Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/22/2014
Format: 09/22/2014
Doris Guyear, Heir of Leroy Guyear, Deceased v. Joey Blalock, Et AL.
M2012-01562-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The owner of a promissory note died, and his widow filed a complaint in the name of his estate to collect the unpaid balance, even though her late husband’s estate had never been opened. She subsequently amended her complaint to designate herself as the plaintiff in her capacity as her late husband’s wife and next friend. The obligors on the note filed a motion for dismissal, contending that the widow had not demonstrated that she was a proper plaintiff or that she had any right to collect on the note. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. We affirm.

Grundy County Court of Appeals 07/23/14
In Re Estate of Arthur E. Wair, Jr.
M2014-00164-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy, Sr.

This appeal arises from alleged violations of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act (“TAPA”). Arthur E. Wair, Jr. (“Decedent”) executed a last will and testament leaving his entire estate to his friend and accountant, Larry Mullins (“Mullins”). After Decedent died, his siblings Sidney Wair, Ralph Wair, and Juanita Jackson (“Plaintiffs”) sued Mullins in the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) not as a will contest but instead alleging that Mullins had exercised undue influence over their brother to manipulate him into executing the will all in violation of TAPA. Mullins filed a motion to dismiss, which the Trial Court granted. Plaintiffs appeal. We hold, inter alia, that any claim for abuse or neglect under TAPA was barred by the one-year statute of limitations for personal torts, and that Plaintiffs otherwise failed to state a claim under TAPA. We affirm the Trial Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/14
In Re Chandler M. - Concurring and Dissenting
M2013-02455-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Faris

I concur fully in everything in the majority’s decision except the majority’s determination that the statutory ground of termination found in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1113(g)(6) was proven byclear and convincing evidence. I believe the language of the statute itself is dispositive:
 

Franklin County Court of Appeals 07/21/14
In Re Chandler M.
M2013-02455-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Faris

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights to the Child. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment, persistence of conditions, and confinement under a sentence of ten years or more. The court further found that termination of his rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s termination of Father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment and confinement under a sentence of 10 years or more.  However, we reverse the trial court on the ground of persistent conditions.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 07/21/14
Samuel Bridgefourth, Jr. v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc.
W2013-02468-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rubert Samual Weiss

Plaintiff’s car was repossessed. Plaintiff paid the amount owed, but never received the car. Plaintiff sued and won a judgment for conversion. He was also awarded attorney’s fees, first as special damages and then, in an amended order, as punitive damages. Defendant appeals. We reverse because attorney’s fees cannot be awarded as punitive damages and no statute or contract involved in this case provides for attorney’s fees.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/21/14
Ok Nan Kim Lambert v. Mark Stephen Lambert
M2013-01885-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal involves the interpretation of two marital dissolution agreements. The parties married, divorced , and then remarried each other. They stayed remarried for a few years and then divorced again. In both divorces, the parties entered into a marital dissolution agreement. Years later, after the husband retired from military service, this litigation was commenced regarding the award of a portion of the husband’s military retirement benefits to the wife. The trial court held that the wife’s award of benefits was based on the combined duration of both marriages. Both parties appeal. The husband argues that the trial court erred in not limiting the wife’s award to the duration of the first marriage only. We construe the parties’ marital dissolution agreement as awarding the wife the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits, irrespective of the duration of marriage. Thus, we decline to adopt the husband’s argument. The wife does not argue on appeal that the trial court erred in failing to award her the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits. Accordingly, we are constrained to affirm the trial court’s decision to base the award on the combined duration of both of the parties’ marriages.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
Cheryl Hall v. James H. Crenshaw, M.D., The Jackson Clinic Professional Association, et al.
W2013-00662-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. KIrby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This interlocutory appeal involves ex parte communications between defense counsel for a defendant medical entity and non-party physicians who treated the plaintiff’s decedent and are employed by the defendant medical entity. The plaintiff filed this healthcare liability action against the defendant medical entity arising out of treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. The trial court held that the attorneys for the defendant medical entity are barred under Alsip v. Johnson City Medical Center, 197 S.W.3d 722 (Tenn. 2006), from conferring ex parte with treating physicians employed by the defendant medical entity who are not named as defendants in the lawsuit. The defendant medical entity was granted permission for this interlocutory appeal. We hold that the defendant medical entity has an independent right to communicate privately with its employees, and this right is not abrogated by the filing of the plaintiff’s healthcare liability lawsuit. Therefore, Alsip does not bar the medical entity’s attorneys from communicating ex parte with physicians employed by the medical entity about the physician employee’s medical treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. Accordingly, we reverse.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
Hanna (John) Nazi, et al. v. Jerry's Oil Company Inc.
W2013-02638-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Nathan B. Pride

In this contract dispute, the parties disagree as to whether the signatory of the contracts may be personally liable thereon, as well as to whether the contract provides for a fuel surcharge. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
Robert Maloney v. Gloria Maloney
W2013-02409-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen R. Williams

Husband and paramour are represented by two partners in the same law firm. Wife sought to disqualify Husband’s attorney. The trial court granted the motion to disqualify, citing the inevitability of conflict. Husband appealed. We reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the motion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/17/14
Jean Marie Bailey v. Billie Carson Bailey
E2013-02195-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

In this post-divorce action, the petitioner sought to terminate or modify his spousal and child support payments. The trial court terminated the petitioner’s child support obligation, lowered the monthly spousal support amount, and reduced the spousal support arrearage owed. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 07/17/14
Nashville Metro Government v. New Orleans Manor, Inc., et al.
M2013-00706-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

Metropolitan Government filed suit for recovery of delinquent real property taxes on property leased by the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. Taxpayers filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding, asserting that its obligation to pay taxes arose from its lease obligation and was extinguished when the Airport Authority released taxpayers from all obligations under the lease. Metropolitan Government moved for summary judgment on the ground, inter alia, that the taxpayers did not have standing to challenge the taxes because they had failed to pay the tax under protest as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 67–1-901; the trial court granted the motion. We affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
Michael O'Neil v. Clinically Home, LLC
M2013-01789-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Laurence M. Mcmillan, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

The Chief Executive Officer of a Company and the Company executed an Employment Agreement that covered, among other issues, consequences of termination with or without cause, either by the Officer or by the Company. A year or so later, the Officer called a meeting and issued an ultimatum to the board of directors threatening to resign if certain changes were not made. The Company later wrote a letter to the Officer accepting his resignation without “Good Reason” as defined in the Employment Agreement. The Officer asserted the Company terminated him “without cause” and that he did not resign. The Company responded that it did not terminate the Officer,but simply accepted his resignation. The Officer filed a complaint seeking severance pay and other benefits he claimed he was entitled to pursuant to the Employment Agreement.  The trial court agreed with the Officer and granted his motion for summary judgment.  The Company appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
In Re: The Adoption of Male Child A.F.C. By: C.M.C. and D.F.C., and J.L.B.
M2013-00583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

Parents of a child born of a surrogate mother with an anonymously donated egg and the father’s sperm and Tennessee Department of Health appeal order entered in consolidated parentage and adoption proceedings which required the live birth certificate issued for the child to list the mother as “unknown.” Having determined that the definition of “mother” for the purpose of completing the birth certificate is the same as that used in preparing the standard birth certificate promulgated bythe National Center for Health Statistics,we reverse the trial court’s decision and hold that the gestational carrier should be listed as the mother.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 07/16/14