Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/26/2021
Format: 01/26/2021
Teresa Grimes Kidd, Et Al. v. James Q. Dickerson, Et Al.
M2018-01133-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

In this health care liability action, the surviving daughter of a woman who died as a result of a stroke brought suit as executrix of her mother’s estate and as her next-of-kin against two physicians and their practice group as well as a pharmacist who filled a prescription for her and the pharmacist’s employer. Plaintiff alleged that the death occurred due to a stroke her mother suffered as a result of taking the drug Pradaxa, which had been prescribed by the defendant doctors and filled by the defendant pharmacist and the defendant pharmacy (the “pharmacy defendants”).  The trial court granted summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants on all claims, holding that the proof submitted by Plaintiff was insufficient to establish the element of causation; the court granted summary judgment to the defendant doctors on Plaintiff’s claims that their negligence caused and hastened the decedent’s death, and the claim that the doctors did not have the decedent’s informed consent to administer Pradaxa; the court granted summary judgment to one doctor on all claims; and the court denied summary judgment to one doctor and the practice group on the remaining claims.  Plaintiff appeals the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants and the doctors; the remaining doctor and practice group appeal the denial of their motions for summary judgment on the remaining claims.  Upon ourde novo review, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants; we affirm the grant of summary judgment to Dr. Thomas Farmer in toto; we affirm in part the grant of partial summary judgment to the doctors and their group and remand for further proceedings on whether the nurse practitioner’s actions caused Ms. Grimes’ injury and suffering during the period of October 20 until she was stabilized in the hospital, as well as whether the remaining doctor and practice group are liable for that negligence under a respondeat superior theory.

Maury County Court of Appeals 10/05/20
In Re: Lijah D. Et Al
E2019-02297-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This appeal arises from the trial court’s finding that grounds exist for terminating a mother and father’s parental rights to four children, and its finding that termination is in the children’s best interest. In this appeal, the parents contest only the best-interest determination. They contend termination was not in the children’s best interests because, inter alia, the Department of Children’s Services failed to use “reasonable efforts” to help them make a lasting adjustment to their circumstances. We affirm the trial court’s determination that the grounds of severe abuse and persistent conditions were proven and that termination of the parents’ rights is in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of both the mother and the father’s parental rights.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/05/20
In Re Cortez P.
E2020-00219-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court concluded that three grounds supported the termination of the father’s rights and also concluded that termination was in the child’s best interest. Although we reverse one ground for termination found by the trial court, we affirm the trial court as to the remaining grounds. Further, we conclude that the record supports the trial court’s holding that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 10/02/20
In Re: Estate Of Wawana Lynn Brakebill
E2019-00215-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Weaver

Attorney Herbert Moncier (“Claimant”) brought this action for prejudgment and/or post-judgment interest on an award of $667,681.80 in attorney’s fees charged by Claimant for legal services rendered to W. Lynn Brakebill (“Decedent”). Claimant also sought an award of attorney’s fees against Decedent’s estate for his pro se legal work done in litigating the issues pertaining to his fees charged as an attorney. The trial court denied prejudgment and post-judgment interest and held that Claimant could not recover attorney’s fees for his time expended representing himself. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/02/20
Cameo Bobo v. City of Jackson, Tennessee
W2019-01578-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Appellant appeals the denial of her motion under Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Because Appellant's brief fails to comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss this appeal.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/30/20
In Re Braden K.
M2020-00569-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sammie E. Benningfield, Jr

This case involves a petition to terminate the parental rights of a mother filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. In the petition, the Department alleged five grounds for termination of the mother’s parental rights. The juvenile court found that all five grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence and that it was in the best interest of the child to terminate the mother’s parental rights. As a result, the juvenile court granted the petition, and the mother appealed. We affirm the juvenile court’s ruling and remand.

White County Court of Appeals 09/30/20
Marcus Belton, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00526-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

A minority business owner sued the City of Memphis and two city officials alleging that the City wrongfully terminated his service contract and contracted with two non-minority owned companies for similar services in violation of state and federal law. The trial court ruled that the business owner failed to prove that race was a motivating factor in the City’s decision. On appeal, the business owner contends that the trial court erred in excluding relevant evidence and refusing to grant a mistrial after opening statement. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/20
Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Et Al. v. Tennessee Department of Education, Et Al.
M2020-00683-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

Davidson and Shelby counties sued the State of Tennessee to challenge the constitutionality of the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program. The trial court found that both counties had standing and that the act was unconstitutional under  paragraph 2 of article XI, section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution. The State and intervening defendants appealed. We affirm

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/29/20
Sun, Air, Water, & Land, Inc. v. Harold M. "Jack" Reynolds
M2019-01581-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

The holder of a promissory note sued the maker. On a motion for summary judgment, the trial court granted the holder a judgment for the outstanding balance of the note plus interest. On appeal, the maker contends that the holder’s claim is barred by the doctrine of laches. If the claim is not barred, the maker argues that he is entitled to a set-off. We agree with the holder that the maker waived his laches argument. And the maker’s set-off claim fails for lack of mutuality. So we affirm.  

Sequatchie County Court of Appeals 09/29/20
Travis Kanipe v. Pragnesh Patel MD
E2019-01211-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This appeal arises from a health care liability lawsuit. In 2013, Sandra Kanipe (“Ms. Kanipe”) died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection while in the care of Dr. Pragnesh Patel, M.D. (“Dr. Patel”). Travis Kanipe (“Mr. Kanipe”), Ms. Kanipe’s son, sued Dr. Patel in the Circuit Court for Hamblen County (“the Trial Court”). After a trial, the jury found in favor of Dr. Patel. The Trial Court granted Mr. Kanipe’s motion for a new trial on grounds that Dr. Patel had, through his testimony, shifted blame to a non-party despite having never pled comparative fault. After a second trial, the jury found in favor of Mr. Kanipe. Dr. Patel appeals, arguing among other things that he never shifted blame. From our review of the record, we conclude that Dr. Patel did, in fact, shift blame to a non-party when he testified in the first trial that the nurses never notified him of Ms. Kanipe’s ongoing chest pain. In view of our Supreme Court’s holding in George v. Alexander, 931 S.W.2d 517 (Tenn. 1996), the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion in ordering a retrial. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 09/28/20
Elizabeth Kerr Et Al. v. Lydia Henderson Et Al.
E2020-00112-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John C. Rambo

In this case involving the inheritance of an investment account, the three plaintiffs filed a complaint in September 2016, asserting, inter alia, that a letter executed by their father prior to his 2007 death had operated to create an express trust concerning the account, for which their stepmother had acted as trustee with the understanding that the plaintiffs were to be the beneficiaries of the account after her death. The plaintiffs alternatively sought imposition of a constructive trust. The plaintiffs’ stepmother, who is the subject decedent in this action, had died in April 2016. The plaintiffs initially named as defendants the co-executors of the decedent’s estate, as well as the financial institution holding the investment account. The trial court subsequently entered agreed orders to dismiss the financial institution as a party and to substitute as defendants the decedent’s three adult children from a previous marriage. Upon competing motions for summary judgment and following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that an express trust had been created by the writings of the plaintiffs’ father and that, alternatively, a constructive trust should be imposed based on the combined writings and actions of the plaintiffs’ father and the decedent. The defendants filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the trial court denied following a hearing upon finding in part that new evidence submitted by the defendants should not be considered. The defendants have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 09/28/20
Highlands Physicians, Inc. v. Wellmont Health System
E2019-00554-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E. G. Moody

In this class action lawsuit involving an association of physicians alleging breach of an agreement by the defendant hospital corporation, a three-week jury trial resulted in a verdict of more than $57 million in damages. The trial court denied the defendant’s posttrial motions and subsequently awarded over $5 million in attorney’s fees and expenses. The defendant has appealed. Determining that the trial court erred in failing to submit the attorney’s fee issue to the jury, we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and expenses and remand the issue to the trial court for determination by a jury. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 09/25/20
In Re Cheyenne S. Et Al.
E2019-01659-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children. The juvenile court determined that four statutory grounds supported terminating her parental rights: abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; failure to substantially comply with the permanency plan; persistence of conditions; and her failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of her children. The court also determined that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interests of her children. Upon our review, we conclude there was clear and convincing evidence supporting both the grounds for termination and the best interest determination. So we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/24/20
Shawn Thacker, Et Al. v. Sheila Marie Wilbanks
M2019-02031-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

Two children and two individuals who are neither biological nor adopted children of an intestate decedent contend that they are entitled to the decedent’s life insurance proceeds based on an alleged breach of contract between them and the decedent’s ex-girlfriend, who was the life insurance policy’s named beneficiary. The trial court found that the alleged contract failed for lack of consideration. We affirm the trial court’s decision. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/23/20
Roger Griffin v. Board of Zoning Appeals For Rutherford County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2019-02043-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Darrell L. Scarlett

This case concerns the decision of the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals (“BZA”) to deny a property owner’s application for a special exception to operate a major home-based business on his residential property. The property owner filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court, and the court upheld the BZA’s decision. Discerning no error, we affirm the Chancery Court’s decision. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/23/20
Nedra Finney v. Miles Jefferson Et Al.
M2019-00326-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna Bell Johnson

In a letter sent to high-ranking school officials, parents claimed that a special education teacher had denied their child an appropriate education based on the child’s needs and improperly used physical restraints on the child. The parents also claimed that the teacher had ignored them at a school event and did not communicate with them for a month afterward. The teacher sued the parents for defamation. The trial court granted summary judgment to the parents, reasoning primarily that the parents had not published the letter. The court also reasoned that the statements in the letter were not defamatory and that the parents did not act with actual malice. We conclude that some of the statements in the letter were not defamatory but others were capable of being understood as defamatory. For those statements capable of conveying a defamatory meaning, the record lacked evidence of actual malice. So we affirm the grant of summary judgment. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/23/20
David Timothy Dungey v. Doris Anne Dungey
M2020-00277-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In this post-divorce case, Doris Anne Baumgaertner (“Mother”) appeals the trial court’s decision to deny her request to relocate the parties’ minor son (“Child”) to Germany. She also appeals the decision to change the primary residential parent designation from her to David Timothy Dungey (“Father”). We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/23/20
Stephanie Keller Et Al. v. Estate of Edward Stephen McRedmond, Et Al.
M2019-00094-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In a previous appeal, we affirmed a trial court’s decision to hold a party in contempt, but we vacated the award of compensatory damages. Keller v. Estate of McRedmond, No. M2013-02582-COA-R3-CV, 2018 WL 2447041, at *6 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 31, 2018). We remanded the case to the trial court for a calculation of the damages solely attributable to the contemptuous conduct. Id. On remand, the trial court entered an amended judgment. In this appeal, among other things, the contemnor argues that the amount of damages awarded lacks a sufficient evidentiary basis. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the amount of damages awarded, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/22/20
Sima Khayatt Kholghi v. Reza Aliabadi
M2019-01793-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

This is an appeal from a divorce proceeding. The parties were married for around thirty years, during which time the husband built a successful business and the wife was a homemaker and stay-at-home mother to the parties’ two children. After five days of trial, the trial court classified, valued, and divided the parties’ sizeable marital estate; awarded the wife alimony in futuro; and ordered the husband to pay a portion of the wife’s attorney’s fees. Both parties raise various issues on appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the circuit court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
Bobby Bailey Jr., Et Al. v. U.S.F. Holland, Inc., Et Al.
M2018-01674-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This suit was brought under the Tennessee Human Rights Act by two African-American employees against their employer and their union to recover for alleged discrimination that created a hostile work environment. At issue in this appeal is the grant of summary judgment to the union on the basis that it did not cause or attempt to cause the employer to discriminate. Upon our de novo review, we conclude that the evidence presented at the summary judgment stage negated an essential element of the Plaintiffs’ claim and thus summary judgment was warranted. Judgment affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
Michael Lee Brown v. Jennifer Karen Brown
M2019-00693-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathryn Wall Olita

Divorcing parents of a minor child agreed to all terms of the divorce other than the permanent parenting plan. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court designated the father as the primary residential parent. The mother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
Valerie Louise Augustus, M.D. v. Tennessee Department of Health, Et Al.
M2019-01502-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

Appellant, a psychiatrist, was sanctioned by the Board of Medical Examiners for violation of the Tennessee Medical Practice Act. The Chancery Court for Davidson County affirmed the Board’s action, and Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
In Re Estate of Martha B. Schubert
E2019-02069-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

This is the second appeal of this action concerning the construction of the last will and testament of the decedent. In the first appeal, we reversed the trial court’s finding that the property at issue vested in her designated heir at the time of the decedent’s passing. Upon remand, the trial court held that the property vested when the personal representative executed warranty deeds for the property at issue, despite the fact that the deeds were never recorded. We now uphold the trial court’s ruling and remand for further proceedings necessary for the distribution of the estate.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
Clara Manley, et al. v. Humboldt Nursing Home, Inc.
W2019-00131-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

After a nursing home resident died, her daughter filed a wrongful death action against the facility. The nursing home moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement signed by the daughter when her mother was admitted to the facility. The daughter claimed that she lacked authority to sign the arbitration agreement for her mother. The trial court agreed and denied the motion to compel. On appeal, we conclude that the Federal Arbitration Act required the trial court to resolve the issue of whether an agreement to arbitrate had been formed. Because the nursing home failed to establish an agreement to arbitrate had been formed with the patient, we affirm.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 09/18/20
John Anthony Gentry v. Former Speaker Of The House Glen Casada Et Al.
M2019-02230-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal

A citizen filed a petition of remonstrance with the Tennessee General Assembly and then filed a petition for writ of mandamus in chancery court requesting that the legislative chambers be ordered to hear and consider his petition of remonstrance. The trial court dismissed the petition for writ of mandamus on the basis that the petitioner was not entitled to mandamus relief. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/17/20