Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014
In Re: Anna L. J.
M2013-00561-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon Guffee

Husband and wife in dependent and neglect proceeding who were each held in criminal contempt for violating an order that they have no contact with other parties to the proceeding appeal their convictions, the sentences imposed, and other rulings of the trial court. We affirm the holding that the husband was in contempt, vacate the sentence imposed and remand the case for resentencing. We affirm the holding that the wife was in indirect contempt and the sentence imposed; we reverse the holding that wife was in direct contempt. In all other respects we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
James Allen Austin v. Marely Torres
M2012-01219-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

The divorced father of an seven year old child filed a petition to transfer custody of the child from the mother to himself. The trial court heard expert proof that the child suffered from a rare genetic disorder that can cause grave neurological consequences if the child’s diet is not strictly controlled. The mother’s testimony indicated that she was unconvinced that the child had a disorder and that she was unwilling to adjust the child’s diet to meet his medical needs. The court found that there had been a material change of circumstances and that it was in the best interest of the child that custody be transferred to the father, with the mother’s visitation limited to fifty days per year. The mother argues on appeal that the trial court’s order should be reversed because it committed a number of procedural errors in the course of the custody proceedings. We affirm the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Tonie V. Peterson v. Glenn E. Lepard, et al. - Concurring Opinion
W2013-00367-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

Because the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-5-103 were clearly not met in this case, I concur fully in the result reached in this case. However, I write separately again to express my disagreement with this Court’s holding in Bernatsky v. Designer Baths & Kitchens, L.L.C., No. W2012-00803-COA-R3, 2013 WL 593911 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 15, 2013) namely, that the statutory requirement of giving “bond with good security” for “the cost of the cause on appeal” is not satisfied by paying an initial filing fee. I find the statute unambiguous, and therefore, there is no need to attempt to discern legislative intent based upon the less than compelling legislative history of various statutory schemes relied upon by the majority in Bernatsky.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Tonie V. Peterson v. Glenn E. Lepard, et al.
W2013-00367-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This case arises from the dismissal of the Appellant’s lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County for failure to timely perfect her appeal from General Sessions Court. Appellant filed her notice of appeal with the 24-hour General Sessions Criminal Clerk’s Office, but did not pay costs or bond because the 24-hour clerk’s office does not accept any payments for civil matters. As a result, Appellant’s bond was not paid until the eleventh day after the General Sessions Court’s judgment was entered, and was therefore outside the ten-day filing period. Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-5-108. Consequently, the trial court dismissed Appellant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Steve Dickerson et al v. Regions Bank et al
M2012-01415-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robbie T. Beal

Plaintiffs, husband and wife, filed this action on February 17, 2009, to quiet title to property they own in Williamson County, Tennessee. At issue was a Deed of Trust that secured a 1997 promissory note, with an original maturity date in 1998, executed by a South Carolina limited liability company of which the plaintiff husband was a member. Plaintiffs asserted, inter alia, that the statute of limitations for the 1997 note and deed of trust had lapsed; therefore, the deed of trust encumbering their property should be released. Defendant Beta, LLC, filed a counterclaim for judicial foreclosure asserting it was the assignee of an October 8, 1998 renewal note with a maturity date of October 1999, the maturity date of which was subsequently extended to October 2000 pursuant to a Change in Terms Agreement executed in October 1999. It is based on the Change in Terms Agreement that Beta insists the statute of limitations had not lapsed and it is entitled to enforce the deed of trust. Although Beta was unable to produce an original or photocopy of an October 1998 renewal promissory note or evidence that complied with Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-8-101 to prove it was a lost negotiable instrument, the trial court held that a copy of the 1999 Change of Terms Agreement was sufficient to established the existence of the October 1998 renewal note and the extension of the maturity date to 2000; thus the statute of limitations had not run and Beta was vested with the right to enforce the deed of trust. Therefore, the court dismissed Plaintiffs complaint to quiet title and ruled in favor of Beta on the issue of foreclosure. On appeal Plaintiffs contend that the evidence was insufficient to support the court’s rulings. Particularly, Plaintiffs contend the trial court erred in finding that the Change in Terms Agreement dated October 8, 1999, was sufficient to establish Beta’s claims under an October 1998 promissory note of which there is no copy. We have determined the trial court erred in finding that the evidence was sufficient to satisfy Beta’s burden of proof as the foreclosing party. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including a determination of the specific relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
Betty Baxter v. Heritage Bank & Trust, and Proctor Financial Insurance Corporation, Inc.
M2012-02689-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

Homeowner sued Bank, alleging that it had settled her claim for damages to her house with Insurance Company without her consent. Bank served discovery on Homeowner, and when Homeowner did not comply with discovery requests to Bank’s satisfaction, Bank moved to dismiss Homeowner’s claims. Trial court granted Bank’s motion to dismiss, and Homeowner moved to set aside the dismissal pursuant to Rule 59. Trial court denied Homeowner’s motion to set aside, and Homeowner appealed. We reverse the trial court’s judgment denying Homeowner’s motion to set aside because (1) the scheduling order included a deadline for completing discovery that had not yet passed and (2) there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing by Homeowner or her attorney.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
James D. Holder and Barbara L. Holder v. S & S Family Entertainment, LLC
M2013-00497-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. L. Rogers

This dispute arose at the end of two long-term commercial leases and a contract for the sale of two businesses and their assets, which businesses operated at the leased premises. The issues pertain to what assets were purchased, whether the tenant properly maintained the premises during the lease term, and whether the tenant returned the premises to the landlord in the same condition as at the commencement of the leases. The trial court ruled that the tenant had not purchased the assets in dispute, which the tenant removed at the end of the lease; thus, the tenant was liable for removing the assets. The court also found that the tenant breached both leases by failing to maintain the premises and failing to return the premises in the same condition as at the commencement of the leases. The tenant insists the court erred in finding that the landlord owned the assets in dispute; it also insists it did not breach any duties arising under the leases. The tenant also contends it is not liable for any of the numerous categories of damages awarded because the landlord failed to prove its damages. We affirm the trial court’s rulings as to the ownership of the disputed assets and the findings that the tenant breached numerous provisions of the leases. As for the various awards of damages, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
In the Matter of: B.M., C.M., and C.R.
W2013-00392-COA-R10-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert S. Weiss

This is an interlocutory appeal involving the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The juvenile court entered an order declaring three children dependent and neglected; the order included a no-contact provision as to the father of one of the children. The mother appealed the juvenile court’s decision to the circuit court. After she filed the appeal to the circuit court, the father of the other two children filed a contempt petition in the circuit court asserting that the mother and the other father violated the no-contact provision in the juvenile court’s order. The mother filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the circuit court was without subject matter jurisdiction to hear a contempt petition arising out of the juvenile court’s order. The circuit court denied the mother’s motion to dismiss but did not reach the merits of the contempt petition. The appellate court granted the mother permission for an extraordinary appeal under Tenn. R. App. P. 10, to address only the circuit court’s subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the petitioner father’s contempt petition. After permission for the extraordinary appeal was granted, the circuit court held an evidentiary hearing and determined that the petitioner father’s two children were not dependent and neglected. The circuit court then vacated the juvenile court’s order as to those two children, including the no-contact provision. Under the circumstances, we find that the issue presented on appeal is no longer justiciable and that this Court improvidently granted permission for the Rule 10 appeal. Accordingly, we decline to address the issue presented and dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
Melissa L. Blackshear (Thompson) v. Stephen D. Blackshear
E2012-02499-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This appeal arises from the parties’ post-divorce issues. The father moved to modify his child support obligation because of a significant variance in his income. Following a hearing, the trial court modified the father’s child support obligation from $2,000 a month to $73 per month, awarded a $21,124 judgment against the mother for overpayment, and awarded the father attorneys’s fees in the amount of $10,000. The mother appeals. We vacate and remand.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
In Re Jalin M.B., et al
E2013-00635-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is an appeal from the trial court’s final order modifying a custody arrangement that designated Mother as the primary residential parent and awarded Father limited visitation. Father filed a petition to modify, claiming that a material change in circumstances necessitated a change in the parenting plan. Following a hearing, the trial court designated Father as the primary residential parent, awarded the Parents equal time with the Children, and modified Father’s child support obligation. Mother appeals. We affirm the trial court’s custody determination but reverse its child support determination. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
In Re Kaylyn M.R.
E2013-01520-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Benjamin Strand, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father to the Child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions, abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home, and abandonment for wanton disregard of the Child’s welfare. The court likewise found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
Jeff and Melissa Fitzpatrick v. State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services
M2013-00823-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

The petitioners are foster parents who were indicated by the Department of Children’s Services as perpetrators of child neglect for “lack of supervision” and also for “environmental neglect.” The lack of supervision allegation arose out of an incident in which a foster child who was placed in the petitioners’ home was found fondling the private parts of a younger foster sibling on two occasions during the same evening. The environmental neglect allegation was due to the condition of the petitioners’ home when the DCS investigator arrived to look into the report of child-on-child sexual abuse. The petitioners requested an administrative hearing. After a four-day contested case hearing before an administrative law judge, the indication for environmental neglect was deemed unfounded, but the indication for lack of supervision was upheld. The petitioners filed a petition for judicial review in chancery court, and upon reviewing the record, the court upheld the indication for lack of supervision. The petitioners appeal to this Court, arguing that there is no substantial and material evidence to support their indication for lack of supervision, that they have been denied procedural and substantive due process,and that they are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred in defending against the allegation of environmental neglect that was deemed unfounded, as well as the allegation of lack of supervision. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the chancery court in part, and we reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 03/18/14
Lou Wadley v. Leonard Rowe
E2013-01388-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This action originated with the filing of a detainer warrant in General Sessions Court by the plaintiff, seeking possession of her home. The plaintiff obtained a judgment granting her possession of the home, and the defendant appealed that judgment to Circuit Court. Following a de novo trial, the Circuit Court likewise granted judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/17/14