Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/17/2017
Format: 08/17/2017
Rodney And Tammy Henderson, et al. v. The Vanderbilt University - dissenting opinion
M2016-01876-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph p. Binkley, Jr.

“The law of negligent infliction of emotional distress has been called ‘one of the most disparate and confusing areas of tort law.’” Lane v. Estate of Leggett, No. M2016-00448-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 1176982, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 29, 2017) (citing Camper v. Minor, 915 S.W.2d 437, 440 (Tenn. 1996)). While this is a statement with which I agree, I must respectfully dissent from the majority opinion. I certainly do not dispute that the Plaintiffs in this case have suffered extreme emotional distress, nor do I mean to discount their grief and suffering as a result of the death of their daughter, Halle Henderson.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Rodney And Tammy Henderson, et al. v. The Vanderbilt University
M2016-01876-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendant hospital on the ground that the plaintiffs could not establish that they witnessed or perceived an injury-producing event for purposes of their negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. We hold that the alleged failure of the defendant hospital to provide care to the plaintiffs’ daughter, despite repeated assurances from the hospital that it would occur, constitutes an injury-producing event that was witnessed by plaintiffs. Accordingly, the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiffs’ negligent infliction of emotional distress claims on this basis.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Transfill Equipment Supplies & Services, Inc. v. Advanced Medical Equipment, LLC
M2016-00288-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

In this breach of contract case, Transfill Equipment Supplies & Services, Inc. (TESS) sued Advanced Medical Equipment, LLC (AME) for delinquent payments of (1) rent due on TESS’s equipment, (2) purchases of medical oxygen, and (3) the fair market value of rented equipment that AME had not returned to TESS. AME filed a separate lawsuit against TESS seeking damages for conversion of oxygen tanks. After consolidating the cases, the Sumner County General Sessions Court awarded damages to TESS and dismissed all of AME’s claims. AME appealed to the trial court. The court found that AME was guilty of breach of contract due to its failure to make timely payments. As a consequence, the court awarded judgment to TESS in the amount of $34,999.45. The trial court also found that TESS had not converted AME’s oxygen tanks. AME appeals. We affirm.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Lemuel Lewis v. Lynn Moore, et al.
M2015-02473-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael Binkley

In this breach of contract action, the plaintiff entered into a contract with a sole proprietor whereby he purported to purchase 10% of the sole proprietorship. The contract entitled the plaintiff to 10% of the cash withdrawals made from the business's account. It further provided that, should the sole proprietor dissolve the business and form a new entity of which she was a majority owner, the plaintiff would be entitled to 10% of the cash withdrawals taken by the sole proprietor from the new entity. Two years later, the sole proprietor closed the business and formed a new entity, a limited liability company, with another individual. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging breach of contract and violations of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court found for the sole proprietor, concluding that the sole proprietor was free to close her business at will. It further found that the sole proprietor did not breach the express terms of the contract, nor did she breach her implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, in closing her business and forming the LLC. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
In Re James V., et al.
M2016-01575-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her two sons.  The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that four grounds for termination were proven and that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate parental rights.  Mother appeals but only challenges the best interest determination.  We have also reviewed the evidence regarding each ground for termination.  We vacate the trial court’s finding regarding one ground for termination but otherwise affirm the trial court’s order and affirm the termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Overton County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
In Re: Candice H., et al
M2016-02305-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal arises from the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Jeffrey H. (“Father”) to his minor children Candice, Danonie, and Izabella (“the Children”). The Children had entered DCS custody after a domestic incident between Father and the Children’s mother. After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights and that termination is in the Children’s best interest. Father appealed. Finding it inapplicable to putative biological parent Father, we reverse the ground of failure to establish paternity found as regards the child Danonie. We affirm the rest of the Juvenile Court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to the Children.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
L.J. Jackson, et al. v. CitiMortgage, Inc.
W2016-00701-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This appeal involves a dispute between a loan servicer and a family who subsequently defaulted on a mortgage for a piece of property. The loan servicer foreclosed and sold the property according to the express terms of the mortgage note and deed of trust after the family had been in default for multiple years and after multiple failed attempts to seek loan modification. The family sued for breach of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, and intentional misrepresentation, asserting that the loan servicer promised to postpone the foreclosure sale until after completion of the most recent loan modification review process. The trial court granted summary judgment to the loan servicer on all claims. The family appealed on all four issues. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Eagle CDI, Inc., et al. v. Michael J. Orr, et al.
E2016-01399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This appeal involves a contract dispute between a general contracting company and a husband and wife who sought the company’s assistance to build a log cabin home. After the husband and wife defaulted on the original construction contract, the husband and wife and the company signed a second contract, a promissory note, for the remaining balance. The husband and wife subsequently defaulted on the promissory note. The trial court held that the husband and wife breached the second contract, the terms were clear and unambiguous, and a potential ambiguity in the first contract regarding a nonrefundable deposit and/or retainer was legally irrelevant in determining the amount owed under the second contract. Because the second contract was clear and unambiguous, we hold that the total sum owed by the husband and wife is proper despite any ambiguity in the first contract. Further, we hold that the trial court properly denied the husband and wife’s motion to amend their answer because of undue delay. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
David Lamar Hayes v. Glen Turner, Warden
W2016-01166-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a pro se inmate’s complaint for failure to prosecute. After filing his complaint in 2005, the plaintiff took no action in the case for more than 10 years. In 2015, the trial court directed the plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Instead of providing an explanation for the delay, the plaintiff sought a default judgment against the defendant. The trial court then dismissed the case with prejudice. On appeal, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Tysheka Barnett v. B.F. Nashville, Inc. DBA Wendy's Of Nashville
M2016-00762-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Tysheka Barnett brought this action solely against her employer, B.F. Nashville, Inc., dba Wendy’s of Nashville, alleging that Wendy’s general manager, William Rogers, sexually harrassed her during her employment at a Wendy’s restaurant. After a four-day bench trial, the court found that plaintiff had not met her burden of proof to show that the sexual conduct between her and Rogers was unwanted, and, therefore, she was unable to show harassment. On appeal, plaintiff primarily argues that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s determination that the sexual interaction in question was not unwelcomed by plaintiff. This ruling was driven and determined in large part by the trial court’s evaluation of the credibility, including demeanor, of the various witnesses. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Betty Ann Torres (Stone) Spurlock v. Cesar G. Torres
W2016-01633-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

In this child support action, the respondent father, who resides in Texas, filed a motion seeking to vacate the trial court’s previous child support orders, alleging that the court had no personal jurisdiction over him. The State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the mother, asserted that the father had consented to the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction by previously seeking administrative review of the child support award. The trial court agreed, determining that its exercise of personal jurisdiction was proper. The father has appealed. Having determined that the trial court did not have a proper basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the father, we reverse the trial court’s adjudication concerning personal jurisdiction. Because the trial court’s prior child support orders are void, we remand this matter to the trial court for a determination concerning whether exceptional circumstances exist that would justify denying relief from the prior void orders.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
Tom Watson v. Rosemarie Ralston-Good et al.
E2016-01505-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

The plaintiff business owner, who provided carpet cleaning services, filed an action in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court (“general sessions court”) against a customer, alleging that the customer had failed to compensate him for services rendered. The customer subsequently filed a counterclaim against the business owner, alleging that he had ruined an oriental rug in her home and sprayed chemicals on her furniture. The general sessions court entered a judgment in favor of the customer. The business owner appealed to the Hamilton County Circuit Court (“trial court”). Following a de novo trial, the trial court also found in favor of the customer, determining that the business owner had damaged the customer’s carpet. The trial court awarded damages to the customer in the amount of $500.00. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
In Re: Lena G.
E2016-00798-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Lincoln

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the child, Lena G. (“the Child”), who was fifteen years of age at the conclusion of trial. On October 8, 2013, the Washington 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 she has remained since that date. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order on June 11, 2014, adjudicating the Child dependent and neglected in the care of the parents. On November 19, 2014, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child’s mother, Sherry G. (“Mother”), and her father, Teddy G. (“Father”). The trial court admitted Mother’s hospital records as an exhibit during trial over her objection. Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the parents failed to provide a suitable home for the Child, (2) the parents failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plans, (3) the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from the parents’ custody still persisted, and (4) 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 and Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Both Mother and Father have appealed. Having determined that the Child had not been removed from the parents’ home for six months by court order when the petition to terminate parental rights was filed, we reverse the trial court’s ruling regarding the statutory ground of persistence of conditions as to both parents. We conclude that the trial court erred in admitting Mother’s hospital records but determine this error to be harmless. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Washington County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
Joshlin Renee Woodruff by and through Dorothy Cockrell, et al. v. Armie Walker, M.D., et al.
W2016-01895-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The plaintiffs, a mother and her child, filed this health care liability action in September 2015. The complaint alleged that both plaintiffs suffered permanent injuries resulting from the defendant health care providers’ negligent care during the child’s birth in June 2012. The defendants moved to dismiss the mother’s claims based on expiration of the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-116(a)(1) and to dismiss the claims of both plaintiffs based on expiration of the three-year statute of repose in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-116(a)(3). With regard to the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs argued that the mother’s claims were timely filed because the discovery rule delayed the accrual of her claims until March 2015 and because she had been “adjudicated incompetent” within the meaning of Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-106 such that the limitations period was tolled as to her claims. With regard to the statute of repose, the plaintiffs argued that their claims were timely filed because they were entitled to rely on Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c), which extends the three-year statute of repose by 120 days when sufficient pre-suit notice is given. Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that neither the discovery rule nor Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-106 applied to the mother’s claims and that her claims were therefore filed after expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. Additionally, the trial court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient presuit notice because the medical authorizations included in their pre-suit notice did not permit the defendants to obtain their complete medical records. Specifically, the trial court found the authorizations insufficient because they did not permit the defendants to obtain relevant medical records from prenatal treatment that the mother received prior to the date of the delivery. The trial court therefore concluded that the plaintiffs were not entitled to rely on the 120-day extended filing period and their claims were filed after expiration of the three-year statute of repose. The trial court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims, and the plaintiffs appealed. Having reviewed the record submitted on appeal, we hold that the trial court properly dismissed the mother’s claims based on expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. We further hold, however, that the trial court erred in dismissing the child’s claims based on expiration of the three-year statute of repose. Records from prenatal treatment that the mother received prior to the date of the delivery were the mother’s medical records, and the child could not have unilaterally authorized their release. As such, his failure to do so did not render the medical authorizations provided with his pre-suit notice insufficient. The defendants have not asserted any other deficiencies in the child’s pre-suit notice. Because the child provided sufficient pre-suit notice, he was entitled to rely on Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c), which extended the filing period by 120 days. The child’s claims were therefore timely filed prior to expiration of the extended statute of repose in October 2015. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
City of Chattanooga, et al. v. Tax Year 2011 City Delinquent Real Estate Taxpayers
E2016-01853-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

This case involves a request to redeem real property following a tax sale. The trial court entered an order of redemption, divested title out of the tax sale purchaser, and directed the court clerk to refund the tax sale purchaser the money expended to purchase the property, plus other sums. We affirm. Finding the appeal to be frivolous, we remand for a determination of damages pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-1-122.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
Tony Frank et al. v. Ronnie Fields
E2016-00809-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This case involves a claim of undue influence against an attorney-in-fact for his role in changing bank accounts and certificates of deposit owned by the principal to be payable on death to the attorney-in-fact. The principal, or decedent in this action, died at the age of ninety-five in January 2012. The decedent was survived by two nieces and three nephews, one of whom, the defendant, was the decedent’s attorney-in-fact and the personal representative of his estate. The decedent’s two nieces and one other nephew filed a complaint alleging undue influence arising from a confidential relationship. Following a bench trial, the trial court dismissed the complaint upon finding that although a presumption of undue influence had been raised by a confidential relationship between the attorney-in-fact and the decedent, the attorney-in-fact had successfully rebutted the presumption. The plaintiffs appeal. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
Timothy Roberson v. Cherry Lindamood, et al
M2016-01797-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

An inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction filed this lawsuit against three prison employees seeking to recover certain personal property. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice based on the inmate’s failure to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-21-805, which requires inmates wanting to proceed in forma pauperis to submit to the trial court a complete list of every previous lawsuit or claim filed by the inmate. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Wayne County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
In re Casyn B., et al.
M2016-01958-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy R. Brock

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights. The court terminated the father’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by engaging in conduct that exhibited wanton disregard for the children’s welfare, as well as substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. The court found that termination was in the children’s best interests. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Coffee County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
In Re March 9, 2012 Order
W2016-02015-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This appeal involves an attempt to set aside an allegedly void order pursuant to Rule 60.02(3) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court dismissed the petition for multiple reasons, including res judicata. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
Kristie Linley Sibley v. Corey D. Sibley
M2015-01795-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

This is a divorce case. Wife was granted a divorce due to Husband’s inappropriate marital conduct. The trial court then made a division of the parties’ marital property and debt, which included an award to Wife of the marital residence and the equity therein. The court further awarded Wife $1,100 per month for 36 months in rehabilitative alimony and $3,000 in attorney’s fees as alimony in solido. Husband appeals the trial court’s awards of the marital residence and alimony to Wife. Wife seeks attorney’s fees for defending this appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings. Specifically, we affirm the trial court’s award of the marital residence to Wife, and we vacate and remand for additional findings on the issues of alimony and attorney’s fees. We deny Wife’s request for attorney’s fees on appeal.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
Tamala Teague, et al. v. Garnette Kidd, et al.
E2016-01995-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

In this fraudulent conveyance action, a trial by jury resulted in judgment for decedent’s estate against defendants. Defendants filed a motion for a new trial asserting that: (1) the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial after counsel for decedent’s estate made a comment about one of the defendant’s credibility from “past cases” purportedly in the presence of the jury; and (2) no evidence supports the jury verdict. The trial court denied the post-trial motion and affirmed the jury verdict. Defendants appealed. We affirm.

Polk County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
In Re: Jayson M.
E2016-02286-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to visit, contending that he was not properly notified of the hearing to terminate his rights and was denied his right to counsel. Upon review of the record, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
Katrina Parrish v. Michael Griggs
W2015-02504-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Y. Ross

This appeal involves a petition to establish paternity, which was filed when the child was a teenager. DNA testing established the father as the biological father of the child. In the father’s counter-petition for custody, he claimed that, shortly after the child’s birth, the mother informed him that he was not the child’s father. After a two-day trial, the juvenile court entered an order establishing the father’s parentage, naming the mother primary residential parent, and changing the child’s surname to the father’s surname. The court also ordered the father to pay child support retroactive to the date of the child’s birth. On appeal, the father challenges the court’s decision regarding retroactive child support and the court’s exclusion of certain documents from the appellate record. After reviewing the record, we conclude that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying the father’s request for a deviation from the child support guidelines. We also conclude that the court’s error in excluding documents from the appellate record was harmless in this instance. However, we conclude that the court erred in ordering the child’s surname to be changed from Mother’s to Father’s. Therefore, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
Jason Baine v. Brenda Woods
W2016-00583-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ricky L. Wood

A father appeals the denial of his petition to modify a permanent parenting plan. The juvenile court found no material change in circumstance had occurred sufficient to modify the primary residential parent designation. The court also denied the father’s subsequent motion to alter or amend the judgment. Because the father failed to file a transcript or a statement of the evidence, we presume that the evidence presented at trial supported the court’s determination that no material change in circumstance occurred. Therefore, we affirm both the judgment of the juvenile court and the denial of the father’s motion to alter or amend the judgment to conform to the evidence presented at trial. We also find that this appeal is frivolous.

Court of Appeals 05/24/17
In Re Martese P.
W2016-01922-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights. The child was removed from Mother’s custody in November 2013, when the child was twelve months old, after Mother and the child tested positive for drugs. On the petition of the Department of Children’s Services, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected based on the finding that Mother committed severe child abuse as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102. In September 2014, DCS placed the child in the custody of Petitioners. One year later, Petitioners filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse and the finding that termination of her rights was in the child’s best interest. Mother appealed. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/24/17