute set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-105(a). We agree with the trial court that the tolling agreement does preclude application of the savings statute and that the plaintiff’s legal malpractice action is barred by the termination date established in the agreement.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/29/14
Richard Jeremiah Garrett, Jr. v. Renee Michelle Elmore
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Wayne C. Shelton

The father of the parties’ four-year-old child appeals the permanent parenting plan established by the juvenile court judge; specifically, he challenges the designation of Mother as the primary residential parent, the parenting schedule, the income imputed to each parent, and child support he is ordered to pay. He also contends Mother waived her right to a de novo rehearing of an earlier “order” by the magistrate, which favored Father, as she did not file a timely request for a de novo hearing; therefore, the juvenile court judge was without authority to conduct a de novo hearing or to enter judgment contrary to the magistrate’s order. We have determined the magistrate’s “order” was not a final judgment because the magistrate never prepared “findings and recommendations in writing,” which are to be provided to the juvenile court judge, as is expressly required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-107(d). Following the de novo hearing before the juvenile court judge, Mother was named the primary residential parent and she was awarded 218 days of parenting time; Father was awarded 147 days. In calculating child support, the trial court found that Mother was attending college part-time but that she was voluntarily unemployed and imputed income to her based on federal minimum wage. The court found that Father’s evidence concerning his modest income was unreliable and imputed income to Father pursuant to Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1240-02-04-.04(3)(a)(2)(iv). The court additionally afforded Mother a day care credit of $516 per month and set child support pursuant to the guidelines based upon the above findings. Father appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/29/14
In Re: Adoption of Joshua M. M. and Zachary M. - Separate Concurrence
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In concur fully in the termination of the parents’ parental rights on the ground of persistent conditions. I write separately to state my disagreement with the majority’s conclusion that consideration of the remaining termination grounds–abandonment by willful failure to visit and abandonment by willful failure to support–is somehow rendered unnecessary in light of the parents’ ostensible failure to challenge the finding of persistent conditions.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/28/14
In Re: Adoption of Joshua M. M. and Zachary M.
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

The appeal involves a petition for termination of parental rights and adoption. The children at issue were removed from their parents’ Wisconsin home in 2005 based on abuse and neglect. Since 2006, the children have been living with the petitioners, the paternal aunt and her husband. The petitioners filed the instant petition in Tennessee to terminate the parental rights of both the mother and the father and to adopt the children. After a trial, the trial court held that the petitioners had established three grounds for termination: (1) abandonment for failure to visit, (2) abandonment for failure to support, and (3) persistent conditions. It also found that termination of parental rights would be in the children’s best interest, and so terminated the parental rights of both biological parents. The parents now appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/28/14
Lisa Doyle v. Town of Oakland
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

This is an appeal from a dismissal for improper service of process. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendant municipality. The summons and complaint were served on the municipality’s finance director. In its answer, the municipality asserted improper service of process for failure to serve either the municipality’s chief executive or its city attorney. Later, the municipality filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion asserted that, because service of process was insufficient under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 4.04, the complaint was time-barred under the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipality. The plaintiff appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 07/28/14
Woodrow Beamer, Jr. v. Agatha Thomas a/k/a Jean T. Beamer
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This appeal involves dismissal of a complaint. The plaintiff filed this declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that the 30-year marriage of his deceased father was void. The plaintiff asserted in the complaint that the allegedly void marriage interfered with his right to inherit from his deceased father. The defendant widow of the deceased father filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that she and the deceased father had resided in Mississippi for over 30 years and asked the trial court to dismiss the petition for lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court found that jurisdiction over the matter was proper in Mississippi and dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We vacate the order of dismissal and remand for preliminary factual findings necessary for effective appellate review of the trial court’s decision.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/28/14
Edna Lee Weaver v. Diversicare Leasing Corp. et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

Edna Lee Weaver (“plaintiff”) was employed as a bookkeeper for the Briarcliff Health Care Center, a nursing home facility in Oak Ridge. After plaintiff’s employment was terminated, she brought this action against her former employer alleging (1) common law retaliatory discharge; (2) violation of the Tennessee Public Protection Act, (“TPPA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304 (2008 & Supp. 2013); and (3) violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-301 (2011). The trial court granted the employer summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff failed to show a causal link between the conduct alleged to be protected, i.e., speaking out against alleged harassment and discrimination against other Briarcliff employees, and her termination. The court further held that the employer established legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for plaintiff’s termination, and that plaintiff failed to present any evidence tending to show that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether these reasons were pretextual. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/28/14
Darrell Trigg v. Little Six Corporation et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

The issue in this wrongful termination action is the enforceability of an arbitration clause in an agreement between the plaintiff employee and his former employer. Plaintiff executed an employment agreement in 2007. Employer terminated plaintiff without cause in April 2012. He brought this action alleging common law retaliatory discharge and violations of the Tennessee Public Protection Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Employer filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff argued that the arbitration clause is unenforceable because it is unconscionable due to the “excessive” and “prohibitive” costs of arbitration. The trial court found that the agreement had been freely negotiated and was neither a contract of adhesion nor unconscionable. We affirm the judgment of the trial court enforcing the agreement and ordering arbitration.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 07/28/14