Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/19/2014
Format: 12/19/2014
In Re: J.C.B.
M2014-01112-COA-R3-PT

This appeal arises from a decision by the Juvenile Court for White County terminating Mother’s parental rights to her son. Child was placed into emergency custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS” or “the Department”), pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-113, when he was two months old after law enforcement officials found a methamphetamine lab in the living room of Mother’s apartment while Child and Father were present. The juvenile court issued a protective custody order and appointed a guardian ad litem for Child. Between that time and the termination hearing, three permanency plans were created. Mother was incarcerated multiple times and failed to complete any of the requirements of her permanency plans. DCS tried to schedule visitation for Mother, provide her information about rehabilitation programs, keep in contact with her, and administer drug screens,but it had difficulty due to Mother’s repeated incarcerations and failure to keep in contact with DCS. DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The court terminated Mother’s parental rights; held that the requirements of the permanency plans were all reasonable; and held that DCS made reasonable efforts to assist Mother in complying with the requirements of the plans. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

White County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Ronald T. Daugherty v. Lavada J. Doyle, et al
M2013-02509-COA-R3-CV

A shareholder in a closely-held family business brought this action pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 48-26-102(b) to inspect the company’s accounting records. The trial court determined that the shareholder’s request was made in good faith and for a proper purpose. On appeal, the defendants assert that the trial court erred in finding that the shareholder’s request was made in good faith and in awarding him his attorney fees and the expenses he incurred in hiring a forensic accountant. We reverse the trial court’s decision to award the shareholder the expenses he incurred for the forensic accountant, but remand for a determination of an award based on the accountant’s fees concerning testimony about whether the records requested by Mr. Daugherty were accounting records. In all other respects, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Michael L. Schwartz, et al. v. Diagnostix Network Alliance, et al.
M2014-00006-COA-R3-CV

This case involves an agreement between a distributor of medical tests and a healthcare consultant. The agreement provided that the consultant would earn a commission on sales of the medical test that he solicited on behalf of the distributor. After several months, the distributor terminated the agreement. The consultant filed a lawsuit against the distributor. The consultant alleged that the distributor breached its duty of good faith under the contract by terminating the agreement in order to avoid paying commissions and by failing to provide an adequate sales force to assist the consultant in making sales. The consultant alleged that the distributor breached a separate verbal contract for the development of marketing materials. The consultant also alleged that the distributor fraudulently misrepresented its intent to compensate the consultant for his efforts in soliciting orders for the medical test. The trial court dismissed the consultant’s fraud claim and granted summary judgment to the distributor on each of the remaining claims.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court with respect to the consultant’s breach of good faith and fraud and misrepresentation claims. However, we find that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the consultant’s claim that the distributor breached a separate verbal contract. We also vacate and remand the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees for reconsideration after issues related to the verbal contract are resolved.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Barbara M. Hicks Vick v. Brandon P. Hicks
W2013-02672-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from the trial court’s dismissal of Appellant Brandon Hicks’ (“Husband”) petition to terminate his alimony obligation. After his ex-wife, Appellee Barbara Hicks Vick (“Wife”), remarried, Husband petitioned the trial court for relief under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(g)(2)(C). Wife moved to dismiss Husband’s petition, arguing that the  parties’ marital dissolution agreement (“MDA”) contained a non-modification clause with respect to Husband’s alimony obligation. The trial court granted Wife’s motion, and Husband filed a timely appeal to this Court. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Jerry Ray Davidson v. State of Tennessee - Concuring in Part and Dissenting in Part
M2010-02663-SC-R11-PD

Initially, no words adequately describe the horrible nature of this murder.  Nevertheless, I concur with the majority that a new sentencing hearing is warranted based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty stage of the trial. Moreover, I believe that the deficiency in counsel's performance was such that an entirely new trial should be granted. In that regard, I dissent.

Supreme Court 11/17/14
Jerry Ray Davidson v. State of Tennessee
M2010-02663-SC-R11-PD

This post-conviction appeal addresses the extent of defense counsel’s duty to present mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of a capital murder trial. Defense counsel in a capital case possessed evidence that their client suffered from severe lifelong cognitive impairments and personality disorders and that he was predisposed to sexual violence. However, during the defendant’s trial, defense counsel presented the jury with no psychological mitigation evidence and only cursory social history mitigation evidence. A Dickson County jury convicted the defendant of premeditated first degree murder and imposed the death penalty. The juryalso convicted the defendant of aggravated kidnapping, for which the defendant received a twenty-year sentence. Following unsuccessful direct appeals, State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600 (Tenn. 2003), the defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Dickson County. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s decision. Davidson v. State, No. M2010-02663-CCA-R3-PD, 2013 WL 485222 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 7, 2013). We find that, under the circumstances of this case, defense counsels’ failure to develop and present psychological mitigation evidence deprived their client of his right to effective assistance of counsel. While we uphold the client’s convictions, we vacate his death sentence and remand for a new capital sentencing hearing.

Dickson County Supreme Court 11/17/14
In Re Kendal A.
W2014-00638-COA-R3-PT

The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent and severe child abuse, and found that termination of Mother’s rights was in the child’s best interest. We affirm.

Obion County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Brenda Y. Hannah v. Sherwood Forest Rentals, LLC, et al.
E2014-00082-COA-R3-CV

This appeal results from the grant of summary judgment to the defendants in a premises liability action. The plaintiff fell while descending a set of wooden stairs leading to a rental cabin. The plaintiff filed the instant action against the owners of the cabin and the rental company, which manages and maintains the cabin. In granting summary judgment to the defendants, the trial court determined that there were no genuine issues of material fact by which a reasonable jury could find that either defendant had actual or constructive notice of any allegedly defective condition existing that caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s fall. The plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
In Re Austin A. et al.
E2014-00910-COA-R3-PT

This case concerns the termination of the mother’s parental rights. We have determined that the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support terminating the mother’s parental rights on the ground relied upon by the trial court. The record further supports the conclusion that terminating the mother’s parental rights is in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm the findings of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
In Re Michael A.C., Jr.
E2014-01268-COA-R3-PT

This is a parental rights termination appeal brought by the incarcerated biological father. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to support the ground for termination and clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interest. The father appeals. We affirm.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 11/17/14
Richard Cleveland Martin v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02480-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Richard Cleveland Martin, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and first degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a kidnapping.  Following merger, the trial court sentenced him to life in prison.  After an unsuccessful direct appeal, petitioner filed this petition for post-conviction relief alleging the following claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) failure to ensure that petitioner understood the trial process; (2) failure to request a mental health examination; (3) failure to view the crime scene or interview and develop potential witnesses; and (4) failure to analyze or review a supplemental DNA Report.  Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/17/14
State of Tennessee v. Charles Godspower
M2013-00721-CCA-R3-CD

The appellant, Charles Godspower, pled guilty in the Rutherford County Circuit Court to second degree murder and attempted first degree murder, Class A felonies, and received concurrent 30-year sentences to be served at 100% and 35%, respectively.  On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to reduce his sentences.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/14
Nathaniel Carson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00422-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Nathaniel Carson, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call a second alibi witness and failing to request a bill of particulars.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/14
Gary Dwayne Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02034-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Gary Dwayne Johnson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  He stands convicted of multiple charges based upon his actions following his escape from custody at a hospital where he was being treated.  He was sentenced, as a career offender, to an effective term of one hundred and forty-one years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in its denial because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel.  Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by: (1) failing to adequately investigate the case and potential exonerating evidence; (2) failing to pursue a motion for severance; (3) failing to include all issues in the motion for new trial; and (4) failing to file mitigating factors and provide adequate representation at the sentencing hearing.  Following review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court properly denied relief.  As such, the judgment of the court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/14
Clarence Nesbit v. State of Tennessee
W2009-02101-SC-R11-PD

The issue presented is whether the defendant is entitled to a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to death. Following unsuccessful appeals, the defendant filed for post-conviction relief on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court granted the defendant a new sentencing hearing, but denied him a new trial on the murder conviction. A majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, holding that any deficiency in trial counsel’s performance at the guilt phase did not result in prejudice. We hold that the defendant has not proven by clear and convincing evidence a reasonable probability that, but for the deficient performance of his trial counsel, the result would have been different.  We affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

Shelby County Supreme Court 11/14/14
McCurry Expeditions, LLC, et al. v. Richard H. Roberts
M2014-00526-COA-R3-CV

The case concerns the imposition of sales and use tax on a luxury motor home stored in Tennessee byan out-of-state corporation.The trial court granted summary judgment to the tax-payer corporation, finding that the imposition of sales tax was not authorized by statute and was not consistent with the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. We reverse and remand.

Giles County Court of Appeals 11/14/14
In Re: Estate of Edward Stephen McRedmond
M2013-02582-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a longstanding dispute among ten siblings with respect to a family business. Afteryears of litigation,the parties agreed to dissolve the corporation that operated the family business and sell its assets. A receiver was appointed and authorized to sell the assets. The three defendant-siblings in this case placed the highest bid for the assets, and the trial court approved the sale to those three siblings. Prior to the closing of the sale, the three siblings formed a new corporation and assigned their right to purchase the assets to the newly formed corporation. Accordingly, at closing, the receiver conveyed the assets directly to the new corporation. The new corporation began conducting business just as the family business had done in the past. One of the plaintiff siblings formed another corporation and went into direct competition with the corporation that purchased the assets of the family business. The three individual siblings filed a counterclaim against the competing sibling, alleging intentional interference with business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and that they lost the benefit of their bargain. Theyalso sought injunctive relief against the competing sibling. Neither of the newly formed corporations was made a party to the proceedings. Following a three-day bench trial, the trial court awarded compensatory damages to each of the three siblings and entered a permanent injunction against the competing sibling. The competing sibling appeals the trial court’s order on numerous grounds. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s order, vacate the injunction, and dismiss the counterclaim.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/14/14
Gary Dwayne Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02034-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Gary Dwayne Johnson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  He stands convicted of multiple charges based upon his actions following his escape from custody at a hospital where he was being treated.  He was sentenced, as a career offender, to an effective term of one hundred and forty-one years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in its denial because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel.  Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by: (1) failing to adequately investigate the case and potential exonerating evidence; (2) failing to pursue a motion for severance; (3) failing to include all issues in the motion for new trial; and (4) failing to file mitigating factors and provide adequate representation at the sentencing hearing.  Following review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court properly denied relief.  As such, the judgment of the court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/14
The Estate Of Cheryl Lynn Quinn, By Personal Representative, William Paul Quinn v. Thomas Henderson Et Al.
E2013-02398-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment to the defendant governmental entities. The decedent, Cheryl Lynn Quinn, died from smoke inhalation following a house fire allegedly set by her ex-boyfriend. Her estate filed a wrongful death action against the exboyfriend as well as the Blount County Sheriff’s Department (“Sheriff’s Department”), the Blount County 911 Communication Center (“911”), and the Blount County 1 Fire Protection District (“Fire Department”). The claims against the alleged arsonist and the Sheriff’s Department were nonsuited, and the trial court granted summary judgment to 911 and the Fire Department. Plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 11/13/14
In Re Abigail M., Et Al.
E2014-01825-COA-R3-JV

This appeal is from a custody order entered in a dependency and neglect proceeding in the Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“Juvenile Court.”). Because we have no jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a custody order entered in a dependency and neglect case, this appeal is dismissed.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/13/14
In Re Alexus F.
E2014-00723-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to terminate Father/Appellant’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment and substantial noncompliance with the requirements outlined in the permanency plans. The trial court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of the Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights on the sole ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. Affirmed and remanded.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/13/14
Teresa G. Moore v. Knox County Government, et al.
E2013-01552-SC-WC-R3

The employee sustained a compensable shoulder injury when she fell from a ladder while removing Christmas decorations. The trial court determined that the employee had sustained a 7% anatomical impairment, awarded her 21% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits, and denied her claim for temporary disability benefits. The employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by awarding benefits in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. The employee contends that the trial court erred by denying her temporary disability claim. 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 conclude that the trial court erred by awarding PPD benefits in excess of one and one-half times the impairment. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/12/14
Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County v. Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, et al
M2013-01551-COA-R3-CV

A substitute teacher filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development; utilizing the partial unemployment regulation to determine the claimant’s eligibility for benefits, the Department approved the claim and awarded benefits. The Board of Education filed a petition for review, contending that the teacher was not entitled to benefits because she was still employed and because she had refused work assignments which she had been offered; the trial court utilized the regulation applicable to part total unemployment and affirmed the Department’s decision. We affirm the holding that the part total regulation was the proper regulation to be used in determining the claimant’s eligibility; because the Department did not make findings as to certain statutory factors in determining claimant’s eligibility for benefits, we vacate the decision and remand the case for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Corrin Kathleen Reynolds - separate concurring
E2013-02309-CCA-R9-CD
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Corrin Kathleen Reynolds
E2013-02309-CCA-R9-CD

Defendant, Corrin Kathleen Reynolds, was charged with several criminal offenses, including driving under the influence, after she was involved in a fatal car accident in Knox County. While Defendant was at the hospital being treated for her injuries, a blood sample was taken for law enforcement purposes. Defendant filed motions seeking to suppress the results of the blood analysis. After two hearings, the trial court granted Defendant’s motion. The trial court and this Court granted the State’s request to pursue an interlocutory appeal. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we determine that the record supports the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant did not give actual consent to the contested blood draw. However, the record preponderates against the trial court’s conclusion that Officer Strzelecki lacked probable cause to believe that Defendant had consumed alcohol. Therefore, we determine that the warrantless blood draw was proper under subsection (f)(1) of the implied consent statute because Defendant did not refuse the blood draw. Accordingly, Defendant’s blood test results are not subject to suppression on the grounds argued; we reverse the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to suppress and remand this matter for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/14