Supreme Court Opinions

Format: 10/24/2014
Format: 10/24/2014
Mark D. Talley v. Board of Professional Responsibility - Concurring
W2010-02072-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

I concur in the judgment of the Court, but I do not concur in the reasoning of the majority opinion.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/11
Mark D. Talley v. Board of Professional Responsibility
W2010-02072-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

This appeal involves a disciplinaryproceeding against a Memphis lawyer who pleaded guilty in the Criminal Court for Shelby County to facilitating the felonious violation of the Tennessee Securities Act. After a Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel recommended that he be disbarred, the lawyer filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Shelby County seeking judicial review of the hearing panel’s decision. The trial court affirmed the recommendation of the hearing panel, and the lawyer appealed to this Court. On appeal, the Board of Professional Responsibility asserts that the lawyer’s petition should be dismissed because his petition for writ of certiorari did not contain the recitation required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-8-106 (2000). For his part, the lawyer asserts that the punishment of disbarment is excessive. We have determined that the lawyer’s deficient petition for writ of certiorari does not prevent the courts from reviewing the hearing panel’s decision. We have also determined that the record fully supports the hearing panel’s findings and that disbarring the lawyer is not an excessive punishment in light of the facts and circumstances of this case.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/26/11
Federal Insurance Company a/s/o Robert and Joanie Emerson v. Martin Edward Winters, d/b/a Winters Roofing Company
E2009-02065-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

The defendant contractor entered into a contract to replace a roof. When the newly installed roof developed leaks, the defendant hired an independent contractor to make the necessary repairs. While performing the work, the independent contractor caused a fire, resulting in an $871,069.73 insurance claim by the homeowners. As subrogor to the homeowners’ rights and claims arising out of the fire, the plaintiff insurance company sued the defendant in both tort and in contract. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that because he had subcontracted the work, he could not be liable. The trial court granted the motion on both the negligence and breach of contract claims. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the defendant had a non-delegable contractual duty to perform the roofing services in a careful, skillful, and workmanlike manner. This Court granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to determine the propriety of the claim under the theory of contract. Because the defendant had an implied non-delegable duty to install the roof in a careful, skillful, diligent, and workmanlike manner, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. The case is remanded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Supreme Court 10/25/11
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Lee Davis
M2008-01216-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wooten, Jr.

The defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery, carjacking, attempt to commit especially aggravated kidnapping, and attempt to commit first degree murder. At issue is the legality of the stop of a vehicle in which the defendant was a passenger, and whether the evidence is sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for attempt to commit first degree murder. We conclude that reasonable suspicion existed to permit the officers to conduct a brief investigatory stop of the car in which the defendant was a passenger. Further, we find there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the defendant and his fellow perpetrator planned and intended to kill the victim, and that the defendant’s conduct, considered in light of the totality of the circumstances, constituted a substantial step sufficient to support a conviction for attempted murder. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.

Trousdale County Supreme Court 10/17/11
Scott M. Craig v. David Mills, Warden - NOT FOR PUBLICATION
E2010-00487-SC-R11-HC
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

In July 1998, a Bradley County jury convicted Scott M. Craig (“petitioner”) of two counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated kidnapping and assessed a twentyfive thousand dollar ($25,000) fine on one of the aggravated rape convictions and twenty thousand dollar ($20,000) fines on each of the other convictions, for aggregate fines of sixtyfive thousand dollars ($65,000). The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of fifteen years for the aggravated rape convictions and a consecutive eight-year sentence for the aggravated kidnapping conviction, for an aggregate sentence of twenty-three years. On July 27, 1998, judgments were entered reflecting each conviction and sentence; however, these judgments did not reflect the fines imposed by the jury, nor did these judgments reflect imposition of any sexual offense surcharge. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-709 (2010).

Morgan County Supreme Court 10/14/11
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