Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/28/2014
Format: 11/28/2014
James E. Whalen, et al v. Quint Bourgeois
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This action arose over the sale of improved real property (“the Property”), consisting of approximately twenty-five acres located in Morgan County, Tennessee. Co-plaintiffs, James E. and Karen M. Whalen, entered into an agreement to purchase the Property from the defendant, Quint Bourgeois. The Whalens subsequently entered into an agreement with coplaintiffs, Alan and Kathleen Bone, to borrow the purchase price of the Property in return for an executed promissory note, secured by a deed of trust. The parties closed the purchase and sale of the Property on January 19, 2012, at the Roane County office of US Title of Tennessee, Inc. (“US Title”). On January 20, 2012, Mr. Bourgeois, upset that he had not received $900.00 in rent he believed the Whalens owed him, returned to the US Title office and convinced staff there to accept his uncashed check from the sale and give him the unrecorded deed. The plaintiffs filed this action against Mr. Bourgeois, ultimately amending their complaint to allege breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and intentional interference with contractual relations. Following a bench 1 trial, the trial court found that Mr. Bourgeois had committed the tort of intentional interference with the
contractual relationship between the Whalens and the Bones. The court further found that because the purchase and sales contract between the plaintiffs and Mr. Bourgeois had been completed at closing, Mr. Bourgeois did not breach that contract but did intentionally commit egregious acts by, inter alia, demanding the deed from the title company. The court awarded the Whalens $110,000.00 in compensatory damages, $14,736.99 in prejudgment interest, and $55,000.00 in punitive damages. The court awarded the Bones $76,733.50 in compensatory damages and $40,000.00 in punitive damages.

Morgan County Court of Appeals 06/27/14
George Hutsell v. Jeff Kenley D/B/A Trademark Investments
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This case presents issues regarding the propriety of the trial court’s rulings on evidentiary issues as well as a motion for directed verdict. The plaintiff sustained damages when his personalty, which was stored in a warehouse owned by the defendant, was subjected to water damage after the roof of the warehouse collapsed. The plaintiff filed the instant action seeking compensatory damages for the value of his damaged property. Prior to trial, the trial court ruled that the plaintiff could present evidence that the defendant also filed a claim with respect to his own damaged property stored in the warehouse. The trial court ruled, however, that the defendant would not be allowed to present evidence regarding the profitability of the plaintiff’s business. During the three-day trial, the defendant made a motion for directed verdict that was denied by the trial court. Following deliberations, the jury returned a verdict, finding the defendant to be 100% liable for the plaintiff’s loss and awarding damages to the plaintiff of $325,000. The defendant filed a renewed motion for directed verdict, a motion for new trial, and a motion for remittitur. All of the post-trial motions were denied by the trial court. The defendant appeals. Having determined that the trial court committed reversible error by allowing the plaintiff to present prejudicial evidence regarding the defendant’s own claim for damages, we vacate the jury’s award and remand for a new trial.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 06/27/14
Dereck Cruz Legens v. Bobby Lecornu, et al. - Concurring Opinion
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan

I concur fully with the result reached in this case and agree with virtually all of the analysis. I write separately only to draw out and emphasize a couple of issues.

Obion County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Howard L. Boyd v. Amanda Mandy Wachtler, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

The jury found that Defendants were liable for damages arising from breach of contract and that Plaintiff was liable for damages arising from negligence. It also found that Defendants were entitled to treble damages under Tennessee Code Annotated § 62-2-503. Plaintiff appeals. Finding material evidence to support the jury verdict, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Avalon Sections, 4.6 and 7 Homeowners Association v. Dilip Chaudhuri, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

Homeowners association brought declaratory judgment action against homeowners to enforce the development’s restrictive covenants. The trial court determined that the homeowners association’s architectural review committee (“ARC”) acted within its discretion in ordering homeowners to remove improvements the ARC found to be inconsistent with other homes in the neighborhood. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Diana Roberts, et al. v. Sue Prill, M.D., et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

This is a health care liability action arising from the death of Decedent. Defendants moved to dismiss the action for failure to comply with the notice requirements set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). The trial court agreed and dismissed the action without prejudice. Plaintiff appeals the dismissal to this court. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Dereck Cruz Legens v. Bobby Lecornu, et al.
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan

This is an appeal from a bench trial in a suit over the sale of a used vehicle. The trial court originally ruled in favor of the seller-defendants, finding that the plaintiff-buyer failed to meet his burden of proving fraud or misrepresentation in the sale of the vehicle. The court found that defendant-sellers had violated one subsection of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, but that plaintiff-buyer had failed to prove any actual damages, so the trial court dismissed the complaint. Upon considering the plaintiff-buyer’s motion to alter or amend, the trial court changed its original decision and found that the defendant-sellers had engaged in fraud, and the court rescinded the sale of the vehicle. Upon considering plaintiffbuyer’s second motion to alter or amend, the trial court clarified its ruling and awarded attorney’s fees to the plaintiff-buyer. Both parties appeal. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s decision, reinstate its original ruling, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Obion County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Federal National Mortgage Association v. Deanna R. Lambert
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

This is a detainer action in which Fannie Mae was awarded a judgment of possession of Defendant’s property in sessions court. Defendant refused to vacate the property and appealed to the circuit court. Fannie Mae filed a motion for summary judgment, while Defendant sought to void the judgment of possession. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and upheld the foreclosure sale. Defendant appeals. We affirm.

Bledsoe County Court of Appeals 06/26/14
Leo Berg v. Julie Ann Rutledge Berg
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Derek Smith

In this appeal from a final divorce decree, Wife takes issue with a number of the trial court’s financial decisions. Specifically, Wife contends the trial court erred in the assessment of spousal support, in classifying marital property as Husband’s separate property, in valuing Husband’s woodworking business, in dividing the marital estate, in finding she dissipated the marital estate, in declining to find that Husband dissipated the estate, in failing to sanction Husband for non-production of documents, and by sanctioning her $100,000 under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 37.02 for abuse of discovery. Finally, Wife alleges error in failing to grant the divorce to both parties and contends the trial court should not have verbatim adopted portions of Husband’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as its final judgment. We affirm the trial court’s rulings on these issues. Husband also seeks his attorney’s fees incurred on appeal which we respectfully deny.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
Robin D. Wilson, et al. v. Joseph M. Weese, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that their easement rights had been interfered with by the defendant property owners. The trial court determined, inter alia, that the defendants, subject to the provisions in the deed at issue, could exclude all others from their property. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the determination of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
In Re: Alexis C.
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth N. Bailey, Jr.

Jessica C. (“Mother”) and Jesse W. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their parental rights to the minor child Alexis C. (“the Child”). We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was shown that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child for abandonment by wanton disregard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv), and for severe abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102, and that clear and convincing evidence was shown that the termination was in the Child’s best interest. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court for Greene County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Greene County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
Karen Elizabeth Touchton v. Paul Jerome Touchton
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor L. Craig Johnson

In this post-divorce proceeding, Mother filed a petition seeking a modification of Father’s parenting time, recovery of medical expenses incurred on behalf of the parties’ child, and an increase in child support. The trial court modified Father’s parenting time, ordered an upward deviation to Father’s support obligation, and awarded Wife judgment for one-half of the medical expenses and one-half of the attorney fees she incurred in prosecuting the petition;the court issued an order that the judgment for medical expenses, back child support, and attorney fees be enforced by wage assignment. Father appeals the upward deviation, the award forone-half of the child’s medical expenses,and the wage assignment; Mother appeals the award for one-half of her attorney fees. We modify the wage assignment order to exclude the amount of the judgment for attorney fees; in all other respects we affirm the judgment.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 06/24/14
In Re: Donna E. W., Et Al.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim T. Hamilton

The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment for failure to support, persistence of conditions, and failure to substantially comply with the permanency plans. On appeal, Mother asserts that the trial court erred in determining that termination of her parental rights was in the children’s best interest. We affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 06/24/14