Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/23/2014
Format: 10/23/2014
William Barry Wood v. Karla Davis, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development hired plaintiff in 2007 as an executive service appointment. The Department terminated his employment in 2011. In August 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of his due process rights. The trial court found that the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions had expired. Plaintiff appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/05/14
In Re: Estate of Betty D. Gentry Meek
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan

The surviving husband who was excluded from his wife’s will filed a petition for elective-share, year’s support, exempt property, and homestead. The executors of her estate opposed the petition claiming the marriage was void ab initio because it was procured by fraud and misrepresentations, specifically alleging that he lied on the marriage license about his age and number of prior marriages. Alternatively, if he is the surviving spouse, they contend he is equitably estopped to assert such claims for the same underlying reasons. The trial court summarilydismissed the petition finding “(1) the marriage between [Plaintiff] and the Decedent was void ab initio due to the fraud perpetrated by [Plaintiff] in connection with false information supplied by him on the application for the parties’ marriage license; and (2) equitably estopped as a matter of law.” Based on these findings the trial court dismissed all claims. We have determined the marriage was not void ab initio; whether the marriage was voidable is now moot for any right to avoid the marriage abated upon the wife’s death. As for equitable estoppel, we have determined that summary judgment was inappropriate because essential facts are either disputed or not in the record, including whether the decedent relied on the misrepresentations to marry him. Accordingly, we reverse the award of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 06/04/14
In Re: Conservatorship of Maurice M. Acree, Jr.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Plaintiff/Appellant appeals the trial court’s judgment awarding attorneys’ fees and affirming the final accounting of a trust in this conservatorship action. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/04/14
Mountain Wood Products, LLC v. Autumn Creek Firewood, LLC
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

This appeal involves a contract dispute. The appellant distributor challenges the damages awarded to the appellee supplier under a supply contract for bagged firewood. Additionally, the supplier challenges the trial court’s failure to award damages for lost profits and tortious interference with prospective business. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bledsoe County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Donald J. Roberts IRA, et al. v. Phillip H. McNeill, Sr., et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is the second interlocutory appeal from a class certification. In Roberts v. McNeill, No. W2010-01000-COA-R9-CV, 2011 WL 662648 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 23, 2011) (“Roberts I”), we vacated the trial court’s class certification and remanded for reconsideration. Plaintiffs/Appellees are former owners of preferred stock in Equity Inns, Inc., who filed suit against Defendants/Appellants, the board of directors, for breaches of the  fiduciary duties allegedly owed to the preferred shareholders during the negotiation and approval of a merger. Upon remand from this Court, the trial court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification with respect to “the proposed preferred class stockholders.” Having previously enumerated three preferred classes of stockholders, the purported certification creates an ambiguity as to the global class. The trial court’s certification of three subclasses does not cure the ambiguity in the global class, and we cannot proceed to review under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 23 in the absence of a clearly defined class. Accordingly, we vacate and remand for further consideration.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
In Re: Adoption of Marissa O. R.
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This is a petition for termination of parental rights and adoption. The parents of the child at issue divorced in 2007. The father moved to Colorado, and the mother was designated the child’s primary residential parent. The father was given parenting time in Colorado during the child’s spring, winter, and summer vacations, as well as parenting time in Tennessee at any time, with reasonable notice. The father exercised his parenting time only for a single 30-day period each summer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. After the child’s summer 2010 visit, the father scheduled no parenting time. In July 2011, the mother and her husband filed the instant petition to terminate the father’s parental rights and for the mother’s husband to adopt the daughter. The petition alleged abandonment by willful failure to visit during the four-month period preceding the filing of the petition. After a trial, the trial court denied the petition. It held that the petitioners did not establish grounds for termination and that the child’s best interest would not be served by terminating the father’s parental rights. The petitioners now appeal. After careful review of the record, we hold that clear and convincing evidence supports the termination of the father’s parental rights, and so reverse the trial court’s denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Shontel S. Ross, et al. v. Deidra L. Grandberry, M.D., et al.
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Plaintiff filed a healthcare liability action in the general sessions court. At a docket call, defendant Methodist appeared and tendered a confession for the full $25,000 jurisdictional limit of the general sessions court. Plaintiff immediately sought to non-suit her claims against Methodist. The general sessions court denied Methodist’s tendered confession and it entered an order non-suiting Methodist. Plaintiff then refiled her suit against Methodist in the circuit court and Methodist moved for summary judgment based upon its tendered confession of judgment in the general sessions court. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Methodist. We reverse the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and we remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Linus Thornton v. James A. Massey
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. KIrby
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

This is the second appeal in this breach of contract case. The defendant property owner leased his recreational farm on a yearly basis to the plaintiff lessee. Their agreement included a provision that, when the farm sold, the plaintiff would received a percentage of the proceeds of the sale. The defendant eventually divided the farm into several parcels and sold the parcels at auction to different purchasers. The plaintiff asserted his right to a percentage of the proceeds. Thereafter, for reasons that are disputed, none of the sales of the various parcels of the farm closed. The plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the defendant owner, asserting that he was entitled to a percentage of the total sale price that would have been realized had all of the sales closed. After a trial, the trial court held in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed. In the first appeal, the appellate court affirmed in part but vacated the judgment and remanded for the trial court to make a factual finding as to whether the sales failed to close because of the purposeful actions of the defendant. On remand, the trial court found that the closings on the sales failed to take place because of the defendant owner’s purposeful actions. The trial court found that the defendant prevented the sales from closing in order to avoid paying the plaintiff the percentage owed him under the parties’ lease agreement. The trial court reinstated the damage award in favor of the plaintiff and awarded prejudgment and post-judgment interest. The defendant now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
In Re Zoey F.
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Philyaw

The Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated the parental rights of Johonauan J. R. (“Father”) to the minor child Zoey F. (“the Child”) on the grounds of willful failure to visit, wanton disregard for the welfare of the child, and substantial noncompliance with the statement of responsibilities in the permanency plan. Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. As there is uncertainty regarding the time frame relied upon by the Juvenile Court for the ground of willful failure to visit, we modify the Juvenile Court’s judgment to exclude the ground of willful failure to visit. Otherwise, we find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights and that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/30/14
Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc. v. William Hamilton Smythe, III, et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

The trial court vacated an arbitration award in favor of Respondent/Appellant on the ground of evident partiality on the part of two arbitrators and remanded the matter to the arbitration board to be re-arbitrated by a different panel. We reverse and remand to the trial court for confirmation of the arbitration award.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/29/14
In Re Victoria W. Et Al.
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge N. Andy Myrick, Jr.

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights as to her two children. Father’s rights were also terminated, but he does not appeal. The court found the Department of Children’s Services established three grounds fortermination of mother’s parental rights:1) severe child abuse pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(4); 2) mental incompetence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(8)(B);and 3) persistence of conditions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(3). In a previous dependency and neglect proceeding, the Lincoln County Juvenile Court found that Mother committed severe child abuse by failing to protect her minor daughter from sexual abuse by a neighbor. That judgment was not appealed; as a consequence, the severe abuse findings are res judicata. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(4), a court may terminate parental rights when the parent was found to have committed severe child abuse under any prior order of a court. The court also found that the Department had proven two additional grounds, mental incompetence and persistent conditions. The juvenile court also found that termination of both parents’ rights was in the children’s best interest. We therefore affirm.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 05/29/14
Archie Wolfe v. William C. Felts, Jr., et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

In this premises liability action, Plaintiff/Appellant was allegedly injured when he slipped and fell on the subject property. The trial court granted a directed verdict to the Appellees, who are the property owners/occupiers. The basis for the directed verdict was that Appellant failed to submit evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude either that the Appellees knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on the property, or that Appellees caused or created a dangerous condition on the property. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/29/14
Kirby Miranda Gentry v. Michael Anthony Gentry
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

In this post-divorce case, the trial court entered an order on March 12, 2012, incorporating a permanent parenting plan. The order states that “[t]his matter shall be reviewed in one year.” On April 18, 2013, the court entered an order stating that “the Court, sua sponte, finds that the Permanent Parenting Plan attached to the Order of [March 12, 2012], should in fact be a Temporary Parenting Plan and by this Order [the court] corrects such.” We hold that under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-404(a) (2010), which provides that “[a]ny final decree or decree of modification in an action for absolute divorce . . . involving a minor child shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan,” the parenting plan incorporated by the trial court’s March 12, 2012 order was a permanent plan. Because of the mandatory statutory language, the trial court was without authority to subsequently “convert” it to a temporary parenting plan. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/28/14
In Re C.L., et al.
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James W. McKenzie

A.L. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her rights with respect to her five minor children (collectively, when referring to all five, “the Children”). The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) placed the Children in temporary state custody based on the youngest child’s exposure to methamphetamine in utero. The court found that Mother’s conduct constituted severe abuse against that child; consequently, the court relieved DCS of its obligation to make reasonable efforts toward reunification of the Children with Mother. Some 17 months after the Children were placed in foster care, DCS initiated these termination proceedings. After a bench trial, the court terminated Mother’s rights based on its finding of multiple grounds for termination and its further finding that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Both findings were said by the trial 1 court to be made by clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 05/28/14