Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 05/22/2015
Format: 05/22/2015
Community First Bank And Trust v. The Velligan Family Trust, et al
M2014-00370-COA-R3-CV

The matters in dispute pertain to four promissory notes. After the Bank filed suit to collect on the notes, Defendants filed counterclaims against the Bank and cross-claims against one of its agents. Following discovery, the Bank and its agent moved for summary judgment on all claims; Defendants opposed summary judgment on several grounds. Finding that the unpaid balances on the notes and the resulting deficiencies were undisputed and that Defendants released all claims against the Bank and its agent when they executed forbearance agreements, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bank in the amount of $204,024.25, and summarily dismissed all claims asserted by Defendants. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 04/30/15
In re Mattie H.
M2014-01350-COA-R3-JV

The trial court entered an order establishing paternity and setting child support for a non-marital child. The trial court also granted J. W. B.’ s (hereinafter “Father”) oral motion to change the child’s surname from T. H.’ s (hereinafter “Mother”) to Father’s. Mother appeals only the order changing the child’s surname. We reverse.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 04/30/15
Robert W. Halliman et al v. Heritage Bank et al
M2014-00244-COA-R3-CV

After foreclosing on three lots securing three loans, the mortgagee, Heritage Bank, sought to satisfy the outstanding deficiency by foreclosing on the debtors’ family-owned property that additionally secured these obligations. To prevent the impending foreclosure, the debtors commenced this action contending they are not liable for the deficiency because the properties sold at foreclosure for an amount materially less than their fair market value. In its answer, the bank asserted a counterclaim seeking a deficiency judgment and attorneys’ fees. At the close of the debtors’ case-in-chief, the bank moved for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(2). The trial court granted the motion, finding that the debtors failed to prove the fair market value of the three properties at the time of each foreclosure was materially less than the foreclosure sale prices; therefore, the debtors failed to overcome the presumption afforded by Tenn. Code Ann. § 35-5-118(b) that the foreclosure sale prices equaled the fair market value. The court then conducted a trial on the bank’s counterclaim for the deficiency and awarded the bank a judgment of $111,115.66. The trial court also awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $55,000, which was substantially less than the bank requested. Both parties appeal. The debtors contend the trial court erred in dismissing their claim because they presented sufficient proof that the sale prices were materially less than fair market value; they also contend the bank was not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees. The bank contends the trial court erred by reducing its fee application. We have determined the debtors failed to prove that the sales price for each of the foreclosed properties was materially less than their fair market value at the time of each sale, and we find no error with the award of attorneys’ fees. Accordingly, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 04/30/15
Pinnacle Roofs Plus v. William Murphy
M2014-01286-COA-R3-CV

Roofing company filed a civil warrant against homeowner for money owed on a written contract after completion of work and homeowner refused to pay. Homeowner countered by filing a civil warrant for breach of contract alleging that roofing company was not licensed as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-6-603 prior to entering into contract. The circuit court found that roofing company was licensed at all material times and awarded a monetary judgment in favor of roofing company. Homeowner appealed. Finding no error, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/30/15
In re Destiny W.
M2014-01256-COA-R3-PT

This appeal involves the termination of Mother’s parental rights to her child. At ten and one-half weeks old, the Department of Children’s Services placed the child with guardians due to Mother’s drug use. About eighteen months after the child’s placement with the guardians, the Guardian ad Litem filed a petition for termination of parental rights. The juvenile court found statutory grounds for termination of Mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the child’s best interest. On appeal, Mother argues that the Guardian ad Litem did not have standing to file the petition to terminate parental rights and that clear and convincing evidence did not support the juvenile court’s conclusion that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. We affirm.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 04/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Gerald McEwen
W2013-02692-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Gerald McEwen, of first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree murder. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his convictions and contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Draine aka Anthony Draine-Love
W2013-02436-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Anthony Draine a.k.a. Anthony Draine-Love, of aggravated burglary. He was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to nine years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress and contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Glen Sewell
W2014-00984-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Glen Sewell, was convicted of one count of Class D felony theft of property, two counts of Class D felony vandalism, one count of Class E felony vandalism, and one count of Class A misdemeanor vandalism. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty-six years, with three twelve-year sentences for the Class D felonies to be served consecutively to each other and concurrently with a six-year sentence for the Class E felony conviction and an eleven month and twenty-nine day sentence for the Class A misdemeanor. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for Class E felony vandalism, Class D theft of property, and Class D felony vandalism; (2) the trial court erred when interrupting trial counsel during voir dire; (3) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/15
Heather Walker Sellers v. Billy Joe Walker
E2014-00717-COA-R3-CV

This action involves the modification of a child support award. The trial court determined the self-employed obligor's income to be consistent with amounts deposited in his personal bank account, rather than the income reported on his federal tax returns, and calculated his child support obligation accordingly. The obligor has appealed the trial court's determination regarding his income and resultant child support obligation. We determine that the trial court properly based the obligor's income on the combined amount of his annual deposits. We also determine that the trial court properly set the obligee's income based on her testimony. We reverse the trial court's calculation regarding the amount of child support to be paid, however, due to a mathematical error in the trial court's income calculation and its failure to consider the obligor's self-employment taxes. We remand the case for a recalculation of child support utilizing the proper monthly income for the obligor and taking into consideration the amount of self-employment tax paid by him.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Connie L. Watson v. Ruby Anne Pike
E2014-02057-COA-R3-CV
This is an appeal from an order granting a new trial in a Will contest proceeding initiated by the appellant, Connie Louise Watson (“Watson”), seeking to invalidate the Last Will and Testament executed by her father, Noah Richard Earls, Sr. (“Decedent”), in which the appellee, Ruby Anne Pike (“Pike”), was appointed the Decedent’s Personal Representative and Executrix of his estate. Because the order on appeal contemplates further proceedings in the Trial Court, it is not a final order and we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.
 
Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Loreto Espinosa, Jr.
M2013-02751-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Loreto Espinosa, Jr., was convicted by a Bedford County Circuit Court jury of eighteen counts of aggravated rape of a child, Class A felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-531 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to sixty years for each conviction at 100% service and ordered partial consecutive sentences. The court ordered Counts 1 and 18 to run consecutively to each other and Counts 2 through 17 to run concurrently to each other but consecutively to Counts 1 and 18, for an effective 180-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the State failed to make a proper election of the offenses for Counts 2 through 17, and (3) his sentence is excessive. We conclude that insufficient evidence exists relative to Counts 1 through 17, and we reverse the judgments of the trial court, vacate the convictions, and dismiss the charges relative to those counts. Although the trial court failed to require the State to make an election of the offense relative to Count 18, we conclude that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/15
Ginger Ilene Hudson Stump v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01373-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Ginger Ilene Hudson Stump, pled guilty to seven counts of forgery, of which six were Class E felonies and one was a Class D felony.  The trial court sentenced her as a career offender to twenty-four years in the Department of Correction.  On direct appeal, this court affirmed the petitioner’s convictions and sentence.  State v. Ginger Ilene Hudson Stump, No. M2012-02723-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5310526, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 20, 2013).  Subsequently, she filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging she received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  Counsel was appointed and, following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition.  Based upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/15
Legacy Auto Sales, LLC, et al. v. Bank of New York Mellon, et al.
W2014-00637-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a suit by a borrower against a bank and its servicing agent. In its amended complaint, the borrower sought to enjoin a foreclosure sale and set aside the assignment of the deed of trust. Additionally, the borrower sought damages for several statutory violations, including alleged violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Though the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on most of the claims, there is no final judgment with regard to the borrower’s TCPA claim. Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Rogelynn Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education, now known as Shelby County Board of Education
W2014-01293-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal by a tenured teacher seeking relief for the school board’s failure to comply with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act for her termination. After receiving notice of charges pending against her, the teacher demanded a hearing before the school board. Pursuant to the Tenure Act, the school board was required to conduct a hearing on the charges within thirty days of the teacher’s demand. The school board failed to do so. The trial court held that because the delay did not affect the outcome of the hearing, the school board’s failure to comply with the Tenure Act was harmless and the teacher was not entitled to relief. On appeal, we conclude that Ms. Emory is entitled to an award of back pay for the number of days over thirty that she was suspended without pay and without a hearing following her demand for a hearing. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a calculation of the proper amount of damages to which the teacher is entitled.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Jennifer Broadrick v. Troy Broadrick
M2013-02628-COA-R3-CV

Father and Mother were divorced in Kentucky. As part of the divorce, they entered into an agreed custodial arrangement that granted them equal time with their child. Both parties subsequently relocated to Tennessee and now live within sixty miles of each other. Mother filed a petition to register the Kentucky plan and modify residential parenting time. Following a trial, the Tennessee court concluded that a material change in circumstance had occurred and modification of the parenting schedule was in the child’s best interest. In a new parenting plan, the court allocated Mother 246 days and Father 119 days of parenting time. Father appeals. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
In Re: Eve C.
M2014-01420-COA-R3-PT

Mother, whose daughter was placed in custody of the Department of Children’s Services at birth, appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans and persistence of conditions. Finding no error, we affirm the termination of Mother’s rights.
   

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Timothy Joshua Gooding v. Jessika Ann Gooding
M2014-01595-COA-R3-CV

Father appeals the parenting schedule contending it is not supported by the evidence and that the trial court erred by implicitly basing the parenting schedule on an erroneous legal standard, the tender years doctrine. Decisions concerning parenting plans are reviewed based on the deferential abuse of discretion standard. Nevertheless, discretionary decisions must be based on the applicable law and the relevant facts; accordingly, they are not immune from meaningful appellate review. In all actions tried upon the facts without a jury, the trial court is required, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01, to find the facts specially, state separately its conclusions of law, and enter judgment accordingly. The underlying rationale for this mandate is that it facilitates appellate review by affording a clear understanding of the basis of the trial court’s decision; in the absence of findings of fact and conclusions of law, this court is left to wonder on what basis the court reached its ultimate decision. When a trial court fails to comply with Rule 52.01, the appellate court cannot determine whether the trial court applied the correct legal standard or what reasoning it employed. In such circumstances, the appellate court is not required to review the discretionary decision with deference. In this case, the trial court established a parenting schedule without identifying the legal principles it applied or the factual basis for its decision; therefore, it failed to satisfy the Rule 52.01 mandate. Having no way of knowing the reasoning for the trial court’s decision, we conducted a de novo review of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies and found no factual or legal basis for the disparity in parenting time afforded the parents. Accordingly, we reverse the parenting schedule and remand with instructions for the trial court to establish a parenting schedule consistent with the statutory aspiration to maximize each parent’s participation in the life of the child based on all relevant facts and circumstances. Further, the court is to identify the factual and legal basis upon which the new parenting schedule is based as Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 requires. 

Fentress County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Leslie Ann Cremeens v. Eric Scott Cremeens
M2014-00152-COA-R3-CV

Mother challenges the modification of the parenting plan, specifically the designation of Father as the primary residential parent and the new parenting schedule. Mother contends that the trial court’s best interest determination was flawed because the trial court failed to consider the expert testimony of a psychologist who examined the child in Tennessee. She also contends the court erred by failing to require the guardian ad litem to investigate the records of a psychologist who examined the child in Georgia. Because Mother failed to provide a transcript of the evidence or a statement of the evidence, we must assume there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s factual determinations. We find no error with the investigation by the guardian ad litem because he was not required to investigate the records of every medical professional that examined the child; instead, by rule, the guardian ad litem is to “conduct an investigation to the extent that the guardian ad litem considers necessary to determine the best interests of the child. . . .” Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 40A, § 8(b)(1). Further, Mother failed to proffer a summary of the Georgia psychologist’s records or testimony; therefore, there is no factual basis for us to conclude that testimony of the Georgia psychologist would have affected the court’s decision. As for the Tennessee psychologist, the record reveals that the trial court did consider the expert’s testimony. As a result, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. We also declare this a frivolous appeal pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-1-122. 

White County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Albert Franklin Summers v. Nakisha Layne
M2014-01324-COA-R3-CV

At issue in this appeal is a custody dispute between Albert Franklin Summers (“Father”) and Nakisha Layne (“Mother”). In addition to finding that Mother failed to comply with the parental relocation statute codified at Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108, the trial court determined that it would be in the minor child’s best interests to designate Father as the primary residential parent. Although we conclude that the trial court erred in finding the parental relocation statute to be applicable to this case, we nonetheless determine that it conducted the proper analysis with respect to its custody decision. We affirm the trial court’s designation of Father as the primary residential parent.

Giles County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
In re Jake S.
M2014-01092-COA-R3-JV

This appeal arises out of a dispute regarding parenting time and child support obligations. After Father’s paternity was established, a magistrate judge named Mother the primary residential parent and granted her 230 days of parenting time. The magistrate judge granted Father 135 days. Father was ordered to pay $156 in monthly child support, plus $50 per month towards his arrearage. After Mother’s request for rehearing, the juvenile court judge conducted a de novo hearing. The juvenile court granted Mother 285 days of parenting time and Father only 80. The juvenile court also set Father’s child support at $331 per month, plus $50 towards his arrearage. Father appeals. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/29/15
Christopher Maurice Kibbe v. Mary Carolyn Kibbe
E2014-00970-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce action, the husband seeks reversal of the allocation of marital debt, the parenting plan, and the grant of alimony in futuro. The wife requests alimony in solido. We affirm the trial court's decision on all issues.

Washington County Court of Appeals 04/28/15
Matrin Becton v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00177-CCA-R3-PC

Following a jury trial, Petitioner, Matrin Becton, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. He was also convicted in the same trial for especially aggravated robbery and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to serve twenty-five years’ incarceration for each conviction of especially aggravated kidnapping and especially aggravated robbery and ordered consecutive sentencing which resulted in an effective sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole plus seventy-five years’. Petitioner’s convictions were affirmed on appeal. State v. Matrin Becton and Antonio Sykes, No. W1999-00581-CCA-R3-CD, 2002 WL 1349530 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 19, 2001). Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, which was amended and supplemented. After several years of delays, an evidentiary hearing was finally held in 2013. The post-conviction trial court denied relief and Petitioner has timely appealed that ruling. Following a thorough review we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/15
Cole Woodard v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00837-CCA-R3-PC

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Cole Woodard, of sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to serve three concurrent sentences of ten years each for these convictions. On appeal, this Court affirmed the convictions, but it vacated the judgments and remanded the case for entry of judgments reflecting merger of the jury verdicts into a single conviction for sale of cocaine. State v. Cole Woodard, W2011-02224-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 4057266 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Sept. 17, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief on January 28, 2014, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing regarding whether the Petitioner petition was untimely filed, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition as time-barred. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Casey Dewayne Moon
M2014-00886-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted appellant, Casey Dewayne Moon, of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and theft of property valued under $500, a Class A misdemeanor.  The trial court sentenced him to four years for the aggravated burglary conviction and a concurrent sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor theft conviction.  The trial court ordered him to serve the first six months in confinement with the remainder to be supervised in community corrections.  On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce evidence of a prior theft conviction; that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; and that the trial court erred in its sentencing.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Kurt Brewer
M2014-00601-CCA-R3-CD

A Grundy County Grand Jury indicted Kurt Brewer, the Defendant, for one count of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. A jury found the Defendant guilty of the lesser-included offense of reckless homicide and not guilty on both counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. The charge of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony was not submitted to the jury. The jury set the maximum fine for a class D felony, $5,000. The trial court imposed a four-year sentence to be served. The Defendant claims the trial court erred in not granting an alternative sentence and in denying judicial diversion. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/15