Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/27/2016
Format: 07/27/2016
Charles Benson et al v. Knox County et al.
E2015-01357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal arises from a zoning and land use dispute. The defendants applied to rezone most of the property at issue from Agricultural to Planned-Residential and sought approval of a development plan for a multi-dwelling project consisting of 312 apartment units. They also requested a Use-Permitted-on-Review approval for a marina on a portion of the property that would remain zoned as Agricultural. At issue before us are three separate actions taken by Knox County legislative and administrative bodies in relation to the requests, specifically: (A) the County Commission’s rezoning of the property from Agricultural to Planned-Residential at 1to 5 dwelling units per acre; (B) the Board of Zoning Appeals’ approval of the development plan for 312 apartment units; and (C) the Board of Zoning Appeals’ denial of the marina proposal. The trial court upheld the actions. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/12/16
Marianne Greer v. Philip Ernest Cobble
E2015-01378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is the second appeal of this case involving the distribution of a marital estate. Appellant appeals the order denying him relief pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 60.02). Because the appellate record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence conveying an accurate and complete account of what transpired as required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we conclude that the findings made by the trial court were based upon sufficient evidence. Affirmed and remanded.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner, Department of Revenue
M2014-02567-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle


This case involves a taxpayer’s claim to a sales tax deduction under Tennessee Code Annotated § 67-6-507(e) for bad debts associated with private label and co-branded credit card programs. After an audit, the Tennessee Department of Revenue disallowed taxpayer’s bad debt deductions and assessed additional tax. Taxpayer paid the assessment and filed a claim for a refund, which was denied. Taxpayer sued the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue (“Commissioner”) in chancery court, seeking a declaration that it was entitled to the bad debt sales tax deduction and a monetary judgment for the additional assessed tax. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the chancery court granted the Commissioner’s motion, holding the taxpayer was not entitled to claim the deduction. We affirm.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
In re Ian B., et al
M2015-01079-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. The lack of a transcript prevents us from determining whether sufficient evidence supported the termination and denies Father proper appellate consideration of his claims. We therefore vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
In re Jimmy B., Jr.
E2015-02070-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This is a termination of parental rights case. In May 2015, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in Sevier County Juvenile Court seeking to terminate the parental rights of the child’s father. The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was appropriate on the following grounds: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support; (2) severe child abuse; and (3) persistence of conditions. The juvenile court also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interests. Father appealed. We hold that the record does not contain clear and convincing evidence to support termination on the grounds of abandonment for willful failure to support and persistence of conditions, and we reverse as to those grounds for termination.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Carol Mooney, et al. v. Genuine Parts Company d/b/a National Automotive Association, Inc. ("NAPA"), et al.
W2015-02080-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

This appeal arises out of a premises liability case involving a plaintiff who fell while exiting an auto parts store. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. We affirm and remand for further proceedings

Crockett County Court of Appeals 05/11/16
Elyse J. Reid v. Rooms To Go, A Tennessee Corporation
M2015-00269-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiff who brought action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act appeals the dismissal of the case on statute of limitations grounds. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment dismissing the case.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/10/16
Marcus Belton, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2015-01785-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

Plaintiff/Appellant appeals from the dismissal of his civil rights claims based upon the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations contained in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-3-104. Because Appellant's complaint, taken as true at the motion to dismiss stage, sufficiently alleges post-contract formation conduct on the part of the Defendants/Appellees, we conclude that the four-year federal catchall statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 1658 applies to Appellant's claims in this case. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's dismissal of Appellant's civil rights claims and remand for further proceedings. Because Appellant did not designate the dismissal of his state law contract claims as issues on appeal, however, we affirm the dismissal of those claims.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/16
In re Aniston M. et al.
E2015-02076-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwight E. Stokes

This appeal arises from a termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS") filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Sevier County ("the Juvenile Court") seeking to terminate the parental rights of James W. ("Father") to his children Aniston and Chloe ("the Children"). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father‘s parental rights to the Children on the ground of wanton disregard and, also, finding that termination of Father‘s parental rights was in the Children‘s best interest. Father appeals, arguing that the Juvenile Court‘s failure to grant his request for appointed counsel during the earlier dependency and neglect proceeding warrants reversal of the Juvenile Court‘s order terminating his parental rights to the Children. We hold that any alleged deficiencies in the dependency and neglect proceedings were remedied by the protections afforded by the termination proceeding, and that, in any event, Father was not disadvantaged by any alleged deficiencies. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/05/16
John D. Glass v. Suntrust Bank, et al.
W2015-01603-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

This appeal involves a trust. A beneficiary of the trust filed this lawsuit against the bank that served as trustee of the trust, alleging that the bank mismanaged the trust in various respects and violated several duties owed to the beneficiary. After a five-day bench trial, the trial court ruled in favor of the trustee-bank on all claims. The bank was awarded its attorney's fees and expenses. The beneficiary appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/04/16
Daniel B. Eisenstein v. WTVF-TV, et al.
M2015-00422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

On remand from a prior appeal, the parties engaged in discovery and the defendants then moved for summary judgment on the two remaining issues – claims of false light invasion of privacy against a television station and its employees. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the standard of actual malice was not met and awarding discretionary costs against the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/03/16
Rogers Group, Inc. v. Phillip E. Gilbert
M2015-01044-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Judgment debtor appeals the entry of a charging order which subjected the debtor’s interest in a limited liability company to satisfaction of the judgment debt.  Finding that the charging order is not a final judgment for purposes of appeal, we dismiss the appeal and remand the case for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/03/16
Angela Michelle Newberry v. Jeremy Mack Newberry
E2015-01801-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

Father filed a petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan to make him the primary residential parent. The trial court granted Father’s petition, finding that there had been a material change of circumstances and that a change of primary residential parent was in the best interest of the two younger children. Because the trial court applied an erroneous legal standard in making its determination of a material change of circumstances, we vacate and remand.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
In re Tristan B.
E2015-01993-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kurt Andrew Benson

Father appeals the trial court's determination that termination of his parental rights is in the child's best interest. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate Father's parental rights on grounds of abandonment by wanton disregard, persistent conditions, and substantial non-compliance with a permanency plan. The trial court thereafter determined that termination is in the child's best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm both the trial court's rulings regarding grounds and its determination that termination is in the child's best interest.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
Douglas Brent Walker v. G.UB.MK Constructors
E2015-00346-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

In 2003, an employee sustained injuries to his spine, pelvis, and shoulder while working for his employer. In 2007, the trial court determined that the employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the work-related injury and that his employer was responsible for authorized future medical treatment directly related to the work-related injury. In 2013, the employee filed a motion to compel medical benefits, asserting that his employer had refused to pay for medical treatment determined to be reasonable and necessary by his authorized treating physician. The trial court denied the motion, and the employee appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
Tambra Jo Swonger v. James Henry Swonger
E2015-01130-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal arises from a default judgment entered in a divorce action, wherein the wife was granted, inter alia, a permanent order of protection against the husband. The husband sought to have the permanent order of protection provision contained in the parties' divorce decree set aside, asserting that the statutory scheme pertaining to orders of protection did not provide authority for entry of a permanent, open-ended order of protection. The trial court entered an order denying relief to the husband and affirming its entry of a permanent order of protection. Husband timely appealed. Determining that the trial court was without statutory authority to enter a permanent order of protection with no time limitation, we vacate that portion of the trial court's order.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Estate of George Lambert v. John Arnold Fitzgerald
E2015-00905-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

George Lambert ("Lambert") sued John Arnold Fitzgerald ("Fitzgerald") in connection with money that Lambert gave to Fitzgerald to invest alleging claims for, among other things, fraud, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the Tennessee Securities Act of 1980, and unjust enrichment. After trial and a hearing on a motion to amend, the Chancery Court for Rhea County ("the Trial Court") entered its order awarding Lambert a judgment against Fitzgerald for $33,840.28 in principal, pre-judgment interest, and attorney‘s fees pursuant to a promissory note, and dismissing Lambert‘s remaining claims. Lambert appeals to this Court raising issues with regard to the dismissal of his claims for fraud, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the Tennessee Securities Act of 1980, and unjust enrichment.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Sven Hadjopoulos et al. v. Alexandra Sponcia et al.
E2015-00793-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This is a grandparent visitation case. Sven Hadjopoulos (“Grandfather”) and Mary Lou Hadjopoulos (“Grandmother”) (“Grandparents,” collectively) filed a petition seeking visitation with their minor granddaughter (“the Child”). Alexandra Sponcia (“Mother”) and Christopher Sponcia (“Father”) (“Parents,” collectively) opposed the petition and the requested visitation. After a trial, the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) found that substantial harm likely would come to the Child should visitation with Grandparents cease. The Trial Court, therefore, ordered grandparent visitation. Parents filed an appeal to this Court. We hold that the Trial Court’s final judgment is insufficient in a number of ways detailed herein, including its lack of a required best interest determination. We vacate the judgment of the Trial Court and remand for the Trial Court to enter a new, clarified final judgment in this case consistent with this Opinion.

Greene County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Anthony Hodges v. District Attorney General - 20th Judicial District
M2014-02247-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Inmate brought petition under Tennessee Public Records Act seeking review of the District Attorney General’s handling of his request that he be furnished copies of records relating to his prosecution. The trial court held that the Attorney General did not deny the request but, rather, that the petitioner failed to advance the costs of copying the records and, accordingly, was not entitled to relief. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Jane Elliot Watt v. William James Watt
M2014-02565-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

In this divorce action, Husband contends the trial court erred by granting Wife a divorce on the grounds of Husband’s inappropriate marital conduct despite the fact he was found guilty of, inter alia, three counts of rape of a child while the divorce was pending. Husband also takes issue with the classification of property, the division of marital property, and the award of alimony to Wife. We affirm the trial court in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
In re Ava B.
M2014-02408-COA-R10-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

We granted an extraordinary appeal to consider a trial court’s refusal to dismiss a petition to terminate parental rights. Following their divorce, the child’s father filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The mother moved to dismiss for lack of standing. In response, the father amended his petition to add his mother, the child’s grandmother, as an additional petitioner. The mother renewed her motion to dismiss. We reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss because both the father and his mother lack standing. 

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Lori Kay Jones Trigg v.Richard Darrell Trigg
E2016-00695-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for recusal filed by Richard Darrell Trigg ("Former Husband") in the parties' post-dissolution proceedings. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Former Husband, and finding no error in Trial Court's ruling, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Tim Adams Et Al. v. CMH Homes, Inc.
E2015-01526-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

The issue on this appeal is the enforceability of an arbitration agreement. Tim and Pamela Adams (Plaintiffs) bought a mobile home from CMH Homes, Inc. (Defendant). As part of the transaction, Plaintiffs signed an arbitration agreement after they were told by Defendant’s sales manager that they “had to sign the papers in order to get the home moving.” This statement was false, although the manager testified that he was unaware of its falsity at that time. Plaintiffs alleged fraudulent inducement with respect to the arbitration agreement. After a hearing, the trial court ruled that Plaintiffs established their fraudulent inducement claim. As a consequence, the court set aside the arbitration agreement. Defendant appeals. We affirm.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Regions Bank v. Thomas D. Thomas, et al.
W2015-00798-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

Following a borrower’s default on a loan agreement, Regions Bank (“Regions”) accelerated the loan and filed this lawsuit against the loan’s guarantors to collect the amounts due. After Regions sold the collateral securing the loan, it sought a judgment for the remaining deficiency. This is the second appeal of this case to this Court. Although the trial court awarded Regions a deficiency judgment prior to the first appeal, we vacated that award upon concluding that Regions had failed to provide sufficient notice to the guarantors prior to its disposition of the collateral. We observed that under Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-9-626, a secured party that has not complied with the commercial code’s collection, enforcement, disposition, and acceptance requirements can only recover a deficiency if it proves that compliance with the relevant provisions would have yielded a smaller amount than the secured obligation, together with expenses and attorney’s fees. Because the trial court did not make any findings on this issue, we remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the amount of the deficiency, if any, under Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-9-626. On remand, the trial court entered a deficiency judgment against the guarantors in the amount of $1,210,511.51. Both sides now appeal from this judgment, asserting various issues. Because Regions did not present any evidence that it would have received less than the total amounts due to it had it provided proper notice, we reverse the trial court’s determination that Regions is entitled to a deficiency. We further reject the guarantors’ assertions that they are entitled to a surplus.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
West Warren-Viola Utility District v. Jarrell Enterprises, Inc.
M2013-02217-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

Utility district brought action to condemn a parcel of real property which was located outside the district’s boundaries in order to construct a water storage tank, associated piping, and an access road. The trial court denied the petition, and the district appeals. Finding that the district is given the power in the Utility District Law to construct and maintain its system, and that the unrebutted evidence shows that the district was not attempting to expand the boundaries of its service area, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a hearing on the damages due the property owner.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 04/26/16