Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 10/24/2014
Format: 10/24/2014
Amber L. Bilbrey v. Melissa Lynn Parks
E2013-02808-COA-R3-CV

This negligence case arises out of a car accident. Plaintiff Amber L. Bilbrey, while driving from Mayland to Monterey with her boyfriend and her aunt, ran out of gas. They turned around and tried to get the car back to Mayland by a combination of “running on fumes” and pushing the car. When they could push no longer, Bilbrey parked the car on the side of the road. Because there was a parallel ditch on the shoulder of the road, a part of the parked car extended into the roadway. Bilbrey stayed with the car while the others went for gas. The defendant, Melissa Lynn Parks, was driving toward Mayland and ran into the back of Bilbrey’s car, causing injury to both of them. After a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding both Bilbrey and Parks to be 50% at fault. The trial court entered a judgment in accordance with the jury verdict. The issues raised on appeal are whether the trial court erred in admitting (1) the deposition testimony of Bilbrey’s boyfriend after the court found him “unavailable” because he was allegedly more than 100 miles from the courthouse, and (2) the testimony of a state trooper regarding the content of a voice message sent by Bilbrey to her boyfriend shortly before the accident. Finding no prejudicial error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 09/29/14
Dennis Michael Christie v. Shannon Denise Christie
M2014-01647-COA-T10B-CV

In this post-divorce proceeding, Wife has filed an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. After reviewing Wife’s petition for recusal appeal de novo as required under Rule 10B, we summarily affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Bringle Farms Partnership v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02278-COA-R3-CV

This is a breach of contract case arising from a crop lease entered into between a farming entity and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (“the TWRA”). The five-year lease required the lessee to pay rent for the right to farm the land; however, the lessee would receive a credit provided he timely planted and harvested an agreed upon amount and type of waterfowl food crop to feed wildlife. The lessee would also receive a credit for providing agreed upon “in-kind services.” After the second year, the TWRA terminated the lease for, inter alia, non-payment of rent, failure to timely plant crops, and failure to remove trash. The lessee filed this claim alleging the TWRA wrongfully terminated the five-year lease with three years remaining for which it sought damages for lost profits. The TWRA counterclaimed for unpaid rent and damage to the property. The claims commission found the TWRA did not terminate the lease for cause; therefore, the lessee was entitled to seek damages for lost profits; however, the commission found the lessee failed to prove its damages. As for the TWRA’s counterclaims, the commission found the lease ambiguous regarding the payment of rent, and after considering parol evidence, it determined the parties intended the performance of in-kind services would reduce the rent to zero. Therefore, the commission denied the TWRA’s counterclaim for unpaid rent. As for damage to the property, the commission found the lessee damaged the property for which it awarded the TWRA $1,743.30. Both parties appealed. We have concluded the TWRA terminated the lease for cause due to material breaches by the lessee; therefore, the lessee is not entitled to damages.We have also concluded that the lease provision regarding rentand in-kind services is unambiguous and that the lessee failed to provide in-kind services sufficient to offset all of the rent that was owing; therefore, the TWRA is entitled to recover the balance owed on the rent. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Noranda Aluminum, Inc. v. Golden Aluminum Extrusiion, LLC, Et Al.
M2013-02274-COA-R3-CV

The issue in this appeal is whether the trial court properly held that companies A and B could not be held liable for the allegedly fraudulent sale of equipment by company C because the equipment at issue was fully encumbered by a lien at the time of the sale and, therefore, did not qualify as an asset under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Guy Hawkins v. Diana Le-Hawkins
M2013-02068-COA-R3-CV

The principal issue in this appeal is whether a marital dissolution agreement the parties entered into while Wife’s complaint for a legal separation was pending was enforceable in an action husband commenced for an absolute divorce six days after Wife voluntarily dismissed her complaint. In Husband’s subsequent action, from which this appeal arises, Wife contested the divorce and challenged the validity of the MDA claiming it was not entered into in contemplation of Husband filing this action; she also contended it was invalid because Husband did not disclose all of his assets. The trial court found the MDA was valid because it was entered into without fraud or duress and with full knowledge of all the parties’ assets, granted a divorce, and divided the marital estate pursuant to the MDA. Wife appeals, contending that the MDA does not comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103, which expressly directs that “a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial,if a properlyexecuted marital dissolution agreement is presented to the court.” To constitute a properly executed marital dissolution agreement, an MDA must be entered into in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103(a)(2), which expressly requires, inter alia, that an MDA be entered into in regards to a pending divorce or in contemplation of one being filed. Wife claims that the MDA was entered into in regards to a legal separation, and not in contemplation of divorce. The language of the MDA clearly reveals that the parties expressly contemplated a divorce and that the agreement would be incorporated in any decree of divorce that may ensue. Moreover, the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the parties entered into the MDA without fraud or duress and with full knowledge of the parties’ assets;therefore,the MDA constitutes a properly executed marital dissolution agreement for purposes of this action and is a valid and binding agreement upon the parties. Accordingly, we affirm.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
In Re Conservatorship of Alfonso B. Patton
M2012-01078-COA -R3-CV

This case involves the authority of an attorney-in-fact to make gifts pursuant to a power of attorney. We agree with the trial court’s determination that, in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann.§ 34-6-110(a),the power of attorney did notauthorize the attorney-in-factto make gifts.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
In Re CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., et al.
E2013-02851-COA-R3-CV

This action involves subpoenas issued in a Massachusetts divorce case and served upon Tennessee business entities as well as individuals domiciled in Tennessee. The wife has family members, including her father, who live in Tennessee, and she also allegedly owns an interest in certain Tennessee companies. The husband requested that subpoenas be issued by the Massachusetts court where the divorce was pending to be served upon the Tennessee residents and companies. Regarding the individuals, the husband sought to discover whether provisions had been made for the wife in any of their estate plans. Regarding the businesses, the husband sought to discover the nature and value of the wife’s interests therein. The Tennessee individuals and companies filed separate motions seeking to quash all subpoenas. The trial court entered an order quashing the subpoena issued to the wife’s father and holding in abeyance the subpoenas issued to the wife’s other relatives. The order also provides that the subpoenas issued to the business entities would be addressed at a future hearing. The husband filed a motion asking the trial court to reconsider its ruling pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59. The trial court entered a second order reaffirming its earlier ruling regarding the subpoena issued to the wife’s father. The husband has appealed. Following a thorough review of the record, we determine that the order from which the husband appeals does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below. As such, the order is not a final order, and this appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Elizabeth Ann Morrow Granoff v. Andrew Scott Granoff
E2013-02598-COA-R3-CV

This action arose over the proposed post-divorce sale of improved real property in which both parties held an ownership interest pursuant to the terms of their marital dissolution agreement, entered by the trial court with the parties’ divorce judgment in May 2006. The real property at issue consisted of a luxury estate situated on approximately twenty-six acres of lakeside property in White Pine, Tennessee. Following the parties’ filing of competing motions for contempt, respectively alleging each party’s lack of cooperation in efforts to sell the marital residence, the parties announced an agreement in December 2008 that the wife would “assume the right to list, market, show and sell” the marital residence while the husband was allowed to continue living there. This agreement was ultimately memorialized by the trial court in an order entered September 6, 2011. Upon negotiating an offer to purchase the marital residence for $925,000.00 in August 2013, the wife filed a motion to approve the sale at that price. Following a bench hearing, at which the husband opposed the sale and questioned Wife’s authority to enter into the purchase and sale contract, the trial court granted the wife’s motion and approved the sale of the marital residence for the amount of $925,000.00. The court also granted Wife authority to convey the real property upon her signature alone, ruling that Wife had acted in accordance with the authority awarded her in the previous order. The husband appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Roadway Express, Inc. v. Sammy T. Robertson
E2013-02797-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an award granted as part of a workers’ compensation claim. Roadway Express, Inc. (“Roadway”) sued Sammy T. Robertson (“Robertson”) in the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court previously had ordered Roadway to pay for certain medical treatment for Robertson. Roadway made the payments and appealed the Trial Court’s decision. The Tennessee Supreme Court Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel vacated the Trial Court’s order granting this award, and Roadway then sought reimbursement from Robertson. Robertson filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that this action was governed by workers’ compensation laws and there was no mechanism for reimbursement available to Roadway. The Trial Court dismissed the suit. Roadway appeals. Without reaching any conclusions about any other possible redress Robertson may have under Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws, we hold that the Trial Court had subject matter jurisdiction in Roadway’s suit seeking reimbursement and, therefore, erred in granting Robertson’s motion to dismiss. We reverse the Trial Court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 09/26/14
Melissa L. Grayson v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02842-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Melissa L. Grayson, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s dismissal of her petition for post-conviction relief.  The Petitioner contends that her trial counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to effectively communicate with her and prepare her for trial and (2) for failing to call several witnesses “that would have been beneficial” to her defense.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/14
Bruce Rishton v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02817-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Bruce Rishton, appeals the Sequatchie County summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. He contends that the trial court’s failure to inform him of the “direct and punitive consequences” of his accepting a guilty plea requiring community supervision for life renders his guilty plea void and that habeas corpus relief should have been granted. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Sequatchie County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/14
James Oscar Mason v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01998-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, James Oscar Mason, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Bedford County Circuit Court jury conviction of delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance, for which he received a sentence of 10 years’ incarceration.  In this appeal, the petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/14
State of Tennessee V. Minlando Cordell Young
M2014-00115-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Minlando Cordell Young, was indicted for one count of selling less than .5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony; one count of delivering less than .5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony; two counts of selling one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; two counts of delivering one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; one count of selling .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; one count of delivering .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine “for resale,” a Class B felony; and possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony.  See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417.  Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of one count of delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine and one count of the lesser-included offense of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor.  See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418.  The jury acquitted the Defendant of all the remaining charges.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twelve years for the felony conviction and eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor conviction.  The trial court ordered the two sentences to be served consecutively.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in imposing an excessive sentence for his felony conviction.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/14
Greg Phillips v. Southern Heritage Bank
E2014-00222-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns Plaintiff’s complaint against Southern Heritage Bank to recover funds depleted from his account while he was incarcerated. Southern Heritage Bank filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the checks used to deplete the account were signed by Plaintiff’s mother, an authorized user, and that even if the checks were signed fraudulently, Plaintiff failed to timely review his bank statements. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 09/25/14
In Re: Madison M., et al.
M2013-02561-COA-R3-JV

This is a dependency and neglect case.  The juvenile court adjudicated the children at issue dependent and neglected and found that one of the children, Madison, had been subjected to severe child abuse at the hands of her stepfather. The stepfather appealed to circuit court. After a de novo hearing, the circuit court also adjudicated the children dependent and neglected and found that Madison had been subjected to severe child abuse byher stepfather. Stepfather appeals, arguing that the circuit court judge abused her discretion in admitting certain evidence during the de novo trial in circuit court. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 09/25/14
Caleb J. Belcher v. State of Tennessee
E2013-00649-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Caleb J. Belcher, pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery, all Class B felonies, and two counts of willful abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult, Class E felonies. He received concurrent sentences of ten years for each Class B felony and concurrent two-year sentences for the remaining convictions. He filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief, which was summarily dismissed by the post-conviction court. In this appeal from the dismissal, petitioner seeks DNA testing of physical evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001 and raises claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and other constitutional violations. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. John Valentine
W2013-01002-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, John Valentine, was convicted of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the State’s election of an undated offense failed to ensure a unanimous jury verdict as to the rape of a child charge and that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for the elected offense; (2) the trial court abused its discretion by permitting certain witnesses to testify; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by allowing photographs of the victim into evidence; (4) the trial court abused its discretion by prohibiting counsel from questioning witnesses about the victim’s prior allegations of sexual abuse; and (5) the cumulative errors of the trial court warrant a reversal of the defendant’s conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. J.W. Causey
W2013-01432-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, J.W. Causey, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of first degree premeditated murder, for which he received a life sentence in the Department of Correction. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Gene Luigi Atkins
W2013-02544-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Gene Luigi Atkins, was convicted of one count of initiation of methamphetamine manufacture process, a Class B felony. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; that the trial court erred by permitting a police officer to testify as an expert beyond the scope of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-435(d) (2010); that the trial court erred by not subjecting the officer’s testimony to the requirements of Tennessee Rules of Evidence 702 and 703; and that the failure to specify the parameters in which an officer was treated as an expert amounted to plain error because the trial court found that the expert testimony was sufficient corroboration to support a codefendant’s testimony. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Henry Lee Jones
W2009-01655-SC-DDT-DD

The defendant was indicted for two first degree murders in Shelby County. During the trial, the court allowed the jury to hear evidence of a third murder allegedly committed by the defendant in a different state, ruling that the out-of-state murder qualified as a “signature crime” and was relevant to the issue of identity. The defendant was convicted as charged and received a sentence of death for each offense. In a divided opinion, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Because the out-of-state murder did not qualify as a signature crime and, under these circumstances, the danger of unfair prejudice outweighed the probative value of the evidence, the trial court erred by allowing the proof of the third murder. Because the error does not qualify as harmless, the convictions must be reversed and a new trial must be granted. On remand, the State may again seek the death penalty for each offense.

Shelby County Supreme Court 09/25/14
Caleb J. Belcher v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00649-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Caleb J. Belcher, pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery, all Class B felonies, and two counts of willful abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult, Class E felonies. He received concurrent sentences of ten years for each Class B felony and concurrent two-year sentences for the remaining convictions. He filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief, which was summarily dismissed by the post-conviction court. In this appeal from the dismissal, petitioner seeks DNA testing of physical evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001 and raises claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and other constitutional violations. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Monroe County 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Barry H. Hogg
M2012-00303-SC-R11-CD

The defendant was convicted of multiple counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation
of a minor, criminal exposure of another to the human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”), and
aggravated statutory rape. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions. Based
on our review, we hold (1) there is sufficient evidence to support the separate convictions of
especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated statutory rape; (2) there
is sufficient evidence to support the convictions for four counts of criminal exposure to HIV
but insufficient evidence to support the convictions for three of the counts; and (3) the
defendant’s sentence, as modified, is not excessive.

Wilson County Supreme Court 09/25/14
Richard Lynn Norton v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01033-CCA-R3-ECN

According to petitioner, Richard Lynn Norton, in 1990, he pleaded guilty to escape and to a violation of the Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act. Subsequently, he filed the instant petition for writ of error coram nobis in 2013, claiming that the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Walls, 62 S.W.3d 119 (Tenn. 2001), constitutes newly discovered evidence that renders his escape conviction void. The coram nobis court summarily dismissed the petition. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Dorothy Denise Cross
E2013-02133-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial in the Knox County Criminal Court, Defendant, Dorothy Denise Cross, was found guilty as charged of four counts of misdemeanor assault of the victim, who we identify as “E.V.” or “the victim.” All four counts of the indictment related to the same incident, and each count charged misdemeanor assault under one of the alternative legal bases found in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-101. The trial court merged counts 2, 3, and 4 with count 1, sentenced Defendant to serve 11 months and 29 days in the Knox County Jail, suspended the incarceration, and placed Defendant on supervised probation for 11 months and 29 days. In her sole issue on appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Charles McClain, Lavino Horne and Leterpa Mosley
W2013-00328-CCA-R3-CD

Defendants, Charles McClain, Lavino Horne, and Leterpa Mosley were indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury, charged with one count of premeditated murder, one count of felony murder, and one count of especially aggravated robbery. A jury found all three defendants guilty as charged in the indictment. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction with the premeditated murder conviction for each defendant and sentenced all three defendants to life in prison for first degree murder and 25 years for especially aggravated robbery. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served concurrently. On appeal, Defendants Mosley and Horne contend that the trial court erred by failing to sever their cases. All three defendants contend that the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions. Defendant Mosley contends that the trial court erred by allowing into evidence a video taken from the library where the incident occurred and by suppressing Defendant McClain’s statements to police. Defendant McClain contends that he was prejudiced by the State’s use of a hypothetical during voir dire and that the trial court improperly denied him the opportunity to rehabilitate a prospective juror. Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of all the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/14