Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/22/2014
Format: 12/22/2014
Elizabeth B. Turner v. Selina C. Gaviria
W2014-01087-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal of this case involving enforcement of an oral loan agreement. Appellant appeals the judgment entered against her. Because the appellate record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 24, we conclude that the findings made by the trial court in support of its conclusions of law were based upon sufficient evidence. Affirmed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/17/14
In Re Chelsia J. et al.
E2014-00632-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Chelsia J. and Jared J., the minor children (“Children”) of Fleesha J. (“Mother”) and Mark F. (“Father”). The Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on April 28, 2011, upon investigation of the Children’s exposure to controlled substances in the parents’ home. On March 21, 2012, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Following a bench trial conducted over the course of four days spanning more than a year’s time, the trial court found that grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of both parents upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) the parents abandoned the Children by failing to provide a suitable home, (2) the parents abandoned the Children by engaging in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare, (3) the parents failed to substantially comply with the reasonable responsibilities and requirements of the permanency plans, and (4) the conditions leading to the Children’s removal from the home persisted. At that time, however, the court denied the petition based upon its finding that termination was not in the best interest of the Children. DCS subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment. Following a subsequent hearing, the trial court granted the motion to alter or amend the judgment and terminated the parental rights of both parents upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interest of the Children. Mother has appealed. 2 We reverse the trial court’s finding that Mother abandoned the Children by engaging in conduct prior to
incarceration that exhibited wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Gale
W2013-02772-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Antonio Gale, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for two counts of aggravated rape. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of the lesser-included offenses of rape in Count One and assault in Count Two. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced Defendant to eleven years at 100% for the rape conviction. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant seeks resolution of the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of rape; and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Defendant. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for rape and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant to eleven years for the conviction. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/16/14
In Re Jocelyn L.
E2013-02650-COA-R3-JV

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to have the minor child Jocelyn L. (“the Child”) found dependent and neglected. The Child’s father, James L. (“Father”), was alleged to have sexually abused the Child. The Juvenile Court entered a restraining order against Father. While both Father and the Child’s mother, Amanda L. (“Mother”), were named respondents in DCS’s petition, Mother was named only so as to require her to uphold the restraining order against Father. After a hearing, the Juvenile Court found that the evidence on the allegations against Father did not rise to the level of clear and convincing. The Juvenile Court dismissed the petition. DCS did not appeal. Mother, however, appealed to the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Circuit Court”) for a trial de novo. The Circuit Court found that Mother lacked standing to appeal and dismissed her appeal. Mother now appeals to this Court. We hold that Mother was not an aggrieved party by the Juvenile Court’s order dismissing DCS’s petition and, therefore, lacked standing to
appeal to the Circuit Court. We affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
Robert Greer Morris v. Patti Deakins Morris
E2013-02581-COA-R3-CV

This is a divorce case in which Appellant/Wife appeals the trial court’s denial of her request for alimony and reimbursement of her medical bills. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
In Re: Lyric J.
M2014-00806-COA-R3-PT

This appeal arises from the trial court’s decision to terminate Father’s parental rights to his daughter (“Child”). Father lives in California and was not present for Child’s birth. Mother died two days after giving birth, and Mother’s mother (“Grandmother”) received temporary custody of Child because Father had not been declared the legal father. The final custody hearing granted custody to Grandmother and Father filed an appeal of the custody order. Grandmotherfiled a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights and adopt Child,and Father filed a counter petition to establish paternity and request custody. The court terminated Father’s parental rights based on its findings that Father willfully abandoned Child and that terminating Father’s parental rights and permitting adoption by Grandmother were in Child’s best interest. We find that it has not been established by clear and convincing evidence that Father’s failure to visit and support was willful; therefore, the judgment of the Smith County Chancery Court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Smith County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
In Re: Camryne B.
M2014-00801-COA-R3-JV

The trial court granted grandparent visitation based in large part on the asserted need to maintain a relationship between the grandchild and her half-sister (who had been adopted by grandmother). Parents opposed the grandchild’s visitation with her grandparents. The trial court made no finding that cessation of the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild presented a danger of substantial harm to the child. In accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-306, we reverse.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
Channin S. Hughes v. Norman T. Hughes
M2013-01558-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a child custody dispute between two parents in the midst of a divorce proceeding with an unusual procedural history. After considering all the evidence presented during the divorce trial, the trial judge orally ruled that the mother would be designated the primary residential parent. About two weeks later, prior to the entry of any written order, the father filed a motion to reopen the proof or, in the alternative, to reconsider the ruling, seeking to present additional evidence about facts that occurred after the final hearing. The trial court denied the motion but instructed the father to present the additional facts via a petition to modify.  The father then filed a petition to modify the primary residential parent designation. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge dismissed the father’s petition to modify, finding that the facts presented did not “amount to a change of circumstance so great as to remove custody from the Mother.” Thereafter, the trial court entered the final decree of divorce and parenting plan from the divorce trial.  Father timely filed separate notices of appeal from these orders. We affirm.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 12/16/14
Farmers Mutual of Tennessee v. Jennifer Atkins
E2014-00554-COA-R3-CV

The trial court granted summary judgment to the insurance company on the issue of whether the insured’s failure to submit to an Examination Under Oath precluded her recovery. Because material factual disputes exist, we reverse.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
Christopher Jake Reynolds v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02658-CCA-R3-PC

This matter is before the Court upon the State’s motion to dismiss or in the alternative to affirm the judgment of the trial court by memorandum opinion pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.  Petitioner, Christopher Jake Reynolds, has appealed the Giles County Circuit Court order dismissing his third petition for post-conviction relief in which Petitioner alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that due process required the tolling of the statute of limitations.  Upon a review of the record in this case, we are persuaded that the post-conviction court was correct in dismissing the petition and that this case meets the criteria for affirmance pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.  Accordingly, the State’s motion is granted, and the judgment of the post conviction court is affirmed.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
David W. Hamilton et. al. v. Abercrombie Radiological Consultants, Inc. et. al.
E2014-00433-COA-R3-CV

This is a health care liability action, arising from the death of Decedent, David Hamilton. Decedent’s surviving spouse, Donna Hamilton (Appellant), filed this action against Appellees, Abercrombie Radiological Consultants, Inc. and Dr. Donna K. Culhane. Appellees moved to dismiss the action for failure to comply with the notice requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-26-121 et seq. Specifically, the Appellees challenged whether the medical release provided with the pre-suit notice letter was compliant with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). The trial court agreed with Appellees and dismissed the action with prejudice. Appellant timely appealed. We reverse and remand the matter to the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
Gene Lovelace Enterprises, LLC et al. v. City of Knoxville
E2013-01584-COA-R3-CV

This case involves the enforceability of an ordinance enacted by the City of Knoxville to impose licensing requirements for owners and employees of sexually oriented businesses. Plaintiffs, Gene Lovelace Enterprises, LLC a/k/a Last Chance Theatre & Musical Club 2000 at Alcoa Highway and Eugene Lovelace d/b/a Bambi’s, filed this action 1 against the City, seeking a judgment declaring the ordinance unconstitutional and an injunction prohibiting enforcement. A similar action was subsequently filed by plaintiffs, Business Financial Services of Knoxville, Inc. d/b/a West Knoxville News and Katch One, Inc. d/b/a Katch One Lounge. The two cases were consolidated. The City filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the City Council had appropriately enacted the ordinance to combat negative secondary effects caused by sexually oriented businesses. The plaintiffs presented evidence that there were no negative secondary effects associated with such businesses in the Knoxville area, including expert opinions and a study based on empirical data from the relevant locality. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City, finding that “relevant authorities cited by the City establish that the ordinance in question is of a type which may be validly and constitutionally enacted by a municipality such as defendant.” Gene Lovelace Enterprises, LLC and Bambi’s LLC have appealed that ruling. We reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the City and remand the case for further proceedings

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Reginald Dewayne Tumlin
E2013-01452-CCA-R3-CD

A Hamilton County jury convicted the Defendant, Reginald Dewayne Tumlin, of two counts of child abuse, one count of criminally negligent homicide, and one count of aggravated child neglect. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to compel the State to make an election of offenses; (2) the trial court failed to instruct the jury that reckless endangerment and attempted aggravated child neglect are lesser-included offenses of aggravated child neglect; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (4) the trial court improperly admitted medical testimony about the victim’s injuries; (5) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct; (6) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on flight; and (7) the cumulative effect of these errors deprived the Defendant of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
Shairiq Seabrooks v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02321-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Shairiq Seabrooks, was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to confinement for twenty-two years. His conviction was affirmed by this court, and our supreme court denied his application for permission to appeal. State v. Shairiq Seabrooks, No. W2008-00443-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 3103792, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 29, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 15, 2010). Thereafter, he filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, and the petitioner timely appealed. Following our review, we affirm the denial of relief by the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
Michael Deshawn Smith v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01344-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Michael Deshawn Smith, appeals the Fayette County Circuit Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his conviction for second degree murder. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel’s failure to include a transcript of the plea submission hearing in the record on direct appeal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
John Brunner v. State
W2013-02120-CCA-R3-PC

John Brunner (“the Petitioner”) was indicted for first degree murder and domestic assault. After a trial, a jury convicted him of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder and domestic assault. In this appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
In Re: Kaiden T.
M2014-00423-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights contending the evidence was insufficient to prove any ground or that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate her parental rights. The trial court found that the petitioners, the father and step-mother, proved two grounds of abandonment, failure to support and failure to visit the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i), and that termination of Mother’s rights was in the best interest of the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(c)(2) and (i). We have determined the evidence is sufficient to prove both grounds of abandonment; therefore, we affirm the trial court’s findings on both of these issues. However, we must remand the issue of the child’s best interest, due to the lack of specific findings of fact as mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k). Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions for the trial court to provide specific findings of fact concerning whether termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child and to enter judgment consistent with its findings.

Overton County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
Corey Blocker v. Nashville Rescue Mission
M2013-00936-COA-R3-CV

In this action for conversion of personal property, Plaintiff contends the defendant, the Nashville Rescue Mission,is liable for throwing away his personal possessions that he stored in a locker at the Mission. Relying on the terms and conditions of a written “Locker Use Guidelines and Agreement,” the Mission insists it is not liable because it disposed of the property as authorized by Plaintiff. The Mission submitted interrogatories and requests for admissions to which Plaintiff objected generally. The Mission then obtained an order compelling Plaintiff to respond to the discovery as required by the rules of civil procedure. When Plaintiff responded, but not as required by the rules of civil procedure, the Mission filed a motion to have the requests for admissions deemed admitted; the trial court granted the motion. Thereafter, the Mission filed a motion for summary judgment relying on the admissions and the relevant terms and conditions of the Locker Use Guidelines and Agreement. Based upon the Agreement and other facts that were deemed admitted, the court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate as Plaintiff could not establish an essential element of his claim for conversion. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Billy Jason Hancock
M2012-02307-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Billy Jason Hancock, appeals his Putnam County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse, claiming that the trial court erred by concluding that certain communications with his wife and his pastor were not protected by any evidentiary privilege and that the trial court’s instruction regarding jury unanimity during the penalty phase was incorrect. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00363-CCA-R3-ECN

In 2009, a Blount County jury convicted the Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault. State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 171940, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of 105 years of confinement. Id. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the judgments but reversed the trial court’s denial of a competency hearing and remanded the case for a competency hearing. Id. The Petitioner was deemed competent on remand. The Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, which the coram nobis court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court erred when it denied his petition. He asserts that the coram nobis court’s dismissal was based on “known fraud” because “three of the State’s witnesses committed perjury at the [competency] hearing.” After review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Jimmy W. Bilbo, Et Al. v. Ocoee Place Condominium Homeowners Association, Et Al.
E2013-02535-COA-R3-CV

Jimmy W. Bilbo and Mildred D. Bilbo (“Plaintiffs”) sued Ocoee Place Condominium Homeowners Association (“Defendant”) for, among other things, negligent 1 construction which allegedly caused flooding that damaged Plaintiffs’ property. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment alleging, in part, that Defendant did not own the relevant real property, that Defendant exercised no input or control over the construction, and that Plaintiffs’ action was barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. The Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend, which the Trial Court denied. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in refusing to alter or amend the grant of summary judgment pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02 or Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. We find no abuse of discretion in the Trial Court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02 or 60.02 motion, and we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Gary Haiser Et Al. v. Michael Haines Et Al.
E2013-02350-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an internal conflict in a planned community. A group of property owners (“Plaintiffs”) sued another group of property owners (“Defendants”) 1 in the Chancery Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”). Both groups contested which was the legitimate Board of Directors for the community association. Plaintiffs sought, among other things, declaratory relief as to the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Plaintiffs filed a motion for class action certification. The Trial Court, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to establish the requirements of typicality and adequacy of representation, denied Plaintiffs’ request for class certification. Plaintiffs appeal the denial of class certification. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the Trial Court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Damon Tatum v. Mercedeas Tatum
W2013-02112-COA-R3-CV

The trial court denied Defendant Mother’s motion to recuse in this post-divorce dispute. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/12/14