Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/30/2014
Format: 09/30/2014
City of Athens v. Blair Strong Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Open Door Cafe
E2013-02405-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

This appeal challenges a citation for an alleged violation of a city ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to a person under the age of twenty-one. A municipal judge and the trial court found against the appellant restaurant. We affirm.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 06/10/14
Cleveland Custom Stone, Et Al. v. Acuity Mutual Insurance Company
E2013-02132-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael J. Sharp

This case concerns Acuity’s refusal to pay insurance proceeds to Plaintiffs, who filed suit, alleging negligence, breach of contract, bad faith refusal to pay, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-18- 101, et. seq. The case proceeded to jury trial. The jury awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages and found that Acuity’s failure to pay was in violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The jury declined to award punitive damages. Likewise, the trial court affirmed the verdict but did not treble the damages. Acuity appeals. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/10/14
Deborah Evans Wilhoit v. Gary Dennis Wilhoit
M2013-01499-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray

Husband filed a petition to terminate his alimony obligation, asserting that he sold his dental practice following the entry of the final divorce decree for health reasons,as a result of which he was unable to pay alimony because his only income was social security benefits. The trial court found that husband’s retirement constituted a material and substantial change of circumstances, but declined to modify his obligation. Husband appeals the denial of his petition and wife appeals the denial of her request for attorney fees. We affirm the decision in part, reverse in part and remand for further consideration.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 06/09/14
In The Matter of: Shayla H.
M2013-00567-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alan Edward Calhoun

Mother and Father were divorced and Mother was designated as the primary residential parent of their child in 2003. Father filed a petition several years later seeking to have the designation of primary residential parent changed from Mother to himself. The trial court granted Father’s petition after determining Father had proved a material change in circumstances and it was in the child’s best interest for Father to become the primary residential parent. Mother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/09/14
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority D/B/A Erlanger Health System v. United Healthcare Plan of The River Valley, Inc. D/B/A Americhoice and Tennessee Attorney General
M2013-00942-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

Hospital filed an action against TennCare managed care organization (“MCO”) for breach of contract and unjust enrichment when MCO refused to pay Hospital’s standard charges for emergencyservices and follow-up care. Hospital was notpart of MCO’s “provider network” under the TennCare regulations and therefore was “non-contract” provider. MCO alleged Hospital was required to accept as payment the rate TennCare specified in its regulations. MCO filed motion for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the portion of the complaint to which the TennCare regulations may apply due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court determined the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (“UAPA”) divested it of jurisdiction because Hospital did not first seek a declaratory order from the Bureau of TennCare regarding the applicability of its regulations to Hospital’s dispute with MCO. Hospital appealed the dismissal of its claims, and we reverse. Because Hospital is not challenging applicabilityor validityof TennCare regulations,UAPA does not divest trial court of jurisdiction.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/06/14
Aaron Bissinger, Et Al v. New Country Buffett, Et Al.
M2011-02183-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

A man who suffered a blood infection after eating raw summer oysters at a Nashville restaurant filed suit against the restaurant, claiming that the oysters were contaminated because they were kept at an improper temperature. The restaurant owner answered, and among other things he named three companies in the supply chain that furnished the oysters to the defendant restaurant as possibly liable under the doctrine of comparative fault. The plaintiff subsequently died, and his executor was substituted as plaintiff. The executor filed an amended complaint that added the suppliers as defendants, and included claims against all the defendants of negligence, negligence per se, product liability, and breach of warranty. All the parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied the defendant restaurant’s motion for summary judgment, but it granted summary judgment to the defendant suppliers on all issues except failure to warn. After studying the voluminous record in this case, we affirm all the trial court’s rulings on the summary motions against the restaurant. We affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the suppliers, and reverse the denial of summary judgment to them for failure to warn.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/06/14
William Barry Wood v. Karla Davis, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Et Al.
M2013-01008-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development hired plaintiff in 2007 as an executive service appointment. The Department terminated his employment in 2011. He petitioned for a declaratory order stating that his position was actually career service and, therefore, he was entitled to notice and a hearing pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. The order was denied. He filed a chancerycourt petition for declaratoryand injunctive relief. The trial court held that his job classification was not reviewable under the facts of this case. He appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/05/14
William Barry Wood v. Karla Davis, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, et al.
M2013-00400-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development hired plaintiff in 2007 as an executive service appointment. The Department terminated his employment in 2011. In August 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of his due process rights. The trial court found that the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions had expired. Plaintiff appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/05/14
In Re: Estate of Betty D. Gentry Meek
M2013-01070-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan

The surviving husband who was excluded from his wife’s will filed a petition for elective-share, year’s support, exempt property, and homestead. The executors of her estate opposed the petition claiming the marriage was void ab initio because it was procured by fraud and misrepresentations, specifically alleging that he lied on the marriage license about his age and number of prior marriages. Alternatively, if he is the surviving spouse, they contend he is equitably estopped to assert such claims for the same underlying reasons. The trial court summarilydismissed the petition finding “(1) the marriage between [Plaintiff] and the Decedent was void ab initio due to the fraud perpetrated by [Plaintiff] in connection with false information supplied by him on the application for the parties’ marriage license; and (2) equitably estopped as a matter of law.” Based on these findings the trial court dismissed all claims. We have determined the marriage was not void ab initio; whether the marriage was voidable is now moot for any right to avoid the marriage abated upon the wife’s death. As for equitable estoppel, we have determined that summary judgment was inappropriate because essential facts are either disputed or not in the record, including whether the decedent relied on the misrepresentations to marry him. Accordingly, we reverse the award of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 06/04/14
In Re: Conservatorship of Maurice M. Acree, Jr.
M2013-01905-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Plaintiff/Appellant appeals the trial court’s judgment awarding attorneys’ fees and affirming the final accounting of a trust in this conservatorship action. We affirm.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/04/14
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
Donald J. Roberts IRA, et al. v. Phillip H. McNeill, Sr., et al.
W2013-01072-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is the second interlocutory appeal from a class certification. In Roberts v. McNeill, No. W2010-01000-COA-R9-CV, 2011 WL 662648 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 23, 2011) (“Roberts I”), we vacated the trial court’s class certification and remanded for reconsideration. Plaintiffs/Appellees are former owners of preferred stock in Equity Inns, Inc., who filed suit against Defendants/Appellants, the board of directors, for breaches of the  fiduciary duties allegedly owed to the preferred shareholders during the negotiation and approval of a merger. Upon remand from this Court, the trial court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification with respect to “the proposed preferred class stockholders.” Having previously enumerated three preferred classes of stockholders, the purported certification creates an ambiguity as to the global class. The trial court’s certification of three subclasses does not cure the ambiguity in the global class, and we cannot proceed to review under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 23 in the absence of a clearly defined class. Accordingly, we vacate and remand for further consideration.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
In Re: Adoption of Marissa O. R.
W2013-01733-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This is a petition for termination of parental rights and adoption. The parents of the child at issue divorced in 2007. The father moved to Colorado, and the mother was designated the child’s primary residential parent. The father was given parenting time in Colorado during the child’s spring, winter, and summer vacations, as well as parenting time in Tennessee at any time, with reasonable notice. The father exercised his parenting time only for a single 30-day period each summer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. After the child’s summer 2010 visit, the father scheduled no parenting time. In July 2011, the mother and her husband filed the instant petition to terminate the father’s parental rights and for the mother’s husband to adopt the daughter. The petition alleged abandonment by willful failure to visit during the four-month period preceding the filing of the petition. After a trial, the trial court denied the petition. It held that the petitioners did not establish grounds for termination and that the child’s best interest would not be served by terminating the father’s parental rights. The petitioners now appeal. After careful review of the record, we hold that clear and convincing evidence supports the termination of the father’s parental rights, and so reverse the trial court’s denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
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