Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/22/2014
Format: 12/22/2014
Johnny L. Miller, et al. v. Miranda Moretz, et al.
E2013-01893-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

This appeal results from an automobile accident. The plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the owner and driver of the vehicle that collided with them. The jury that heard the matter concluded that the defendant driver was only 10 percent at fault, with the rest of the fault assessed to the plaintiff driver. The trial court entered judgment on the jury verdict for the defendants. After a motion for a new trial was denied, the plaintiffs filed this appeal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/07/14
Bradley M. Barkhurst, et al. v. Benchmark Capital, Inc., et al.
E2013-01911-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

This appeal concerns a dispute over damages in a fraud case. Bradley M. Barkhurst and his wife Judith R. Barkhurst (“the Plaintiffs”), victims of a Ponzi scheme, filed a complaint against Amparo Goyes Jarosh, personal representative of the estate of Charles D. Candler (“Defendant”) , in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). 1 The Trial Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs appeal, arguing, among other things, that they should have been granted enhanced damages under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“the TCPA”). We hold that enhanced damages are not available in an action against an estate. We also modify the Trial Court’s judgment to include in the award to Plaintiffs certain taxes and interest that the Plaintiffs incurred in the Ponzi scheme.
We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court as modified.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/07/14
Raines Brothers, Inc. v. H. Michael Chitwood et al.
E2013-02232-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Tomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jacqueline Bolton

This contract action stems from the defendant’s, H. Michael Chitwood’s, failure to pay for construction work that was performed by the plaintiff, Raines Brothers, Inc. (“Raines”). The work was performed on a home that was occupied by Mr. Chitwood but owned by a trustee, James Dreaden, who was also named as a defendant. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded Raines a judgment against Mr. Chitwood and Mr. Dreaden (collectively “Defendants”) in the amount of $66,762.71. The trial court also awarded pre-judgment interest at the rate of eighteen percent per annum, beginning August 14, 2007. The trial court denied Raines’s claim for attorney’s fees. Defendants timely appealed the trial court’s ruling. Having determined that Raines adequately proved its entitlement to this amount pursuant to the parties’ contract, we affirm the trial court’s judgment of $66,762.71 against Mr. Chitwood. We reverse the trial court’s judgment against Mr. Dreaden. We modify the trial court’s award of the rate of interest from eighteen percent per annum to ten percent in accordance with relevant statutory and case law. We also reverse the trial court’s denial of Raines’s claim for attorney’s fees pursuant to the parties’ contract and remand for a determination of the proper amount of interest to be charged, as well as a reasonable award of attorney’s fees.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/03/14
Doyle S. Silliman, et al. v. City of Memphis
W2013-02858-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

In this case, we are called upon to review the trial court’s decision to set aside a consent order regarding an annexation on the basis of the subsequent passage of legislation allegedly affecting the agreed-upon annexation. Because we conclude that Tennessee Code Annotated Section 6-51-122 does not apply to prohibit the annexation ordinance at issue, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and reinstate the consent order.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/02/14
Estate of Mary Lou Lamb v. D. Jimmy Brinias, et al.
E2013-01550-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

The Estate of Mary Lou Lamb appeals a grant of summary judgment to defendant Ernest L. Joyner raising issues regarding whether the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) erred in finding that the plaintiff’s response to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was filed untimely and therefore was not considered by the Trial Court, and whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of adverse possession. We find and hold: (1) that the Trial Court did not err in finding that the plaintiff’s response was filed untimely; and (2) that Ernest L. Joyner failed to show that he was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. We vacate the grant of summary
judgment on the issue of adverse possession and remand this case to the Trial Court for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/01/14
Susan Taylor Moore v. John Thomas Taylor
M2013-01590-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This is the second appeal in this divorce action. Husband appealed from the Final Decree of Divorce in 2012, and we affirmed the trial court in all respects in an opinion filed by this court on May 30, 2013. While the appeal was pending, the parties filed several motions in the trial court regarding a variety of financial obligations arising from the Final Decree of Divorce. Following one hearing, the trial court modified the division of the marital property; however, in our opinion which was filed a week earlier, we affirmed the division of the marital estate. Wife now appeals that ruling, and she raises several issues regarding, inter alia, the division of marital property, alimony, attorney’s fees, and civil contempt. Finding the trial court erred in modifying the division of the marital estate after we had affirmed that decision, we reverse that modification. As for all other issues raised, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
In Re Estate of Jane Kathryn Ross et al.
M2013-02218-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Randy Kennedy

This is the second appeal of an action to recover, under either the theoryof unjust enrichment or a resulting trust, the value of improvements paid by the plaintiff for a house constructed on her son’s property. The plaintiff paid the construction costs to build a new home on her son’s land for both of them to reside. This action was commenced when the son refused to put his mother’s name on the deed after the house was constructed. Following the first trial, the trial court found that the plaintiff never intended to convey an inter vivos gift to her son, and, after considering the plaintiff’s alternative claims for relief, the court established a resulting trust in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $417,000. In the first appeal, we ruled that a resulting trust was not an available remedy and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the trial court awarded the estate a judgment against the son based on unjust enrichment. The son appeals again, this time contending the estate waived its unjust enrichment claim in the first appeal and that the estate did not prove the value of the improvements. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
National Door & Hardware Installers, Inc. v. Hassan Mirsaidi et al.
M2013-00386-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

A subcontractor filed this breach of contract action to recover damages against a general contractor for two types of damages: work performed but unpaid and damages resulting from delays caused bythe general contractor.The plaintiff alleged the general contractor breached the contract by failing to make the appropriate progress payments and otherwise withholding payments without cause. It further alleged that the general contractor failed to properly supervise the project and failed to maintain proper working conditions on the job site which caused the construction to drag on for nine months beyond the agreed-upon completion date. While suit was pending, the general contractor was terminated by the owner and a different contractor was hired to complete the project; the new contractor hired the plaintiff to complete the job. The plaintiff completed its work for which it was paid more than the balance owing on the subcontract.Following a bench trial,the courtfound the former general contractor had breached the subcontract but the plaintiff had failed to prove damages flowing from these breaches. The trial court specifically determined that the subcontractor recouped its damages for work performed but unpaid through the completion subcontract, and that it did not prove damages flowing from the delay of construction. The plaintiff appeals. Having determined that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
Jeannie McFarland v. Brandon Bass
M2013-00768-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim T. Hamilton

Mother of two children appeals the denial of her petition to modify the parenting plan, the increase of her child support obligation, and the award of attorney fees to the Father. We reverse the increase in Mother’s child support obligation; we affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Giles County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
David N. Halbrooks v. Jacobus Marinus Durieux
M2013-00958-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Bivins

Holder of easement (dominant estate) brought suit against owner of land (servient estate) alleging interference with his use of the easement by the servient estate’s construction of a building on the easement. The trial court found that the servient estate’s actions did not constitute unreasonable interference with the dominant estate’s use of the easement for ingress and egress. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
Mike Locke and Cvan Avian v. The Estate of Thomas W. Schlater, et al. - Dissenting in Part and Concurring in Part
M2012-02504-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the plaintiffs are not time barred to establish that they have standing to contest David Rose’s 2006 Trust Agreement. I fully concur with the affirmance of the dismissal of the other underlying cases.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
Mike Locke and Cvan Avian v. The Estate of Thomas W. Schlater, et al.
M2012-02504-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

After the death of David Rose, his two putative non-marital sons became involved in three separate lawsuits related to the proper distribution of his property. When Mr. Rose’s Executrix filed to probate his Will in solemn form, the putative sons, who were named residuary beneficiaries, objected, but later withdrew their objection. They then filed suit to set aside a 2006 Trust Agreement in order to reinstate prior trusts, the assets of which were to be distributed to Mr. Rose’s issue at his death. They also filed a separate lawsuit to establish Mr. Rose as their biological father. Their attempts to obtain some of their father’s assets were all unsuccessful. In all three cases, the trial court held that they were barred from establishing a father-son relationship because their attempts were time barred. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the sons’ petition to establish paternity filed in the probate case two years after the order admitting the will to probate. However, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the petitioners’ complaint challenging the validity of the 2006 Trust Agreement because they have standing to attempt to establish that they are “issue” of Mr. Rose. The deadline imposed by the trial court applied only “for purposes of intestate succession,” and the trust case did not involve inheritance through the statute regarding heirs of a person dying without a will. Mr. Rose had a will, which was probated. Any assets to be distributed to Mr. Locke and Mr. Avian from the preexisting trust(s) would be pursuant to the terms of the trust document(s), not pursuant to intestate succession. For the purpose of establishing their interest in the prior trust(s), the purported children were entitled to present proof that they were the children of Mr. Rose and were not time barred.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/30/14
Mike Locke and Cvan Avian v. The Estate of David Rose - Dissenting in Part and Concurring in Part
M2012-01314-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the plaintiffs are not time barred to establish that they have standing to contest David Rose’s 2006 Trust Agreement. I fully concur with the affirmance of the dismissal of the other underlying cases.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/30/14