Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/03/2015
Format: 07/03/2015
Randy Carter v. City of Carthage, Tennessee and Tennessee Second Injury Fund
M2014-00852-SC-R3-WC

Employee alleged that he sustained an injury to his lower back while lifting a heavy grate in the course of his work. Employer provided medical care, but denied that he had sustained a permanent injury. The trial court awarded permanent disability benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings concerning causation, permanency, and impairment. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse and dismiss.    

Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 06/16/15
Katherine Sanko v. Clinton Sanko
E2014-01816-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce appeal concerns the mother's notice of intent to relocate to Pennsylvania with the parties' minor children. The father responded by filing a petition in opposition to the requested relocation. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the father's petition. The mother appeals. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/16/15
Kyle Beverly et al. v. Hardee's Food Systems, LLC
E2014-02155-COA-R3-CV

This is a premises liability case in which the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendant, alleging that Kyle Beverly slipped and fell on the floor after entering the defendant’s dining establishment. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Kyle Beverly was comparatively negligent and that the plaintiffs could not prove that its employees had notice of the dangerous condition prior to the fall. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiffs could not establish that the defendant had notice of the dangerous condition prior to the fall. The plaintiffs appeal. The decision of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part. We remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Roane County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Adam Todd Tucker
M2014-01931-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Adam Todd Tucker, appeals the Lawrence County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation for his convictions for two counts of theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000, theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, and promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and ordering his effective eight-year sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/15/15
Heather Dawn Lyons Heilig v. Robert Todd Heilig
E2014-00586-COA-R3-CV

This is a post-divorce parent relocation case. Robert Todd Heilig (Father) notified Heather Dawn Lyons Bevil, formerly Helig (Mother) of his intent to move with the parties' minor son from Chattanooga to Toccoa, Georgia, about three and a half hours away, in order to assume new employment. Mother opposed the move and filed a petition asking the trial court to disallow it. Mother alleged that the parties were spending substantially equal intervals of time with the child, and that the move was not in the best interest of the child. The trial court, applying the parent relocation statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108 (2014), found that Father was spending substantially more time with the child than Mother, and held that Mother “failed to prove that the relocation does not have a reasonable purpose, that the relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to [the child] or that the Father's motive is vindictive.” The trial court allowed Father to relocate with the child. Mother appeals, raising the issue of whether the trial court erred in its calculation of the parties' respective parenting time, and whether it should have found such time “substantially equal.” We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
Carrie Coggins et al. v. Holston Valley Medical Center
E2014-00594-COA-R3-CV

On August 6, 2011, Carrie Coggins and her husband Joel R. Coggins (Plaintiffs) visited a patient at Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center (Hospital). While there, Mrs. Coggins tripped and fell, sustaining serious injuries. Plaintiffs filed suit and alleged that Mrs. Coggins tripped over a feeding tube that, according to Plaintiffs, had been negligently left near her friend’s bed in such a way as to create a dangerous condition. Before they filed suit, Plaintiffs served Hospital with pre-suit notice of their intent to file. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 (2012). Hospital filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The trial court granted Hospital summary judgment. The court held that (1) Plaintiffs’ action was an ordinary negligence action based on premises liability, not a health care liability action; and (2) Plaintiffs could not rely upon (a) Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c), which extends the applicable statutes of limitations and repose for 120 days when pre-suit notice is properly given, or (b) Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(e), which provides that “[i]n the event that a complaint is filed in good faith reliance on the extension of the statute of limitations or repose granted by this section and it is later determined that the claim is not a health care liability claim, the extension of the statute of limitations and repose granted by this section is still available to the plaintiff.” We agree with the trial court’s holding that Plaintiffs’ claim sounds in ordinary negligence under a premises liability theory.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company a/s/o Kenneth L. Couch v. Jackson Madison School System Board of Education
W2014-02218-COA-R3-CV

This case arises from a non-contact accident between a John Deere crop sprayer and a school bus. The sprayer, which is insured by Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company as subrogee of the owner, Appellee Kenneth L. Couch, was driven by Mr. Couch‘s employee, Cameron Martin. The school bus, which is owned by Appellant Jackson Madison School System Board of Education, was driven by its employee, Lawrence Davis. The trial court held that Mr. Davis was negligent in failing to appreciate the situation so as to ―take reasonable action to avoid an accident.‖ We conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court‘s finding of negligence on the part of Mr. Davis. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of judgment in favor of Appellant.

Madison County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
In re M.P.H.
E2014-02267-COA-R3-PT

J.L.W. (Mother) appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her minor daughter, M.P.H. (the Child). Based on evidence of Mother’s drug abuse, the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) removed the Child from Mother’s custody and placed her in foster care. The Child was later adjudicated dependent and neglected. Eighteen months after the Child’s removal, DCS filed a petition to terminate each of her parents’ rights. After a trial, the court granted the petition. As to Mother, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) multiple grounds for termination exist, and (2) termination is in the Child’s best interest. Mother challenges each of these determinations. We affirm.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
In re Aisha R., et al.
E2014-01520-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children's Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Christee R. and Matthew R. to two of their minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of each parent's parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions and mental incompetence and that termination of their rights was in the best interest of the children. The parents appeal. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
In re Steven C.
M2014-01944-COA-R3-PT

A father’s parental rights to his child were terminated on the grounds that the father failed to comply with the requirements of the permanency plans developed when the child went into the custody of the Department of Children’s Services and that the conditions which led to the child’s removal persisted. Father appeals, contending that the Department did not use reasonable efforts to reunite him with his child and that the court erred in finding that the child had been removed from Father’s home. Finding that clear and convincing evidence exists to support the grounds for termination of Father’s rights, and that termination of those rights is in the best interest of the child, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/15/15
Fredrico A. Dixon, III v. Patricia Grissom
E2014-00947-COA-R9-CV

The dispute central to this interlocutory appeal involves a failed real estate transaction and alleged breach of a real estate agent‘s fiduciary duty to her client. The plaintiff buyer entered into an agreement to purchase improved real property from the seller but failed to obtain financing to complete the purchase. In a previous action brought by the seller against the buyer, the trial court found that the buyer‘s attempted termination of the contract was ineffective and that he therefore breached the contract. On appeal, this Court affirmed that judgment in favor of the seller. The buyer subsequently brought the instant action against the defendant real estate agent, alleging breach of fiduciary duty based on the agent‘s failure to confirm delivery of the buyer‘s credit declination letter to the seller. The agent filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that the buyer had filed this action outside the time parameters of the applicable statute of limitations. Following a hearing, the trial court applied the discovery rule to find that knowledge of the agent‘s alleged failure to terminate the contract could not be imputed to the buyer before April 22, 2010, when the seller‘s counsel had raised the issue during trial in the original action.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/12/15
Andrew Mann v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01524-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Andrew Mann, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel due to trial counsel’s advice that he testify in his own defense. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/12/15
Richard Lee Hibbens v. Ashley Elizabeth Rue
E2014-00829-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves an award of retroactive child support. The child‘s father is in the military and was deployed overseas during part of the relevant time period. The trial court initially set the child support obligation based on the number of days the father would have had with the child pursuant to the parties‘ mediated agreement, regardless of the fact that he did not exercise all of that time due to his deployment. After considering a post-trial motion filed by the mother, the trial court altered the award to set the child support obligation based on the number of days the father actually spent with the child, not the number of days he was provided under the mediated agreement. The father appeals, challenging substantive and procedural aspects of the court‘s decision. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/12/15
In re Kalob S., et al.
E2014-02016-COA-R3-PT

This case involves the termination of the parental rights of a biological father to his seven children. Appellant contends that the trial court erred in terminating his parental rights. Because the grounds for termination are met by clear and convincing evidence, and there is also clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the minor children at issue, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/12/15
Jerry Bundren v. Thelma Bundren, et al.
E2014-01090-COA-R3-CV

Thelma Bundren and George David Bundren (“Defendants”) appeal the order of the Circuit Court for Claiborne County (“the Trial Court”) finding and holding, inter alia, that the survey prepared by Comparoni & Associates establishes the boundary lines between real properties owned by Defendants and real property owned by Jerry Bundren (“Plaintiff”). We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings, and we affirm.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 06/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Randy Wayne Johnson
E2014-01613-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Randy Wayne Johnson, challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping. He argues that the kidnapping was merely incidental to the accompanying assault, of which he was also convicted. Because Defendant's conduct in committing the kidnapping constituted a separate and independent offense, there is sufficient evidence to support his conviction, and Defendant is not entitled to relief.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Malik Hardin
E2014-00873-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Malik Hardin, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell less than 0.5 grams of cocaine in a drug free school zone, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, simple possession of a controlled substance, and criminal trespass. He received a total effective sentence of fifteen years to be served at 100 percent. As part of his guilty plea, the Defendant sought to reserve two certified questions of law: (1) whether the defendant's arrest for the offense of criminal trespass was “objectively reasonable” under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution in light of the “cite and release” rule codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-7-118(b)(1); and (2) whether the seizure of the Defendant's automobile was based upon reasonable suspicion that the automobile was or contained evidence or fruits of criminal activity, and whether there was “reasonable cause” to believe that impoundment was “reasonably necessary” under the circumstances. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant's custodial arrest for criminal trespass was not in contravention of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-7-118 and that the trial court did not err in failing to suppress evidence seized subsequent to the defendant's arrest. The judgments of the trial court are, therefore, affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Malik Hardin - dissenting opinion
E2014-00873-CCA-R3-CD

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Defendant’s custodial arrest for criminal trespass was proper. The Defendant was arrested for criminal trespass based on the exception to the cite and release statute that allows for a custodial arrest for a misdemeanor when “[t]here is a reasonable likelihood that the offense would continue or resume . . . .” See Tenn. Code Ann. 40-7-118(c)(2). Because I do not believe that exception was properly applied in this case, I have concluded that the Defendant was subjected to a custodial arrest in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated 40-7-118(b)(1). Accordingly, I would not reach the Defendant’s second issue challenging the legality of the search of his vehicle following his arrest.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/12/15
In re: Bonnie L., et al
M2014-01576-COA-R3-PT

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. The children were removed from their parents’ home because of drug exposure and domestic violence. A court adjudicated the children dependent and neglected about six months after their removal. Nearly two years later, the Department of Children’s Services petitioned to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. Following a trial, the juvenile court found that two statutory grounds existed to terminate Mother’s rights— substantial noncompliance and persistent conditions. The court found that three grounds existed to terminate Father’s rights—abandonment for failure to visit, substantial noncompliance, and persistent conditions. The court also concluded that the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals the court’s determination that there were statutory grounds to terminate her rights and that termination was in the children’s best interest. Father also appeals the court’s best interest determination, but he appeals the court’s decision on only two of the three statutory grounds to terminate his rights. We affirm.  

Dickson County Court of Appeals 06/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Adam Dansby Frazier
M2014-01027-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Adam Dansby Frazier, appeals his Hickman County Circuit Court jury convictions of attempted second degree murder, possession of contraband in a penal institution, aggravated assault, and facilitation of felony reckless endangerment, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of attempted second degree murder and that the trial court erred by impermissibly commenting upon the evidence at trial.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/11/15
State of Tennessee v. William C. Boles
M2014-01023-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, William C. Boles, appeals his Clay County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of the delivery of oxycodone, a Schedule II drug, in a drug-free school zone and one count of possession with the intent to sell oxycodone in a drug-free school zone, for which he received a total effective sentence of 60 years’ incarceration, claiming that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the trial court erred by imposing partially consecutive sentences.  Because we conclude that no error attends the convictions or sentences, the convictions and sentences are affirmed.  Because we detect error in the judgment forms, however, the case must be remanded to the trial court for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting the mandatory minimum period of incarceration as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-432.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/11/15
Joshua Faulkner v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01572-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Joshua Faulkner, pursuant to a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated assault, with a total effective sentence of ten years of incarceration. Thereafter, the Petitioner filed, pro se, a petition for post-conviction relief. Counsel was appointed and, after a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that Counsel was ineffective because he coerced the Petitioner into entering a guilty plea. After a thorough review of the record and relevant law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/11/15
In re: William B.
M2014-01762-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, the father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights to his son on the grounds of wanton disregard for the welfare of the child prior to father’s incarceration. The father also asserts the court erred in finding that termination was in the child’s best interest. We find that clear and convincing evidence supports the decision of the trial court and affirm the judgment in all respects.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 06/11/15
Southern Trust Insurance Company v. Matthew Phillips
E2014-01581-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves the interpretation of an insurance policy in order to determine whether the policy provided coverage for damage caused by arson. The insurer and the insured filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on this issue. The trial court found the policy ambiguous and construed it in favor of coverage, holding that arson was covered under the policy. Accordingly, the trial court granted the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the insured and denied the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the insurer. The insurer appeals. We affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/10/15
Darien C. Houston v. State of Tennessee
E2014-02062-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Darien C. Houston, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief for having been untimely filed. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/10/15