Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/21/2014
Format: 04/21/2014
Denise L. Heilig v. Roy Heilig
W2013-01232-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Fields

Years after the parties divorced, they agreed to entry of a consent order requiring the mother to cooperate with the father in obtaining passports for the parties’ two minor children. Months later, the father filed a petition for contempt, alleging that the mother had refused to cooperate in executing the necessary documents. The trial court found the mother in contempt for willfully refusing to execute the documents. The mother appeals, arguing that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to enter the order finding her in contempt, citing the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), because the parties no longer live in Tennessee. She also argues that the trial court erred in holding her in contempt. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
In Re Kaliyah S. et al - Dissenting
E2013-01352-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel Swafford

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision. I believe the Trial Court committed no reversible error, and I would affirm the decision of the Trial Court. The majority acknowledges that there are two distinct lines of cases from this Court on this issue. The majority discusses these cases in detail and there is nothing to be gained by my discussing them once again in this dissent. I, however, believe that those decisions holding that in a case involving “aggravated circumstances,” DCS is relieved of making an attempt to reunify the parent and the child best give effect to the intent of our General Assembly.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
In Re Kaliyah S. et al.
E2013-01352-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel Swafford

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Kaliyah S. and Jaya P. (“the Children”), the minor children of Kayla S. (“Mother”). In November 2010, the Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Jaya’s father, Josh P., on November 30, 2010. The petition alleged severe child abuse as the sole ground for termination. DCS filed an amended petition in May 2011, which also named Kaliyah’s father, Rontez L. (“Father”), and alleged that his parental rights should be terminated on the statutory ground of abandonment by wanton disregard. Father was incarcerated at the time the amended petition was filed. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to Mother and Josh P. upon finding that DCS had proven the ground of severe child abuse by clear and convincing evidence. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned Kaliyah by engaging in conduct exhibiting wanton disregard for her welfare prior to his incarceration. When making its ruling, the trial court concluded that DCS was not required to make reasonable efforts to assist Father in reunification because DCS sufficiently proved the statutory ground of abandonment alleged against him. The court also found that termination of the parental rights of all three respondents was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. We reverse the trial court’s determination that DCS was relieved of the requirement of making reasonable efforts of reunification with regard to Father and remand for further proceedings.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
In Re: Riannah M.F.
W2013-02057-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

The trial court found that Petitioners had failed to demonstrate willful abandonment in this action to terminate the parental rights of Mother. We affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
Lataynia Jones v. Sharp Electronics Corporation
W2013-01817-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John R. McCarroll, Jr.

Plaintiff filed an action alleging retaliation and interference in violation of the Tennessee Disabilities Act. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant Employer on the basis that the Act does not require employers to make “reasonable accommodations,” as were required by Plaintiff at the time she was discharged. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
In Re T.F.H. et al
E2013-01147-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mindy Norton Seals

A.F.C. (“Father”) appeals the order terminating his rights to his minor children, T.F.H. and P.F.H. (“the Children”). After a bench trial, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds exist to terminate Father’s parental rights. The court further found, also by clear and convincing evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Father appeals. He challenges the finding of grounds for termination, but not the best-interest determination. We affirm the judgment in all respects.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
Richard A. Berent v. CMH Homes, Inc. et al.
E2013-01214-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

The issue on this appeal is the enforceability of an arbitration agreement. The trial court, applying the principles promulgated in Taylor v. Butler, 142 S.W.3d 277 (Tenn. 1996), held that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because it requires the plaintiff to submit to arbitration virtually all of his claims, while allowing the defendants access to a judicial forum for some of their potential claims. We agree with the trial court that the Supreme Court’s decision in Taylor is controlling and that Taylor mandates a holding that theagreement is unconscionable and unenforceable. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
Dwight O. Satterfield v. Margaret H. Satterfield - Concurring
E2012-02367-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Brewer, Jr.

I concur completely in Judge Swiney’s well-reasoned majority opinion. I write separately to stress the linchpin of the majority’s rationale in rejecting Mr. Satterfield’s first issue.

Blount County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
Dwight O. Satterfield v. Margaret H. Satterfield
E2012-02367-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Brewer, Jr.

This appeal concerns post-divorce alimony issues. Dwight O. Satterfield (“Mr. Satterfield”) and Margaret H. Satterfield (“Ms. Satterfield”) divorced after 31 years of marriage. Mr. Satterfield some years later filed a motion to terminate alimony in the General Sessions Court for Blount County (“the Trial Court”) alleging that Ms. Satterfield had been cohabiting with a man. The Trial Court ruled orally that under the Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”), Ms. Satterfield’s cohabitation did not precipitate termination of alimony. Before an order was entered on his first motion, Mr. Satterfield filed another motion, this time based on the statutory rebuttable presumption that arises if there is cohabitation. The Trial Court held that res judicata resolved the issue and that alimony would not be modified. Mr. Satterfield appeals. We affirm the Trial Court as to its interpretation of the MDA. However, as Mr. Satterfield’s second motion was pending when the first order was entered, the first order was not final and the Trial Court erred in holding in its second order that res judicata resolved the alimony issue. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this matter for further proceedings.

Blount County Court of Appeals 02/28/14
Kendra Kuebler Vachon v. Claude Vachon
M2013-00952-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

This is a divorce appeal. Husband appeals the classification, valuation, and division of certain items in the marital estate, the award of alimony in futuro, and the requirement that he pay a portion an expert witness fee. We vacate the classification and valuation of the furniture which is at issue, vacate the valuation of the stock and the 401(k), and remand those matters for further consideration. We affirm the court’s decision to award alimony, but vacate the award of alimony in futuro and remand for further consideration of the type, amount and duration of the award. We affirm the court’s ruling in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/27/14
James H. Wilkins, et al. v. GGNSC Springfield, LLC DBA Golden Living Center-Springfield, et al.
M2013-01536-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This appeal stems from a case of alleged nursing home abuse and neglect and involves a dispute as to whether a health care power of attorney executed by decedent was effective to authorize the agent to execute an optional arbitration agreement on the decedent’s behalf. The trial court denied the nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the attorney-in-fact did not have authority to sign the optional arbitration agreement on the principal’s behalf. The nursing home appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.
 

Robertson County Court of Appeals 02/27/14
Lyndle Curtis, et al. v. Kathy Parchman et al.
M2013-01489-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge George C. Sexton

Plaintiffs appeal a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Tennessee Right to Farm Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated § 43-26-101 et seq. (“the TRFA”). Plaintiffs own an express ingress/egress easement, a gravel road, that passes through Defendants’ farm. In what Plaintiffs titled a “COMPLAINT FOR ABATEMENT OF NUISANCE AND DAMAGES”, they alleged, inter alia, that Defendants substantially destroyed the utility of their ingress/egress easement by driving heavy farming equipment across and allowing cattle to walk upon the easement. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and monetary damages. Defendants filed a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss contending that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted because the nuisance claim was barred by the TRFA. More specifically, Defendants contended that Plaintiffs failed to allege that Defendants violated any “generally accepted agricultural practices” or a “statute or regulation” in the use or operation of the farm upon which the easement lies. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiffs appeal. We have determined that the TRFA pertains to nuisances alleged to arise from a farm or farm operations but not to claims of unreasonable interference with the use of an ingress and egress easement. We, therefore, affirm the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ nuisance claim, for the complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted for a nuisance arising from a farm or farm operation. However, we have determined the complaint states a separate claim for impairment of and damage to Plaintiffs’ ingress and egress easement, a claim that is not subject to the TRFA. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of the complaint for it states a separate and viable claim for impairment of and damage to Plaintiffs’ ingress/egress easement. Further, this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Stewart County Court of Appeals 02/27/14
Aubrey E. Givens, Administrator of the Estate of Jessica E. Givens, Deceased, et al v. The Vanderbilt University D/B/A Vanderbilt University Hospital, et al
M2013-00266-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda J. McClendon

This is a medical malpractice action arising from the death of Decedent.  Defendants moved to dismiss the action for failure to comply with the notice requirements set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(1).  The trial court agreed and dismissed the action without prejudice.  Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to this court, and we vacated the dismissal order and remanded for further proceedings, holding that section 29-26-121 did not mandate dismissal for noncompliance with its terms.  Givens v. Vanderbilt Univ., No. M2013-00266-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 5773431, at *6 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2013).  Defendants filed an application for permission to appeal our decision.  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application for purposes of remanding the case for reconsideration in light of its decision in Stevens v. Hickman Community Health Care, Inc., – S.W.3d –, 2013 WL 6158000 (Tenn. Nov. 25, 2013).  Upon our reconsideration, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/27/14