Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014
Teresa Vincent v. Jerry S. Johnston, Sr.
E2013-00588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This boundary line dispute involves a five-acre parcel of real property (“Disputed Property”) in McMinn County to which the petitioner and respondent, who own adjoining parcels, both claim ownership. The petitioner filed a petition to quiet title, requesting that she be declared the owner of the Disputed Property, and for declaratory judgment as to damages she claimed as a result of the respondent’s alleged trespass, encroachment, and harvesting of timber. The respondent filed a counter-petition, alleging that he was the rightful owner of the Disputed Property; raising affirmative defenses of waiver/estoppel, champerty, and adverse possession; and requesting damages for the petitioner’s alleged encroachment and destruction of boundary markers. Following a bench trial, the trial court declared the petitioner the owner of the Disputed Property, dismissed the respondent’s counter-petition, and dismissed all claims for damages. The respondent appeals. We affirm the trial court’s finding that title to the Disputed Property is vested in the petitioner. We determine, however, that the respondent has established the statutory defense of adverse possession, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-2-103 (2000), only to the extent that certain improvements encroach upon the Disputed Property, and we reverse upon this ground. We remand to the trial court for determination as to the extent of the encroachments. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 01/24/14
In Re: Jocilyn M.P.
E2013-01933-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

In August of 2012, Chloe S.K. (“Mother”) and Timothy A.K. (“Step-father”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Joshua A.P. (“Father”) to the minor child Jocilyn M.P. (“the Child”) and to allow Step-father to adopt the Child. After a trial, the Trial Court entered its Final Order Terminating Parental Rights on August 19, 2013 terminating Father’s parental rights to the Child after finding and holding, inter alia, that clear and convincing evidence existed of grounds to terminate Father’s parental rights to the Child pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102 (1)(A)(iv) for both willful failure to support and for wanton disregard, and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in the Child’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/24/14
Michael Jeffries, et. al. v. United States Metal Powders, Inc.
E2013-00521-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This appeal arises from a dispute concerning an employment contract between United States Metal Powders, Inc. and Plaintiffs, who claimed that they were owed vacation and severance pay when the company ceased production and sold its assets. United States Metal Powders, Inc. denied that Plaintiffs were owed vacation and severance pay. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded severance pay but denied the claim for vacation pay. United States Metal Powders, Inc. appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Blount County Court of Appeals 01/22/14
Donald Harp and Mary Harp v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, et al
M2012-02047-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

In this governmental tort liability action involving two metropolitan government employees, Employee 1 drove a school bus into Employee 2, resulting in serious injuries. Employee 2 and his wife filed suit under the Governmental Tort Liability Act against metropolitan government alleging that Employee 1 was negligent while acting in the course and scope of her employment and that, therefore, metropolitan government was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Metropolitan government filed a third-party complaint against Employee 1 seeking to recover lost wages and medical expenses paid to Employee 2. The trial court determined that statutory removal of metropolitan government’s immunity for injuries caused by Employee 1’s negligence resulted in Employee 1’s immunity from liability. Accordingly, the trial court entered judgment for Employee 2 and his wife against metropolitan government. We affirm.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/22/14
In Re: Caylee R.M.F.
E2013-00621-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Thomas R. Frierson, II

This is a parental termination appeal brought by the incarcerated biological father. The child at issue was placed with the petitioners shortly after her birth five years ago. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to support the ground for termination and clear and convincing evidence that such termination was in the child’s best interest. The father appeals. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 01/22/14
In Re: Robert D., et al
E2013-00740-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry M. Warner

This is a termination of parental rights action focusing on the two minor children (“the Children”) of mother, Sandra W. (“Mother”). A termination petition was filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) after the third custody proceeding involving the Children. The petition alleges the statutory grounds of abandonment, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and persistent conditions. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition upon its findings, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) Mother had abandoned the Children, (2) Mother had failed to substantially comply with the permanency plans, and (3) the conditions leading to removal still persisted. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Mother has appealed. We affirm.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 01/17/14
Lisa Womble v. University Health System, Inc. d/b/a University of Tennessee Regional Medical Center, et al
E2012-02664-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale Workman

In the wake of her firing from the University of Tennessee Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, a nurse brought an employment action raising numerous claims. At the time the nurse originally began working at the medical center, it was owned and managed by the University of Tennessee and she was considered an employee of the university. In 1999, the university executed a lease and transfer agreement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 49-9-112, by which the operation of the medical center was transferred to a private, nonprofit corporation. Hospital personnel, like the nurse, who had been university employees prior to the transfer, were thereafter “leased” by the private, nonprofit corporation from the university. This interlocutory appeal stems from the trial court’s sua sponte ruling that Tennessee Code Annotated section 49-9-112(a) is unconstitutional. We reverse the determination of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/16/14
Carey P. Merrell v. The City of Memphis, Tennessee
W2013-00948-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This is a Governmental Tort Liability action. Plaintiff/Appellant was injured when his motorcycle hit a pothole. Appellant sued the Appellee The City of Memphis for negligence. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that Appellant had failed to rove that the City had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition on its roadway so as to lift immunity under ennessee Code Annotated §29-20-203(b). Accordingly, the court dismissed the lawsuit. We conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the City had no notice of this dangerous condition. Affirmed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/16/14
Continental Casualty Company, et al. v. Theraco, Inc.
M2012-02100-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Continental Casualty Company (“CNA”) and Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”) filed this suit against Theraco, Inc.(“Theraco”) seeking compensation for additional workers’ compensation premiums.  Theraco’s insurance contracts with CNA and Travelers provided that it would pay premiums for employees and all other persons who posed a risk of workers’ compensation liability. Pursuant to the contracts, CNA and Travelers both charged Theraco premiums for physical therapists with whom Theraco had contracted. Theraco disputes that it is liable for paying premiums for the workers. After a hearing, the Department of Commerce and Insurance ruled that Theraco was not liable for the additional premiums because the physical therapists were independent contractors rather than employees. CNA and Travelers appealed the Department’s decision to the Chancery Court for Davidson County. The trial court upheld the Department’s ruling, not only concluding that the physical therapists were independent contractors, but also that they did not pose a risk of workers’ compensation liability. CNA and Travelers appealed to this Court. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/14/14
Sandra Buckler Hall, Individually and on behalf of her minor son, Felix Hall v. Paul D. Randolph Jr., M.D., Personal Representative and next of kin of Paul D. Randolph, Sr., M.D.
W2013-02571-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

The trial court denied Defendant physician’s motion to recuse following the trial judge’s disclosure of an earlier patient-physician relationship with Defendant’s expert witness. Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Rule 10B of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules. Finding that the circumstances require recusal, we reverse.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/14/14
In Re: Kierra B., et al
E2012-02539-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Toohey

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Sullivan County (“the Juvenile Court”) to terminate the parental rights of Amber B. (“Mother”) to the minor children Jayden B. and Kierra B. (“the Children,” collectively, or, “Jayden” and “Kierra” individually). DCS also sought to terminate the parental rights of Miguel C. (“Father”) to Kierra. After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered its order finding and holding, inter alia, that clear and convincing evidence was proven that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s parental rights to the Children pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1- 113 (g)(2) and (g)(3), and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. The Juvenile Court also found and held that clear and convincing evidence was proven that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights to Kierra pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113 (g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102 (1)(A)(iv), and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in Kierra’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. Mother and Father appeal. Apart from certain grounds of abandonment pertaining to Father which we reverse for lack of adequate evidence, we affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children and Father’s parental rights to Kierra.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/14/14
Estate of Minnie Bell Woodard v. James W. Franklin, et al.
M2012-01408-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

A widow filed a complaint seeking a determination of the proper owner of a tract of real property held in her husband’s name. The widow lived on the property for over twenty years after her husband died.  She believed she was the proper owner until she became interested in selling the property and learned her name was not on the deed. The trial court ruled the widow acquired the property by common law adverse possession, and one of the husband’s heirs-at-law appealed. The husband’s great nephew asserted the widow had permission to remain on the property, and, therefore, could not obtain title through adverse possession. We disagree and affirm the trial court’s judgment. The widow possessed and used the property openly and exclusively for over twenty years, thereby putting the world on notice that she claimed ownership of the property.

Jackson County Court of Appeals 01/13/14
John Shell and Connie Shell v. Sherri Cole Williams v. Rick Shell
M2013-00711-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The issues in this case involve the proper use and alleged interference with an easement created by express grant. The trial court concluded that the holders of the easement could use the easement for recreational purposes and that the servient landowner had interfered with the use of the easement by planting trees and placing boulders within the easement. We reverse and remand.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/13/14