Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/23/2014
Format: 08/23/2014
In Re D.W.M., Jr.
E2013-02017-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel Swafford

This appeal involves termination of parental rights. While she was pregnant, the mother of the child at issue made threats to harm herself and the unborn child. Both of the parents are mentally impaired. The mother has other serious disorders as well, and the father is a registered sex offender. The state took the child into protective custody four days after the child was born. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents on grounds of mental incompetence and persistent conditions. After a trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the Department of Children’s Services had established grounds for termination and that termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/13/14
Deborah R. Smith v. John P. Stanley, et al.
E2013-00886-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

Deborah R. Smith (“Plaintiff”) sued John P. Stanley and Dinah Stanley (“Defendants”) with regard to injuries Plaintiff suffered when she fell down stairs while visiting a cabin (“the Cabin”) owned by Defendants. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendants summary judgment after finding and holding that Defendants owed no duty to Plaintiff. Plaintiff appeals the grant of summary judgment. We find and hold, as did the Trial Court, that there are no genuine disputed issues of material fact, and that Defendants have shown that Plaintiff cannot establish an essential element of her claim, specifically duty. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/12/14
David Ray Hoggatt v. Lori Ann Hoggatt - Dissenting
E2013-00508-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s opinion affirming the trial court’s division of the marital property as modified by the majority. I believe the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s property division, even as modified by the majority, as being an equitable division of the marital property.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/12/14
David Ray Hoggatt v. Lori Ann Hoggatt
E2013-00508-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The divorce in this case brought to an end the thirteen-year marriage of David Ray Hoggatt (“Husband”) and Lori Ann Hoggatt (“Wife”). The trial court classified, valued, and distributed the parties’ property. On this appeal, Husband challenges aspects of the division of marital property. We modify the amount that the trial court ordered Wife to pay Husband in the property division. In all other respects, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/12/14
In Re: Conservatorship of Jack Wayne Turner
M2013-01665-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

This is a conservatorship modification case. Appellant/Mother sought modification of the trial court’s previous order, naming Appellee/Father as the conservator over the parties’ mentally-disabled, adult son, and mandating that Mother’s visitation with the Ward be supervised. Because Mother had made numerous, unfounded allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, the trial court enjoined Mother from making any future allegations of sexual abuse against the Ward by his older brother, and further enjoined her from discussing, with the Ward, any purported sexual abuse by his older brother. Although the trial court modified its previous order to grant Mother four additional hours of visitation per month, it ordered that her visitation would continue to be supervised. The court further modified the conservatorship by holding that Father, at his discretion, would be allowed to tape record any telephone conversations between the Ward and Mother. On appeal, Mother contends that the injunction constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint on her free speech. We adopt the “modern rule,” holding that defamatory speech may be enjoined after a determination that the speech is, in fact, false, and upon the condition that the injunction be narrowly tailored to limit the prohibited speech to that which has been determined to be false. We conclude that the injunction in this case satisfies both of these criteria such that it does not constitute a prior restraint on Mother’s free speech. Mother also appeals the trial court’sorder concerning the amount of visitation, the fact that the visitation is to be supervised, and recording of her telephone conversations with the Ward. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Mother eight hours of visitation per month. Furthermore, because of Mother’s behavior during the pendency of this litigation, we further conclude that the imposition of supervised visitation and the recording of her telephone conversation serve two functions. First, these requirements preserve the Ward’s best interest by providing safeguards against future negative impacts from Mother’s actions. Second, because Mother has shown a propensity to disregard the orders of the court, the requirements ensure that the court’s orders will be followed. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, and there is no abuse of the trial court’s discretion, we affirm and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/09/14
In Re Garvin M. et al.
E2013-02080-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Garvin M. and Brianna M., the minor children (“the Children”) of Ryan M. (“Father”) and Jennifer M. (“Mother”). In July 2012, the Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father on February 26, 2013. The petition alleged as statutory grounds for termination: (1) severe child abuse, (2) abandonment by the parents’ failure to provide a suitable home, (3) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, (4) persistent conditions, and (5) abandonment by an incarcerated parent who exhibits wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare prior to incarceration. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to both parents upon finding that DCS had proven all of the grounds alleged by clear and convincing evidence. The court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the
Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/09/14
Antonius Harris, et al. v. Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction et al.
M2013-01858-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Claims Commissioner

Inmates in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction who are housed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee, filed various claims related to their “prison jobs,” inter alia, for wages and damages under the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act, specifically Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-2-101 and 50-2-104, and for breach of oral contract,promissory estoppel ,unjust enrichment, and conversion.The Tennessee Claims Commission dismissed all of the inmates’ claims upon the defendants’Tenn.R.Civ.P.12.02 (1) and (6) motion to dismiss. We affirm.
 

Court of Appeals 05/08/14
Vincent Garrard v. Tennessee Department of Correction
M2013-01525-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin

This appeal involves the trial court’s denial of relief to an inmate based upon a writ of certiorari.The inmate raises several issues regarding violations of the Tennessee Department of Correction Uniform Disciplinary Procedures, as well as basic due process. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 05/08/14
In the Matter of: Kason K. C.
M2013-01607-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Corlew, III

This is a dependency and neglect case. The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the minor child was dependent and neglected under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 37-1-102(b)(23)(A)(i) due to Appellant/Father’s knowing use of force upon the child, which force was likely to cause the child serious bodily injury. Father appeals this finding. We conclude that the evidence clearlyand convincingly establishes that Father did knowingly “use . . . force on [the] child that [was] likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.” Affirmed and remanded.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/07/14
In Re: Alexander J. G.
M2013-02210-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth R. Goble

In this termination of parental rights case, Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that she abandoned her son by failing to support him and that termination was in the child’s best interest. Finding clear and convincing evidence in support of the trial court’s determinations, we affirm the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/06/14
Leona Ruth Salyer, et al v. Courtney L. Linnen
E2013-01546-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

This is a personal injury action in which Plaintiff sued Defendant for injuries she sustained as a result of a two-vehicle accident. The jury found the parties equally at fault, and the trial court affirmed the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence and that the trial court erred in limiting testimony concerning Defendant’s acceptance of fault at the scene of the accident. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 05/06/14
Brenda Dianne Cook Rayfield v. Tony Dale Rayfield
E2013-00745-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Headrick

This appeal arises from a divorce action. The husband appeals the trial court’s division of marital property and debt and the award of compensatory and punitive damages to the wife for injuries she allegedly sustained at the hands of the husband. We affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 05/06/14
Lena Barner v. Burns Phillips, Acting Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, et al
M2013-01180-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.

This case involves Employee’s right to unemployment compensation benefits. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied Employee’s claim for unemployment compensation benefits after finding that she voluntarily quit her job based on her belief that she would soon be terminated. Employee appealed that finding in the trial court, where she also contended that she was denied her due process rights of notice and representation during the agency proceedings. The trial court upheld the denial of benefits, finding substantial and material evidence that Employee voluntarily quit her job, and finding that Employee was not denied due process during the agency proceedings. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 05/05/14