Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/14/2018
Format: 08/14/2018
James Jones v. Raymond M. Hargreaves
M2017-01271-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden

In this health care liability action, the defendant doctor filed an unopposed motion for summary judgment. After the motion was granted, he filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122, requesting the court to compel the plaintiff or his counsel to provide the court with a copy of the expert’s signed written statement that was relied upon in executing the certificate of good faith that accompanied the complaint. The trial court denied the motion, holding that the matter should have been raised in the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment or a motion for discretionary costs. Upon our review of the statute, we do not find a requirement that the request for the expert witness’ statement be made in the manner held by the trial court; accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further consideration of the defendant’s motion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County v. Delinquent Taxpayers As Shown On The 2011 Real Property Tax Record
M2018-00026-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A delinquent taxpayer’s property was sold at a tax sale on January 22, 2014. The taxpayer subsequently conveyed her interest in the property to a third party that redeemed the property within the one-year statutory redemption period. The proceedings were stayed a year and a half due to the redeeming party’s bankruptcy; after the stay was lifted, the trial court held a hearing on the tax-sale purchaser’s motion for additional costs and then entered an order finalizing the redemption. In that order, the trial court ruled that the redeeming party was required to, among other things, pay interest on the price paid by the tax-sale purchaser at the tax sale for the entire period between the tax sale and entry of the final order. The redeeming party appeals, arguing that the statute only allowed interest to be charged from the date of the tax sale through the date the redemption process began. We agree, and we therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. v. Sheri Baker, Et Al.
M2016-01786-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiff sued a defendant for filing an unauthorized financing statement. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and later a motion to disqualify the judge, both of which were denied. The court also ordered Defendant to file an answer. When Defendant failed to comply, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment. Defendant’s husband intervened shortly thereafter, claiming that he filed the financing statement. Defendant’s husband likewise filed a motion to dismiss and a later motion to disqualify. The court denied both motions and ordered husband to file an answer. When Husband failed to do so, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment against Husband. Husband filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, which was denied. This appeal followed. We affirm. Deeming this appeal frivolous, we award Plaintiff attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
In Re Gabriel B.
W2017-02514-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

A juvenile court terminated a father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. The father appeals the termination of his rights. We conclude that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the trial court’s termination on these grounds and affirm the judgment.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
AMCO Insurance Company v. Ralph W. Mello, et al.
M2017-01904-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

This appeal involves a dispute between an insurance company and its insured regarding the application of exclusion clauses in a homeowners’ insurance policy and a personal umbrella liability policy. After malicious prosecution and abuse of process claims were filed against the insured in Alabama by a law firm, the insurance company accepted the defense under a reservation of rights and filed the present action seeking a declaration that it is not required to provide coverage for the damages complained of in the Alabama lawsuit. Following a bench trial held on stipulated facts, the trial court determined that the insured was, in fact, entitled to certain coverage. We reverse.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Jason Garner Williams v. Stacy Brown Williams
W2017-02023-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is a divorce case. The trial court entered a final decree of divorce designating Husband as the primary residential parent for the parties’ minor child and concluding that Husband is not under-employed for purposes of calculating child support. Because the trial court did not make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as required under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01, we vacate the trial court’s judgment as to the issues raised on appeal.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Brent Christopher Dishon v. Lisa Renee Dishon
M2017-01378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the husband. The parties entered into a mediation agreement in December 2014, wherein the parties agreed, inter alia, that the husband would pay to the wife $1,200 per month in alimony, that the husband’s alimony obligation would cease if the wife were cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, and that the wife would be designated as the primary residential parent for the parties’ minor child. Following execution of the mediation agreement, the husband’s employment hours were decreased by his employer. The wife subsequently filed a “Motion to Restore Payment Agreement,” in which she alleged that the husband had failed to adhere to his financial responsibilities pursuant to the mediation agreement. The husband thereafter filed a response to the wife’s motion, alleging that a material change in circumstance had occurred subsequent to the mediation agreement. The trial court entered a judgment on February 25, 2016, enforcing the mediation agreement but determining, due to the husband’s decrease in income, that a material change in circumstance had occurred since the mediation agreement was entered into by the parties. The trial court further found that the wife had been cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex. Nonetheless, the trial court determined that the wife remained the economically disadvantaged spouse following the divorce and reduced the husband’s alimony responsibility to $500 per month. The trial court further determined that it was in the best interest of the child for the wife to be the primary residential parent of the child. The husband subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment and a motion to terminate his alimony obligation, both of which were denied by the trial court. Husband timely appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred by failing to cease Husband’s alimony responsibility, in compliance with the enforced mediation agreement, upon its finding that the wife was cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, we reverse the alimony award. We affirm the remaining aspects of the trial court’s judgment. Because the husband’s payment history regarding alimony is unclear from the record, we hereby remand for a determination by the trial court regarding whether Husband owes Wife alimony incurred prior to February 25, 2016, or whether Husband is owed reimbursement of alimony paid past February 25, 2016.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
Brent Ray, Et Al. v. Thomas Neff, Et Al.
M2016-02217-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiffs/Appellants sued Defendants/Appellees for nuisance and trespass claims over a dispute in the change of water flow onto Appellants’ property due to modifications, namely the installation of a pipe, on Appellees’ property. Appellants voluntarily non-suited the case twice, and ultimately filed the instant complaint almost five years after the filing of their original complaint. Appellees moved for summary judgment on both claims. In a three-part ruling spanning thirteen months, the trial court granted summary judgment and determined (1) that the pipe was a permanent nuisance and, therefore, any nuisance claim was time-barred; (2) that the trespass was a permanent trespass and, again, time-barred; and (3) that Appellants could not establish causation as to the trespass claim. We affirm the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
In Re Blake A., Et Al.
M2016-01621-COA-R10-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The parents of two children adopted a parenting plan in which Mother was designated the primary residential parent and parenting time was split equally; a special provision in the parenting plan prevented either parent from relocating with the children without the other parent’s permission. Mother subsequently informed Father of her intent to relocate to another state with the children. In response, Father filed a petition in opposition to removal and to modify the parenting plan. The court denied Mother’s relocation, holding that the provision in the parenting plan superseded the application of the parental relocation statute; the court further determined that the parties were spending substantially equal time with the children and that relocation was not in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals. We conclude that the court erred in holding that the provision in the parenting plan prevented Mother from relocating; that the court did not make sufficient findings of fact to support its holding that the parents were spending substantially equal time with the children; and that the finding that relocation is not in the best interest of the children is supported by the evidence. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in part, affirm in part, and remand the case for further proceedings.   

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Kenneth Cage v. Harris E. Dowlen
M2018-01119-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This is an appeal from a final judgment entered on March 12, 2018. Because the defendant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the final judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Greg Hearn v. American Wash Co., Inc., Et Al.
M2017-00722-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is an appeal by the prevailing party of an award of damages in a breach of contract action arising out of a commercial lease agreement. Upon our review, we find no reversible error and accordingly affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Joseph H. Johnston v. Mark Goins
M2017-00809-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Action brought by write-in candidate for tax assessor seeking declaratory judgment relative to the duties of the State Coordinator of Elections in the administration of Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-7-133(i). Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the chancellor.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/18/18
In Re Ky'Auri M.
E2017-00501-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

Relying on due process grounds, the mother of the parties’ child contends the juvenile court erred by modifying the parenting plan and designating the father as the primary residential parent. The only petition before the court was the father’s petition for contempt. The juvenile court magistrate who presided over the initial hearing informed the mother “that the issue before the Court was whether the mother was in contempt of this Court and upon the Court’s own motion, if she should remain custodian of the child.” At the conclusion of the hearing, the magistrate found “that because of the mother’s lack of compliance and cooperation, she was in Contempt of Court and that custody of the child would be granted to the father. . . .” The mother filed a request for rehearing in the juvenile court, and the juvenile court judge affirmed the magistrate’s order. This appeal followed. Because neither party petitioned the court to modify the existing permanent parenting plan or the designation of the primary residential parent and due process requires, at a minimum, “notice reasonably calculated . . . to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections,” Keisling v. Keisling, 92 S.W.3d 374, 377 (Tenn. 2002) (quoting State v. Pearson, 858 S.W.2d 879, 884 (Tenn. 1993)), it was error for the juvenile court to modify the permanent parenting plan and change the primary residential parent. As a result, we vacate the juvenile court’s order modifying the permanent parenting plan and designating the father as the primary residential parent and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/18/18
Carlene Guye Judd, et al v. Carlton Guye, et al
M2017-01791-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement , Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young

Plaintiff, a shareholder in the corporation at issue who obtained a judgment against the corporation in a prior action, now seeks to pierce the corporate veil to hold the other shareholder personally liable for the balance owing on the judgment. The trial court summarily pierced the corporate veil and held the defendant shareholder personally liable for the corporation’s debt to Plaintiff. The defendant shareholder appeals arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in allowing Plaintiff to pierce the veil of her own corporation. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/17/18
Gerald Largen v. The City Of Harriman
E2017-01501-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

This case involves a claim brought by a landowner challenging the validity of certain annexation ordinances that incorporated his property into the City of Harriman (the “City”). In December 2014, the landowner filed a declaratory judgment action against the City in the Roane County Circuit Court (“trial court”), alleging that several 1959 annexation ordinances passed by the City were void ab initio because a river adjacent to the City prevented land on the opposite side of the river from being contiguous with the City’s original boundaries. The landowner alleged that as a result of the first annexation’s purported invalidity, all subsequent annexations based on contiguity with the lands annexed in the 1959 ordinances were void by extension. The landowner sought a judgment voiding the challenged annexation ordinances, recovery of the real estate taxes he had paid to the City for his real property included in the annexed land, and a permanent injunction preventing the City from imposing any charges or taxes against him. The City responded with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02, arguing that the landowner’s sole remedy would have been an action in the nature of a quo warranto proceeding pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-51- 103 (2015). In the alternative, the City argued that dismissal was proper because the landowner had not joined necessary parties who would be affected by the judgment he sought. Determining that other landowners with title to real property inside the annexed areas in question were indispensable to the landowner’s claim, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss and directed the landowner to join the necessary parties. The trial court also directed the landowner to amend his complaint to specify the challenged ordinances and affected properties. In November 2016, the landowner filed a motion for class action certification, which the trial court denied following a hearing. On March 10, 2017, the trial court dismissed the landowner’s complaint, finding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to the non-joinder of indispensable parties. The landowner subsequently filed a “Motion to Set Aside Order,” which the trial court denied. The landowner has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Appeals 07/17/18
Dwight Jenkins v. Michael Schmank, ET Al.
E2017-00371-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This appeal involves the plaintiff’s filing of a complaint for unjust enrichment and conversion against his business partner’s spouse after the plaintiff discovered that his partner converted partnership funds for personal use. The trial court dismissed the complaint following a bench trial. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 07/12/18
Ashley Lee Bunn v. Heath Brandon Bunn
E2017-02491-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

In a pending divorce proceeding, Wife filed four separate contempt petitions against Husband. After a court appearance on Wife’s third and fourth petitions, without taking evidence and without finding Husband in contempt, the trial court ordered that Husband be taken into custody and confined in jail for a period of thirty days. A mittimus subsequently issued, and Husband appealed. For the reasons stated herein, the trial court’s order is reversed and the issued mittimus is vacated.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 07/10/18
Premier Imaging/Medical Systems, Inc. v. Coffey Family Medical Clinic, P.C.
E2017-02186-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal arises from a breach of contract action. Premier Imaging/Medical Systems, Inc. (“Premier”) contracted with Coffey Family Medical Clinic, P.C. (“CFMC”), an organization formed by Dr. D. Bruce Coffey, M.D. (“Dr. Coffey”), for a five year servicing contract (“the Contract”) under which Premier would provide service for a CT Scanner (“the Scanner”). Pioneer Health Services of Oneida (“Pioneer”) and Dr. Coffey later entered into an agreement whereby Pioneer assumed certain obligations, apparently including the Contract. At CFMC’s request, Premier began billing Pioneer. Pioneer eventually stopped making payments under the Contract. Premier sued CFMC in the Circuit Court for Scott County (“the Trial Court”) to recover on the remainder of the Contract. CFMC argued that Pioneer became a substituted obligor under a theory of novation. After trial, the Trial Court held that CFMC failed to prove novation, awarded Premier $89,166.60 for the twenty months remaining on the Contract, and granted prejudgment interest of ten percent from the end of the Contract for a total of $105,534.70. CFMC appeals. We hold, inter alia, that the Trial Court did not err in holding that CFMC was unable to meet its burden of proving that novation, implied or otherwise, occurred. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Scott County Court of Appeals 07/10/18
Tennessee Traders Landing, LLC v. Jenkins & Stiles, LLC
E2017-00948-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This case involves a dispute concerning the validity of an oral agreement to rescind a written commercial lease agreement. In May 2011, the plaintiff company entered into a written lease, agreeing to rent a commercial building to the defendant company for a set term of three years and nine months. The lease provided for the first nine months of tenancy without rental payments, setting rental payments at $2,250.00 per month for the remainder of the initial term. At some time during the latter part of 2011, the two companies’ respective presidents purportedly met and mutually agreed to terminate and rescind the lease. The presidents’ agreement was never memorialized in writing, however, and the lease contained a provision that prevented any oral modification to the contract. Neither company thereafter acted in accordance with the lease until November 24, 2015, when the plaintiff’s new president contacted the defendant in writing, demanding thirty-six months of unpaid rent in addition to a five-percent late fee pursuant to the lease, for a total of $85,050.00. The defendant did not tender any payment to the plaintiff as requested. On May 17, 2016, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Knox County Chancery Court (“trial court”), alleging unpaid rent and requesting an award of rent payments, late fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees. The defendant filed an answer, asserting, inter alia, that the lease was invalid as a result of the oral rescission by mutual agreement in 2011. Upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, awarding a monetary judgment in the amount of $92,208.75, representing an $81,000.00 balance of unpaid rent, $4,050.00 in late fees, and $7,158.75 in reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. The defendant filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, which the trial court denied. The defendant has appealed. Having determined that the lease did not prohibit an oral rescission by mutual agreement, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to TTL. Having also determined that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether TTL’s former president possessed the authority to orally rescind the lease, we affirm the denial of summary judgment to J&S and remand for evidentiary proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/09/18
Ernest Smith v. Wellmont Health System Et Al.
E2017-00850-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This interlocutory appeal involves a health care liability action. Plaintiff gave potential defendants written notice of his malpractice claim. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c). Plaintiff then filed his complaint. In doing so, he relied upon a 120-day extension of the one year statute of limitations as provided for in § 29-26-121(c). Each defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. By an order entered April 1, 2015, the trial court granted the joint motion to dismiss of three of the defendants. The court’s order concluded that plaintiff’s complaint was time-barred. Plaintiff did not appeal the court’s judgment and, with the passage of time, it became final. Meanwhile, the motions to dismiss of the other defendants, all of which were essentially based upon the same ground as that of the joint motion of the dismissed defendants, were awaiting resolution by the trial court. Before this could happen, however, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his complaint. Nine months later, plaintiff sent a new pre-suit notice. Four months after that, plaintiff filed a second health care liability action against the same defendants, including those dismissed by the trial court in its April 1, 2015 order. All defendants again moved to dismiss the complaint. The trial court denied the motions. Later, the trial court decided that its April 1, 2015 dismissal order was incorrect. It concluded that plaintiff’s first complaint was not time-barred because, according to the court, plaintiff provided proper pre-suit notice. On the defendants’ further motions, the court granted them permission to pursue an interlocutory appeal pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. R. App. P. 9. We did likewise. We now reverse the judgment of the trial court denying defendants’ motions to dismiss.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/09/18
In Re: Maya M., Et Al.
E2017-01616-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillian

This post-divorce appeal concerns the mother’s filing of a petition to find the children dependent and neglected based upon the father’s behavior during his co-parenting time. The juvenile court granted the petition and ordered supervised visitation. The father appealed to the circuit court for a de novo hearing, held approximately one year later. The circuit court dismissed the petition, finding that the children were no longer dependent and neglected. The mother appeals. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/09/18
Daniel C. Woodard v. Joan N. Woodard
E2017-00200-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

This post-divorce appeal concerns the husband’s motion to reduce spousal support and the wife’s request to set permanent child support for their disabled daughter. The court reduced the spousal support obligation based upon a material change in circumstances but found that it was without jurisdiction to enter an order of permanent child support. The wife appeals. We affirm.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 07/09/18
Specialtycare IOM Services, LLC v. Medsurant Holdings, LLC, Et Al.
M2017-00309-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

Appellant appeals the trial court’s entry of default judgment as a discovery sanction against it. Because there is insufficient evidence of contumacious conduct on the part of Appellant to justify default, we reverse the trial court’s entry of default judgment on liability. We vacate the trial court’s award of damages on the jury verdict, but affirm the award of attorney’s fees as an initial discovery sanction.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/06/18
Estate of Joyce Elaine Myers Et Al. v. Michael Questell
M2017-01954-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

Appellants appeal the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee, medical doctor. The trial court found that Appellant’s petition for declaratory judgment sounded in health care liability and was barred by the statute of limitations. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-116(a)(1). Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Warren County Court of Appeals 07/06/18
Enoc Miranda v. CSC Sugar, LLC
W2017-01986-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

This is a premises liability case. Appellant, a construction worker, fell from scaffolding while working in Appellee’s factory. Specifically, Appellant ran an extension cord across the warehouse floor to reach an electrical outlet to power a screw gun used to install new sheetrock required in the warehouse renovation. Appellee’s employee drove a forklift over Appellant’s extension cord, entangling the cord and dislodging the scaffolding. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee finding that there were no disputes of material fact and that Appellee had no duty to warn Appellant of a dangerous condition that Appellant created. Because there are material factual disputes that preclude the grant of summary judgment, we reverse and remand.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 07/05/18