Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/21/2017
Format: 10/21/2017
Christopher Lea Williams v. John Buraczynski
E2016-01605-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal arises from a motor vehicle accident. Christopher Lea Williams (“Williams”) and John Buraczynski (“Buraczynski”) both worked for Progression Electric, LLC (“Progression”). In January 2015, Buraczynski was driving his vehicle with passenger Williams as part of a carpool arrangement when they were involved in an accident. Williams subsequently claimed he was entitled to and received workers’ compensation benefits. Williams then sued Buraczynski, personally, in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Buraczynski filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Williams’ exclusive remedy was in workers’ compensation. The Trial Court granted Buraczynski’s motion. Williams appealed. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/19/17
Christopher Charles Milner v. Suzanne Cary Milner
E2017-00274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

The January 12, 2017 order to which the Notice of Appeal is directed in this post-dissolution case did not adjudicate a pending motion to modify child support or the pending issue concerning whether the appellant “wrongfully” received benefits from the Social Security Administration for the benefit of the parties’ minor child based upon the step-father’s disability. As such, it is clear that the order appealed from does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below and is not a final judgment from which an appeal as of right would lie. We therefore lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Carter County Court of Appeals 07/19/17
In Re: Bryson F.
E2016-01303-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the mother and stepfather sought termination of the biological father’s parental rights to his child. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination on the statutory ground of abandonment for failure to remit child support. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the child. The father appeals. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 07/17/17
Jonelle Hyde v. South Central Tennessee Development District
M2015-02466-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Defendant that admitted liability for vehicle accident appeals the award of damages to the injured Plaintiff, contending that the awards for lost wages, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, past and future, loss of ability to enjoy life, past and future, and permanent impairment awards, are against the preponderance of the evidence. Upon a thorough review of the record, we modify the award for past medical expenses; affirm the awards for past pain and suffering, permanent impairment, past loss of ability to enjoy life and for loss of ability to enjoy life in the future, and for lost wages; reverse the award for future pain and suffering; and vacate the award for loss of earning capacity and remand the case for further consideration of the award.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County v. RSF Investors, LLC
M2016-02221-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal arises from an enforcement action by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) against the owner of a restaurant located within the Broadway Historic Preservation District in Nashville, Tennessee. Metro commenced the action to require the owner to comply with Metropolitan Code of Laws (M.C.L) § 17.40.410 and the preservation permit the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission (“the Commission”) issued upon the application of the owner. Following discovery, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Metro’s motion and denied the owner’s motion. The order required the owner to remove the portion of the installation that did not comply with the permit. This appeal followed. The owner raises three principal issues. It contends: (1) the glass panels it was ordered to remove do not fall within the purview of the Commission; (2) Metro cannot enforce a permit that has expired; and (3) summary judgment is inappropriate because material facts are in dispute. Metro contends we lack jurisdiction to hear this appeal because the appeal is untimely. We have determined the appeal is timely, and the issues raised by the owner are unavailing. Therefore, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Karen H. Foster v. Douglas S. Foster
M2016-01749-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This post-divorce case involves the interpretation of a paragraph in a marital dissolution agreement regarding the allocation of a portion of Husband’s military retirement benefits to Wife. Both parties petitioned the trial court to interpret the terms of the agreement. The trial court held that the agreement awarded Wife 33% of Husband’s actual disposable military retirement pay at the rank of Captain (his rank at the time of the divorce). On appeal, Husband contends that the award was intended to be alimony in solido calculable at the time of the divorce based on the value of his accrued benefits at that time. He also contends that Wife should be bound by her acknowledgment in pre-litigation discussions of $465.86 per month as the correct amount of the award. Having considered the issues advanced on appeal, we agree with the trial court’s interpretation of the marital dissolution agreement and affirm its judgment in all respects. Additionally, we hold that Wife is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees incurred on appeal pursuant to the terms of the marital dissolution agreement and remand this case to the trial court for a determination of the appropriate amount of those fees.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Trina A. Scott v. Sharfyne L'Nell White
M2015-02488-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

A judgment creditor moved to extend her judgment for an additional ten years under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04, and the trial court issued an order requiring the judgment debtor to show cause why the judgment should not be extended. Almost a year later, the judgment debtor filed a motion for relief from the judgment based upon an error in the certificate of service on the show cause order. In her response, the judgment creditor acknowledged that the address shown for the judgment debtor was incorrect but stated that, after the order was returned by the post office, it was mailed to the correct address. The judgment creditor also asserted that the motion for relief was premature because the court had not yet entered an order extending the judgment. The trial court entered an order extending the judgment for an additional ten years. We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/14/17
Zella Balentine v. City of Savannah, Tennessee
W2016-01865-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

This appeal results from the trial court’s ruling that the city was allowed to demolish appellant’s home based on her failure to bring the building into compliance as required by the settlement agreement reached by the parties. Based on appellant’s failure to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Rules of the Court of Appeals, we decline to address the merits of the case and dismiss the appeal.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Rickey Joe Taylor v. Town of Lynnville - Concurring
M2016-01393-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

I concur in the majority’s opinion, but I write separately to express my concern regarding one facet of statutory interpretation in this case.

Giles County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Rickey Joe Taylor v. Town of Lynnville
M2016-01393-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

This is an appeal from a dispute litigated under the Tennessee Public Records Act. Although the trial court concluded that the Town of Lynnville violated the Act by denying the petitioner’s request for records, the court held that the denial of records was not willful. Accordingly, the petitioner’s request for attorney’s fees was denied. Having reviewed the record transmitted to us on appeal, we disagree with the trial court’s determination that the denial of records was not willful and reverse the trial court on this issue. In light of our conclusion that the denial of records was willful, we remand the case to the trial court to reconsider its decision to deny an award of attorney’s fees. We also remand for a determination of Mr. Taylor’s costs and attorney’s fees incurred in this appeal.

Giles County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Floyd E. Rayner, III v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al
M2017-00223-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Appellant, an inmate in the custody of Appellee Tennessee Department of Correction, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his petition for declaratory judgment under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, Appellant challenges the Tennessee Department of Correction’s calculation of his criminal sentence, and also challenges the constitutionality of the criminal statutes, under which he was convicted. We conclude that the calculation of Appellant’s sentence comports with the judgments of the criminal court. Appellant’s constitutional arguments challenge his criminal sentence. As such, he has no recourse under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Affirmed and remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
In Re: Quintin S., et al.
E2016-02150-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert M. Estep

The Department of Children’s Services filed this petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and two fathers of four children on various grounds. We affirm the termination of the parental rights of all three parents on multiple grounds, but reverse as to some of the grounds found by the trial court. We agree with the trial court’s decision that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Alexander A. Stratienko, et al. v. Oscar H. Brock, et al.
E2016-01467-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This is a jury case arising from the formation and management of a limited liability company. The jury determined that the Appellee developer was entitled to payment for his membership interest in the LLC. The jury also determined that the Appellant investor, his wife, and the LLC should indemnify the developer for the judgment relating to the lease of an adjacent lot. Because there is material evidence to support the jury’s verdict, we affirm and remand

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/13/17
Randall Eugene Denton v. Deborah Meadows Denton
W2017-00472-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Appellant, a sixty-nine year old retiree, was found guilty of civil contempt for failure to comply with a marital dissolution agreement. We reverse the trial court’s order incarcerating Appellant “until payment of the debt” and instead order his immediate release from incarceration based upon his inability to pay the debt.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Kevin Cash v. Turner Holdings, LLC a/k/a Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
W2016-02288-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This case involves the application of the doctrine of res judicata. Appellant filed a complaint against appellee alleging retaliatory discharge, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the first lawsuit. The trial court granted appellee’s Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss “in its entirety.” Appellant thereafter filed a second lawsuit against appellee alleging the same causes of action. The trial court granted summary judgment to appellee based on the doctrine of res judicata. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Andrea Renae Hopwood v. Corey Daniel Hopwood
M2016-01752-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this post-divorce proceeding, father appeals the trial court’s finding that he was guilty of civil contempt in failing to pay court-ordered financial obligations relative to the parties’ divorce. We affirm the trial court’s finding that Father was in willful contempt of court, but reverse the trial court’s decision to jail Father until he made an $8,122.43 purge payment.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Charles Stinson, et al. v. David E. Mensel, et al.
M2016-00624-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This appeal involves a dispute between landowners over an easement on Plaintiffs’ property that allows the Defendants to use the easement for ingress and egress to their homes. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the Defendants unlawfully bulldozed the easement, encroached onto Plaintiffs’ property, and used threats and intimidation to prevent the Plaintiffs from coming on or using the non-exclusive easement. Defendants counter-sued, alleging that the Plaintiffs were actually the ones engaging in a campaign of harassment, and that the Plaintiffs were preventing the Defendants from the peace and enjoyment of the easement, which they used as their driveway. Following a bench trial, the trial court concluded that Plaintiffs were liable to Defendants for nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. The trial court also enjoined the Plaintiffs from having any use of the easement. Plaintiffs appealed. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and partially vacate the injunction. Specifically, we affirm the judgment of the trial court with respect to the nuisance claim, reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to the intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy claims, and vacate the permanent injunction against Plaintiffs to the extent that it prohibits them from the lawful use of their property.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Danny Jones, et al. v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, et al.
W2016-00717-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

The Plaintiffs’ home was sold at foreclosure in May 2011. By way of a suit filed in the Shelby County Chancery Court, the Plaintiffs sought rescission of the foreclosure sale and asserted claims for breach of contract, violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, promissory estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation. The trial court dismissed these claims following the filing of a motion for summary judgment by the Defendants. Discerning no error based on our review of the record, we affirm the action of the trial court for the reasons expressed herein.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/12/17
Ann Calfee, et al v. Tennessee Department Of Transportation, et al
M2016-01902-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This case involves an attempt by several landowners to challenge a permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation that allowed the placement of water pipelines along two state highways to connect an industrial facility to the Nolichucky River. The trial court dismissed the complaint based on its conclusion that none of the plaintiffs had standing to maintain this action. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Rita Goins v. Eugene Lawson, et al.
E2016-01406-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

Rita Goins (“Plaintiff”) appeals the May 9, 2016 order of the Circuit Court for Campbell County (“the Trial Court”) dismissing her case. Plaintiff’s notice of appeal was filed on July 8, 2016, more than thirty days from the date of entry of the May 9, 2016 final order. As the notice of appeal was not filed timely, we are constrained to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Jennifer Kate Watts v. Scottie Lee Watts
W2016-01189-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

In this divorce case, the parties owned three businesses that comprised a large portion of their marital estate. Prior to trial, they entered into a written agreement providing that they would retain a business valuation expert to analyze two of the three businesses and that they would accept the expert’s findings as conclusive evidence of their value at trial. At the outset of trial, Wife requested a continuance to allow the expert more time to complete the valuations. Despite having ordered Wife to sign a document retaining the expert five days earlier, the trial court denied the continuance and ordered the parties to proceed with trial. As a result, Wife did not present any evidence of either business’s value at trial. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s award of a divorce to Wife. However, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Wife’s request for a continuance and that the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are insufficient to enable a meaningful appellate review of its property division. We also conclude that the trial court’s rulings with regard to the Ferjo art collection, the two rings gifted to Wife during the marriage, and the children’s private school tuition expenses are not supported by the evidence in the record. As such, we affirm the trial court’s permanent parenting plan except that we vacate that portion of the plan concerning the children’s private school tuition expenses. On remand, the trial court should make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether an upward deviation in child support is appropriate in this case in light of the parties’ stated willingness to share the children’s private school tuition expenses equally. We affirm the trial court’s award of the original Ferjo painting to Wife as her separate property. We hold that the Ferjo reproductions should be classified as marital property and the two rings gifted from Husband to Wife during the marriage should be classified as Wife’s separate property on remand. We vacate the remainder of the trial court’s property division and remand to the trial court for an equitable division of martial property consistent with this opinion. Finally, we vacate the trial court’s rulings on spousal support and attorney’s fees and direct the trial court to reconsider those issues on remand following its equitable distribution of marital property.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
In Re: Gabrielle W.
E2016-02064-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

In this appeal the biological father to the child at issue sought to set aside the Final Order of Adoption. Following a hearing, the trial court declared the Final Order of Adoption void on its face, finding that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the biological father to terminate his parental rights. The guardian failed to sign his notice of appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-124(d), requiring us to grant the father’s motion to dismiss the guardian’s appeal and leave in place the trial court’s decision to void the Final Order of Adoption.

Greene County Court of Appeals 07/11/17
Dawn Brown v. Maurice Nunley
W2016-00646-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is an appeal from the entry of a six-month order of protection. Because the order of protection has already expired by its terms, we dismiss the appeal as moot.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/10/17
Deborah Lacy v. Hallmark Volkswagen Inc. of Rivergate, et al.
M2016-02366-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A customer at a car dealership filed suit against the sales manager and others for injuries she allegedly sustained due to an assault and battery by the sales manager. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants because Plaintiff failed to submit any affidavits setting forth specific facts that showed a genuine issue existed for trial, as required by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendants. Perceiving no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to Defendants.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/10/17
Nedra B. Drayton v. Cooper Moving Services
W2017-00718-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

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 judicial recusal filed by Nedra B. Drayton (“Plaintiff”) in her case against Cooper & Cooper Moving, Inc. DBA J. Cooper Self-Storage, Inc., identified in the style of the case below as Cooper Moving Services (“Defendant”). Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Plaintiff, and discerning no reversible error in the Chancellor’s ruling, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/10/17