Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/18/2017
Format: 08/18/2017
In Re: Wesley P.
W2016-02131-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is the second appeal regarding the termination of Father’s parental rights with respect to this child. On October 22, 2014, the trial court entered an order terminating both Mother’s and Father’s rights to their son based on a finding of severe abuse and a determination that it was in the child’s best interest that both parents’ rights be terminated. Mother and Father appealed that determination to this Court. On May 29, 2015, this Court issued an opinion, In re Wesley P., No. W2014-02246-COA-R3-PT, 2015 WL 3430090 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 29, 2015), affirming the trial court’s finding of severe abuse but reversing the termination of parental rights on the basis that it was not in the best interest of the child to do so at that time. On January 12, 2016, DCS filed another petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights, alleging several grounds for termination. Mother subsequently surrendered her parental rights to the child voluntarily, and her rights are not subject to this appeal. After a full hearing, the chancery court found by clear and convincing evidence that all grounds for termination alleged against Father existed and that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Tracy Darrell Adkins v. Rhonda Forlaw Adkins
M2017-00495-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

After the trial court denied Wife’s motion to set aside the mediated Marital Dissolution Agreement and Permanent Parenting Plan and entered its order declaring the parties divorced, Wife filed a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge. The judge denied the motion, and Wife timely filed her petition for recusal appeal seeking an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of her motion. We affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
Kim L. Higgs v. John C. Green
M2016-01369-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal arises from a two-car accident. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the collision occurred because Defendant violated several statutory rules of the road by failing to yield the right of way and making a turn across traffic without confirming it was safe to do so. Defendant denied any negligence and claimed that Plaintiff was more than 50% at fault. Following a trial, the jury found that Plaintiff was 75% at fault; as a result, judgment was entered for Defendant. On appeal Plaintiff contends she is entitled to a new trial for two reasons. She contends the trial court abused its discretion by limiting the testimony of the investigating police officer to what the parties told him at the scene and to matters that are reflected in his accident report. She also contends she is entitled to a new trial due to jury misconduct. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
Chase Home Finance, LLC v. Jo Ann Street
W2016-01026-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

Appellant appeals from the trial court’s decision granting a judgment of possession to the Appellee bank. Because of profound deficiencies in Appellant’s brief, we hold that her arguments are waived. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
Michael Todd Sansom v. Amanda Jane Sansom
M2016-01111-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley


This is a post-divorce child custody and parental relocation case. Father petitioned the trial court to modify the parties’ parenting plan to designate him as the minor child’s primary residential parent and to allow him to relocate the child from Tennessee to Virginia. Mother opposed Father’s petition and filed a counter-petition requesting the court modify the residential parenting schedule to reflect Father’s move to Virginia. The trial court found that a material change in circumstances existed to permit an examination of whether changing the child’s primary residential parent from Mother to Father was in the child’s best interest. After an analysis of the best interest factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106(a), the court concluded that it would be in the child’s best interest to remain in Tennessee with Mother as her primary residential parent. The court also adopted Mother’s proposed residential parenting schedule. The trial court then calculated Father’s retroactive and prospective child support obligations and awarded Mother the attorney’s fees she incurred in defending Father’s petitions and successfully pursuing her own. Father subsequently filed a Rule 59 motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment and to reopen the proof in the matter. The trial court denied Father’s request and awarded Mother additional attorney’s fees she incurred in defending the motion to alter or amend. Father has appealed the trial court’s determination that Mother should remain the child’s primary residential parent, the new residential parenting schedule, the court’s application of Tennessee’s parental relocation statute, the calculation of the income of the parties, the calculation of child support, and the award of attorney’s fees. We conclude that the trial court erred in calculating the amount of Father’s monthly gross income. The award of child support is therefore vacated and remanded for reconsideration. We affirm the judgment of the trial court in all other respects. We decline both parties’ requests for attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Deborah Lacy v. HCA Health Service of TN, Inc., et al.
M2016-01027-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

Plaintiff appeals the dismissal of her case and the award of sanctions against her. The trial court dismissed the action for failure of Plaintiff to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act. Plaintiff also argues that the trial court engaged in judicial misconduct. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment as modified.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Sherra Robinson Wright v. The Estate of Lorenzen Vern-Gagne Wright, et al.
W2016-01251-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This case involves a divorced party’s request to recover unpaid child support and alimony. The petitioner filed her lawsuit in the Shelby County Circuit Court, which denied her request for relief. Although the petitioner appeals, we conclude that the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction over the petitioner’s claims. Because the petitioner’s ex-husband is deceased and the claims at issue are against the ex-husband’s estate, the petitioner was required to file her claims against the estate in the Shelby County Probate Court. We therefore vacate the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Franklin Square Towne Homeowners Association Inc., et al. v. Joseph B. Kyles, et al.
W2016-02018-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This case involves a dispute over property. The trial court ruled that the defendants’ driveway and air conditioner pads encroached onto the plaintiffs’ property but declined to order their removal. Rather, the trial court awarded the plaintiffs damages and ruled that the encroachments could remain in place. Both parties appealed. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that plaintiffs’ action with regard to the driveway is not barred by the Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-2-103 statute of limitations. We reverse the trial court’s ruling, however, to note that any action regarding the air conditioners and their placement is barred by the section 28-2-103 statute of limitations. We also reverse the trial court’s ruling allowing the driveway to remain in place.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Tina Yvette Vaughn v. Methodist Hospital Staff & Aministration
W2016-00422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment, dismissing Appellant’s defamation lawsuit against Appellee. The trial court held that Appellant’s claim sounded in slander. Because Appellant filed her lawsuit more than six months after the offending statements were made, the trial court granted summary judgment on the sole ground that the applicable statute of limitations for slander, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-103, had run. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Kandi L. Smith v. Britani N. Thorne
M2016-01966-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth R. Goble


This appeal involves child support for two minor children, H.T. and C.B. (“the Children”). Upon a prior dependency and neglect petition, the Montgomery County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) had awarded custody of the Children to their grandmother in an order entered December 29, 2010. The court had also granted the Children’s mother weekly visitation and ordered the mother to pay $410.00 monthly in child support. In April 2011, the State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the grandmother, filed a petition to set child support, which the trial court dismissed upon finding that support previously had been set. In December 2011, the State issued an administrative order, finding that the mother owed an arrearage of $4,510.00 and ordering her to pay an additional $205.00 per month. The mother subsequently filed a petition seeking custody of the Children and naming the grandmother as the respondent. Without notice to the State, the mother and the grandmother announced agreements to the trial court, which the court memorialized in two agreed orders: (1) a March 13, 2015 order returning custody of the Children to the mother and granting reasonable visitation to the grandmother and (2) a May 28, 2015 order waiving all child support arrearages owed to the grandmother, directing the mother to pay a $1,488.00 child support arrearage to the State at a rate of $50.00 per month, and reinstating the mother’s driver’s license. In September 2015, the State filed a petition for criminal contempt against the mother for failure to pay child support. The State subsequently filed a “motion to reconsider or set aside” the May 2015 agreed order, citing Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying the State’s motion, directing the mother to pay the $1,488.00 arrearage to the State she previously had agreed to pay, and issuing an attachment for the mother’s failure to appear and failure to pay support. The State has appealed. Having determined that, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159(a), the circuit court has sole jurisdiction to consider this appeal flowing from a dependency and neglect action, we transfer this appeal to the Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
In Re: Addison P.
E2016-02567-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This is the second appeal of this case. In the first appeal, this Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the trial court only for a determination of whether mother’s failure to visit the child was willful. On remand, the trial court found that mother’s failure to visit the child was willful. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence established the ground of willful failure to visit by an incarcerated parent. We also affirm the trial court’s determination that termination is in the child’s best interest. Consequently, we affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
In Re: Estate of Laura Copeland Farmer
M2016-01300-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Thomas Gwin
This appeal arises from a will contest. The decedent-mother had four children but left the majority of her estate to one daughter. The three plaintiff-siblings allege that the defendant-daughter exercised undue influence over their mother to induce her to change her will before she died. In the midst of a bench trial, the trial court entered an involuntary dismissal sua sponte at the close of plaintiffs’ proof. The trial court found that a confidential relationship existed between the decedent-mother and the defendant daughter, but the court also found by clear and convincing evidence that the mother was not influenced in the execution of her will. For the following reasons, we vacate the dismissal and remand for further proceedings.
 
Wilson County Court of Appeals 05/05/17
Deborah Lacy v. Saint Thomas Hospital West, et al
M2016-01272-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers


Appellant brought a pro se action against several medical providers for injuries sustained when she was allegedly beaten during medical procedures. The trial court dismissed the complaint, under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02, for failure to comply with the procedural requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA). On appeal, Appellant contends that she was not obligated to comply with the THCLA’s procedural requirements because her claim was based in tort and did not assert a health care liability claim. After reviewing the complaint, we conclude that it asserts several distinct claims, some of which are health care liability claims and some are not. We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the health care liability claims, but reverse the trial court’s grant of Appellees’ motions to dismiss the non-health care liability claims.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/04/17
In Re Damien G.M. - dissenting opinion
E2016-02063-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kurt Andrew Benson

The first referral in this matter occurred on October 31, 2014. It involved “drug exposure of [Damien and his older sibling].” On December 15, 2014, there was a second referral to DCS, again for “drug exposure.” Methadone and methamphetamine were involved in the children’s care, or, more aptly, their non-care.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/03/17
In Re Damien G.M.
E2016-02063-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kurt Andrew Benson

This is a termination of parental rights case. Father/Appellant appeals the termination of his parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to provide a suitable home and willful failure to support; (2) substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan; and (3) persistence of the conditions that led to the child’s removal from Father’s home. Father also appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of his parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because Appellee has failed to meet its burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, any of the grounds for termination of Father’s parental, we reverse and remand.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/03/17
Bob Travis d/b/a Travis Company v. Nathan Ferguson d/b/a Northside Auto Sales
M2016-00833-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

Appellant purchased a vehicle, owned by Appellee, from an auto auction company. After the purchase, Appellant discovered that the vehicle’s engine was defective, a fact that was not disclosed prior to sale. Appellant sought rescission of the purchase against Appellee but did not name the auto auction company as a defendant. Because the rescission and warranty of merchantability statutes, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 47-2-608 and 47-2-314 require privity of contract between the buyer and the seller, and because the automobile auction statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-19-128 clearly identifies the auction company as the seller of the vehicle, we conclude that Appellant did not have a cause of action for rescission against Appellee. Affirmed and remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/03/17
In Re Tyler G.
M2016-02170-COA-R9-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This interlocutory appeal concerns whether the circuit court may sever a termination of parental rights proceeding from an adoption proceeding, which were filed together in the circuit court, and transfer only the termination of parental rights proceeding to the juvenile court in another county. Reversed and remanded.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 05/03/17
In Re Bryson B.
E2017-00322-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Cotton, Jr.

This is an appeal by the appellant, Amanda M.-B., from an order terminating her parental rights to her minor child. The order terminating the appellant's parental rights was entered on December 12, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until February 13, 2017, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The Attorney General, on behalf of the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the record confirms that the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.

Scott County Court of Appeals 05/03/17
In Re Jeremiah N., et al.
E2016-00371-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

The maternal grandmother of three children filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the father of each child on various grounds and to allow the grandmother to adopt the children; the children’s mother joined in the petition for the purpose of consenting to the termination of her parental rights and to the adoption. Two of the fathers were incarcerated at the time of the proceeding and the father of the third child was unknown. The trial court terminated the rights of the father of one child on the grounds of abandonment by engaging in conduct prior to his incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the welfare of his child and on the ground that the father had been convicted of an offense and was under a sentence of more than ten years; the court terminated the rights of the father of another child on the grounds of abandonment by failure to support and visit his child within the four months preceding his incarceration and by engaging in conduct prior to his incarceration which exhibited a wanton disregard for the welfare of his child. The fathers of these children appeal. We reverse the judgment terminating the parental rights of one father on the ground of abandonment by failure to support and the judgment terminating the rights of the other father on the ground of abandonment by engaging in conduct evidencing a wanton disregard for his child; in all other respects, the judgments terminating the parental rights of the fathers are affirmed.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 05/02/17
Jonathan Fitzrandolph Zink v. Rural Metro of Tennessee, L.P. et al.
E2016-01581-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi Davis

In this action regarding injury allegedly caused by an emergency medical technician in the course of rendering medical aid, the trial court determined that the plaintiff’s claims were subject to the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”) and dismissed the claims with prejudice based on the plaintiff’s failure to file a certificate of good faith pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-122. The plaintiff has appealed, conceding that his claims sounded in health care liability but asserting that they should not have been dismissed with prejudice because a certificate of good faith was not required. Following our review of the complaint, we conclude that the plaintiff’s claims were subject to the common knowledge exception such that a certificate of good faith was not required pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-122. We therefore reverse the trial court’s dismissal with prejudice and remand this matter to the trial court for entry of an order dismissing the plaintiff’s claims without prejudice based upon his failure to provide pre-suit notice.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/02/17
Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee v. Board of Zoning Appeals Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, et al
M2016-01732-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

A billboard company and the owners of the property upon which two billboards sit (“the defendants”) appeal the decision of the trial court holding that the board of zoning appeals erred in issuing building permits to the defendants to allow them to replace static display billboards with digital display billboards. Because we agree with the trial court’s conclusion that the ordinance at issue is a lighting regulation, not a zoning regulation, and that Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-208 therefore does not apply, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/02/17
Emily Grubb Wade v. Jeremiah Kent Wade
E2016-01426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

In this divorce action, the chancery court named Father the primary residential parent of the parties’ child. During the pendency of this appeal, Mother filed a dependency and neglect petition in juvenile court, and the juvenile court found the child dependent and neglected and awarded custody to Mother. We, therefore, remand this case to the chancery court to reconsider its decision in light of the juvenile court’s order.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 05/01/17
Carl C. Smith, II v. Anderson County Sheriff Paul White, et al.
E2016-00656-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancelor M. Nichole Cantrell

This is an employment termination case involving a civil service employee. The petitioner was employed as a law enforcement officer with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department (“the Department”) when the Department received notice from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) that the petitioner had been “indicated” as a perpetrator of child abuse in a DCS investigation pending in Roane County. The petitioner was placed on voluntary administrative leave. Upon subsequent notification that the DCS indication had been upheld through administrative review, the Department terminated the petitioner’s employment in November 2009. The petitioner appealed the termination to the Civil Service Board of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department (“the Board”). While the appeal to the Board was pending, the petitioner filed a petition in the Roane County Chancery Court, seeking judicial review of DCS’s administrative decision. Upon review, the Roane County Chancery Court entered a judgment on August 3, 2012, reversing the classification and directing DCS to change the classification from “indicated” to “unfounded.” Through his counsel, the petitioner contacted Anderson County Sheriff Paul White to request reinstatement of his employment, but Sheriff White denied the request. Following a hearing conducted on August 6, 2013, the Board affirmed the Department’s termination decision and denied the petitioner’s motion for reinstatement filed during the hearing. The petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and review of the Board’s decision with the Anderson County Chancery Court (“trial court”) on September 4, 2013, naming the Board and Sheriff White as respondents (collectively, “Respondents”). The petitioner then filed a motion for partial summary judgment, averring that he had not been provided constitutionally sufficient notice of misconduct justifying termination. Following a hearing, the trial court, with Chancellor William E. Lantrip presiding, granted partial summary judgment in favor of the petitioner in an order entered February 27, 2014. The Respondents filed a “motion to revise order,” pursuant to Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 54 and 59. Following a hearing, the trial court, with Chancellor M. Nicole Cantrell now presiding, vacated the prior order granting partial summary judgment and affirmed the Board's decision. The petitioner has appealed to this Court. We affirm the portion of the trial court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decision to uphold the initial termination. However, having determined that the Board’s decision to uphold the denial of reinstatement was not supported by substantial and material evidence and yielded an arbitrary and capricious result, we reverse the trial court’s affirmance of the Board’s decision to uphold Sheriff White’s denial of the employee’s September 2012 request and the Board’s denial of the petitioner’s motion for reinstatement. We remand for entry of an order to reinstate the petitioner to his employment and a determination of back pay and other damages to be calculated from the point of his September 2012 request for reinstatement.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 05/01/17
Carolyn Ann Talley v. Clinton Eugene Talley
E2016-01457-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

In this divorce action, the trial court valued and allocated the parties’ marital assets. The court also awarded the wife alimony in futuro in the amount of $1,800 per month while awarding the wife attorney’s fees as alimony in solido in the amount of $35,710. The husband has appealed. Discerning no error in the trial court’s marital property division, we affirm that distribution. Furthermore, we affirm the award of alimony in futuro and attendant life insurance requirement. We modify the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to the wife to the amount of $29,060. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/01/17
Jade C. Nunnally v. Adam Nunnally
E2016-01414-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

In this divorce action, Wife appeals the trial court’s designation of Husband as the primary residential parent for their daughter. For his part, Husband contends the trial court erred by awarding Wife unsupervised visitation. He also contends the child support award is based on an erroneous determination of the parties’ gross monthly income. Finding no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/28/17