Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 02/10/2016
Format: 02/10/2016
Gary Lee Steele, et al. v. Primehealth Medical Center, PC, et al.
W2015-00056-COA-R3-CV

This is a premises liability case. A delivery person fell on a sidewalk outside the place of business where he was delivering an order. He and his wife sued the business and its owner for negligence, claiming that the condition of the sidewalk was unreasonably dangerous. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, concluding that the plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the sidewalk was unreasonably dangerous. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Antwon Thomas
W2014-00788-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Antwon Thomas, of assault by bodily injury and domestic assault, Class A misdemeanors. The trial court sentenced the appellant to eleven months, twenty-nine days for each conviction to be served as two years on probation and merged the convictions. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court committed plain error by failing to admit the entire recording of the victim's 911 call into evidence, that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court committed plain error by making improper comments on the evidence, that the trial court committed plain error by refusing to allow him to sit at counsel's table, and that the trial court committed various sentencing errors, including rendering him infamous. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case to correct a clerical error in the judgment for count three rendering the appellant infamous.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
Michael Webster v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02019-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Michael Webster, 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 in the following ways: (1) she failed to inform him of his preliminary hearing and waived his right to appear without his permission; (2) she did not adequately communicate with him; (3) she did not consult with him to develop a “reasonable” trial strategy; (4) she did not fully investigate or present witnesses; (5) she did not request a mistrial following “possible jury panel contamination”; and (6) she failed to make appropriate objections during his cross-examination.  Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the judgment of the post-conviction court is therefore affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter v. Seniortrust of Florida, Inc.
M2014-02288-COA-R3-CV

The Attorney General brought a judicial dissolution action against two nonprofit public benefit corporations.  The main issue in this appeal is the scope of the Attorney General’s authority to determine the use of the funds remaining after the dissolution of these two nonprofit corporations and the payment of all of their debts.  Finding no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to reject the Attorney General’s proposed plan for the distribution of the nonprofits’ remaining funds, we affirm the trial court’s decision.    

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Carla R. Richter
M2014-01913-CCA-R3-CD

A Maury County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Carla R. Richter, of driving under the influence (DUI), fourth offense; driving on a revoked license; and speeding. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of four years.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress, arguing that she did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to a blood test.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
Wright Brothers Construction Company, Inc. v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00610-COA-R9-CV

Construction company bid on a state project that involved disposing of waste dirt from a construction site. Documents prepared by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (“TDOT”) identified nearby property that had a wet weather conveyance on it. The construction company made arrangements with the property owner to dump waste dirt on the neighboring property, and based on this anticipated cost, the construction company submitted a bid for the project. Before the State accepted the construction company’s bid, the wet weather conveyance was reclassified by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation as a stream. This change in classification meant that the construction company was no longer able to dump waste dirt on the neighboring property. TDOT learned of the reclassification prior to accepting the construction company’s bid, and it changed the project plans after it awarded the project to the construction company. The construction company incurred unexpected costs and delays as a result of the reclassification of the wet weather conveyance, but the State refused to compensate it as the construction company asserts the contract required. The construction company filed a breach of contract complaint against the State with the Tennessee Claims Commission, which the State moved to dismiss on the basis that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the claim. The construction company then moved to amend its complaint to add a claim for the negligent preparation of plans. The Commission granted the State’s motion to dismiss and denied the motion to amend, and the construction company appeals. We reverse the Commission’s judgment that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the breach of contract claim, but we affirm its judgment denying the construction company’s motion to amend.  

Court of Appeals 12/22/15
Dean Logan v. Tracie McCormick, Inc., et al
M2015-00300-SC-R3-WC

This case concerns injuries arising from two separate incidents. The employee, a truck driver, was involved in a motor vehicle accident on May 13, 2008. He alleged that he sustained injuries to his neck, mid-back, lower back, right shoulder and left knee as a result of that event. On July 12, 2012, he injured his left shoulder when he slipped while exiting his truck. His employer admitted the compensability of all of the injuries except the lower back, contending that the employee’s lower back problems pre-existed the accident. The trial court ruled that the back injury was compensable and awarded 80.5% permanent partial disability benefits for the combined injuries. The employer has appealed, asserting that the preponderance of the evidence does not prove that the back injury was compensable. 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 affirm the judgment.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 12/22/15
Service Employees International Union Local 205 v. Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, et al.
M2014-02158-COA-R3-CV

After the director of schools notified the union that represents the school district’s service workers that, in accordance with amendments to the law governing the employees of boards of education, he was rescinding the school board’s labor negotiations policy, the union sought a declaratory judgment that the policy was still in effect. The trial court held that the Director did not have authority to rescind the policy and granted summary judgment to the union; the school board appeals. Holding that the amendments negated the policy at issue, we reverse the judgment

Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Carlene Guye Judd, et al v. Carlton Guye, et al.
M2015-00094-COA-R3-CV

This shareholder derivative action involves a closely-held corporation founded by the plaintiff’s parents. In 1995, the parents sold all of the outstanding shares to the plaintiff and her brother on credit. A promissory note and security agreement were executed in conjunction with the sale. After managing the corporation with her brother for several years, the plaintiff filed this derivative action against her brother and parents, seeking to recover corporate funds her brother was allegedly using for personal expenses and to dissolve the corporation. During the litigation, the parents gave the plaintiff notice that they were accelerating the promissory note and exercising their right to recover all of the stock sold to her pursuant to the security agreement. The validity of the parents’ efforts to reclaim the stock went to trial along with the other issues. After a two-day trial, the court determined that the parents’ efforts to reclaim ownership of the shares were ineffective, that the plaintiff owned 50% of the outstanding shares, thus she maintained standing to pursue the relief sought in her complaint, and awarded a judgment to the plaintiff on behalf of the corporation. Pursuant to an agreed order, the trial court appointed a receiver to wind up the corporation’s business. During the pendency of this appeal, but prior to oral argument, all of the corporation’s assets were sold, and its business was wound up. In this appeal, the parents contend the trial court erred by granting the plaintiff any relief because the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claims after the parents reclaimed all of the plaintiff’s shares. Because the corporation was dissolved and all its assets sold, there is no meaningful relief this court can grant the parents in this appeal; therefore, the issue raised by the parents is no longer justiciable. Because the parents presented no justiciable issue for this court to consider on appeal, the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for having to defend a frivolous appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand for a calculation of just damages to be awarded to the plaintiff pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27 1 122.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
In re: Raven S., et al
M2014-00789-COA-R3-CV

Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights to two of their children. Upon a finding of dependency and neglect, the juvenile court placed the children in the custody of Mother’s aunt. Subsequently, the Guardian ad Litem petitioned to terminate parental rights. Following a one-day trial, the juvenile court took the matter under advisement. After the elapse of several months, the parents and the Guardian ad Litem filed a motion requesting a decision from the court on the petition to terminate parental rights. The trial court held a hearing on the motion after which it considered additional evidence, primarily related to contact between the children and parents since the previous hearing. At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the court granted the petition to terminate on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support and visit. The court also found termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to be in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father both appeal the statutory grounds for termination and that termination was in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father also assign error to the trial court reopening proof. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Federal National Mortgage Association v. Danny O. Daniels
W2015-00999-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff in an unlawful detainer action. The property at issue was sold in a foreclosure sale, and the purchaser assigned its interest in the property to Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed this unlawful detainer action seeking possession of the property from Defendant. The General Sessions Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed to the Circuit Court. In the Circuit Court, Defendant asserted that the property was wrongfully foreclosed because he was not in default at the time foreclosure proceedings were initiated. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed. We affirm.

Haywood County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Susan Weaver Jones v. Knox County Board of Education, et al.
E2015-00304-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a tenured teacher's challenge to her transfer to a different job position. Susan Weaver-Jones (“Jones”) sued the Knox County Board of Education (“the Board”) and Dr. James McIntyre (“McIntyre”), Superintendent of Knox County Schools, (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). Jones alleged that her transfer from Instructional Coach to classroom teacher was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The Trial Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. Jones appealed to this Court. We hold that Jones' complaint asserted a claim upon which relief could be granted, and that the Trial Court erred in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this case for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Wilson
W2015-00225-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Patrick Wilson, appeals the trial court's denial of an alternative sentence after the entry of a guilty plea to aggravated statutory rape. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying an alternative sentence, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
Timothy James Hardin v. Veronica Hensley-Hardin
E2014-01506-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a divorce action in which the trial court referred all issues to a special master. As pertinent to this appeal, the special master recommended awarding the parties a divorce based upon stipulated grounds and found that the husband was entitled to an award of alimony in solido and retroactive child support. The special master's detailed report also contained specific recommendations concerning the classification and division of the marital property. Both parties filed exhaustive exceptions to the report. Following a hearing, the trial court adopted the report. The wife appeals. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 12/18/15
In re C.M.
M2014-02571-COA-R3-JV

This is a dependency and neglect case. Appellants adopted the minor child, who is the subject of this appeal, from China. Thereafter, Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received a referral that the child was dependent and neglected. The Juvenile Court held that the child was dependent and neglected and was the victim of severe abuse at the hands of Appellants. Appellants sought a de novo review in the Circuit Court. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court held that the child was the victim of severe child abuse and was, therefore, dependent and neglected. Appellants appeal the Circuit Court’s substantive ruling and also raise issues concerning the trial court’s pre-trial rulings, evidentiary rulings, and the award of guardian ad litem fees. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD
A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Travei Pryor, of eleven counts of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; one count of possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; and one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the appellant claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of employing and possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury as provided by State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). This court concluded that the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury pursuant to White constituted reversible error, reversed his eleven convictions of aggravated kidnapping, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses, and affirmed the appellant’s remaining convictions. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court’s recent opinions in State v. Teats, 468 S.W.3d 495 (Tenn. 2015), and State v. Williams, 468 S.W.3d 510 (Tenn. 2015). After revisiting the issue pertaining to the White instruction, we conclude that the appellant’s convictions of aggravated kidnapping in counts 13 and 14 and counts 20 and 21 must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses. The appellant’s remaining convictions are affirmed. However, upon remand, the trial court is to merge the appellant’s convictions in counts 7 and 8, counts 9 and 10, counts 11 and 12, counts 15 and 16, and counts 17 and 18.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. James Brandon Stewart
W2015-00167-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, James Brandon Stewart, appeals the summary denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Because the challenged sentence has expired, we affirm the summary dismissal of the defendant's motion.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor - concurring and dissenting
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD

I must respectfully dissent from the majority’s reasoned opinion with regard to its conclusion that the absence of the White instructions constituted reversible error. I would affirm the convictions as they were entered, although merging those counts which were alternatively charged. In all other regards, I join in the majority's opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Tanya Nicole Slimick
M2014-00747-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the defendant, Tanya Nicole Slimick, of first degree (premeditated) murder for shooting her boyfriend.  The defendant received a life sentence.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the State failed to show premeditation or to negate self-defense.  She also raises numerous challenges to the jury instructions, including that the trial court instructed the jury that the defendant had the burden of raising the issue of self-defense; that the self-defense instruction was confusing to the jury; that the jury instructions improperly failed to list the negation of self-defense in the litany of items which the State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; and that the instructions failed to list lesser included offenses whenever the “charged offense” was referenced.  The defendant also asserts that there was reversible error in the use of a demonstrative aid in the prosecution’s closing argument.  After a thorough review of the law and the facts, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Dean Hodges
M2014-01544-CCA-R3-CD

The Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the appellant, Michael Dean Hodges, for aggravated child abuse in counts one through three and aggravated child neglect in count four.  After a jury trial, the appellant was acquitted of count one but convicted as charged in counts two and three and convicted of aggravated assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect in count four.  The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the aggravated child abuse convictions and sentenced the appellant to an effective twenty-five-years in confinement to be served at 100%.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by failing to sever the charge of aggravated child abuse in count one from the remaining two counts of aggravated child abuse; that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear a portion of his statement in which he admitted to prior bad acts; that the trial court erred by giving the jury a supplemental instruction on “knowingly” that failed to include language about non-accidental conduct; and that cumulative error warrants a new trial.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear that the appellant had been “in trouble” previously.  However, we conclude that the error was harmless. Nevertheless, we conclude that the appellant’s conviction of aggravated assault must be reversed because aggravated assault is not a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Demontise Martez Drumwright a.k.a Demontise J. Drumwright
M2015-00098-CCA-R3-CD

Demontise Martez Drumwright a.k.a. Demontise J. Drumwright (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated burglary and robbery.  The trial court denied alternative sentencing, ordering the Defendant to serve his effective four-year sentence in confinement.  On this appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred when it (1) considered the Defendant’s pending case in Knox County as a basis for denial of alternative sentencing and (2) ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Timothy Shane Hixson v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00065-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Timothy Shane Hixson, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery and resulting twenty-four-year sentence.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Shelley Denise Blair v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02506-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Shelley Denise Blair, appeals the summary dismissal of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred by relying solely on her pro se petition, and not considering the allegations of fact in the amended petition prepared by post-conviction counsel, in concluding that she failed to make out a prima facie case of mental incompetence to toll the statute of limitations.  Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition as time-barred.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
David Jones, et al. v. City of Union City, Tennessee
W2013-02358-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves three former police officers who were terminated from their employment with the Union City Police Department. They filed this lawsuit claiming that they were terminated solely for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities, in violation of the Tennessee Public Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish an exclusive causal relationship between their refusal to remain silent and their discharge and that the City terminated Plaintiffs for rational and non-pretextual reasons. We affirm.

Obion County Court of Appeals 12/17/15
Joel A. Conkin, Administrator with Will Annexed of The Estate Of Mattie L. Mettetal v. Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D., et al.
E2015-00141-COA-R3-CV

Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D. (“Dr. Mettetal”) and Ray W. Mettetal, Jr., M.D., Inc. (“Corporation”) appeal the judgment of the Chancery Court for Washington County (“the Trial Court”) finding and holding, inter alia, that Dr. Mettetal breached his fiduciary duty to Mattie L. Mettetal (“Deceased”), improperly converted Deceased's funds to his benefit and the benefit of his Corporation, and failed to show that the funds were in keeping with gifts pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 34-6-110. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings, and we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/17/15