Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/07/2020
Format: 06/07/2020
Heather R. Wilder v. Joseph C. Wilder
E2019-00635-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal involves questions of post-divorce child support. In the trial court proceedings, both parties prayed for a modification of support. Additionally, mother pursued an extension of support post-majority for two of her children. While the trial court dealt with the question of post-majority support, it did not address the parties’ requests for modification of the ordinary support owed, father for a decrease, or mother for an increase. Although the trial court addressed post-majority support issues, its order was incomplete even as to those matters, as a specific amount of support was never set. It follows that there is not a final judgment in this case, and we must therefore dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/06/20
Trina Petty as Administrator of the Estate of Ida Mae Ewing v. Robert Burns, MD, PC d/b/a Robert Burns, MD
W2019-00625-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

This is a health care liability case. The trial court granted Appellee’s motion for summary judgment because, inter alia, Appellant failed to provide Appellee with the proper pre-suit notice under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(1). Finding no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/05/20
Alvin Ray, et al. v. Anthony Willougby
W2019-00646-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

A pro se defendant appeals a judgment entered against him on a promissory note. Because the defendant failed to file a transcript or statement of evidence, we presume that the trial court’s findings are supported by the evidence. In light of that presumption, we affirm the judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/05/20
Great American Insurance Company v. Pilot Travel Centers, LLC
E2019-00649-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arises out of a negligence lawsuit. TLD Logistics Services, Inc. (“TLD”), an interstate common carrier, sued Pilot Travel Centers, LLC (“Pilot”) in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). TLD was a customer of Comdata Network, Inc. (“Comdata”), and Pilot was a Comdata vendor. Upon request from TLD, Comdata issued codes for the creation of Comcheks, negotiable draft instruments TLD used to pay workers. Pilot would print and deliver the Comcheks. TLD alleged that Pilot breached its duty of care by failing to ascertain whether Comchek payees were legitimate, thus causing TLD monetary loss when a rogue TLD employee fraudulently caused numerous Comcheks to be issued that were negotiated by Pilot. Pilot filed a motion for summary judgment. Pilot argued in its motion that TLD should have kept better internal safeguards to prevent what happened with its employee, and that TLD was 50% or more at fault in this matter. The Trial Court granted Pilot’s motion for summary judgment. Great American Insurance Company (“Great American”), subrogee of TLD and substituted as plaintiff mid-proceedings below, appeals to this Court. We hold that reasonable minds could disagree as to whether TLD was 50% or more at fault. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/05/20
In Re Neveah M.
M2019-00313-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

Foster parents brought a petition to terminate the parental rights of a biological mother on three grounds, and the trial court granted the petition on all three grounds. Because the foster parents failed to prove any of the grounds by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/04/20
Mark T. Cross v. River Sound Homeowners Association, Incorporated
E2019-01183-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is an appeal from an order of partial summary judgment. Although the trial court attempted to certify its order as final pursuant to Rule 54.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, we hold that such certification was improvident. There being no final judgment before us, we are compelled to dismiss this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/04/20
Janet Lynnette McCormick v. Donny Joe McCormick
W2019-00647-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Wife appeals the trial court’s judgment, arguing that the trial court erred in treating an obligation contained in the parties’ marital dissolution agreement as an alimony obligation rather than a division of marital debt that was extinguished upon the foreclosure of the subject property. In the alternative, Wife contends that the trial court erred in not further reducing or eliminating her alimony obligation. We conclude that Wife waived her arguments concerning the proper classification of this obligation as a marital debt by not raising this argument in the trial court. As to the trial court’s decision regarding modification of Wife’s alimony, we vacate the trial court’s ruling and remand for an order fully compliant with Rule 52.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 03/04/20
Kristin Edge Hunt-Carden v. Jason Vincent Carden
E2018-00175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This appeal involves a marriage of short duration. Following a bench trial, the court granted the wife a divorce and classified and divided the parties’ marital estate. The husband takes issue with the trial court’s classification and division of the marital property, as well as the award of alimony to the wife. The wife seeks attorney fees and costs. We affirm in part as modified and reverse in part.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/03/20
In Re Trinity P.
E2019-01251-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to establish the statutory ground of abandonment for failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume responsibility of the child. The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the trial court.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 03/02/20
Doris Mpoyi v. Richard T. Mpoyi
M2018-01816-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

Ex-Husband appeals from a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”), which was entered several years after the final decree of divorce. Ex-Husband complains that the QDRO grants his ex-wife benefits that she was not entitled to under the final decree of divorce. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 02/27/20
In Re Kyland F.
E2019-01058-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad Lewis Davidson

The parents of a severely abused child appeal the termination of their parental rights. When the child was less than five months old, his primary care physician became alarmed upon discovering that his head circumference had grown at an abnormal rate. Upon being admitted to the hospital for tests, the medical staff noted retinal hemorrhaging and the presence of blood in his cerebrospinal fluid, both of which indicated inflicted trauma. A pediatrician with a subspecialty in child abuse examined xrays that revealed healing fractures in the anterior lateral aspect of multiple ribs, which also indicated child abuse. When investigators from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) interviewed the parents, the father admitted to observing the mother hitting the child in the head and covering his face with a blanket to muffle his cries. The mother told investigators she squeezed and shook the child, but it was the father who struck the child in the head. DCS placed the child in foster care, and both parents were charged with aggravated child abuse. While the parents remained incarcerated, DCS filed a petition to terminate their parental rights on two grounds, severe child abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(4) and 37-1-102(b)(27) and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(14). Following a trial, the court found that both grounds had been proven and that termination of the parents’ rights was in the child’s best interest. We reverse the trial court’s ruling that DCS proved the ground of failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility; however, we affirm the trial court in all other respects. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of both parents’ parental rights.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 02/27/20
In Re Jadarian C. Et AL.
E2019-01710-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on grounds of abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, persistence of conditions, and willingness and ability to assume legal and physical custody or financial responsibility of the children. Mother appeals both the grounds for termination and that termination was in her children’s best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 02/27/20
Joe V. Williams v. Dennis Epperson Et Al.
E2019-00319-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This case involves an appeal to the Bradley County Chancery Court (“trial court”) of an administrative decision by the Building Board of Adjustment and Appeals for the City of Cleveland (“the Board”) to uphold the City of Cleveland’s chief building official’s decision to condemn and order the demolition of a commercial building. Upon a notice of condemnation issued by the chief building official based on the allegedly dilapidated and unsafe condition of the building, the building’s owner appealed to the Board. Following a hearing, the Board upheld the condemnation and demolition order. The owner then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the trial court, requesting, inter alia, that the demolition order be vacated. Following a hearing, the trial court found that the Board’s decision had been supported by substantial and material evidence and accordingly upheld the Board’s affirmance of the condemnation and demolition order. The owner filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the trial court denied. The owner timely appealed to this Court. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/27/20
Michelle Henry v. Richard H. Henry
M2019-01029-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

In this divorce proceeding, Husband appeals the trial court’s award of 60 percent of the marital assets to Wife, the holding that he had gifted his mother’s ring to Wife, and the award of transitional alimony and alimony in futuro to Wife. Upon our review, we affirm the award of alimony and the holding that Husband gifted the ring to Wife, and hold that the issue of the division of the marital estate is waived. 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 02/26/20
Brianna Danielle King v. Aaron Jefferson Daily
M2019-02203-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Darrell Scarlett

The mother has filed a notice of appeal from an order granting the father’s motion to continue the trial. Because the order appealed does not resolve all the claims between the parties, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 02/25/20
Sidney W. White, et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
W2019-00918-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Appellants were injured in a car accident and, with the permission of their insurance company, Appellee State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), settled with the at-fault driver for his policy limits under his coverage with United Services Automobile Association (“USAA”). To fully recover for their injuries, Appellants notified State Farm of their willingness to settle or submit their underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claim to binding arbitration. After evaluating Appellants’ claim, State Farm informed Appellants that it would not offer a settlement for the UIM claim because it believed they had been fully compensated by the payment from USAA. Appellants, in response, demanded that State Farm elect to either participate in binding arbitration or decline arbitration and preserve its subrogation rights under Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1206 (“the Statute”). Believing that its obligation under the Statute was never triggered, State Farm refused to make an election. Appellants filed an action for declaratory judgment asking the trial court to declare that State Farm failed to comply with the Statute. On competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted State Farm’s motion and denied Appellants’ motion. Finding no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/24/20
Brenda Gibbs v. Capital Resorts Group, LLC, Et Al.
E2019-00295-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This appeal involves the denial of a motion to dismiss and to compel mediation and arbitration. The Trial Court determined that the plaintiff had properly challenged the mandatory arbitration provisions of the contract, including the delegation clause, on the basis of fraudulent inducement of the contract including the delegation clause. The Trial Court, therefore, denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss and to compel mediation and arbitration. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 02/24/20
Khaled Eleiwa, et al. v. Suzanne Abutaa f/k/a Izdihar Jabr
W2019-00954-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

Petitioners appeal the dismissal of a petition for civil and criminal contempt related to alleged violations of a permanent injunction against the Respondent. In response, the Respondent appeals the dismissal of two protective orders she concurrently sought against the Petitioners. As the trial court’s order failed to provide sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law for review, we vacate the trial court’s ruling and remand the matter for further consideration.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/24/20
Christina Lee Cain-Swope v. Robert David Swope
M2018-02212-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This is the second appeal stemming from the divorce of the parties. After a remand from this Court, the trial court established the amount of alimony in futuro that Wife owed to Husband based on Wife’s ability to pay and Husband’s need for alimony. The trial court also declined to grant a downward deviation in Wife’s child support payments based on her payment of extraordinary educational expenses. The trial court’s ruling was based on a proposed parenting plan never agreed upon by the parties yet referenced by this Court in its initial opinion. We affirm the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro. However, we vacate the trial court’s denial of a downward deviation and remand the decision to the trial court for further consideration.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/21/20
Tennessee Democratic Party v. Hamilton County Election Commission; Mark Goins In His Official Capacity As State Election Coordinator; And Robin Smith
E2018-01721-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

Political party filed suit against the county election commission and the State election coordinator requesting injunctive relief to prevent a county election commission from allowing a replacement for a candidate in another party’s primary election for the office of state representative who had withdrawn from the race after the qualifying deadline; the plaintiff party also sought a declaration that the withdrawal of the original candidate did not allow for a replacement under the circumstances presented. The primary election ensued, and the replacement candidate advanced to the general election; thereafter, the trial court denied the injunction and granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the action. After the appeal was filed but before argument, the general election was held and the other party’s candidate was elected. We have determined that this case is moot and, accordingly, dismiss the appeal; we deny the request for damages for a frivolous appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 02/21/20
Tyler Cole Deaton v. Katlyn Nicole Williams
W2018-00564-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Nathan B. Pride

This appeal involves a contentious dispute over the designation of the primary residential parent for a child born to the unmarried parties. Having carefully reviewed the voluminous record before us, we reverse the decision of the trial court and designate the mother as the primary residential parent. The case is remanded for entry of a permanent parenting plan consistent with this court’s opinion.

Madison County Court of Appeals 02/21/20
Aaron Patrick Taylor v. Joseph Winston Harsh
M2019-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

Plaintiff filed claims of slander, defamation, and interference with prospective economic advantage against defendant deputy sheriff in his individual capacity. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that he was entitled to immunity. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed plaintiff’s claims on the basis of immunity. Because we cannot discern whether the trial court relied on the proper law in its ruling, we vacate the trial court’s judgment. 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 02/21/20
Marc Douglas Swindle ET AL. v. Karen Goodlow ET AL.
M2019-00529-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This appeal stems from a workplace injury on a construction site. On his first day on the job, Marc Douglas Swindle (“Plaintiff”) fell from the roof of a building that was under construction. It is undisputed that Plaintiff was authorized to work on the job site and that he was working in the course and scope of his employment when injured. What is disputed is the identity of his employer: whether he was in the employ of the general contractor or one of the subcontractors. Plaintiff initially filed a claim with the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, naming the general contractor as his employer; however, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his workers’ compensation claim when the general contractor filed a response stating that Plaintiff was not its employee. Thereafter, Plaintiff and his wife filed this tort action in circuit court to recover damages from the general contractor, two of its subcontractors, and the owner of the property for the injuries he sustained at the construction site. Finding it undisputed that Plaintiff’s injuries were sustained in the course and scope of his employment, the circuit court held that it was without jurisdiction to consider the tort claims because the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy doctrine applied. For these reasons, the court dismissed the complaint. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/20/20
Timothy J. Pagliara v. Marlene Moses et al.
M2018-02188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

Timothy J. Pagliara (“Plaintiff”) filed suit against Marlene Moses and MTR Family Law, PLLC (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), which the Trial Court granted.  Plaintiff timely appealed to this Court.  Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the Trial Court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/20/20
Mona Word v. Knox County, Tennessee, Et AL.
E2018-01843-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal arises from a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the workplace. Mona Word (“Word”), an African-American woman who worked in the Knox County Clerk’s Office for 19 years, sued Knox County Clerk Foster D. Arnett, Jr. (“Arnett”) in his individual and official capacity, Knox County, Tennessee (“Knox County”), and the Knox County Clerk’s Office (“Defendants,” collectively) asserting a number of claims, including violations of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“the THRA”). According to Word, she was denied opportunities for promotion because of her race, and was singled out for discipline because of her race, as well. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granted. Word appealed to this Court. Accepting Word’s factual allegations as true as is required at the motion for judgment on the pleadings stage, we hold that Word alleged enough to withstand Defendants’ motion with respect to certain of her claims against Knox County and Arnett in his individual capacity. However, we affirm the Trial Court’s dismissal of Word’s claims against Arnett in his official capacity and the Knox County Clerk’s Office, as well as Word’s claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The judgment of the Trial Court thus is affirmed, in part, and reversed, in part, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 02/20/20