Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/02/2015
Format: 09/02/2015
Anthony Williams v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02313-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Anthony Williams, was convicted of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery and sentenced to an effective sentence of life in prison. State v. Anthony Williams, No. W2012-00014-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 5355706, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 31, 2012). Petitioner now alleges that his trial counsel was ineffective for: (1) failing to test the victim's jacket for soot and gunpowder; (2) failing to inquire into a deal that was struck between the State and a witness; (3) failing to object to the trial court's giving a jury instruction on flight; (4) failing to show petitioner a video recording prior to trial; and (5) failing to impeach a witness. Following our review of the parties' briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/15
Open Lake Sporting Club v. Lauderdale Haywood Angling Club
W2014-01574-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from proceedings on remand from a prior appeal concerning a long-standing boundary dispute between two hunting clubs in West Tennessee. Previously, in an attempt to resolve their dispute, the clubs agreed to be bound by the findings of a third-party surveyor. After the agreed-upon surveyor filed his survey, however, one of the clubs moved to set the survey aside, arguing that the surveyor had not made an independent determination. The trial court declined to hold a hearing on the motion, and the case was subsequently appealed to this Court. On appeal, we concluded that the case should be remanded to the trial court for a hearing on the motion to set the survey aside. Specifically, we directed the trial court to consider whether the surveyor made an independent determination of the disputed boundary line. Following a hearing on remand, the trial court held that the findings of the third-party surveyor were the product of an independent determination. We affirm.

Lauderdale County Court of Appeals 08/18/15
James Dellinger v.State of Tennessee
E2013-02094-CCA-R3-ECN

The Petitioner, James Dellinger, appeals from the trial court‘s denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, his petition for a writ of audita querela, his motion for a declaratory judgment, his claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and his claims under the due process, law of the land, and open courts provisions of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The Petitioner seeks relief from his conviction for first degree murder and his resulting death sentence, claiming that he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is intellectually disabled and that his conviction violates principles of double jeopardy. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/15
Tonya A. Andrews, Administrator For The Estate of James Christopher Sprinkle
M2014-01398-COA-R3-CV

The sole issue in this action by a decedent’s estate to set aside a fraudulent conveyance in order to execute on a monetary judgment is whether life insurance proceeds paid to the decedent’s surviving spouse are exempt from claims of a creditor of the surviving spouse. The unusual twist in this matter is that the creditor is the estate of the surviving spouse’s deceased husband. Following the husband’s death and the appointment of the decedent’s mother as the Administrator of his estate, the estate obtained a judgment against the surviving spouse for conversion of the decedent’s separate assets soon after his death. After obtaining the judgment against the surviving spouse in a separate action, the estate commenced this action to satisfy the judgment by executing on real property that the surviving spouse acquired after her husband’s death and subsequently conveyed to her sister-in-law for no consideration. The trial court set aside the conveyance of the real property as fraudulent and authorized the estate to “levy execution against the real property to the extent necessary to satisfy the judgment.” The surviving spouse does not appeal the fraudulent conveyance ruling; instead, she contends the real estate is immune from the estate’s claim because she used life insurance proceeds to purchase the real estate, and proceeds from a life insurance policy are immune from the claims of the estate’s creditors pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 56-7-202 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 56-7-203. The trial court found the surviving spouse’s reliance on the statutes to be misplaced because the statutes exempt life insurance proceeds payable to the surviving spouse or children from claims of “the decedent’s creditors,” not from creditors of the surviving spouse. We affirm. We also find that the appeal is frivolous and remand so the trial court may award just damages pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-1-122.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 08/18/15
John B. Evans v. Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc.
M2014-01099-COA-R3-CV


This appeal arises from a property damage dispute. Homeowner claims his sewer line was damaged during the installation of a natural gas pipeline in 1984 and that the damage was concealed. The gas company maintained that a subcontractor for a predecessor entity installed the pipeline and that it had no knowledge of any damage. After homeowner obtained a judgment in general sessions court, the gas company appealed to the circuit court for Davidson County. Homeowner moved to dismiss the appeal on the basis that the gas company did not timely set the case for trial. After homeowner’s motion to dismiss was denied, the gas company moved for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the gas company because: (1) there was no evidence in the record that the gas company or the predecessor entity damaged the sewer line or concealed any damage; (2) homeowner’s claims were barred by the statute of repose; and (3) homeowner failed to allege facts to support an award of punitive damages. Homeowner appeals. Although the trial court properly granted summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages, we conclude the court erred in limiting homeowner’s discovery. In light of this conclusion, we vacate the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in all other respects and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/18/15
Ronald Allen Brady v. Karen Louise Brady
M2014-01598-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns the division of a marital estate. The trial court ordered a special master to investigate and report on the identification, classification, and valuation of all marital property and assets. The special master issued a detailed report and recommended awarding seventy-two percent of the marital home’s equity to the husband and twenty-eight percent to the wife. The special master also proposed that both parties be given an option to purchase the marital home, first husband and then wife, and that, if neither exercised the option, the house be auctioned. Both parties filed objections to the special master’s report, but neither party alleged that the special master had acted outside his authority. Following a hearing on the objections, the trial court adopted the special master’s findings and recommendations. In connection with a hearing on the auction of the marital home, wife objected on the basis that the special master acted outside of his authority. Wife appeals, challenging the manner in which the marital home was valued and divided. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 08/18/15
William F. Hunt v. Veropele Nashville I, LLC
M2014-01046-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from competing claims by a landlord and tenant that the other breached their commercial lease agreement. Less than one year after entering into a five year lease, tenant vacated the premises declaring that landlord had materially breached Paragraphs 10 and 29 of the lease by, inter alia, refusing to make ADA accessibility improvements that tenant insists were required for tenant to obtain a use and occupancy permit. After tenant vacated the premises, landlord commenced this action alleging that tenant breached the lease by vacating the premises and refusing to pay rent (a) without justification, (b) based upon an unreasonable ultimatum, (c) before landlord could submit code compliant architectural plans to the Department of Codes and (d) before the Department of Codes could make a determination regarding the necessity of making ADA accessibility improvements. Tenant responded by asserting claims for breach of the lease, fraudulent misrepresentation, and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Following a four-day bench trial, the court found that tenant breached the lease by vacating the premises without justification and failing to pay rent, and awarded landlord damages for breach in the amount of $90,342 and attorney’s fees. The trial court dismissed the remainder of tenant’s claims. Finding no error, we affirm and remand for the trial court to award landlord its reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/18/15
Angela Rose Kee Ezekiel v. David Ezekiel
W2014-02332-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal of an award of alimony in futuro relative to a divorce. The trial court awarded Wife $250.00 in alimony in futuro until her retirement, and then $100.00 in alimony in futuro thereafter. We reverse the trial court‟s judgment and award Wife $43.00 in transitional alimony until her retirement, which alimony shall be modifiable upon a showing of a substantial and material change in circumstances.

Lauderdale County Court of Appeals 08/17/15
Christopher Lance Osteen v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01258-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Christopher Lance Osteen, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court‟s dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing the petition for failing to state a colorable claim without first appointing counsel to “perfect” the petition. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/15
Darell Ayers v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01963-CCA-R3-ECN

In 2013, the Petitioner, Darell Ayers, pleaded guilty to vehicle burglary, theft of property under $500, identity theft, and shoplifting. The Petitioner was sentenced to four years on community corrections. Subsequently, the trial court issued a warrant alleging that the Petitioner violated his community corrections sentence by being arrested for aggravated robbery and for failing to report this arrest to his community corrections officer. After a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant's community corrections sentence. In 2014, the Petitioner was acquitted of the aggravated burglary charge. The Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, claiming that, had the evidence presented at the 2014 trial been made available to him at the revocation hearing, a different judgment would have been reached. After a hearing, the coram nobis court found that error coram nobis relief was not available to challenge the revocation of probation pursuant to Frederick Parks v. State, No. W2013-01601-CCA-R3-ECN, 2014 WL 1767107 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, April 30, 2014). On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the coram nobis court erred when it dismissed his petition. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the coram nobis court's judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Bayman
W2014-01537-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Anthony Bayman, of second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to thirty-two years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because the evidence supported a conviction for the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter rather than second degree murder. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/15
Brenda Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises, LP, et al
M2013-00270-COA-R3-CV

A property owner (“Seller”) who had 91 acres contracted to sell 5.01 acres to Buyers. The contract contained the condition that Buyers would reserve a 60-foot strip of land along the western edge for Seller and that Buyers would construct a road along the 60-foot stretch to enable Seller to access her property from the west. The closing on the property occurred in March 2005, seven months after the contract was signed, but the warranty deed did not carve out the 60-foot strip consistent with the contract. Seller did not realize the deed did not reserve the 60-foot strip until November 2007, when she went to see her attorney. She contacted Buyers’ attorney immediately in an effort to have the deed corrected. When that effort was not successful, she filed a complaint alleging breach of contract in September 2008, less than four years after the sale was closed. Buyers argued Seller was barred by waiver and estoppel from succeeding on her contract claim because she sat on her rights for years while Buyers constructed a new building and left no space for a road to be built along the western edge. The trial court disagreed and awarded Seller damages in the amount of $850,000. After the case was on appeal, the defendants had a road constructed that provided Seller access to her property, but it was in a different location than the contract contemplated. The case was remanded to the trial court for the consideration of these additional facts, and the trial court reduced its earlier damages award down to $650,000. The Buyers appealed the trial court’s judgment, arguing the trial court erred in ruling Seller was not barred by estoppel, waiver, or laches, from recovering on her breach of contract claim. Buyers also argue the trial court erred in its award of discretionary costs. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/14/15
Omar Alejandro Garcia v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02126-CCA-R3-PC

Omar Alejandro Garcia (“the 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.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/15
Timothy Guilfoy v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01619-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Timothy Guilfoy, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Thomas L. Cope
M2014-00775-CCA-R3-CD

Following a bench trial, the defendant, Thomas L. Cope, was convicted of reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, violation of the open container law, and failure to yield the right of way.  The reckless endangerment conviction was merged into the aggravated assault conviction, for which the defendant was sentenced to three years at 30% and a concurrent sentence of thirty days for failure to yield the right of way.  The effective three-year sentence was ordered to be served by split confinement with 210 days’ incarceration with the balance of the sentence served on supervised probation.  He was fined $50 for violation of the open container law, with the same punishment for his conviction for failure to yield.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for reckless aggravated assault. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Shanta Stinson
E2014-02144-CCA-R3-CD
The Defendant, Shanta Stinson, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, identity theft, a Class D felony, two counts of theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, Class E felonies, two counts of vandalism, Class A misdemeanors, and illegal possession of a credit card, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-403 (2014) (aggravated burglary), 39-14-103 (2014) (theft of property), 39-14-146 (2014) (theft of merchandise), 39-14-105 (2014) (grading of theft/vandalism), 39-14-150 (Supp. 2011) (amended 2013, 2014) (identity theft), 39-14-408 (2014) (vandalism), 39-14-118 (2014) (illegal possession of a credit card). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of five years for aggravated burglary, three years for theft of property valued at $1000 or more, two years for identity theft, and two years for each theft of property valued at more than $500. The trial court also sentenced the Defendant to two concurrent terms of eleven months, twenty-nine days for each vandalism and illegal possession of a credit card conviction, for an effective five-year sentence. The court ordered the Defendant to serve eleven months, twenty-nine days at 75% service for the vandalism convictions and to serve her other sentences on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying her request for alternative sentencing relative to her vandalism convictions and ordering her to serve the sentences in confinement.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/14/15
Mid-South Maintenance Inc., et al. v. Paychex Inc., et al.
W2014-02329-COA-R3-CV

This is an arbitration case, wherein plaintiffs and the defendant-signatory expressly agreed to arbitrate any disputes arising from the contract and further agreed that the contract would be governed by New York law. Plaintiffs later filed suit against the defendant-signatory, as well as one of the defendant‘s employees, who had not signed the arbitration agreement, for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and aiding and abetting conversion. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration on the ground that the plaintiff‘s claims were outside the scope of the arbitration agreement, citing Tennessee law. We hold that, pursuant to federal and New York law, because of the delegation clause contained in the arbitration agreement, the arbitrator is the proper tribunal to determine issues regarding the scope and unconscionability of the arbitration agreement. We also hold that because plaintiffs‘ claims against the non-signatory employee are intertwined with the claims against the signatory defendant, all disputes regarding the arbitrability of claims against the non-signatory employee must also be resolved by the arbitrator. Reversed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/14/15
David Scott Kruse v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00360-CCA-R3-PC

Convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, petitioner, David Scott Kruse, has filed his third petition for post-conviction relief.  The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition as being time-barred.  Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Frederick J. Schmitz, Jr.
M2014-02377-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Frederick J. Schmitz, Jr., appeals his Dickson County Circuit Court jury conviction of driving without a license, for which he received a sentence of 30 days’ probation.  In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to impose the conviction, that Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-50-301 is unconstitutional, and that various procedural errors occurred attendant to his conviction.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/15
Demance M. Beasley v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01507-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Demance M. Beasley, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of felony murder, aggravated assault, and possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Charles Lugiai
M2014-01813-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Michael Charles Lugiai, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, contending that the trial court erred by refusing to suppress the statements he made to law enforcement officers.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/15
Paulette E. Dukes v. James F. Dukes
M2014-00847-COA-R3-CV

Husband and Wife were declared divorced in 2009; incorporated in the final decree of divorce was a Marital Dissolution Agreement containing a provision that required Husband to pay premiums on two life insurance policies, one which covered his life and named Wife as beneficiary and one on Wife’s life, naming him as beneficiary. In 2014 Husband cancelled the policy on his life because the premium had increased significantly. Wife filed a Petition for Contempt; after a hearing, the court held Husband in civil contempt and ordered him to obtain a $50,000 life insurance policy to replace the one he had cancelled. In the event he could not obtain such a policy, the court entered a $50,000 judgment against Husband and required him to make monthly payments on the judgment to the clerk of the court. Husband appeals. We affirm the judgment holding Husband in contempt and remand for entry of a supplemental order clarifying the conditions of the $50,000 judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 08/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Chyanne Elizabeth Gobble
E2014-01596-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Chyanne Elizabeth Gobble, pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving a death. The trial court denied judicial diversion and sentenced Defendant to two years' incarceration, suspending all but thirty days to supervised probation. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying judicial diversion. We hold that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion in placing undue weight on an irrelevant factor. Upon our de novo review of the record, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for entry of an order placing Defendant on diversion for a period of four years in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Bryant
W2014-01570-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Rodney Bryant, was convicted of carjacking and sentenced to twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/15
Brian Brawner v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02554-CCA-R3-HC

Petitioner, Brian Brawner, was convicted of aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, and facilitation of attempted first degree murder. The trial court merged his aggravated assault conviction into his conviction for facilitation of attempted first degree murder and sentenced him to an effective term of thirty years. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal and pursuit of post-conviction relief, petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition for failure to comply with the filing requirements and failure to state a basis for relief. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/15