Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/20/2017
Format: 11/20/2017
Jon Roozbeh Vazeen, AKA Hassan Vazin v. Michelle Smith Vazin
M2016-01133-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

The trial court granted Wife a divorce; divided marital assets and liabilities; and awarded Husband five years of rehabilitative alimony. Husband appealed. Due to the deficiencies in Husband’s appellate brief, we do not reach Husband’s substantive issues and dismiss the appeal.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/08/17
Damon Holland v. Brian Sullivan, et al.
M2016-00538-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The issues in this appeal arise from two very unorthodox agreements and the defendants’ actions to avoid the consequences of the agreements. The agreements are unorthodox because, inter alia, each purports to be a “Bill of Sale” of an automobile when in fact each is a loan agreement for which the certificate of title is held by the lender as security. To complicate matters, the defendant who signed both agreements only owned one of the vehicles; his wife owned the other, and it is disputed whether the husband was authorized to act on her behalf. When the husband failed to pay either debt, the lender attempted unsuccessfully to possess the vehicles. Immediately thereafter, the husband and wife applied for and obtained new certificates of title and then used one of the duplicate titles to sell one of the automobiles to a third party. Thereafter, the lender commenced this action against the husband and wife for breach of contract, slander of title, and conspiracy to commit slander of title. The lender sought both compensatory and punitive damages. Following a bench trial, the court found the husband liable for breach of contract, and found the husband and wife jointly liable for slander of title and conspiracy to commit slander of title. The court then awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $32,456.89 and punitive damages in the amount of $30,000. The defendants appealed contending the trial court erred in failing to consider their affirmative defenses and in failing to hold that the Tennessee Title Pledge Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 45-15-101 to -120 barred any recovery. They also contend that the evidence does not support a finding that the husband breached the contract or that they were jointly liable for slander of title and for conspiracy to commit slander of title. They further argue the trial court erred in awarding punitive damages. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/07/17
Jordan Franklin-Mansuo, et al. v. AMISUB (SFH), Inc. d/b/a Saint Francis Hospital, et al.
W2016-01623-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This is a health care liability case. Appellant filed suit against Appellee, a medical doctor, alleging that Appellee’s supervision of a physician assistant fell below the standard of care, which resulted in the injury and death of Appellant’s mother. Appellee moved for summary judgment on the basis that Appellant had not provided competent expert testimony regarding the applicable standard of care or a causal link between Appellee’s actions and the subsequent injury and death of the patient at issue. The trial court granted Appellee’s motion due to Appellant’s lack of expert testimony to satisfy the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/06/17
Allstate Insurance Company v. Kaigler & Associates, Inc.
M2016-01003-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Ricahrd H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Declaratory judgment action in which an insurance company seeks a determination of its coverage obligations arising out of a business insurance policy it issued relative to a class action suit brought against the insured for sending unsolicited faxes in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The court granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment in part, holding that the insurance company had no duty to indemnify under the “accidental event” coverage or the “personal injury” coverage, that the company had a duty to defend under the “advertising injury” coverage, and that the company had a duty to defend against all claims. The insured filed a motion to alter or amend, which was denied by the court. On appeal, the insured argues that the court issued an improper advisory opinion, erred in holding the company had no duty to indemnify under the “accidental event” coverage, and abused its discretion by failing to consider new evidence proffered in the insured’s motion to alter or amend the judgment. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/31/17
In Re A.L.H., et al.
M2016-01574-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This is an appeal from an order finding two children of S.B. (mother) and R.H. (father) to be the victims of severe child abuse in the couple’s care and control. On July 24, 2015, the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) received a referral alleging, in part, that the parties’ three children, A.L.H., A.G.B., and A.R.B. (collectively the children), were drug-exposed. On August 27, 2015, the children underwent hair follicle drug testing. A.G.B. and A.R.B. tested positive for methamphetamine. A.L.H. was negative for all substances. On September 23, 2015, DCS filed a petition to declare the children dependent and neglected. Mother and father stipulated that the children were dependent and neglected, but they expressly did not agree with the finding of severe child abuse. The Juvenile Court for Wayne County (the juvenile court) entered an order finding A.G.B. and A.R.B. to be the victims of severe abuse. Mother and father appealed to the Circuit Court for Wayne County (the trial court). On July 14, 2016, the trial court entered an order finding A.G.B. and A.R.B. to be the victims of severe child abuse in the care and control of mother and father. Mother and father appeal. We affirm.  

Wayne County Court of Appeals 08/31/17
Kathryn J. Reitz v. City of Mt. Juliet
M2016-02048-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Plaintiff alleged that the City of Mt. Juliet breached a settlement agreement with her by violating a non-disparagement agreement. Because Plaintiff failed to prove the existence of damages, summary judgment was appropriate. We affirm.   

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/31/17
In Re: Savanna C.
E2016-01703-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the parental rights of the father, Jason C. (“Father”), to his minor child, Savanna C. (“the Child”), who was two years of age at the time of trial. The Child was born in 2014 to Father and Katie N. (“Mother”). On November 10, 2014, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court (“juvenile court”) granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the maternal grandmother, Kathryn N. (“Maternal Grandmother”). The maternal grandfather, Tommy N. (“Maternal Grandfather”), was later added as a joint petitioner. The juvenile court adjudicated the Child dependent and neglected on August 20, 2015, and ordered that the Child remain in the custody of the Maternal Grandmother and Maternal Grandfather (collectively, “Maternal Grandparents”). On September 21, 2015, Maternal Grandparents filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights to the Child in the Hamilton County Circuit Court (“trial court”). Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Father’s parental rights to the Child upon determining by clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to visit during the four months preceding the filing of the termination petition. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Father has appealed.1 Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/31/17
In Re Tennessee Walking Horse Forfeiture Litigation
W2016-01000-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

This is the second appeal involving the attempted forfeiture of horses that had allegedly been the victims of animal abuse. The State appeals the trial court’s finding that Appellee owners had standing to contest the forfeiture and the grant of summary judgment to Appellee owners on the ground that the State failed to comply with applicable procedural requirements. We conclude that because Appellees are “owners” as defined by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-702(3), they have standing to contest the forfeiture. We also conclude that the undisputed facts establish that the attempted forfeiture did not comply with the substantive and procedural requirements of the applicable forfeiture statutes. The trial court’s ruling is, therefore, affirmed.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 08/31/17
In Re Miracle M., et al.
W2017-00068-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Appellant Father’s parental rights to two minor children. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence supported termination based on the statutory grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support, abandonment by willful failure to visit, and persistence of the conditions that led to the children’s removal to state custody. The trial court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of the Father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests. Father appeals. As to the ground of persistence of conditions, we conclude that the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) has not met its burden of proof, and therefore we reverse termination of Father’s parental rights on this ground. The Court affirms the juvenile court’s termination of Father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support and abandonment by willful failure to visit.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/17
In Re Domingo C. L.
M2016-02383-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Keith Siskin

Obispo C.L. (“the Minor’s Uncle”) appeals the determination of the Chancery Court for Rutherford County (“the Trial Court”) finding that it lacked jurisdiction to make a finding regarding whether it is in the best interest of Domingo C.L. (“the Minor”) to be returned to his home country of Guatemala. We find and hold that the Trial Court had jurisdiction to make this finding, that the petition specifically requested a finding with regard to this issue, and that it was error to refuse to make a finding with regard to whether it was in the Minor’s best interest to be returned to Guatemala. We, therefore, modify the Trial Court’s October 31, 2016 Order Appointing Guardian Of A Minor by remanding this case to the Trial Court for a determination of whether it is in the Minor’s best interest to be returned to Guatemala. We affirm the remainder of the Trial Court’s order.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/30/17
Kevin Tate v. Tennessee Department Of Correction
M2016-01611-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Kevin Tate was convicted of a first degree murder that took place on March 22, 1993. On November 22, 1995, he was sentenced to life in prison. In the current litigation, he filed a petition for declaratory judgment asking the trial court to review his release eligibility date as calculated by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). Petitioner claimed that TDOC incorrectly calculated his release eligibility date, and, in doing so, violated his rights under the ex post facto provisions of the state and federal constitutions. The trial court found that TDOC correctly calculated his release eligibility date. As a consequence, the court dismissed the petition. We modify the judgment of the trial court by vacating the court’s statement that “as Mr. Tate is serving a sentence of life for first degree murder, in no event can he become eligible for release prior to serving 25 years.” In all other respects, we affirm the trial court’s judgment

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/30/17
Gregory White, et al. v. Jack Miller, et al.
M2016-00888-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

Sellers of home and their listing agent brought suit against a real estate brokerage firm and an agent employed by the firm to recover for alleged violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and Real Estate Broker License Act, undisclosed dual agency, and breach of fiduciary duty, arising from the sale of plaintiffs’ home.  The brokerage firm agent procured a contract whereby the sellers agreed to purchase the buyers’ home, with the purchase price for the buyers’ home to be treated as a credit on the purchase price of the sellers’ home.  Upon learning that the agent was also representing the buyers, the sellers brought suit, seeking forfeiture of the agent’s and brokerage firm’s commission; the sellers’ listing agent joined in the suit to recover the commission the brokerage firm agreed to pay her as a referral fee.  The trial court dismissed all claims filed by the seller husband for lack of standing, granted summary judgment to seller wife on her claim of undisclosed dual agency, and ordered that the brokerage firm and agent forfeit the commission from the sale.  The court awarded the listing agent the commission she sought and granted summary judgment to brokerage firm and agent on the seller wife’s claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and on the seller wife’s claim that she was entitled to the commission generated by the sale of the buyers’ home.  Upon a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment in part and reverse in part, and remand the case for further proceedings.    

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/30/17
David Chase v. Chris Stewart, et al.
M2017-01192-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

Appellants sought disqualification of the trial court judge pursuant to Tennessee Supreme court Rule 10B based primarily on an order entered by the trial court in March 2016. Because Appellants waited approximately one year to seek disqualification of the trial court judge, they have waived their rights under Rule 10B.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Lisa Marie Krogman v. Bob Goodall, et al
M2016-01292-COA-R3--CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

In this appeal, the plaintiff sued her former real estate agent and his real estate company for malpractice and negligence in the attempted sale of her home. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants upon holding (1) that the plaintiff failed to effectuate service of process on the defendants; (2) that the defendants did not waive the affirmative defense by filing their answers more than 30 days after the complaint was filed, by filing a notice of appearance, and by participating in the litigation; and (3) that the defendants properly pled the affirmative defense in their answers. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Wanda Katz v. The Sports Authority Of The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, TN, et al - Dissent
M2016-01874-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.


The majority opinion affirms the grant of summary judgment in this slip and fall case based on the determination that Wanda Katz (“Plaintiff”) failed to provide sufficient evidence of constructive notice. I respectfully disagree, having concluded that there exists a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendants had constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Wanda Katz v. The Sports Authority Of The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, TN, et al
M2016-01874-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Plaintiff sued the owner and the operator of a public venue after slipping on liquid on the floor and injuring herself. Defendants moved for summary judgment. In granting summary judgment, the trial court concluded, based upon the undisputed facts, that defendants did not have actual or constructive notice of the liquid on the floor. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that wet spills throughout the venue and two other slip and fall incidents on the concourse area constituted a pattern of conduct, a recurring incident, or a general or continuing condition sufficient to put defendants on constructive notice of the liquid causing Plaintiff’s fall. Because Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence of constructive notice, we affirm the grant of summary judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Jane Doe, et al. v. P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc., et al.
W2016-01817-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

This interlocutory appeal arises out of a tort action brought by a restaurant manager against her employer for injuries she received during the course of a robbery and rape by a cook at the restaurant where both were employed. The employer moved for summary judgment, contending that the workers’ compensation law provided the exclusive remedy for the employee. The trial court denied the motion, holding that the injuries the employee sustained did not arise out of the employment. Upon review, we affirm the denial of summary judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Dennis Down D/B/A Knoxville Lifestyle v. Steve Hall D/B/A Greater Tennessee Flooring
E2016-00647-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

After the trial court entered a final judgment awarding plaintiff damages and attorney’s fees, defendant filed a timely motion requesting additional findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court then entered a second judgment incorporating the requested findings of fact and conclusions of law. After entry of the second judgment, plaintiff filed a motion for an award of additional attorney’s fees, which the trial court treated as a motion to alter or amend. The plaintiff later withdrew his motion for additional attorney’s fees, and the trial court entered an order authorizing the withdrawal. Later, in response to a motion to quash a garnishment, the trial court entered a third judgment, which granted the motion but otherwise incorporated by reference the court’s previous rulings. Defendant filed a notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the third judgment but more than thirty days after the order granting plaintiff leave to withdraw his motion for additional attorney’s fees. Because we conclude the notice of appeal was untimely, we dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Mary Wagoner-Angelin v. Randall Jon Angelin
E2016-01850-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This appeal concerns post-divorce matters pertaining to a marital dissolution agreement (“the MDA”) and a parenting plan. Mary Wagoner-Angelin (“Mother”) filed a petition seeking modification of the parenting plan against ex-husband Randall Jon Angelin (“Father”) in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). Father filed an answer and counterclaim challenging the alimony provision in the MDA. Mother later amended her petition to include allegations of civil contempt for Husband’s alleged failures to abide by the MDA and parenting plan. After a trial, the Trial Court, inter alia, found Father in contempt. Father appeals to this Court. We affirm the Trial Court in its determination that Father is bound by the provisions of the MDA. We affirm the Trial Court in its finding an upward deviation for the parties’ daughter Rachel’s private school tuition. Regarding the other issues, we remand with instructions. The judgment of the Trial Court therefore is affirmed, in part, vacated, in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/29/17
Dinah Bostic Norman v. John Arthur Norman, IV
M2015-02364-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin, III

This case arises out of the demise of a long-term marriage. The trial court declared the parties divorced, equitably divided the marital estate, and awarded the wife alimony in solido, rehabilitative alimony, and alimony in futuro. On appeal, the husband raises many issues, including whether the doctrine of unclean hands should bar wife from receiving an award of alimony in solido, whether the court’s division of the marital estate was inequitable, and whether the court’s alimony awards were based on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the trial court’s decision in all respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/28/17
Jonah Paul Anders v. Mayla Anders
W2016-02290-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/17
The Germantown Manor Homeowners Association, Inc. v. GGAT Development Corp., et al.
W2016-01461-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

Appellee, homeowner’s association, filed suit against Appellants, owners of lots in the development, to collect association fees. The trial court held that Appellee, a non-profit corporation, was not authorized to formally assess association fees until it elected a board of directors. Tenn. Code Ann. § 48-58-101. The trial court charged Appellants’ with association fees accruing after the election of the board and also denied Appellants’ counter-complaint for quantum meruit damages allegedly accrued for upkeep of certain common areas, which remained under Appellants’ ownership. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/17
Kristin Holloway v. Group Properties, LLC
W2016-02417-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This negligence case was brought by Appellee/Tenant, who suffered injuries when a light fixture and a portion of the rental property ceiling fell due to a water leak. Tenant received a judgment in the general sessions court, and Appellant/Landlord appealed to the circuit court. Following de novo review, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Tenant. Landlord appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/17
In Re Homer D., et al. - Dissent
M2017-00298-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

The majority opinion dismisses this appeal due to the failure of the appellant, Sarah R. P. B., the child’s mother, to sign the initial notice of appeal as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d) or to file an amended notice that included her signature within the thirty-day time period for perfecting appeals. The majority has concluded that although the amended notice of appeal “did contain Appellant’s signature, it was filed . . . more than thirty days after the entry of the trial court’s judgment. As such, it, too, is insufficient to confer subject-matter jurisdiction on this Court.” I recognize that the majority opinion is based on two recent Court of Appeals decisions, but I respectfully disagree with those decisions and with the notion that Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-124(d) is jurisdictional. I also disagree with the notion that the statute compels this court to dismiss appeals in parental termination cases without affording the parent the opportunity to cure the defect by subsequently signing an amended notice of appeal even if that occurs after the expiration of the thirty-day time period set out in Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a). 

Overton County Court of Appeals 08/22/17
In Re Homer D., et al.
M2017-00298-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

This is a termination of parental rights case. Upon the trial court’s entry of an order terminating her parental rights, Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. However, Appellant did not comply with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-124(d) (Supp. 2016) in that she failed to sign the notice of appeal. Although Appellant attempted to correct the error by filing an amended notice of appeal, the amended notice was filed after the thirty day time period for perfecting appeals had expired. As such, this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeal, and it is dismissed with prejudice.

Overton County Court of Appeals 08/22/17