Supreme Court Opinions

Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014
State of Tennessee v. Alfred Turner
W2007-00891-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Otis Higgs, Jr.

The defendant was indicted for a murder that occurred nearly ten years prior to his arrest. The defendant’s theory of the case implicated two other men as the individuals responsible for the murder. These men previously had been tried and acquitted of the murder. Over the objection of the defendant, the State introduced evidence of the prior acquittals of the other men. A jury convicted the defendant of facilitation of first degree murder. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the evidence of the acquittals of the other parties was irrelevant and that the erroneous admission of the evidence was not harmless. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/12/11
Joseph Edward Rich, M.D. v. Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners - Dissenting
M2009-00813-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol McCoy

The majority asserts that the Board must “articulate what the standard of care is in its deliberations.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-6-214(g)(2010). To this end, the majority today has found “the standard of care” to be unambiguous. I also find this language to be unambiguous. My reading of Tennessee Code Annotated section 63-6-214(g), however, compels a different conclusion.

Davidson County Supreme Court 10/10/11
Joseph Edward Rich, M.D. v. Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners
M2009-00813-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol McCoy

This is an appeal from an administrative hearing wherein the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended a physician’s medical license for one year and imposed other conditions after finding that, among other things, the physician had violated Tennessee Code Annotated sections 63-6-214(b)(1),(4), and (12) (2010). Upon review, the trial court affirmed the Board’s ruling; however, because the Board failed to articulate the applicable standard of care in its deliberations, the Court of Appeals reversed the Board’s ruling. We agree with the Court of Appeals that the Board was required to articulate the standard of care in its deliberations. Therefore, we vacate the ruling of the trial court to the extent that it affirms the Board’s decision that the physician violated Tennessee Code Annotated sections 63-6-214(b)(1),(4), and (12). However, rather than reversing the Board’s decisions, we are remanding the matter to the Board and instructing it to conduct deliberations based on the existing record and articulate the applicable standard of care as required by the statute.

Davidson County Supreme Court 10/10/11
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Lynn Parker
E2008-02541-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper II

We granted this appeal by the State to determine if the defendant’s conviction of second degree murder should be affirmed pursuant to State v. Mellons, 557 S.W.2d 497 (Tenn. 1977), despite insufficient evidence to support it. We hold that Mellons does not control the outcome of this case. We also hold that sufficient proof must support every element of the offense of which a defendant is convicted, even where the conviction offense is charged as a lesser-included offense and sufficient proof supports the greater offense. In this case, the trial court erred in charging the jury with second degree murder as a lesser-included offense of first degree felony murder. Because the proof is not sufficient to support it, we must reverse and vacate the conviction of second degree murder. However, because the proof is sufficient to support the offense of reckless homicide, we remand this matter to the trial court for (1) entry of an amended judgment reflecting a conviction of reckless homicide, and (2) sentencing on reckless homicide. The defendant is entitled to no relief on his remaining issues. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Cocke County Supreme Court 09/23/11
Dr. William P. Harman v. University of Tennessee - Dissenting
E2009-02139-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howell N. Peoples

I respectfully dissent from the conclusion of a majorityof this Court that the plaintiff’s pleadings are insufficient to withstand a motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the element of termination.

Hamilton County Supreme Court 09/16/11
Dr. William P. Harman v. University of Tennessee
E2009-02139-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howell N. Peoples

The issue presented in this case is whether the employee’s complaint states a cause of action for relief under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. The employee, hired as a university professor and department head, filed suit against the university after he was removed as department head. On motion of the university, the trial court concluded that the complaint failed to allege that the employee was discharged or terminated or that he was discharged or terminated for refusing to participate in or for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities and dismissed the complaint pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.03. A cause of action arises under the Act when an employer discharges or terminates the employee for refusing to participate in or for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities. We determine that because the employee was neither terminated nor discharged from his employment, only removed as department head, the complaint does not allege facts from which we can reasonably infer a claim under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.03 dismissal of the employee’s complaint.

Hamilton County Supreme Court 09/16/11
Johanna L. Gonsewski v. Craig W. Gonsewski
M2009-00894-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray, by Interchange

We granted review in this divorce case to determine whether alimony in futuro should be awarded to a spouse who has a college degree, good health, a stable work history in a relatively high paying job, and a lack of demonstrated need for such long-term alimony. The trial court divided the parties’ real and personal property, declined to award spousal support of any type to either party, and denied a request made by both parties that they be awarded their attorney’s fees and expenses. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s division of the marital estate, but reversed the trial court’s judgment regarding spousal support and ordered the husband to pay the wife alimony in futuro in the amount of $1,250 per month until her death or remarriage. The Court of Appeals also awarded the wife, in the form of alimony in solido, her attorney’s fees and expenses, both at trial and on appeal. We conclude that the award of alimony in futuro and the award of attorney’s fees and expenses is inappropriate in this case. Additionally, the wife has failed to demonstrate that transitional alimony is appropriate. We therefore reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Supreme Court 09/16/11
Arlene R. Starr v. Paul B. Hill, Sr., et al.
W2009-00524-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

A father and his sixteen-year-old son were sued after the son was involved in an accident while driving a vehicle owned, insured, and provided to him by his father. The basis for the suit against the father was the family purpose doctrine, which imposes vicarious liability on the owner of a vehicle for the negligent operation of the vehicle by a family member. Whether the family purpose doctrine applies to the father requires us to address these issues: (1) whether the father, who does not reside in the same household as the son, was a head of the household under the family purpose doctrine; (2) whether the vehicle was maintained for the comfort or pleasure of the family or solely for use by the son; and (3) whether the vehicle was being driven with the father’s permission such that he had control over its use. The essential elements of the family purpose doctrine are that the owner must be a head of the household who furnishes and maintains the vehicle for the purpose of providing pleasure or comfort for the family, and at the time of the injury, the vehicle must have been driven in furtherance of that purpose with the head of the household’s express or implied permission. The trial court granted summary judgment to the father, finding that the family purpose doctrine did not apply. The Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the family purpose doctrine applied to the father as a matter of law. We hold that the father was a head of the household because he had a family relationship with his son and a duty to support his son and the father furnished and maintained the vehicle for the purpose of providing pleasure or comfort to the family. However, a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether the father had sufficient control over the vehicle. We vacate the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand for trial.

Shelby County Supreme Court 08/31/11
William H. Mansell v. Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC
M2010-02093-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

In June of 2008, William Mansell (the “Employee”) suffered a compensable injury to his right shoulder while working for Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (the “Employer”). Dr. Sean Kaminsky, an orthopaedic surgeon, served as the authorized treating physician and assigned an impairment rating of 3% to the body as a whole. The Employee obtained an Independent Medical Evaluation from another orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Landsberg, who assigned a 10% impairment rating. When the Benefit Review Conference at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“DOL”) ended in an impasse, the Employee filed suit.

Smith County Supreme Court 08/25/11
State of Tennessee v. David Nagele
E2009-01313-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The defendant pled guilty to attempted aggravated sexual battery and was sentenced to six years of enhanced probation. At the time, the trial court did not warn the defendant that, upon the expiration of his sentence, he would be subjected to lifetime community supervision,which is mandated by statute upon a conviction for attempted aggravated sexual battery and other sex offenses. Just before the sentence expired, the State filed a petition to amend the judgment to include lifetime community supervision. On the same day that the trial court corrected the judgment, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, holding that the defendant had been adequately informed of the lifetime community supervision requirement by his trial counsel. We granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal to determine the effect of our decision in Ward v. State, 315 S.W.3d 461 (Tenn. 2010), which was filed after the release of the opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Because the trial court failed to warn the defendant of the mandatory nature of lifetime community supervision, as is required by our ruling in Ward, and the State was unable to establish that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed and the cause is remanded to the trial court to permit the defendant to withdraw his plea of guilt.

Knox County Supreme Court 08/25/11
Randall D. Kiser v. Ian J. Wolfe, et al. - Concurring/Dissenting
E2009-01529-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

I concur with the majority’s conclusion that our review should include all three pages of the insurance application appended to the summary judgment motion. I, however, would construe Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1201 (2008) to require more than merely the insured’s signature at the end of an application for insurance in order for the insured to effectively reject “in writing” the amount of uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage otherwise mandated by the statute.

Bradley County Supreme Court 08/24/11
Randall D. Kiser v. Ian J. Wolfe, et al.
E2009-01529-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

The plaintiff, an employee of the insured, was injured while driving the insured’s tow truck. He filed suit against the defendant and later sought to invoke the insured’s uninsured motorist policy in an amount equal to the liability coverage for bodily injury. The insurer filed a motion for partial summary judgment, seeking to limit uninsured motorist coverage to the amount listed on the first page of the policy rather than the amount otherwise fixed by statute. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, holding that the insured was entitled to a partial summary judgment. When the insured signs an application indicating the selection of uninsured motorist coverage lower than the liability limits, but neglects to initial a provision designed to confirm the selection of coverage less than the standard provided by statute, the “in writing” requirement under Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1201(a)(2) (2008) has been satisfied. The cause is remanded to the trial court for the entry of partial summary judgment and such other proceedings, as may be necessary.
 

Bradley County Supreme Court 08/24/11
State of Tennessee v. L.W.
M2009-02132-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

In these two cases, consolidated for oral argument, defendants entered guilty pleas to one count in their respective indictments in exchange for dismissal of other counts. In both cases, the trial court denied their subsequent requests for expungement of the dismissed charges. Both defendants filed petitions for writ of certiorari. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed both cases and remanded for entry of orders requiring the requested partial expungement. We granted the State’s applications for permission to appeal and ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the Court of Criminal Appeals lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We hold that the procedural requirements for petitions for writ of certiorari set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-8-106 (2000) do not apply in criminal cases. We further hold that a conviction for one count in an indictment does not preclude expungement of the records relating to a dismissed charge in a separate count. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals in both cases.

Davidson County Supreme Court 08/17/11
K.F. v. State of Tennessee
M2009-00700-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In these two cases, consolidated for oral argument, defendants entered guilty pleas to one count in their respective indictments in exchange for dismissal of other counts. In both cases, the trial court denied their subsequent requests for expungement of the dismissed charges. Both defendants filed petitions for writ of certiorari. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed both cases and remanded for entry of orders requiring the requested partial expungement. We granted the State’s applications for permission to appeal and ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the Court of Criminal Appeals lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We hold that the  procedural requirements for petitions for writ of certiorari set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-8-106 (2000) do not apply in criminal cases. We further hold that a conviction for one count in an indictment does not preclude expungement of the records relating to a dismissed charge in a separate count. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals in both cases.

Davidson County Supreme Court 08/17/11