Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/04/2016
Format: 12/04/2016
Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01136-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

This appeal arises from a contract dispute. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) contracted with a third party for the collection and disposal of certain types of waste. The contract required the waste to be disposed of within the United States. TDEC claimed the contractor allowed waste to move outside the United States and, as a result of the alleged contract violation, recouped a portion of the contract payments by “short-paying.” The contractor filed a complaint with the Tennessee Claims Commission to recover the recouped payments. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Claims Commission granted summary judgment in favor of the contractor but denied its request for pre-judgment interest. Although for purposes of summary judgment it assumed that some waste collected by the contractor left the country, the Claims Commission found such a breach by the contractor to be immaterial. TDEC and the contractor both appeal. We affirm the grant of summary judgment to the contractor, although on different grounds; we reverse the denial of pre-judgment interest. 

Court of Appeals 05/18/16
Credential Leasing Corporation of Tennessee, Inc. v Patrick L. White
E2015-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

The defendant, a practicing attorney, prepared a deed of trust for the benefit of the plaintiff lender concerning a loan made by the lender to the defendant‘s brother. The subject property was subsequently foreclosed upon by the first mortgage holder without notice to the lender. The lender later discovered that its deed of trust contained certain defects. The lender filed the instant action against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was liable for professional negligence, breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the lender on the professional negligence claim while granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the breach of contract claim.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 05/17/16
Jill St. John-Parker v. Virgil Duane Parker
E2014-01338-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

In this divorce, the trial court's main challenge was to classify and divide corporate debentures worth over two million dollars. After considering the evidence, the trial court classified all of the debentures as marital property and awarded Wife a share equal to $450,000. After this Court granted Husband's motion to stay execution on distribution of the assets, the trial court awarded Wife temporary alimony. We have concluded that the trial court erred in its division of the debentures and in awarding attorney fees to Wife for her attorney's work regarding Husband's motion to stay execution. In all other respects, we affirm the trial court's decision.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/17/16
Sandra Gibson v. Young Men's Christian Association Of Middle Tennessee
M2015-01465-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This is an appeal from an order denying summary judgment. The appellee signed a YMCA membership application and release agreement prior to tripping and falling on a sidewalk in front of the YMCA. The appellee filed suit, alleging negligence. The YMCA then filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the appellee expressly assumed the risk of her injuries. The trial court denied the YMCA’s motion for summary judgment but granted a motion for interlocutory appeal. We reverse the trial court’s order denying summary judgment and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment.      

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/16/16
Margaret McClain Sneed Wills v. David Kyle Wills
M2015-01639-COA-r3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This is an appeal of the trial court’s award of alimony. Husband appeals the trial court’s decision to award alimony in futuro as well as the amount of alimony awarded. We vacate both the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro and the amount awarded.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 05/16/16
In re Mason E., et al.
E2015-01256-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody

The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Father had committed severe child abuse by knowingly exposing his three minor children to methamphetamine. Father appealed the trial court's decision to admit positive drug tests for the children into evidence and the trial court's finding of severe child abuse. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 05/16/16
In re Kaitlin W. et al.
E2015-01553-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal arises from a termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS") filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Knox County ("the Juvenile Court") seeking to terminate the parental rights of Remus W. ("Father") to his five children ("the Children"). After a trial, the Juvenile Court found that the grounds of wanton disregard, persistent conditions, and severe child abuse had been proven against Father by clear and convincing evidence, and that termination of Father‘s parental rights was in the Children‘s best interest. Father appeals. We reverse the judgment of the Juvenile Court as to the grounds of wanton disregard and persistent conditions. We affirm the Juvenile Court as to the ground of severe child abuse and as to its best interest determination. Having reversed the Juvenile Court as to only two of the three grounds found for termination, we, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court terminating Father‘s parental rights.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/16/16
Patricia Harper v. Eric Dixon Et Al.
E2015-00411-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

This is a breach of contract action involving a residential kitchen remodeling project. The plaintiff homeowner filed a complaint against the defendant contractor and his construction company, alleging that the contractor had breached the parties' contract by failing to complete the project and walking off the job. The contractor filed a counter-complaint, alleging, inter alia, that the homeowner owed the construction company funds for work completed and reimbursement of material costs. Following a bench trial, the trial court dismissed the individual contractor as a party but found that the construction company had materially breached the contract. Setting off the amount the homeowner owed contractually from the damages determined, the court awarded a judgment to the homeowner in the amount of $3,555.40. The homeowner appeals the amount of the damages award and the set-off. She further appeals the trial court's denial of her oral motion to allow her substitution as party plaintiff in the capacity of trustee for her son, to whom she had conveyed her interest in the home in trust. Having determined that the trial court made two mathematical errors in calculating the final award to the homeowner, we modify the award to $4,055.40. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/16/16
Siamak Kadivar v. Nahid Fathiamirkhiz a/k/a Nancy Amir
M2014-02352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael Binkley

This is a divorce case. Prior to the parties’ marriage, Husband started a used car dealership with his father. Husband continued to operate the business after he and his wife were married. Husband bought his father’s interest in the company after the marriage and became the sole owner. After the parties separated, the business’s value continued to increase. Husband filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. The trial court granted the divorce, and the parties agreed that the business was marital property at the time of the marriage. The trial court found that Wife did not substantially contribute to the business after the parties separated and that any increase in its value was Husband’s separate property. We reverse the trial court’s finding that the business was separate property after the parties separated, modify the judgment to reflect this reversal, and affirm in all other respects.
 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/13/16
Karla J. Dennis, et al. v. Donelson Corporate Centre I, LP, et al.
M2015-01878-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a negligence case. Appellee, an elevator maintenance company, contracted with building owner to provide maintenance service for the building’s elevators. Plaintiff was injured when one of the elevators allegedly did not level properly, causing her to fall as she was exiting the elevator. Plaintiff and her husband brought suit against the building’s owner, the building’s management company, and Appellee. Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Appellants appeal.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/13/16
Jimmie D. Gulley d/b/a Kleen-Way Disposal v. Robertson County Planning & Zoning Commission
M2015-00734-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This is a zoning dispute arising out of a trash-collection business being operated in an agricultural-residential zone. The county planning and zoning commission determined that the business did not comply with existing zoning. The business owner sought review before the board of zoning appeals and, when the board affirmed the commission’s decision, filed a petition for certiorari review in chancery court, which held that the board’s action was not arbitrary and was supported by material evidence. We affirm the judgment of the chancery court.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
Mark A. Grant v. Kathy H. Grant
M2014-01835-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

After a long-term marriage, the wife obtained a divorce based on the husband’s inappropriate marital conduct. The trial court determined the value of the marital property, divided the marital estate, and awarded the wife both alimony in futuro and alimony in solido. The husband appealed, arguing the court erred in valuing his ownership interests in three general partnerships, in dividing the marital estate, and in awarding the wife alimony. After reviewing the extensive record in this case, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
In re Estate of Lois Culp
M2015-01421-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This case involves the distribution of assets in a testamentary trust. The decedent’s will provided for her real property to be left in a trust established for the benefit of her children and grandchildren. After the will was admitted to probate, the trustee filed a petition seeking judicial authorization to sell the property to avoid reoccurring expenses and prevent waste. One of the beneficiaries submitted a response in which he asserted that he and all of the other beneficiaries opposed selling the property. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order in which it held that the will granted the trustee unrestricted authority to sell the property without judicial authorization if, in her best judgment, doing so would be in the beneficiaries’ best interest. The beneficiary appealed. We affirm.  

Wayne County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
Mark A. Grant v. Kathy H. Grant
M2014-01835-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

After a long-term marriage, the wife obtained a divorce based on the husband’s inappropriate marital conduct. The trial court determined the value of the marital property, divided the marital estate, and awarded the wife both alimony in futuro and alimony in solido. The husband appealed, arguing the court erred in valuing his ownership interests in three general partnerships, in dividing the marital estate, and in awarding the wife alimony. After reviewing the extensive record in this case, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
Charles Benson et al v. Knox County et al.
E2015-01357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal arises from a zoning and land use dispute. The defendants applied to rezone most of the property at issue from Agricultural to Planned-Residential and sought approval of a development plan for a multi-dwelling project consisting of 312 apartment units. They also requested a Use-Permitted-on-Review approval for a marina on a portion of the property that would remain zoned as Agricultural. At issue before us are three separate actions taken by Knox County legislative and administrative bodies in relation to the requests, specifically: (A) the County Commission’s rezoning of the property from Agricultural to Planned-Residential at 1to 5 dwelling units per acre; (B) the Board of Zoning Appeals’ approval of the development plan for 312 apartment units; and (C) the Board of Zoning Appeals’ denial of the marina proposal. The trial court upheld the actions. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
Marianne Greer v. Philip Ernest Cobble
E2015-01378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is the second appeal of this case involving the distribution of a marital estate. Appellant appeals the order denying him relief pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 60.02). Because the appellate record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence conveying an accurate and complete account of what transpired as required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we conclude that the findings made by the trial court were based upon sufficient evidence. Affirmed and remanded.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner, Department of Revenue
M2014-02567-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle


This case involves a taxpayer’s claim to a sales tax deduction under Tennessee Code Annotated § 67-6-507(e) for bad debts associated with private label and co-branded credit card programs. After an audit, the Tennessee Department of Revenue disallowed taxpayer’s bad debt deductions and assessed additional tax. Taxpayer paid the assessment and filed a claim for a refund, which was denied. Taxpayer sued the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue (“Commissioner”) in chancery court, seeking a declaration that it was entitled to the bad debt sales tax deduction and a monetary judgment for the additional assessed tax. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the chancery court granted the Commissioner’s motion, holding the taxpayer was not entitled to claim the deduction. We affirm.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
In re Ian B., et al
M2015-01079-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. The lack of a transcript prevents us from determining whether sufficient evidence supported the termination and denies Father proper appellate consideration of his claims. We therefore vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
In re Jimmy B., Jr.
E2015-02070-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This is a termination of parental rights case. In May 2015, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in Sevier County Juvenile Court seeking to terminate the parental rights of the child’s father. The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was appropriate on the following grounds: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support; (2) severe child abuse; and (3) persistence of conditions. The juvenile court also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interests. Father appealed. We hold that the record does not contain clear and convincing evidence to support termination on the grounds of abandonment for willful failure to support and persistence of conditions, and we reverse as to those grounds for termination.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Carol Mooney, et al. v. Genuine Parts Company d/b/a National Automotive Association, Inc. ("NAPA"), et al.
W2015-02080-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

This appeal arises out of a premises liability case involving a plaintiff who fell while exiting an auto parts store. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. We affirm and remand for further proceedings

Crockett County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Elyse J. Reid v. Rooms To Go, A Tennessee Corporation
M2015-00269-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiff who brought action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act appeals the dismissal of the case on statute of limitations grounds. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment dismissing the case.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/10/16
Marcus Belton, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2015-01785-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

Plaintiff/Appellant appeals from the dismissal of his civil rights claims based upon the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations contained in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-3-104. Because Appellant's complaint, taken as true at the motion to dismiss stage, sufficiently alleges post-contract formation conduct on the part of the Defendants/Appellees, we conclude that the four-year federal catchall statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 1658 applies to Appellant's claims in this case. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's dismissal of Appellant's civil rights claims and remand for further proceedings. Because Appellant did not designate the dismissal of his state law contract claims as issues on appeal, however, we affirm the dismissal of those claims.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/16
In re Aniston M. et al.
E2015-02076-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwight E. Stokes

This appeal arises from a termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS") filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Sevier County ("the Juvenile Court") seeking to terminate the parental rights of James W. ("Father") to his children Aniston and Chloe ("the Children"). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father‘s parental rights to the Children on the ground of wanton disregard and, also, finding that termination of Father‘s parental rights was in the Children‘s best interest. Father appeals, arguing that the Juvenile Court‘s failure to grant his request for appointed counsel during the earlier dependency and neglect proceeding warrants reversal of the Juvenile Court‘s order terminating his parental rights to the Children. We hold that any alleged deficiencies in the dependency and neglect proceedings were remedied by the protections afforded by the termination proceeding, and that, in any event, Father was not disadvantaged by any alleged deficiencies. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/05/16
John D. Glass v. Suntrust Bank, et al.
W2015-01603-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

This appeal involves a trust. A beneficiary of the trust filed this lawsuit against the bank that served as trustee of the trust, alleging that the bank mismanaged the trust in various respects and violated several duties owed to the beneficiary. After a five-day bench trial, the trial court ruled in favor of the trustee-bank on all claims. The bank was awarded its attorney's fees and expenses. The beneficiary appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/04/16
Daniel B. Eisenstein v. WTVF-TV, et al.
M2015-00422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

On remand from a prior appeal, the parties engaged in discovery and the defendants then moved for summary judgment on the two remaining issues – claims of false light invasion of privacy against a television station and its employees. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the standard of actual malice was not met and awarding discretionary costs against the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/03/16