Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/26/2021
Format: 01/26/2021
Karthik Rajendran v. Mary Florence Rajendran
M2019-00265-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Mother appeals the trial court’s decision to award the parties equal parenting time and to allow the parties to make major educational decisions jointly. We reverse the trial court’s decision to order alternating weekly parenting time and vacate the trial court’s decision regarding major educational decisions. 

Sumner County Court of Appeals 09/16/20
Benjamin McCurry v. Agness McCurry
E2020-01085-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

The Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant, Agness McCurry, stated that the appellant was appealing the judgment entered on August 17, 2020. As the August 17, 2020 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Washington County Court of Appeals 09/15/20
Tkach Stokes v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC
W2019-01983-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

In this health care liability action, the defendant moved to compel arbitration based upon an agreement entered into between the parties that provided for binding arbitration. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s motion, taking specific umbrage at a provision in the parties’ agreement that indicated the expenses of arbitration would, by default, be subject to a 50/50 split. Contending that he was unable to pay for arbitration expenses, the plaintiff opposed enforcement of the arbitration agreement by advancing a cost-based unconscionability defense. Although the defendant acted to relieve the plaintiff of this asserted burden by offering to pay for the costs of arbitration, the trial court held that the subject fee-splitting provision in the agreement was unconscionable and denied the motion to enforce the agreement and compel arbitration. For the reasons stated herein, while we agree with the trial court that, under the facts of this case, the fee-splitting provision was unconscionable, we hold that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/15/20
Stephen Boesch v. Jay R. Holeman Et Al.
E2019-02288-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This appeal concerns a disassociated partner’s buyout. Stephen Boesch (“Boesch”), Jay Holeman (“Holeman”), and Richard Fraser (“Fraser”) formed a partnership to start a flavored-moonshine and whiskey business, Tennessee Legend. Boesch contributed technical know-how and labor. Early on, Boesch was disassociated from the partnership. Boesch sued Holeman and Fraser (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Chancery Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) alleging, among other things, misappropriation of trade secrets. Later, Crystal Falls Spirits, LLC, an entity created by Holeman, intervened to sue Boesch. At trial, the parties put on competing proof as to the value of Boesch’s interest. Ultimately, the Trial Court adopted Defendants’ value and rejected Boesch’s trade secrets claim. Boesch appeals. Because the experts failed to contend with Tenn. Code Ann. § 61- 1-701, which governs the determination of a disassociated partner’s buyout price when a partnership is not dissolved, we reverse and remand for a new determination in keeping with the statute’s requirements. Otherwise, we affirm the Trial Court’s judgment. We, therefore, affirm in part, and reverse, in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/14/20
In Re Brayla T.
M2019-02265-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Melissa Thomas Blevins-Willis

In this termination of parental rights action, the father has appealed the trial court’s final order terminating his parental rights to the minor child, Brayla T. (“the Child”) based on several statutory grounds. The mother and the stepfather filed a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights and to allow the stepfather to adopt the Child after the juvenile court adjudicated the Child dependent and neglected as to the father. The trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the father’s parental rights upon its determination by clear and convincing evidence that the father had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to visit the Child and had failed to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody of or financial responsibility for the Child. The trial court also found clear and convincing evidence of two statutory grounds applicable solely to putative fathers. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest to terminate the father’s parental rights. The father has appealed. Having determined that the evidence presented at trial did not support a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the father was a putative father, we reverse as to those two statutory grounds applicable only to putative fathers. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 09/14/20
Generation 4 Recycling Group, LLC v. Triumph Aerostructures, LLC - Vought Aircraft Division
M2019-01668-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is an action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment that arises from an alleged breach of confidentiality during a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) process. The RFP contained a confidentiality provision stating that the defendant would “maintain strict confidentiality of all information provided in response to this RFP.” The plaintiff submitted the lowest bid, but after two requests for revised proposals, which the plaintiff declined to provide, the defendant awarded the contract to another business. In its complaint, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant revealed information about the plaintiff’s proposal to the other bidders in violation of the confidentiality provision to encourage them to lower their bids and, as a consequence, the plaintiff sustained damages. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged the defendant disclosed to the other bidders that they were not the lowest bidder and the percentage by which their bids exceeded the average bid. Following discovery, the trial court summarily dismissed all claims. This appeal followed. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the unjust enrichment claim on the ground that there was a valid contract. We also affirm the dismissal of the breach of contract claim on the ground that there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s contention that the defendant breached the agreement or that the alleged breach caused the plaintiff to sustain damages.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/11/20
In Re Paisley H. Et Al.
E2020-00174-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Casey Stokes

Father appeals the trial court’s decision to allow grandparent visitation. We vacate and remand the trial court’s order because the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact for us to review its decision regarding its subject matter jurisdiction.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 09/10/20
In Re A.V.N.
E2020-00161-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This case involves a petition to terminate the parental rights of a mother and father. The petitioners alleged four grounds for termination against both parents: (1) abandonment by failure to visit; (2) abandonment by failure to support; (3) persistence of conditions; and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent. The trial court found all four grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court also found that it was in the best interest of the child to terminate both of the parents’ rights. The mother and father appealed separately. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/10/20
Craftique Construction, Inc. v. Anthony G. Justice, Et Al.
E2018-02096-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This is an appeal of a case involving a contract dispute. Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
Staci L. Hensley v. Stokely Hospitality Properties, Inc.
E2019-02146-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

In this premises liability case, the plaintiff appeals the trial court’s dismissal of her claims against a hotel based on her failure to satisfy the notice requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 15.03 for amending her complaint to add a new party. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
In Re Treylynn T., et al. - Dissent
W2019-01585-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

In this case, the trial court ruled, and the majority affirms, that Mother’s conviction for child endangerment is preclusive evidence that she committed severe abuse in this dependency and neglect action. Because I believe that the majority opinion fails to consider the effect of the diversion that Mother received, I must respectfully dissent.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
In Re Treylynn T., et al.
W2019-01585-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is a dependency and neglect case. Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received a referral of possible child abuse. Following Appellee’s investigation, the children were placed in foster care. Both parents were arrested on child abuse charges. Thereafter, Appellee initiated a dependency and neglect action in the juvenile court. In her criminal case, Appellant/Mother entered a best interest/Alford plea to the charge of child endangerment. Subsequently, the juvenile court found the children dependent and neglected. On de novo review, the trial court found that: (1) Mother’s Alford plea was dispositive of her guilt on the child endangerment charge; (2) Mother committed severe child abuse under Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-102 (b)(27)(C); and (3) the children were dependent and neglected. Mother appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
In Re Ky'Auri M.
E2019-02276-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

A review of the record on appeal reveals that the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment. As such, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/08/20
James Warlick Ex Rel. Jo Ann Warlick v. Linda Kirkland
M2019-01576-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

This is an action to set aside a quitclaim deed. In the Complaint for a Declaratory Judgment, the attorney-in-fact for the plaintiff alleges that the plaintiff was not competent to execute the quitclaim deed, that she did not intend to convey title to the property, and she did not receive consideration for the conveyance. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case-in-chief and upon the motion of the defendant, the court directed a verdict in favor of the defendant. The court found, inter alia, there was no competent evidence to support the allegations that the plaintiff was not competent to execute the quitclaim deed, that fraud occurred, or that a fiduciary duty owed to the plaintiff was breached, and there was no proof presented that the parties lacked a meeting of the minds. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
In Re Estate of Johnny Baxter Vaughn, Jr.
M2019-01611-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Stella L. Hargrove

In her proposed final accounting, the administrator of an intestate estate sought court approval for, inter alia, the decedent’s funeral expenses and routine administrative expenses, including her attorney’s fees. She also sought to recover the costs she incurred to repair and sell the decedent’s house pursuant to an agreed order. The administrator is the decedent’s widow, and the remaining heirs, who are the decedent’s children from a prior marriage, opposed her request for reimbursement. The court denied her claims for post-death expenses finding “they were not timely filed because any request for reimbursement was required to be filed pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307.” The court also denied the administrator’s request to recover her attorney’s fees upon the finding that the legal services did not benefit the estate. We affirm the denial of the administrator’s request to recover her attorney’s fees. However, we have determined that the other “claims” for reimbursement of post-death expenses are not subject to the limitation provisions in Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307. This is because the statute pertains to debts and liabilities incurred by or on behalf of the decedent prior to his death. All of the expenses at issue were incurred after the decedent’s death; therefore, we reverse the trial court’s ruling that the administrator’s post-death “claims” were time-barred pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307. Because the court has supervisory authority to determine the reasonableness and necessity of expenses incurred for the benefit of and in the administration of the decedent’s estate, we remand with instructions for the trial court to determine whether each post-death expense was reasonable and necessary in light of all the relevant circumstances and to enter judgment accordingly.

Maury County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
In Re Kash F.
E2019-02123-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Lane Wolfenbarger

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to establish the following statutory grounds of termination: (1) wanton disregard for the child’s welfare; (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan; (3) severe child abuse; and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent. The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the trial court.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
In Re: Katrina S.
E2019-02015-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Trista S. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights on the grounds of (1) persistence of conditions; (2) failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody of the child; and (3) mental incompetence. Mother also appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Because the record contains clear and convincing evidence supporting the grounds for termination and the best interests determination, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 09/03/20
State of Tennessee ex Rel. James R. Wilson v. Howard Gentry, Et Al.
M2019-02201-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Don R. Ash

The petitioner sought a writ of mandamus to compel the production of the audio recordings from his post-conviction proceeding pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act. The trial court dismissed the petition, finding that the recordings were exempt from disclosure. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/02/20
William Chase Knipper v. Erin Elizabeth Enfinger
W2019-02130-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry McKenzie

Mother appeals the trial court’s rulings changing the surname of the child, denying awards of retroactive child support and uncovered medical expenses, and allowing Father to seek modification of the residential schedule without showing a material change in circumstances. We vacate the trial court’s award of a deviation of child support because the trial court did not make the required findings under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-2-311 and the Child Support Guidelines. As to the remaining issues, we reverse.

Chester County Court of Appeals 08/31/20
Steven Kampmeyer, Et Al. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01196-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbrett

Appellants, Husband and Wife, filed a complaint for damages, including Wife’s loss of consortium claim, with the Tennessee Claims Commission.  The State filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss Wife’s loss of consortium claim because she did not file notice of her claim with the Division of Claims Administration within the applicable statute of limitations.  The Claims Commission dismissed Wife’s claim for failure to comply with the notice requirement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-402(b).  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 08/28/20
In Re Trinity H.
M2020-00440-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ken Witcher

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Macon County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of James H. (“Father”) to his minor daughter Trinity H. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights on the grounds of wanton disregard, severe child abuse, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. The Juvenile Court found also that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. With respect to wanton disregard, the Juvenile Court found only that Father committed criminal acts resulting in his incarceration, which by itself is insufficient to establish the ground. We, therefore, vacate the ground of wanton disregard. However, we find that the other two grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence and, by the same standard, that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. We vacate, in part, and affirm, as modified.  

Macon County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Marvin Duane Julian v. Debra Ann Julian
M2019-01573-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

In this divorce case, Husband/Appellant appeals the trial’s courts award of $200,000.00 to Wife/Appellee under the parties’ prenuptial agreement. This award was based on the trial court’s finding that Husband’s net worth is at least $400,000.00. In their agreement, the parties waived alimony; nonetheless, Husband sought an award of alimony in the trial court. The trial court held that Husband did not meet his burden to show that he was a public charge so as to overcome his waiver of alimony. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm. 

Warren County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Deborah D. Bartley Et Al. v. Tiny Nunley, Individually And As Administratrix Of The Estate Of Anthony Gene Nunley
E2019-01694-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John C. Rambo

This appeal arose from a dispute between relatives concerning the ownership of improved real property. The property at issue was conveyed in 2000 via warranty deed to a married couple, William and Jewel Nunley, and their adult son, Anthony Gene Nunley, each as tenants in common. Following William Nunley’s death in 2007, Anthony Nunley purchased his mother’s interest in the property, executing a promissory note in the amount of $112,509.00 and a deed of trust secured by title to the property. In 2015, Jewel Nunley and Anthony Nunley executed a document stating that the remaining balance on the note was $37,509.00. Anthony Nunley (“Decedent”) died intestate in June 2016. Decedent’s surviving spouse, Tiny Nunley, filed a petition in the probate division of the Carter County Chancery Court (“probate court”) and was granted letters of administration to act as the personal representative (“Personal Representative”) of Decedent’s estate (“the Estate”). Jewel Nunley filed a claim against the Estate for the balance owed on the promissory note, which was later settled and released by agreement. Personal Representative filed an action in the probate court to reform the deed and quiet title to the subject real property. Two of Decedent’s three adult sisters objected and filed an action in the Carter County Chancery Court (“trial court”) to partition the property. The probate court transferred the reformation action to the trial court, treating Personal Representative’s petition to reform the deed and quiet title as a compulsory counterclaim to the partition action. The plaintiffs asserted that via the 2000 deed, the property was conveyed in part to William Nunley as a tenant in common with his one-third interest in the property then passing to his wife, Jewel Nunley, and their four children, including Decedent, through intestate succession.

Carter County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Volodymyr Helyukh, Et Al. v. Buddy Head Livestock & Trucking, Inc.
M2019-02301-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The dispositive issue in this personal injury action is whether the claims against the defendant trucking company for the tortious acts of its employee/truck driver are time-barred under Abshure v. Methodist Healthcare-Memphis Hospitals, 325 S.W.3d 98 (Tenn. 2010) or saved by the commencement of a new action under Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-105, Tennessee’s “savings statute.” After the plaintiffs commenced the new action, the company filed a motion to summarily dismiss the complaint, asserting the plaintiffs’ claims against the employee were procedurally barred before the new action was commenced. The trial court denied the motion because the first action was instituted before the plaintiffs’ right of action against the employee became extinguished by operation of law, and the second complaint was timely filed pursuant to the savings statute. For the same reason, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Richard Alan Ellis v. Donica Ann Woods Ellis
W2019-01869-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This is the second appeal in this divorce case. In Ellis v. Ellis, No. W2017-02287-COA-R3-CV, 2019 WL 410704 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2019), we vacated the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro to Wife and its award of alimony in solido for Wife’s attorney’s fees. Contrary to our mandate, on remand, the trial court failed to consider Wife’s relative earning capacity in relation to the award of alimony in futuro. Although the trial court affirmed its previous award of alimony in solido, it failed to consider payments Wife made from pendente lite support she received from Husband. Accordingly, we modify the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro to reflect Wife’s earning capacity, and we modify the award of alimony in solido to reflect payments made from pendente lite support.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/27/20