Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/30/2015
Format: 07/30/2015
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Price
W2014-00402-CCA-R3-CD

Aggrieved of his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated burglary and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, the defendant, Kevin Price, appeals, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/15
The Cohn Law Firm, et al. v. YP Southeast Advertising & Publishing, LLC, et al.
W2014-01871-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff law firm and lawyer brought suit against defendant advertising companies alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and misrepresentation. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint because the parties' contracts included a forum selection clause that provided all litigation arising from the contracts would take place in the state of Georgia. The trial court found the forum selection clause enforceable and granted defendants' motion to dismiss. On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in enforcing the forum selection clause because the contracts are adhesion contracts and unconscionable. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
Hanna (John) Nazi, et al. v. Jerry's Oil Company, Inc.
W2014-02008-COA-R3-CV

The trial court determined that Appellant Hanna (John) Nazi executed the contractual documents between the parties as the owner/proprietor of the Handy Peddler and that he was liable for a judgment in favor of Appellee Jerry‘s Oil Company, Inc. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
Robert W. Mills v. Nita D. Mills, et al.
W2014-00855-COA-R3-CV

This case involves various causes of action related to the administration of an estate, specifically, the executor‘s action in failing to fund a residuary trust. The trial court granted summary judgment on the grounds that no assets remained in the estate to fund the residuary trust, the expiration of the statute of limitations, and laches. Although we rely on different grounds, we affirm the trial court‘s order granting summary judgment and dismissing the complaint.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
Mary V. Williams v. Gibson County, Tennessee
W2014-01599-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant county alleging, inter alia, racial discrimination and retaliatory discharge. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims, which motion the trial court granted in part and denied in part. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s remaining claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant, disposing of the remainder of plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff appeals. Due to significant procedural shortcomings in plaintiff’s appellate brief, we are unable to reach the merits of her appeal. We therefore affirm.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
Alex Friedmann, et al. v. Marshall County, TN, et al.
M2014-01413-COA-R3-CV

The trial court ordered the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office to produce the public records requested by Appellant but declined to award Appellant any attorneys’ fees. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in declining to award attorneys’ fees. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case to the trial court for the entry of an order awarding Appellant reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 10-7-505(g).

Marshall County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
Alex Friedmann, et al. v. Marshall County, TN, et al. - Concurring
M2014-01413-COA-R3-CV

I concur with the majority Opinion’s ruling, but I write separately to address only the attorneys’ fee issue. Over the years, two schools of thought apparently developed regarding the “willfulness” standard under the Public Records Act attorneys’ fee provision. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-505(g). One school of thought adopted the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of bad faith, which includes phrases like “the conscious doing of a wrong,” “dishonest purpose,” and “moral obliquity.” See Capital Case Res. Ctr. of Tenn., Inc. v. Woodall, No. 01-A01-9104-CH-00150, 1992 WL 12217, at *8 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 29, 1992) (no. perm. app. filed) (holding that Section 10-7-505(g)’s “knowing and willful” standard is synonymous with “bad faith,” without defining “bad faith”); Contemporary Media v. City of Memphis, No. 02A01-9807-CH-00211, 1999 WL 292264, at *4-5 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 11, 1999) (citing Capital Case Res. Ctr. but defining “bad faith” by quoting the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of the term); Arnold v. City of Chattanooga, 19 S.W.3d 779, 789 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999).

Marshall County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
In re Gabriel V.
M2014-01500-COA-R3-JV

Mother and Father were married to other people when the Child was conceived. Mother divorced her husband, but Father returned to his wife and children after the Child was born. Father initiated court proceedings in an effort to be named the Child’s primary residential parent and to obtain parenting time. The court performed a best interest analysis and determined that Mother was better suited to be named the primary residential parent. By the time of trial, Mother was living in California, and Father was living in Tennessee. The court awarded Father parenting time during the majority of the summer and shorter periods throughout the year, for a total of about ninety-six days per year. Father appealed, contending the court erred in its best interest analysis and in failing to award him more parenting time with the Child. Father also challenged the court’s calculation of child support and credits to which he is entitled. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all regards except for its calculation of child support and credits to which Father is entitled. The case is remanded for a recalculation of Father’s child support obligation and arrearage, as set forth herein.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/24/15
In re Destaney D. et al.
E2014-01651-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights action involving two minor children, Destaney D. and Rebekah D. (―the Children‖). In April 2012, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (―DCS‖) removed the Children from their mother due to her drug use. The Children were allowed to remain in the care of Amy M. and Jeremy M., a married couple with whom the Children had been residing following their mother’s arrest. On February 21, 2014, Amy M. and Jeremy M. (―the Petitioners‖) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Children’s parents. The petition alleged, as a statutory ground for termination, abandonment by willful failure to support. The Petitioners subsequently filed an amended petition alleging the additional statutory ground of persistence of the conditions leading to removal. Despite being properly served with process, the Children’s mother failed to answer the petition or otherwise make an appearance in this matter. The trial court accordingly terminated her parental rights by default judgment entered on July 21, 2014. She is not a party to this appeal. Following a bench trial on the merits, the trial court granted the petition as to the father upon finding that the Petitioners had proven by clear and convincing evidence the grounds of (1) abandonment by willful failure to support and (2) persistence of the conditions leading to removal. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. The father has appealed. Having determined that the statutory ground of persistence of conditions is inapplicable to the present action, we reverse the trial court’s determination as to this ground. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Adam Wayne Robinson
M2013-02703-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Adam Wayne Robinson, was convicted by a jury of three counts of aggravated sexual battery. The Defendant raises three issues on appeal: prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the convictions, and cumulative error. During closing argument, the prosecutor improperly commented upon the Defendant’s right not to testify and engaged in a persistent pattern of other improper prosecutorial argument. Following a thorough review, we conclude that the prosecutor’s comments on the Defendant’s right not to testify constitute reversible non-structural constitutional error. Moreover, the record establishes that the prosecutor engaged in a persistent pattern of other improper prosecutorial argument, the cumulative effect of which constitutes plain error. We, therefore, reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/15
S.A.M.D. v. J.P.D.
W2014-01015-COA-R3-CV

This is a post-divorce action. The trial court denied Wife's motion to continue, found that she breached the parties' marital dissolution agreement, and credited Husband for amounts he paid for necessaries when calculating Husband's child support arrearage. Wife appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Tyrone Leroy Watts
M2013-02750-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Tyrone L. Watts, appeals his conviction for attempted terrorism.  He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court’s failure to provide complete jury instructions defining what would constitute an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”  Following our review, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for attempted terrorism.  Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for sentencing on the Defendant’s alternative conviction for disorderly conduct in count one.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/15
Michael White v. Bruce Westbrooks, Warden
M2014-02459-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Michael White, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief from his 2005 convictions for five counts of rape and his fifty-five-year sentence.  The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred by summarily denying relief.  He argues that his convictions are void because his constitutional right to a jury trial was violated by the trial court’s applying erroneous sentencing enhancement factors and that principles of double jeopardy were violated by the court’s merging his convictions.  We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Stanley Bernard Gibson
M2014-00598-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Stanley Bernard Gibson, was charged with the possession of but convicted of facilitation of possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver within 1000 feet of a drug-free school zone and sentenced, as a Range II, multiple offender, to twelve years at 100%.  On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdict and that the court erred in ordering that he serve his sentence at 100%.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/15
Byron Becton v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00993-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Byron Becton, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2011 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated rape, claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/15
In re Kayden H.
E2014-02360-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Kayden H., the minor child (“the Child”) of Kristy L. (“Mother”) and Johnathan H. (“Father”). On January 28, 2014, the Child’s paternal grandparents, Linda H. and Donald H. (“Grandparents”), filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the parents and adopt the Child. Father joined as a co-petitioner in order to consent to the termination of his parental rights. Father is not a party to this appeal. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of Mother upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to provide support and willfully failing to visit the Child in the four months preceding Mother’s September 2013 incarceration. The court also found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned the Child by exhibiting wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare prior to Mother’s incarceration. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
In re Jayden B.T.
E2014-00715-COA-R3-PT
This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Jayden B.T., the minor child (“the Child”) of Jayson T. (“Father”) and Britney B. (“Mother”). On July 2, 2013, the Child's maternal aunt and her husband, with whom the Child had been residing, filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of both parents upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parents had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to visit the Child, willfully failing to support the Child, and failing to provide a suitable home. The trial court also found clear and convincing evidence as to both parents of the statutory ground of persistence of the conditions that led to removal of the Child. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Father's and Mother's parental rights was in the Child's best interest. Father has appealed. We conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Father abandoned the Child through failing to visit him and therefore reverse the trial court's finding as to that ground. In addition, we determine that the statutory grounds of persistence of the conditions leading to removal and abandonment through failure to provide a suitable home are not applicable to Father, and we therefore reverse the trial court's findings regarding those two grounds. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Father's parental rights upon the ground of abandonment through willful failure to support the Child.
 
Roane County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
In re Gavin G.
M2014-01657-COA-R3-PT

This appeal arises from the termination of Father’s parental rights. After Father had not seen the child for over a year-and-a-half, Mother and her husband petitioned to terminate Father’s parental rights. Following a trial, the chancery court found that Father had abandoned the child by willfully failing to visit him. The court also found that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Father appeals the court’s determination that he abandoned the child and that the termination of his rights was in the child’s best interest. We affirm.  

Maury County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
Administrative Management Resources, LLC v. James G. Neeley
M2014-01073-COA-R3-CV

A staff leasing company filed this petition for judicial review of the administrative decision of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“the Department”). In its decision, the Department determined that the company had illegally transferred employees from one entity to another to acquire a lower unemployment insurance premium rate. We affirm the chancery court’s decision finding substantial and material evidence to support the Department’s determination.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
James T. Patterson v. Lincoln Medical Center
M2014-01145-COA-R3-CV

Suit was instituted under the Governmental Tort Liability Act and the Health Care Liability Act against a county-owned hospital four days after the patient gave the hospital notice of a potential health care liability claim. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action, holding that the patient did not demonstrate extraordinary cause to institute suit prior to the expiration of 60 days from giving notice of his claim under the Health Care Liability Act. Finding that the record does not establish extraordinary cause, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 06/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Poncho Juan Delgado
E2014-01101--CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Poncho Juan Delgado, appeals as of right his jury conviction for first degree premeditated murder. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the State failed to prove the element of premeditation. The State responds that ample evidence of premeditation was presented. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to establish premeditation, and we therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/15
Joseph J. Holt v. Trustee of the Willoughby Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetary, et al.
E2014-01502-COA-R3-CV

Hal H. Lane appeals the May 20, 2014 Declaratory Judgment of the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”). We find and hold that Mr. Lane is not an aggreived party to this judgment and, therefore, lacks standing to appeal the judgment. We, therefore, affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 06/22/15
In re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer
E2014-01499-COA-R3-CV

Hal H. Lane appeals the May 20, 2014 judgment of the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) finding and holding, inter alia, that Joseph J. Holt was the person who took care of Georgia Myers Smelcer (“Deceased”) until her death and, therefore, inherited real property known as the Hartshaw Addition pursuant to the Last Will and Testament of Georgia Myers Smelcer. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 06/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Phillip K. Adams
M2014-00501-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Phillip K. Adams, was indicted by the Williamson County Grand Jury for driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), driving while his blood alcohol concentration was .08 percent or more (DUI per se), and DUI, second offense.  Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of DUI second offense and sentenced to 11 months and 29 days, to be suspended after serving 60 days in confinement.  On appeal, Defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred by not allowing Defendant to present the expert testimony of his co-worker Travis Adams at trial; 2) the trial court erred by not allowing Defendant to testify as an expert witness at trial; and 3) the trial court deprived Defendant of his right to due process by preventing him from presenting a defense.  Having reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.  Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/15
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Lee Boles
M2014-01030-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Kenneth Lee Boles, was convicted by a Bedford County jury of the introduction of a controlled substance into a penal institution and the possession of a controlled substance in a penal institution, both Class C felonies.  After merging the counts into a single conviction, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by not allowing him to present the testimony of his expert witness and by not instructing the jury on the defense of necessity.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/15