Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014
John Shell and Connie Shell v. Sherri Cole Williams v. Rick Shell
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The issues in this case involve the proper use and alleged interference with an easement created by express grant. The trial court concluded that the holders of the easement could use the easement for recreational purposes and that the servient landowner had interfered with the use of the easement by planting trees and placing boulders within the easement. We reverse and remand.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/13/14
Janice Hartline v. Robert Stephen Hartline
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

In this domestic relations action, the trial court granted Wife a divorce on fault-based grounds against Husband and awarded her alimony in futuro in the amount of $3,800.00 monthly, health insurance costs, and attorney’s fees. Husband appeals the trial court’s awards of alimony and attorney’s fees, as well as the court’s valuation of his dental practice and division of marital assets. Wife raises a threshold issue of whether the trial court erred by granting a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion after the time had elapsed to file a notice of appeal. We affirm the grant of the Rule 60.02 motion. We reverse the valuation of the husband’s dental practice. We remand to the trial court for revaluation of the dental practice without consideration of professional goodwill, adjustment of the equitable division of marital assets based on revaluation of the dental practice, and clarification of the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to Wife in the trial court. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 01/13/14
Kermit L. Moore, Jr., et al v. State of Tennessee, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Plaintiffs, eight Shelby County registered voters, filed an action for declaratory judgment challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 Senate Reapportionment Act on the ground that it divides more counties than necessary in contravention of Article II, Section 6, of the Tennessee Constitution. The trial court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and subsequently granted the Defendants’ motions to dismiss. The facts are not disputed and we hold that, as a matter of law, the Act is not unconstitutional. We affirm judgment in favor of Defendants.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/10/14
Dan Hampton v. Macon County Board of Education
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wooten

A school administrator filed the instant lawsuit,alleging that his employment was terminated in violation of both the Open Meetings Act and his contract of employment. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant school board on the Open Meetings Act claims on the basis of laches, finding that the school administrator failed to bring his claim in a timely manner. The trial court also granted summary judgment as to the contract claim, finding that the school administrator could not prove damages. We reverse the trial court’s ruling with regard to the school administrator’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, but affirm as to the remainder of the trial court’s decision. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

Macon County Court of Appeals 01/10/14
Heather Michele Cohen and Adam Cohen v. Trisha Clarke and Michelle Julian
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Derek Smith

This is an appeal of the trial court’s dismissal of Appellants’ defamation lawsuit. The trial court granted Appellees’ motions to dismiss under both Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), and under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02, for violation of Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 11 and 45. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting the Rule 12.02 motion when the Appellants’ motion to amend their pleadings was still pending. We further conclude that the trial court’s stated reasons for granting the Rule 41.02 motion are not sufficient to justify the drastic sanction of dismissal. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings. Vacated and remanded.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/10/14
Stella May Welch v. Donald Lee Welch
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sam Benningfield, Jr.

This is a divorce action. Wife appeals the trial court’s judgment naming Husband primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child and classifying real property as Husband’s separate property. Wife also asserts the trial court erred in dividing the parties’ property notwithstanding classification of the real property. We affirm the trial court’s classification and division of property. We vacate the trial court’s judgment with respect to naming Husband primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child and awarding the parties equal parenting time, and remand the matter to the trial court to engage in a comparative fitness analysis as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106, and for findings as required by Rule 52 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

White County Court of Appeals 01/10/14
Donna F. Thompson v. Lynn Ward
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Homeowner appeals the trial court's order dismissing her complaint against the Deputy Circuit Court Clerk of Crockett County. The complaint alleged that the Deputy Clerk failed to properly issue a writ of possession regarding the homeowner's real property. The trial court dismissed the complaint pursuant to Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Crockett County Court of Appeals 01/09/14
In the matter of: Lazaria C.R.H.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Dan H. Michael

This appeal arises from the transfer of a child custody case to Texas. The lower court issued an order naming Mother primary residential parent of the parties’ child and granting Father certain visitation rights. According to Father, Mother did not allow Father visitation with the child despite the court’s order. Father filed a petition seeking to hold Mother in contempt. At a preliminary hearing on the matter, the lower court dismissed Father’s petition and ruled that all further proceedings in the matter be held in the court of appropriate jurisdiction in Texas, where Mother was supposedly living. Father appealed. After reviewing the record, we have determined that the lower court’s findings do not support its decision; we therefore vacate the order of the lower court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/09/14
Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. v. Carlton J. Ditto, et al
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This appeal involves the purchase of property at a tax sale. MERS filed suit against Purchaser to invalidate his purchase of property because it had not received notice of the sale even though it was listed as a beneficiary or nominee on the deed of trust. Purchaser claimed that MERS was not entitled to notice because MERS did not have an interest in the property. Purchaser also alleged that MERS failed to properly commence its lawsuit because it did not remit the proper funds pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 67-5-2504(c). The trial court refused to set aside the tax sale, holding that the applicable notice requirements were met and that Purchaser was the holder of legal title to the property. MERS appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 01/02/14
Cynthia Bearden v. Gregory Lanford, M.D. And Neurological Surgeons, P. C.
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

In this medical malpractice action, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant, a neurosurgeon, negligently penetrated her spinal cord with a surgical instrument while performing a cervical fusion at two levels of her neck leading to partial paralysis and other neurological problems. She was ultimately diagnosed with a condition called Brown Sequard Syndrome. The issues were tried before a jury; however, several of the claims were dismissed on directed verdict. The remaining claims went to the jury which rendered a verdict on behalf of the defendant-neurosurgeon. The plaintiff raises numerous issues on appeal, the substance of which may be divided into three categories. First, she contends error associated with the directed verdict, the verdict form, and the jury instructions. In this regard she contends, inter alia, that the trial court erred in directing a verdict as to res ipsa loquitur because she presented the testimony of three expert witnesses of the defendant’s specific acts of negligence. The plaintiff also contends the court erred by dismissing all but three of her claims upon a directed verdict. Second, the plaintiff argues she was denied a fair trial due to inappropriate argument and misconduct. Third, she argues a host of errors secondary to evidentiary rulings. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/30/13
Jennifer L. Al-Athari and Haider Al-Athari v. Luis A. Gamboa and Morgan Southern, Inc.
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A woman driving a passenger vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor trailer. The woman and her husband filed a complaint alleging negligence and loss of consortium against the other driver and against the owner of the tractor trailer. The Plaintiffs did not comply with the deadlines set out in the Scheduling Order and, as a result, they were precluded from introducing medical testimony or records in support of their claims. On the day set for trial, the Plaintiffs told the court they were not prepared to try their case and wanted to go home. The trial court dismissed the case without prejudice, with the option of filing a new complaint within a year, and the Plaintiffs appealed. We hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ Complaint, and, accordingly, affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/30/13
Thomas R. Meeks v. Carrie Gasaway, et al.
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

A bail bondsman filed suit against an attorney over title to several pieces of land.  The suit went to trial before a jury, but the parties settled before a verdict was announced.  The attorney subsequently sued the bail bondsman’s attorneys for malicious prosecution and other torts.  The defendant attorneys filed a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss, arguing that the parties’ agreement to settle the underlying case negated one of the elements of a malicious prosecution claim, “a final and favorable termination” of the underlying suit in favor of the defendant.  The motion also argued that the complaint did not sufficiently allege the elements of the other causes of action.  The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiff attorney had failed to state a claim for relief under any of the causes of action.  We affirm the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/30/13
Connie June Tipton Stout v. Jackie Harold Stout
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean Stanley

This action involves the proper adjudication of the parties’ interests in certain marital retirement assets post divorce. The sole issue raised is whether the trial court properly retained jurisdiction over the retirement assets pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”). Based on prior precedent, we find that the trial court did properly retain jurisdiction, and we therefore affirm the trial court’s decision in this case.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/30/13