Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/03/2016
Format: 12/03/2016
Christine Greenwood v. National Dentex Corporation, et al.
W2015-01889-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is a saving statute case, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-1-105. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s third product-liability case, which was filed within one year of the dismissal of her second lawsuit, but more than one year after the entry of the initial nonsuit in Appellant’s first lawsuit. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Peggy L. Smith, Individually and as Trustee of Peggy L. Smith Trust v. Hi-Speed, Inc., et al.
W2015-01613-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This is a breach of contract case related to a commercial property located in Arkansas. Plaintiffs also asserted claims for unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, equitable estoppel, and promissory estoppel. Following a hearing on Defendants‘ motion for partial summary judgment, the trial court dismissed all of the claims except for an alleged breach of contract by Defendant Hi-Speed, Inc. After a bench trial on this remaining claim, the trial court determined that the Plaintiffs were not entitled to any damages. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
Beacon4, LLC v. I & L Investments, LLC
E2015-01298-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody
This case involves a contract dispute over the construction of a “Fireworks Over America” retail store in Blountville, Tennessee (“FOA Project”). The defendant company, I & L Investments, LLC (“I & L”), sought to build the store on an 11.71-acre tract of undeveloped property that it had acquired in November 2010. A contracting and development corporation, Altera Development, Inc. (“Altera”), submitted a bid to complete the site work and building construction for the FOA Project.1 At this time, the plaintiff contractor, Beacon4, LLC (“Beacon4”), had been entering into a relationship with Altera in which Altera would market and secure construction work to be performed by Beacon4. Upon I & L’s acceptance of Altera’s bid, Beacon4 eventually became the designated contractor for both the building and site portions of the FOA project, which was divided into two contracts. On January 28, 2011, Beacon4 obtained its Tennessee general contractor’s license with a monetary limit of $1,100,000.00 plus ten percent. On February 7, 2011, I & L and Beacon4 entered into a site contract, valued at $795,486.00, and a building contract, valued at $1,097,115.00. A certificate of occupancy was granted for the FOA store on May 17, 2011. One year later, Beacon4 filed a complaint alleging that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act of 1991, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 66-34-101 to -602, and breached the parties’ site contract. Beacon4 sought, inter alia, enforcement of a mechanics’ and materialmen’s lien in the amount of $212,856.02 allegedly owed under the site contract. I & L conceded that it had withheld a retainage of $46,942.75 but otherwise asserted affirmative defenses, including, inter alia, that Beacon4 had willfully and grossly exaggerated the lien claim and had violated the Tennessee Contractor’s Licensing Act of 1994, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 62-6-101 to 62-6-521, by dividing the Project into two contracts in order to circumvent its monetary licensing limit. I & L also filed a counterclaim, alleging that Beacon4 had violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-18-104(b)(35). Following a five-day bench trial, the trial court dismissed I & L’s counterclaim and entered a judgment in favor of Beacon4, finding that I & L had violated the Prompt Pay Act and breached the parties’ site contract. The court awarded to Beacon4 $150,390.04 plus six-percent interest per annum, reasonable attorney’s fees, and, upon a post-trial motion, out-of-pocket expenses. The court also granted a lien in favor of Beacon4 on the title to I & L’s Blountville FOA store property. I & L has appealed the trial court’s judgment, and Beacon4 has raised an issue regarding the statutory penalty provided in the Prompt Pay Act and has requested attorney’s fees on appeal. Having determined that the trial court made a typographical error in entering the final award of interest to Beacon4, we modify the award of interest from $32,715.76 to $31,715.76. We affirm the judgment in all other respects. Having also determined that an award to Beacon4 of reasonable attorney’s fees on appeal is appropriate under the PPA, we remand for the trial court to determine reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by Beacon4 during the appellate process. 
 
Sullivan County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In re Adonnias P. et.al.
E2016-01102-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

The Notice of Appeal in this termination of parental rights case was filed pro se by the appellant/mother on May 26, 2016. In it, she indicates her desire to appeal from a final judgment entered on May 5, 2015. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/16
In Re D.R.S.
E2015-01991-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of J.R.S. (Mother) and J.R.S.1 (Father) with respect to their child, D.R.S. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination of the rights of each parent. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother and Father appeal. We affirm as modified.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
In Re E.S.L.
E2015-01709-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon M. Green

This is a termination of parental rights case. M.L. (Mother) and M.O. (Stepfather) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of L.D.D. (Father) to his child, E.S.L. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of two grounds supporting termination. The court also found, by the same standard of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 08/29/16
Tadd Timothy Brown v. Dawn Veronica Brown
M2015-01318-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna B. Johnson

This appeal arises from a finding of criminal contempt in a child support matter. Dawn Veronica Brown (“Mother”) filed a petition for contempt against her ex-husband Tadd Timothy Brown (“Father”) in the Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Trial Court”). In her petition, Mother alleged numerous violations by Father of the parenting plan and marital dissolution agreement, including that Father had failed to pay child support toward their minor child (“the Child”). After a trial, the Trial Court found Father guilty on twelve counts of criminal contempt. Father appeals. We find and hold that the evidence is sufficient to sustain Father’s convictions for failure to pay child support. However, we reverse the count found against Father for his refusal to turn the Child over to maternal relatives rather than Mother over one specific summer week, and modify his sentence accordingly. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Hardin, Parkes, Kelley & Carter, PLLC v. William Rick Holt
M2015-02010-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A law firm sued a former client for unpaid attorney’s fees. The trial court awarded the firm a judgment. The former client appealed but provided no transcript or statement of the evidence. Consequently, we must affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Save Rural Franklin, et al v. Williamson County Government, et al.
M2014-02568-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin, III

Organizations representing property owners in close proximity to a proposed subdivision filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of the regional planning commission’s approval of the proposed subdivision. The planning commission and parties with an interest in the proposed subdivision filed motions to dismiss. After determining that the petition was untimely and the petitioning organizations lacked standing, the chancery court granted the motions to dismiss. The court also determined that the planning commission had acted legally in approving the subdivision. The petitioning organizations appealed. Following our review, we conclude that the statutory period for filing a petition for writ of certiorari began to run from approval of the preliminary plat for the proposed subdivision. Because the petition was filed more than sixty days after the preliminary plat was approved, the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition. Therefore, we affirm the chancery court’s dismissal of the petition.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Daniel Ray Hauf v. Lora Marie Hauf
M2015-00736-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

This appeal involves an obligor’s petition to terminate his $1,500 monthly alimony obligation due to his retirement from overseas contractual government employment. The trial court held that a substantial and material change in circumstances occurred when the obligor elected to not renew his employment contract due to a change in his work schedule and reduced the alimony payments to $900 per month. The recipient appeals. We hold that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s factual findings. Based on our review of the evidence, the obligor failed to demonstrate that a substantial and material change in circumstances had occurred such that a modification of his spousal support obligation was warranted. We reverse the trial court’s decision, reinstate the previous alimony award, and remand for further proceedings.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Arron Wesley Frazier v. Lee Anne Frazier
E2016-01476-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

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 Lee Anne Frazier (Wife) in the parties' divorce proceedings. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Wife, as well as the answer in opposition filed by Arron Wesley Frazier (Husband), we conclude that the Trial Court should have granted the motion because the unique circumstances of this case create an appearance of bias on the part of the Trial Court Judge that required his recusal. We therefore reverse the order of the Trial Court and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Suntrust Bank v. Angela Christina Best a/k/a Christina Best
E2015-02122-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

Angela Christina Best (“Best”) appeals the decision of the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to SunTrust Bank (“SunTrust”) and awarding SunTrust a judgment against Best in the amount of $379.60 plus post-judgment interest and attorney fees. Best raises issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in exercising jurisdiction after finding that the contract at issue in this case contained an arbitration clause, whether the Trial Court erred in granting summary judgment both on SunTrust’s complaint and on Best’s counterclaim, and whether the Trial Court erred in granting SunTrust’s attorney’s fees allegedly in excess of those allowed under the contract. We find and hold that the arbitration clause in the contract never was triggered, that SunTrust made a properly supported motion for summary judgment, that Best failed to show any genuine disputed issues of material fact, and that SunTrust was entitled to summary judgment both on the complaint and on Best’s counterclaim. We further find and hold that the attorney’s fees awarded were in excess of those allowed under the contract. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment and modify the award of attorney’s fees to comply with the contract.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
In Re Lillian D.
E2016-00111-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case involving a two-year-old child, Lillian D. (“the Child”). On October 7, 2013, the Knox County Juvenile 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. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child’s biological mother, Penelope D. (“Mother”), in the Knox County Juvenile Court on January 26, 2015.1 Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was mentally incompetent to care for the Child and that the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from Mother’s custody still persisted. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that terminating Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/26/16
Deborah Lacy v. HCA Tristar Hendersonville Hospital, et al
M2015-02217-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This appeal arises from an involuntary dismissal after the close of plaintiff’s proof under Rule 41.02(2) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The pro se plaintiff submitted a statement of the evidence, and the defendants objected, requesting that the statement of the evidence be excluded from the record. The trial court sustained the objection and excluded the statement of the evidence from the record. We vacate the order of dismissal and remand for the trial court to make findings of fact. Because the trial court was required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure to approve a statement of the evidence, we also remand for supplementation of the record.    

Sumner County Court of Appeals 08/25/16
In re Devin B.
W2016-00121-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This is an appeal of an order dismissing Father's petition to enroll judgment in Tennessee and motion to modify a parenting plan due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The juvenile court found that Tennessee was not the Child's home state, pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement Act, on the day of the proceeding or within the six months prior to Father's filing his petition. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/25/16
Cindy Hatfield, et al. v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, et al.
W2016-01510-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal de novo as required by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, § 2.06, we affirm the denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/25/16
Tasha Dayhoff v. Joshua D. Cathey
W2016-00377-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

This is the second appeal in this custody dispute between unmarried parents. After establishing parentage of the minor children, the juvenile court entered a permanent parenting plan without hearing sworn testimony. On appeal, this Court vacated the parenting plan and remanded for an evidentiary hearing. Before the hearing on remand, the mother relocated from West Tennessee to Middle Tennessee with the children. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and determined that the parental relocation statute applied to the court’s decision. The trial court first found that the mother’s move had no reasonable purpose and was vindictive and then concluded that it is in the children’s best interest for the father to be designated primary residential parent. The mother appeals. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/25/16
Melinda Duncan, et al. v. Cheryl L. Ledford MD, et al.
W2015-02370-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

This is a healthcare liability case. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, Appellant’s treating physician and her employer. Summary judgment was based on the trial court’s finding that Appellants had failed to meet their burden of proof to show that Appellee doctor deviated from the standard of care or that the treatment provided caused Appellant to sustain injuries that otherwise would not have occurred. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/24/16
Mark A. Shempert, et al. v. Kim Wright Cox, Personal Representative ad litem for the Estate of Robert Davis
W2015-02161-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

This is an appeal of an order granting the unnamed defendant’s motion for summary judgment. After being involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, the plaintiff brought suit against his uninsured motor vehicle insurance carrier seeking coverage under the policy. The insurance carrier moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was operating a vehicle not insured under the policy but available for his regular use, and therefore, was not covered under the policy. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/16
Ray Duffy, et al. v. Danny Elam
W2015-01456-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

This appeal involves an unauthorized sale of a trailer by a third party. The circuit court held that the original owner of the trailer, who holds the certificate of title, is entitled to possession of the trailer rather than the party claiming to be a bona fide purchaser. The purchaser appeals. We affirm.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 08/24/16
Adedamola O. Oni v. Tennessee Department of Health, et al.
M2015-01841-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In an earlier proceeding, we determined that a physician violated three different provisions of the Medical Practice Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 63-6-214(b)(1), (2), and (20). We remanded the case to the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners (the “Board”) to determine the appropriate sanction. On remand, the physician argued the case had become moot because his medical license was not renewed and had become automatically revoked by operation of law. The Board disagreed and voted to revoke the physician’s license as punishment for his violations. The physician appealed, and the chancery court vacated the Board’s decision on the basis that the Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the physician’s license once it was automatically revoked. The State appealed, and we reverse the chancery court’s judgment. We conclude that the Board had subject matter jurisdiction to sanction the physician for his conduct while his license was active, even though the license was not active at the time the sanction was imposed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/23/16
Steve Kirby Kucinski v. Magali Ortega
M2015-00481-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

In this divorce action, the husband appeals the award of alimony in futuro, asserting that the award should be overturned because the wife was awarded substantial marital property or, alternatively, that due to changed circumstances, the award of alimony is inappropriate. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/23/16
Carla Suzanne Jackson v. City of Cleveland
E2015-01279-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

Plaintiff, who had served as a police officer for the City of Cleveland Police Department since 1990, was fired on September 12, 2011, eleven months after filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Four months after her termination, Plaintiff filed suit in federal court asserting, inter alia, claims of sexual discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation against the City of Cleveland under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. She asserted that the discriminatory acts continued until January 18, 2012, when she was interviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for allegedly filing false timesheets while employed by the Department. All claims in the federal court action were dismissed without prejudice on August 13, 2013. On August 12, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action in the Circuit Court for Bradley County asserting the same state-law claims. After answering the complaint, the city filed a motion for summary judgment seeking the dismissal of all claims based on the one-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff opposed the motion contending the action was timely filed due to the combined effect of the continuing violation doctrine, see Booker v. The Boeing Co., 188 S.W.3d 639, 649 (Tenn. 2006), and 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), which suspends the running of the state statute of limitations while a federal suit is pending and for 30 days after dismissal. The trial court dismissed all claims as time-barred upon the finding that they arose from the discrete act of terminating Plaintiff’s employment in September 2011. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 08/22/16
In Re Estate of Lana Hopson Reed
E2015-02372-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This case arises from an exception to a claim filed against decedent’s estate. Appellant/Administratrix filed an exception to a claim brought by the Appellees, who are the decedent’s parents. The trial court found that the Statute of Frauds, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-2-101, was not applicable to bar the claim. The trial court further held that the claimed amount was a loan to the decedent and not a gift as Appellant argued. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Greene County Court of Appeals 08/22/16
Sandra Clark et al v. Christopher Powers
E2015-02226-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

This interlocutory appeal presents an issue regarding whether a cause of action related to an automobile accident was barred by the running of the statute of limitations as a result of a lack of compliance with the service of process requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 3 upon the defendant tortfeasor. The plaintiffs assert that their counsel had entered into an agreement with the defendant’s liability insurer, acting on behalf of the defendant, to forbear service of process until settlement negotiations ended and litigation ensued. Upon an offer of settlement from the defendant’s liability insurer, the plaintiffs notified their underinsured motorist carrier of their intent to accept the liability insurer’s offer to pay the amount of its policy limit. The underinsured motorist carrier elected to pay the amount of the liability insurer’s policy limit in order to protect its subrogation rights against the defendant. The underinsured motorist carrier subsequently began corresponding with the plaintiffs’ counsel and investigating the plaintiffs’ claim on its own behalf. Following the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations period, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based upon lack of service of process. The underinsured motorist carrier thereafter filed a similar motion. The trial court, upon considering documents outside the record, converted the motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment. The motions were denied. The defendant and the underinsured motorist carrier sought and were granted permission for an interlocutory appeal. Discerning no error in the trial court’s denial of summary judgment to the defendant and the underinsured motorist carrier, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/19/16