Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/10/2014
Format: 07/10/2014
Leo Berg v. Julie Ann Rutledge Berg
M2013-00211-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Derek Smith

In this appeal from a final divorce decree, Wife takes issue with a number of the trial court’s financial decisions. Specifically, Wife contends the trial court erred in the assessment of spousal support, in classifying marital property as Husband’s separate property, in valuing Husband’s woodworking business, in dividing the marital estate, in finding she dissipated the marital estate, in declining to find that Husband dissipated the estate, in failing to sanction Husband for non-production of documents, and by sanctioning her $100,000 under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 37.02 for abuse of discovery. Finally, Wife alleges error in failing to grant the divorce to both parties and contends the trial court should not have verbatim adopted portions of Husband’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as its final judgment. We affirm the trial court’s rulings on these issues. Husband also seeks his attorney’s fees incurred on appeal which we respectfully deny.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
Robin D. Wilson, et al. v. Joseph M. Weese, et al.
E2013-00184-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that their easement rights had been interfered with by the defendant property owners. The trial court determined, inter alia, that the defendants, subject to the provisions in the deed at issue, could exclude all others from their property. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the determination of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
In Re: Alexis C.
E2013-02498-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth N. Bailey, Jr.

Jessica C. (“Mother”) and Jesse W. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their parental rights to the minor child Alexis C. (“the Child”). We find and hold that clear and convincing evidence was shown that grounds existed to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child for abandonment by wanton disregard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(1) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv), and for severe abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) and Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102, and that clear and convincing evidence was shown that the termination was in the Child’s best interest. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court for Greene County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Greene County Court of Appeals 06/25/14
Karen Elizabeth Touchton v. Paul Jerome Touchton
M2013-01749-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor L. Craig Johnson

In this post-divorce proceeding, Mother filed a petition seeking a modification of Father’s parenting time, recovery of medical expenses incurred on behalf of the parties’ child, and an increase in child support. The trial court modified Father’s parenting time, ordered an upward deviation to Father’s support obligation, and awarded Wife judgment for one-half of the medical expenses and one-half of the attorney fees she incurred in prosecuting the petition;the court issued an order that the judgment for medical expenses, back child support, and attorney fees be enforced by wage assignment. Father appeals the upward deviation, the award forone-half of the child’s medical expenses,and the wage assignment; Mother appeals the award for one-half of her attorney fees. We modify the wage assignment order to exclude the amount of the judgment for attorney fees; in all other respects we affirm the judgment.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 06/24/14
In Re: Donna E. W., Et Al.
M2013-02856-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim T. Hamilton

The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment for failure to support, persistence of conditions, and failure to substantially comply with the permanency plans. On appeal, Mother asserts that the trial court erred in determining that termination of her parental rights was in the children’s best interest. We affirm.
 

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 06/24/14
In Re Samuel P. Et Al.
M2013-02234-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John J. Maddux, Jr.

Appellants are the parents of three children who were initially placed in foster care due to evidence of drug use in the parents’ home. In the Juvenile Court, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) petitioned to declare the children dependent and neglected and for emergency temporary custody. Following entry of a protective custody order, DCS filed an amended petition to declare the children dependent and neglected based upon additional allegations of severe child abuse. The Juvenile Court found severe abuse and the children to be dependent and neglected. Parents appealed to the Circuit Court, and DCS filed a petition to terminate parental rights. Following a trial, during which neither parent testified or presented evidence, the Circuit Court terminated parental rights as to each of the children. Both parents appeal the Circuit Court’s judgment. We affirm.
 

Pickett County Court of Appeals 06/24/14
Janet Wynn Snyder v. First Tennessee Bank, N.A.
E2013-01524-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

This appeal concerns a breach of contract claim brought for an alleged wrongful acceleration of a note in default, a cause of action currently unrecognized in Tennessee law. Janet Wynn Snyder (“Snyder”) sued First Tennessee Bank (“the Bank”) in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Snyder alleged that the Bank abused its discretion in accelerating her debt when it knew that it held funds of Snyder’s in a trust sufficient to cover her debt to the Bank. The Bank filed a motion to dismiss under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), which the Trial Court granted. Snyder appeals. We hold that this claimed wrongful acceleration is not an existing cause of action in this state, and we decline the invitation to create such a cause of action. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/24/14
Vodafone Americas Holdings Inc. & Subsidiaries v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee - Dissent
M2013-00947-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement , Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell T. Perkins


I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the facts of this case empowered the Commissioner of Revenue to issue a variance from the statutorily mandated apportionment methodology by which Plaintiffs mus tcompute their Tennessee franchise and excise tax liability. The Commissioner’s authority under Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2014(a) to issue a variance is limited byRule 1320-6-1-.35(1)(a)(4) to “unusual fact situations,which ordinarily will be unique and nonrecurring,” and no such facts are specifically articulated in the Commissioner’s variance letter and no such facts can be found in this record.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/14
Vodafone Americas Holdings Inc. & Subsidiaries v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2013-00947-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell T. Perkins

At issue in this case is the methodology by which multi-state taxpayers are to compute their liability for franchise and excise taxes to Tennessee and, specifically, the authority of the Commissioner of Revenue to require the taxpayers to use an apportionment methodology other than the standard cost of performance methodology codified in Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 67-4-2012and67-4-2110.Plaintiffs,taxpayers thatprovide wirelesscommunication anddata services within and without Tennessee, contend they are entitled to apportion their receipts (income) based upon Tennessee’s standard apportionment formulas because the majority of their “earnings producing activities” occurred in a state other than Tennessee. The Commissioner of Revenue disagreed, insisting that Plaintiffs’ approach, even if statistically correct and derived from the language of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2012(i)(2), fails to meet the higher goal of fairly representing the business Plaintiffs derive from Tennessee. For this reason the Commissioner, acting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2014(a), varied the standard formula requiring Plaintiffs to include “as Tennessee sales” its receipts from service provided to customers with Tennessee billing addresses.The trialcourtaffirmedthedecision. In this appeal, Plaintiffs contend the Commissioner does not have authority to impose a variance unless “unusual fact situations,” which are unique to the particular taxpayers, produce “incongruous results” unintended by Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2012; they also insist that no unusual fact situations exist and that no incongruous results occurred when the statutorily-mandatedcostofperformancemethodologywas applied.We have determined that the Commissioner acted within the scope of the discretion granted to him by the statutes and rules. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/14
Austin Davis, Et Al v. Covenant Presbyterian Church, Et Al
M2013-02273-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

Plaintiffs sued four individual defendants and three religious institutions for invasion of privacy; malicious harassment; assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention; and civil conspiracy. The trial court dismissed all of plaintiffs’ causes of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims against two of the religious institutions for failure to state a claim for vicarious liability. We also affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims for invasion of privacy; malicious harassment; intentionalinfliction of emotionaldistress;negligence;negligenthiring,training,supervision and retention; and civil conspiracy. However, having liberally construed the complaint as we must at this stage of the pleading process, we find the complaint states a cause of action for assault against the individual defendants and one of the religious institutions. Therefore, we must reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ allegation of assault and affirm the court in all other respects.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/14
Wise North Shore Properties, LLC v. 3 Daughters Media, Inc., Et Al.
E2013-01953-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown

Wise North Shore Properties, LLC (“Plaintiff”) appeals the order of the Chancery Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against Gary E. Burns. We find and hold as a matter of law that Mr. Burns executed the contract at issue in this case both in his capacity as CEO of 3 Daughters Media, Inc. and in his individual capacity personally guaranteeing the contract. We, therefore, reverse the Trial Court’s June 18, 2013 order dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against Mr. Burns.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/23/14
Deborah Mason Hawkins, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of Wayne Hawkins, Deceased, v. Rodney A. Martin, M.D., and Baptist Memorial Hospital
W2013-02102-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge John R. McCarroll, Jr.

This appeal involves compliance with the statutory requirements for a health care liability action. The plaintiff filed a health care liability lawsuit. The attorney for the plaintiff inadvertently failed to provide the defendant health care providers with medical authorizations that complied with T.C.A. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, finding no extraordinary cause to justify noncompliance with the statutory requirement. The plaintiff filed his first appeal. The appellate court vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for the trial court to consider the totality of the circumstances, including those of the attorney. After additional discovery on remand, the trial court again held that the plaintiff had not established extraordinary cause for noncompliance with the statutory requirement, and so dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiff again appeals. After a careful review of the record, we find no abuse of the trial court’s discretion and affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/23/14
Kathy Hudson v. William T. Hudson
W2013-00999-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Van D. McMahan

This divorce appeal involves the division of marital property. The husband claims the trial court erred in its valuation of the marital assets and in its overall distribution of the marital estate. Discerning no error, we affirm.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 06/23/14