Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/01/2015
Format: 03/01/2015
Cadence Bank, NA v. The Alpha Trust, et al.
W2014-01151-COA-R3-CV

In this action to collect on a promissory note, the trial court granted summary judgment to the bank. Appellants appeal the trial court’s decisions regarding whether the bank was properly doing business in the State of Tennessee and whether the Appellants’ two contract-based counter-claims fail as a matter of law. Discerning no error regarding the trial court’s finding that the bank was properly doing business in the State, we affirm the trial court’s ruling in that regard. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that the bank was entitled to summary judgment on the contract-based counterclaims.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
Cadence Bank, NA v. The Alpha Trust, et al. - Dissent
W2014-001151-COA-R3-CV

I agree with the result reached by the majority Opinion with regard to whether Cadence was properly authorized to bring this suit. I also concur in the majority’s conclusion that the Appellants cannot survive summary judgment on their claims arising from the parties’ written contract. I must respectfully dissent, however, from the majority’s holding that summary judgment was proper with regard to Appellants’ breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims concerning the alleged oral contract. My disagreement with the majority’s Opinion is two-fold. First, a genuine dispute of fact exists over whether the parties entered into a binding oral contract. Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tenn. 1993). Second, contrary to the majority’s conclusion that no contract existed between the parties based on the omission of material terms, Tennessee law will uphold a contract’s formation even though one party has discretion to choose between material terms. Gurley v. King, 183 S.W.3d 30, 41 (Tenn. 2005). Accordingly, I would reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Cadence Bank on Appellants’ claims under the alleged oral contract.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Desmond Sykes
W2013-02005-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Desmond Sykes, of two counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective nine years in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statement to police and evidence obtained pursuant to his arrest because the police lacked probable cause for the arrest. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Jones
W2013-02119-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant of the aggravated assault of Jack Austin. The trial court sentenced the appellant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
Joshua Bishop v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00509-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Joshua Bishop, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Devin Rogers
W2013-02442-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Devin Rogers, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eleven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Willard V. Fleming
E2014-01137-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the defendant, Willard V. Fleming, of facilitation of the sale of cocaine, a Class D felony; facilitation of keeping or maintaining a dwelling used for keeping or selling controlled substances, a Class E felony; and assault, a Class A misdemeanor. The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and denial of his motion to acquit, asserting that the co-defendant’s testimony regarding the defendant’s involvement was insufficiently corroborated; that there was no proof that drugs were present because only lay testimony supported the conclusion that the substance sold was cocaine; that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant maintained the dwelling; and that the confidential informant’s testimony did not establish the elements of assault. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdicts, and we accordingly affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
Nazario Araguz v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01131-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Nazario Araguz, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to deliver 300 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone and possession with intent to deliver 300 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone.  He received concurrent seventeen-year sentences.  Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel did not properly advise him regarding his right to testify. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
State of Tennessee v. Mark A. Crites
M2014-00560-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Mark A. Crites, was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), second offense.  The trial court sentenced him to eleven months and twenty-nine days in confinement.  On appeal, appellant argues that the assistant district attorney general committed prosecutorial misconduct in her closing argument and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Gallaher
M2014-01232-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jeffrey Gallaher, was indicted by the Lewis County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of introduction of contraband into a penal institution, and one count of possession of a schedule IV drug.  After a jury trial, Defendant was found not guilty of aggravated assault.  He was convicted of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and simple possession.   The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of six years in incarceration as a Range II, multiple offender.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  He does not challenge the conviction for simple possession.  We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed. 

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
Alison Fein (Young) Dahl v. Shawn Patrick Young
M2013-02854-COA-R3-CV

Mother and Father were divorced when their child was not quite two years old. Mother was named the primary residential parent. She remarried when the child was three years old and sought to relocate to Virginia when her husband was required to move there for his job. Father objected and sought to be named the primary residential parent. The evidence was undisputed that Mother’s stepson (the child’s stepbrother) committed an act of sexual abuse on the child when he was four and the stepson was ten. Counselors were retained to work with each child. Both counselors testified the situation was under control and Mother was taking proper precautions to protect the child. The trial court permitted Mother to relocate with the child, but it limited the number of days the stepbrother could spend with the child in Virginia. Mother appealed, claiming the trial court’s ruling was arbitrary. She also appealed the trial court’s ruling requiring her to pay the transportation costs of the child’s flights to Tennessee to visit Father, its credit to Father for childcare expenses on the child support worksheet, and its denial of her request for attorney’s fees. We vacate the court’s $250 childcare credit to Father because no evidence of this expense was offered at trial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/24/15
In Re Blaklyn M.
M2014-00503-COA-R3-JV

Father who filed petition to establish visitation with his child appeals the award of parenting time, contending that the parenting plan does not maximize his participation in the child’s life. Finding that the evidence preponderates against the parenting schedule ordered by the Court, we reverse the judgment and remand for the adoption of a plan that increases Father’s residential parenting time.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 02/24/15
Lisa Denise Church v. Shannon Wayne Brown
E2014-00942-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a claim of fraud in a post-divorce context. Lisa Denise Church (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint for fraud in the Circuit Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”) against her ex-husband, Shannon Wayne Brown (“Defendant”), alleging that he had misled her during their divorce regarding the valuation of his business interest. This suit followed an earlier, unsuccessful action on the issue of fraud filed by Plaintiff under TRCP 60 in the divorce action which had yielded a final judgment after appeal. The Trial Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding, inter alia, that Plaintiff’s fraud claim was barred by res judicata. Plaintiff appealed to this Court. We hold that Plaintiff’s current lawsuit for fraud is a distinct cause of action, namely, common law fraud, and is not barred by res judicata. However, as the issue of fraud already had been decided in the earlier post-divorce Rule 60 proceedings, the doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents Plaintiff from re-litigating the issue of fraud. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court as modified.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 02/23/15
Susan Isbell v. William G. Hatchett, et al.- Corrected Opinion
W2014-00633-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves claims arising from a settlement agreement allegedly entered by two of the parties to settle previous lawsuits. Appellant filed a complaint against Appellees alleging four causes of action: (1) tortious interference with a contractual obligation; (2) abuse of judicial process; (3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) conspiracy to deny Appellant her rights under the settlement agreement. Appellees responded by filing a joint motion to dismiss. The trial court found that three of Appellant’s causes of action for tortious interference, breach of good faith, and conspiracy each required the existence of a contract and dismissed those claims based on a finding that the settlement agreement was void and unenforceable. The trial court also dismissed Appellant’s abuse of judicial process claim after finding “no evidence whatsoever that [Appellees] or their counsel of record did anything improper that would support a cause of action for abuse of process.” On appeal, we reverse the trial court’s finding that the settlement agreement was void and therefore reverse the dismissal of Appellant’s claims requiring a contract. Additionally, we hold that because the trial court did not consider any extraneous evidence in dismissing the abuse of judicial process claim, the trial court erred in applying a summary judgment standard with regard to that claim. Because we find that the complaint sufficiently alleged abuse of judicial process, we also reverse the trial court’s dismissal of that claim.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 02/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Robert B. Ledford
E2014-01010-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Robert B. Ledford, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred in summarily denying his motion because the motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/23/15
In Re Allison L., et al.
E2014-01448-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights appeal. The Trial Court Judge announced a ruling from the bench at the conclusion of the final hearing below and then subsequently entered a written order vacating the oral ruling. The order vacating the oral ruling contemplates further proceedings in the Trial Court in that it allows for the filing of an Amended Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. Because there is no final written order terminating the parental rights of the appellant, Hearkner L., to her children, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Washington County State Court Clerks 02/20/15
Francis L. Johnston v. Charles Glen "Chuck" Johnston
E2015-00213-COA-T10B-CV

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the Trial Court’s denial of a Motion to Recuse filed during post-judgment proceedings in a case involving a dispute over the validity of a check written against the revocable living trust of the decedent. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Defendant/Appellant, Charles Glen Johnston (“Defendant”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, we affirm the Trial Court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
In Re Jonathan F.
E2014-01181-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case. The court-appointed Guardian ad Litem (“the Guardian”) for the minor child Jonathan F. (“the Child”) filed a petition 1 in the Juvenile Court for Sevier County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Amy F. (“Mother”) and Uriah F. (“Father”) to the Child. The Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a response joining in the Guardian’s petition. After a trial, the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights on a host of grounds. We vacate certain of the grounds as relates to Father. Otherwise, we affirm the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court as modified.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Martinez Dennis
W2014-00403-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Martinez Dennis, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of felony murder during the perpetration of a robbery and was sentenced by the trial court to life in prison. In this appeal, he raises two issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his custodial statement to law enforcement officers; and (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Charles Edward Meeks v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01170-CCA-R3-ECN

In 1994, a jury found the Petitioner, Charles Edward Meeks, guilty of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced him to serve a life sentence in prison.  On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence.  See State v. Charles Edward Meeks, No. 01C01-9506-CC-00170, 1995 WL 687695, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Nov. 21, 1995), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 6, 1996).  In March 1997, the Petitioner filed a post conviction petition, and this Court affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.  Charles Edward Meeks v. State, No. 01C01-9807-CC-00295, 1999 WL 173972, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, March 30, 1999), perm. app denied (Tenn. Oct. 11, 1999).  On January 10, 2005, the Petitioner filed for a writ of error coram nobis alleging that he had discovered new evidence.  The State filed a response to the petition requesting that the trial court dismiss the petition as untimely.  The trial court agreed, and  dismissed the petition on that basis.  We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01665-CCA-R3-HC

In 2006, the Petitioner, Alejandro Avila-Salazar, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and attempted aggravated rape, and the trial court ordered the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of forty years.  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed, and this Court affirmed the dismissal.  Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State, No. M2008-02120-CCA-R3-PC, 2009 WL 3029604, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 22, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 22, 2010).  Several years later, in 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, alleging that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because his sentence violated the jurisdictional limits of the trial court.  He further contended that the indictment against him failed to apprise him of the offense that he was being called to defend.  The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition because his constitutional rights had been violated.  He further contends that he had been improperly denied “indigent status.”  After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
City of Memphis v. Shelby County, Tennessee
W2014-00890-COA-R3-CV

The ultimate issue in this lawsuit is how much of the electric and gas tax equivalent payments made by MLGW to the City of Memphis must be shared with Shelby County. The City claimed that it overpaid Shelby County in electric tax equivalents in recent years, while Shelby County claimed that it was underpaid in gas tax equivalents. The trial court found that the City paid the correct amount of electric tax equivalent payments for the years in question and rejected the City’s claim for damages for alleged overpayment. The trial court found that Shelby County was not entitled to a share of the gas tax equivalent payments for the years in dispute and rejected its claim for alleged underpayment. Accordingly, the trial court denied both parties’ claims for monetary damages. The trial court resolved the parties’ requests for declaratory and injunctive relief by declaring the manner and method of payment of the tax equivalents in the future. Both parties raise issues on appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Samuel L. Giddens, Jr.
M2014-01505-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Samuel L. Giddens, Jr., of reckless homicide, attempted especially aggravated robbery,1and aggravated burglary, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of fourteen years in prison.  The Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, and this Court affirmed the trial court’s judgments.  See State v. Samuel L. Giddens, Jr., No. M2005-00691-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 618312, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Mar. 13, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 26, 2006).  After filing several motions, all of which were dismissed or denied, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 36.1 seeking to correct an illegal sentence.  The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred because he should be awarded additional pretrial jail credits.  He further contends that his sentence for attempted especially aggravated robbery is not constitutional as it violates provisions against Double Jeopardy and that the resulting sentence is, therefore, not authorized.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Carl J. Wagner v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01086-CCA-R3-PC

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Carl J. Wagner, of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated burglary. The trial court imposed a life sentence. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgment for the second degree murder conviction and reversed the judgments for the first degree felony murder and especially aggravated kidnaping convictions. State v. Carl J. Wagner, No. M2010-00992-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2893098, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, July 20, 2011), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Jan. 11, 2012). Our Supreme Court reinstated the judgments for all three convictions. State v. Wagner, 382 S.W.3d 289, 291 (Tenn. 2012). The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that he was entitled to relief on multiple grounds, including that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/20/15
Susan Ellen Calfee Muhonen v. James Lucius Muhonen
E2013-02601-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce parenting dispute arose when the father filed a petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan as to their two minor children. Concomitantly with entry of the final judgment for divorce, the trial court had entered a permanent parenting plan order on January 19, 2007, designating the mother as the primary residential parent and granting the father residential co-parenting time on alternating weekends and Wednesday evenings. This parenting plan was later modified by agreement in an order entered June 17, 2008. Nearly five years later on July 27, 2012, the father filed the instant petition to modify the permanent parenting plan. He alleged that a dangerous situation existed at the mother’s home and requested an emergency ex parte order naming him the primary residential parent, which the trial court immediately granted. Upon a hearing, the trial court entered an order, inter alia, confirming the father as the primary residential parent, pending further proceedings, on August 13, 2012. Following a final hearing conducted approximately one year later, the trial court found that a material change in circumstance had occurred since entry of the June 2008 permanent parenting plan and that it was in the children’s best interest for the father to be declared their primary residential parent with sole decision-making authority. The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/20/15