Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/08/2016
Format: 12/08/2016
Aqua-Chem, Inc. v. D&H Machine Service, Inc.
E2015-01818-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

Aqua-Chem, Inc. contracted with D&H Machine Service, Inc. for D&H to machine three large, identical pieces of equipment. The piece of equipment is referred to in the record as a “cooler.”The work was not done properly, rendering them unusable. Aqua-Chem sued D&H for breach of contract, seeking damages for the replacement cost of the coolers and for lost profits. Aqua-Chem also sought attorney’s fees and expenses pursuant to the terms of its agreement with D&H. Following a two-day bench trial, the court awarded Aqua-Chem $191,870 in replacement costs, but declined to make an award for lost profits. The court did award Aqua-Chem $50,000 in attorney’s fees and out-of-pocket expenses. D&H appeals. Both sides raise issues. D&H argues that the trial court erred when it held that the terms and conditions of the purchase orders presented to D&H were applicable to the facts of this case. It also argues that the award of damages is not supported by the evidence. Aqua-Chem contends that the trial court erred in refusing to award damages for lost profits. It also asserts that the trial court should have awarded it the full amount of its fees and expenses, the total of which was $64,739.48. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/17/16
LeAnn Barnes v. David Ellett Barnes
M2015-01254-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

This appeal comes before us a second time. In the first appeal, we affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for the trial court to determine the manner in which to divide the marital estate given the adjustments we made and the nature of the marital assets; we also vacated the trial court’s amended order modifying the original award of alimony and reinstated the original award. On remand, the court entered an order providing that the Wife’s interest in Husband’s 401K Plan would be increased in the amount of the adjustments ordered by this court, to be made pursuant to the Qualified Domestic Relations Order which was also entered by the court; the court awarded Wife a judgment for the difference in the alimony awarded in the original decree and that paid by Husband pursuant to the amended decree. In this appeal, Wife challenges the trial court’s compliance with this court’s instructions. We find that the orders entered by the court comply with the instructions of this court as to the division of the marital estate; we modify the order relating to the award of alimony to specifically state the amount and type of alimony awarded.

Bedford County Court of Appeals 10/14/16
Athena of S.C., LLC et al. v. James F. Macri, Jr. et al.
E2016-00224-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

The plaintiffs sued an attorney for legal malpractice related to the enforcement of two promissory notes. The plaintiffs purchased these notes, which were secured by property at a real estate development, from the two other defendants in this lawsuit. During the purchase of these notes, the sellers were represented by the defendant-attorney in this lawsuit. Subsequently, the plaintiffs hired the same attorney to help them collect the amounts due under the notes from the real estate developer. The attorney drafted a complaint and an agreed judgment for each of the promissory notes and filed these documents in the Circuit Court for Knox County. The circuit court entered the agreed judgments the same day they were filed. When the plaintiffs attempted to sell the property that secured the promissory notes, the real estate developer's former business partner filed a motion for an injunction in federal court. The federal district court issued two injunction orders, one in May 2012 and one in August 2012. Both orders were based on findings that the transaction by which the plaintiffs acquired the promissory notes was likely fraudulent. On January 6, 2014, the parties who sold the notes to plaintiffs filed an affidavit that, according to the plaintiffs, admitted that the sale of the notes to plaintiffs was fraudulent. On January 6, 2015, the plaintiffs filed this action against their former attorney and the parties that sold them the promissory notes. The attorney filed a motion to dismiss under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), arguing that the plaintiffs' claim was time barred because it accrued in August 2012. The trial court granted this motion because it determined that the plaintiffs knew they had suffered an injury when the district court issued the second injunction order in August 2012. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/14/16
Classic City Mechanical, Inc. v. Potter South East, LLC, et al.
E2015-01890-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Weaver

This case involves competing claims concerning a State construction project. The trial court awarded one of the subcontractors on the project compensatory damages, plus interest, based on the prime contractor's failure to remit payments for work that had been performed. On appeal, the prime contractor challenges the trial court's finding that it committed the first material breach of its contract with the subcontractor. The prime contractor also challenges the trial court's finding that it did not prove its claims for damages, which were predicated on an alleged delay created by the subcontractor and the subcontractor's cessation of performance. Although the subcontractor maintains that the trial court's findings regarding material breach should be left undisturbed, it appeals the trial court's specific award of interest, the dismissal of its fraudulent concealment claim, and the denial of its request for attorney's fees. Having reviewed the record transmitted to us on appeal, we affirm in part, modify in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/14/16
In re Dakota H. et al.
E2016-00036-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Darryl Edmondson

This is a termination of parental rights case focusing on the three minor children of Bobby H. (“Father”). On March 11, 2015, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father. DCS alleged as a basis for termination the statutory grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, (3) persistence of the conditions leading to removal of the children, and (4) mental incompetence preventing adequate care of the children. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition upon its determination by clear and convincing evidence that DCS had proven the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home and persistence of the conditions leading to removal of the children. The court further determined by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. Father has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 10/12/16
Mr. Bult's, Inc. v. Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development
M2015-01867-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell

A long haul waste carrier was cited for violating safety regulations by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (the “Division”). The waste carrier informed the Division that it had corrected the alleged violations and received an automated reply that the Division had ceased operations due to the federal government’s suspension of funding. The waste carrier intended to contest the citations but failed to notify the Division of its intent within the statutory twenty-day period. Once the Division was operating again and the waste carrier informed the Division of its intent to contest the citations, the Division responded that the waste carrier had waited too long and that the citations had become final orders by operation of law. The waste carrier filed a petition for judicial review in chancery court, and the trial court remanded the case back to the Division to allow the waste carrier to seek relief pursuant to Rule 60.02(1) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The Division appealed, claiming the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/11/16
Larry E. Parrish, P. C. v. Nancy J. Strong, et al.
M2015-02495-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

This is a Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9 Interlocutory appeal. Upon further review, we have determined that none of the issues certified for interlocutory appeal are properly before us. Accordingly, we vacate our order granting interlocutory appeal and dismiss the appeal.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 10/07/16
Cincinnati Insurance Company v. Josie Rochelle Malone
M2015-02362-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This is an appeal from an order granting summary judgment in which Defendant argues that summary judgment was improper because a dispute of material fact exists regarding her affirmative defenses. Finding no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/07/16
In re Michael B.
M2015-02497-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

This is a termination of parental rights case. Father and Stepmother filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother to the child. The trial court found that the grounds of abandonment for willful failure to visit, willful failure to support, and conduct demonstrating a wanton disregard for the welfare of the child had been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. Mother appeals. We reverse the finding of abandonment for willful failure to support but affirm the other grounds for termination and the finding that termination is in the best interest of the child. The termination of Mother’s parental rights to the child is therefore affirmed. 

Humphreys County Court of Appeals 10/06/16
Ocoee Utility District Of Bradley And Polk Counties, Tennessee v. The Wildwood Company, Incorporated
E2016-00382-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This appeal involves the condemnation of property by a utility district. The trial court entered an order of possession vesting title of the property in the utility district and reserved the issue of just compensation for a jury trial. Prior to trial, the utility district filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude the expert appraisal and testimony of the landowner‟s expert witness. The trial court permitted the expert to testify over the objections of the utility district. At the conclusion of the three-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of $417,000 for the seven-acre parcel at issue, which was the same value suggested by the landowner‟s expert witness. After the trial court denied the utility district‟s motion for a new trial, the utility district timely filed a notice of appeal. The utility district maintains on appeal that the trial court erred by failing to exclude the testimony of the landowner‟s expert witness, and it also argues that the jury verdict is not supported by material evidence. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/06/16
In Re Cannon H.
W2015-01947-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This appeal involves a dispute between unmarried parents regarding the modification of a residential parenting schedule for their minor child. Following a hearing, a juvenile court magistrate modified the parties’ existing parenting schedule to permit Father to exercise parenting time with the child during the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. Father requested a rehearing before the juvenile court judge. The case was reheard, and the juvenile court judge ordered a similar parenting schedule permitting Father to exercise parenting time during the second, fourth, and fifth weekends of each month. The juvenile court also ordered Father to pay Mother’s attorney’s fees in the amount of $3,500. On appeal, Father takes issue with the parenting schedule and award of attorney’s fees ordered by the juvenile court. Having reviewed the record and considered the arguments presented, we affirm the juvenile court’s parenting schedule; however, we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand the case to the juvenile court for a determination as to the amount and reasonableness of the attorney’s fees incurred.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/05/16
In Re Piper H.
W2015-01943-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This appeal involves a dispute between unmarried parents regarding a residential parenting schedule for their minor child. Following a hearing, a juvenile court magistrate ordered a structured parenting schedule permitting Father to exercise parenting time with the child during the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. Father requested a rehearing before the juvenile court judge. The case was reheard, and the juvenile court judge ordered a similar parenting schedule permitting Father to exercise parenting time during the second, fourth, and fifth weekends of each month. The juvenile court also ordered Father to pay Mother’s attorney’s fees in the amount of $3,500. On appeal, Father takes issue with the parenting schedule and award of attorney’s fees ordered by the juvenile court. Having reviewed the record and considered the arguments presented, we affirm the juvenile court’s parenting schedule; however, we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand the case to the juvenile court for a determination as to the amount and reasonableness of the attorney’s fees incurred.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/05/16
Margaret Smith v. HSBC Mortgage Services, Inc., et al.
W2016-01159-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Because the order appealed does not comply with Rule 58 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, the order is not a final judgment. Consequently, this Court lacks jurisdiction and this matter must be dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/04/16
Murray Owen Wilhoite, Jr. v. Brenda Ruth Wilhoite, et al.
M2016-00848-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

Husband filed a breach of contract action against his Wife while their divorce was pending. When the parties settled the divorce, Husband voluntarily dismissed his breach of contract action. Husband later filed a motion to reinstate his breach of contract action against Wife, which the trial court denied. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
Nicole Aquino Williamson v. Paul Landon Lamm
M2015-02006-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert L. Jones

This case involves the modification of a permanent parenting plan under which the parents exercised equal parenting time. The mother, who was designated the primary residential parent in the original plan, filed a petition to modify and alleged a material change had occurred in that the child had reached school age and the distance between the parents made the parenting schedule unworkable. The father did not file a counter-petition but filed a competing parenting plan. After a hearing, the trial court changed the primary residential parent for the upcoming school year to the father, established a new residential parenting schedule, and invited the mother to file a new modification petition for the following school year. The mother appealed. We conclude the preponderance of the evidence does not establish a material change in circumstance sufficient to modify the primary residential parent but does establish a material change sufficient to meet the lower standard for modification of the residential parenting schedule. Consequently, we reverse the decision of the trial court and remand for a determination of a residential parenting schedule that is in the best interest of the child.

Maury County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
Willie Johnson v. Turney Center Disciplinary Board, et al.
M2016-00424-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

An inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari seeking review of his prison disciplinary conviction. The trial court dismissed the petition on the grounds that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review his petition because the petitioner failed to file the documents required under Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-9-102, and failed to comply with the filing requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-805 and § 41-21-807. This appeal followed. We affirm. 

Hickman County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
Eric Best v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
M2016-00513-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Appellant, an inmate in the custody of Appellee, the Tennessee Department of Correction, filed a pro se petition for common law writ of certiorari in the trial court, seeking review of a prison disciplinary board’s decision finding him guilty of possession and use of a cell phone. Appellees moved to dismiss the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the petition was not verified as required by the Tennessee Constitution and Tennessee Code Annotated Sections 27-8-104(a) and 27-8-106. The trial court granted the dismissal, and Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re: M. D.
M2015-01023-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

This appeal arises from a finding of dependency and neglect. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition alleging that M. D. (“the Child”) was dependent and neglected based upon alleged sexual abuse by her father, D. D. (“Father”). The Child’s mother, S. D. (“Mother”), filed a cross-petition to intervene, and she sides with DCS on appeal. After a trial, the Circuit Court for Jackson County (“the Trial Court”) found the Child to be both dependent and neglected and a victim of severe abuse by Father. Father appeals to this Court. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the findings of the Trial Court, and the evidence rises to the standard of clear and convincing to prove the Child is dependent and neglected, as well as a victim of severe abuse. We further find no reversible error in the Trial Court’s considering Father’s drug use and troublesome courtroom behavior in assessing his credibility. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Jackson County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
Federal National Mortgage Association v. Arnold Emmitt Quarles, III
M2015-01620-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

A borrower on a promissory note secured by his home became delinquent in his payments and the bank foreclosed and filed a successful unlawful detainer action in general sessions court. The borrower filed a petition for writ of certiorari and supersedeas in circuit court asserting wrongful foreclosure; he also filed a countercomplaint seeking declaratory relief and alleging causes of action for unjust enrichment and wrongful disclosure against the bank. Three defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion. The borrower filed a motion for permission to file an amended countercomplaint asserting causes of action for fraud and breach of contract against the bank, and the trial court granted the motion. The trial court further granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and certified the order as a final judgment pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. Because we have determined that the trial court erred in certifying the judgment as final under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
AT&T Mobility II, LLC et al v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2015-01118-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

Taxpayer filed a claim with the Tennessee Department of Revenue for refund of sales taxes of approximately $24 million that it erroneously collected from approximately 800,000 of its customers and paid to the Department. Over the course of the next three and a half years, representatives of the Department and the taxpayer worked together to identify and provide information in a format that would facilitate the review. While the claim was being reviewed, the taxpayer filed suit in chancery court; the parties continued to work to resolve the claim, and the court extended the disposition date of the suit. In due course, the Department refunded approximately $19 million, plus a portion of the interest sought by the taxpayer; the case proceeded to trial to determine whether the applicable statute permitted the taxpayer to recover additional interest. The court determined that the claim was resolved by the administrative review rather than by the court and awarded interest from the date the taxpayer supplied proper proof to the Department; the court also awarded costs and attorneys’ fees to the Commissioner. Taxpayer appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the Chancery Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Jaquan B.
E2015-02365-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

This is a dependency and neglect action involving the respondent mother’s two minor children, ages five and six at the time the incident giving rise to this action occurred. After it was discovered that the older child suffered, inter alia, a liver laceration as a result of physical abuse, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court determined that both children were dependent and neglected in the care of their mother. The juvenile court also determined that the older child was a victim of severe child abuse. The mother perfected a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County. The circuit court likewise found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the children were dependent and neglected and that the mother committed severe child abuse against the older child. The mother appeals the circuit court’s finding of severe child abuse. We have determined that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s findings that the children are dependent and neglected, and that the mother severely abused the older child. Thus, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Damian M.
E2015-02353-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

This is a dependency and neglect action involving the respondent mother’s two minor children, ages five and six at the time the incident giving rise to this action occurred. After it was discovered that the older child suffered, inter alia, a liver laceration as a result of physical abuse, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court determined that both children were dependent and neglected in the care of their mother. The juvenile court also determined that the older child was a victim of severe child abuse. The mother perfected a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County. The circuit court likewise found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the children were dependent and neglected and that the mother committed severe child abuse against the older child. The mother appeals the circuit court’s finding of severe child abuse. We have determined that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s findings that the children are dependent and neglected, and that the mother severely abused the older child. Thus, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
James A. Long, et al v. Charles D. Ledford, et al.
E2016-00451-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: James E. Lauderback

In this bench trial following a de novo appeal from the general sessions court, the trial court awarded Appellees a judgment of $2,308.28 representing the principal and interest due on a promissory note. Appellants raise several issues concerning the general sessions court proceeding as errors on appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Unicoi County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Makenzie P., et al.
W2016-00400-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This appeal arises from the termination of a mother's parental rights to her two children. The Department of Children's Services (“DCS”) removed the children from the mother's home due to drug exposure. After finding the children dependent and neglected, a juvenile court awarded custody of the children to mother's parents. The mother's parents then contracted with a nonprofit organization to place the children with a host family while the mother sought treatment for her drug use. Time passed, and the children ultimately spent time with several host families, including, finally, potential adoptive parents. When the health of mother's parents precluded them from retaining custody, mother, mother's parents, and the potential adoptive parents requested that the juvenile court award custody to the potential adoptive parents. The juvenile court granted the request, and several months later the potential adoptive parents filed a petition in chancery court to terminate mother's parental rights and to adopt. Following a trial, the chancery court found clear and convincing evidence of one ground for termination of parental rights and that termination was in the children's best interest. On appeal, Mother asserts a violation of due process because she was unrepresented in the dependency and neglect proceedings after her parents were awarded custody of the children. We affirm the termination of parental rights.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Scott H.
W2016-00070-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a termination of parental rights case involving a ten-year-old child, Scott H. (“the Child”). On August 8, 2011, the Shelby County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (“DCS”). The Child was immediately placed in foster care, where he has remained since that date. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child's mother, Jill H. (“Mother”), and his father, William H. (“Father”), on April 17, 2015.1 Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that (1) Mother failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plans, (2) the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from Mother's custody still persisted, and (3) Mother was mentally incompetent to adequately care for the Child. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/16