Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 05/22/2015
Format: 05/22/2015
In re Estate of Mary Pauline Stumpe Schorn
E2013-02245-COA-R3-CV
This is an estate case before this court a second time. The decedent’s eldest son was named the personal representative of his mother’s estate. Two siblings, citing accounting irregularities and other issues, eventually sought their brother’s removal from the personal representative position. The trial court agreed with the siblings and named a substitute personal representative. The initial personal representative appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Anderson County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Douglas Clemons
M2014-00131-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Larry Douglas Clemons, pled guilty in Case No. 12-CR-213 to four counts of trafficking for sexual servitude (Counts 1-4), one count of attempt to commit trafficking for sexual servitude (Count 5), especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor (Count 6), thirteen counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor (Counts 7-19), and six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor (Counts 20-25). In Case No. 12-CR-236 Defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and in Case No. 12-CR-302 Defendant pled guilty to two counts of trafficking for sexual servitude (Counts 1-2) and five counts of statutory rape (Counts 3-7). The trial court ordered a portion of the sentences to be served consecutively for an effective one-hundred seventy-six-year sentence. In his sole issue on appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred by ordering partial consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand for a corrected judgment in Count 20 of Case No. 2012-CR-213.

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Robert Walden, Jr.
M2014-01692-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Robert Walden, Jr., appeals the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his Marion County Circuit Court conviction of theft of property valued at $500 or more but less than $1,000. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
Lydranna Lewis, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee
W2014-00408-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiffs worked as counselors in a correctional facility that houses male inmates in a dorm-like setting in Shelby County. In September 2010, they were attacked and beaten by an inmate. Plaintiffs filed an action for negligence against Shelby County under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, alleging the County was liable for damages caused by the negligent acts and/or omissions of County employees. Plaintiffs alleged that the supervising counselor/shift supervisor negligently failed to respond to their “code red” calls for help; that he negligently failed to provide adequate staffing and equipment; and that he negligently failed to implement the facility directives. The trial court determined that the County was entitled to summary judgment under the discretionary function exception contained in Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-20-205. We reverse and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Justin Allen Stratton
E2014-00816-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Justin Allen Stratton, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder by a Washington County Criminal Court jury. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2014). He was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that plain error exists because the jury was not instructed regarding corroboration of accomplice testimony. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Justin Allen Stratton - concurring
E2014-00816-CCA-R3-CD

I write separately because I respectfully disagree with that portion of the majority’s opinion which concludes that the facts relevant to the issue whether the three co-defendants were accomplices are subject to only one interpretation. In my mind, the following facts at least raise the inference that Ms. Holtsclaw was an accomplice.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Richard Thomas Kelley
M2014-00740-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Richard Thomas Kelley, was convicted after a jury trial of four counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony; three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony; and one count of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment for each of the convictions for rape of a child, ten years’ imprisonment for each of the convictions for aggravated sexual battery, and six months’ imprisonment for the assault conviction, all to be served concurrently at 100%. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the verdicts, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Antonio J. Beasley, Sr.
E2014-01845-CCA-R3-CD
The Defendant, Antonio J. Beasley, Sr., was convicted of various offenses during 1989 and 1990. In 1989, the Defendant pleaded guilty to larceny and received six years’ probation. In 1990, the Defendant pleaded guilty to attempt to commit arson and to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to concurrent terms of four years’ confinement for attempted arson and eleven months, twenty-nine days for possession of cocaine. Twenty-four years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence relative to the attempted arson and drug possession convictions because the court erroneously imposed concurrent sentences because the Defendant was “out on the grand larceny.” The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. 
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/15
Thomas Wenzler, Sr. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al.
W2014-01097-COA-R3-CV

This case involves judicial review of a decision of the Shelby County Civil Service Merit Board. The appellee was terminated from his employment with the Shelby County government due to an alleged violation of a conflict of interest policy. After a two-day hearing, the Civil Service Merit Board upheld the employee‟s termination. The employee sought judicial review in chancery court. After reviewing the record, the chancellor found no substantial and material evidence to support the termination of the employee and ordered him reinstated with backpay and benefits. The County appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the chancery court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/16/15
Jarod Marges Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01374-CCA-R3-PC

Jarod Marges Phillips (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief claiming that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Kaye Thompson
M2014-00596-CCA-R3-CD

During the search of a recreational vehicle (“RV”) belonging to the defendant, Tommy Kaye Thompson, police uncovered approximately eight ounces of marijuana, two sets of scales, plastic baggies, and numerous firearms. The defendant challenged the search on the grounds that the search warrant, which was targeted at recovering security equipment allegedly stolen by the defendant’s grandson, was issued for a search of the house on the defendant’s property but did not extend to the RV, which was parked on a neighboring lot and tethered to the defendant’s property through an electrical cord. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and a jury convicted the defendant of the possession of not less than one-half ounce or more than ten pounds of marijuana with the intention to sell, a Class E felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. He was acquitted of a firearms offense. On appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the RV was outside the scope of the search warrant. We conclude that the search warrant authorized the search of the RV, and we accordingly affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/15
Terry Pritchett v. Comas Montgomery Realty & Auction Company, Inc. et al
M2014-00583-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff purchased a commercial building at auction. After determining that the building was smaller than represented in the auction advertisements, Plaintiff filed suit asserting a claim against the auction company for negligently misrepresenting the square footage of the building. Defendant admits the advertisement incorrectly stated the square footage but insists it is not liable because, prior to the auction, Plaintiff signed a “Terms of Sale” agreement stating that Plaintiff “shall rely entirely on [his] own inspection and information,” and that “[e]verything will be sold ‘AS IS, WHERE IS’, with no guarantee of any kind, regardless of statement or condition made from the auctioneer,” and the same terms were restated immediately prior to the commencement of bidding. Defendant further relies on the contract of sale, which included the “as is” clause and did not contain a representation concerning the square footage of the building. After engaging in discovery, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not have justifiably relied on the representations in light of the “as is” disclaimers he signed and heard, and that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, which Plaintiff contends was error. We have determined that Plaintiff’s agreement to rely entirely on his own inspection and information and to purchase the property on an “as is” basis negates any reliance on Defendant’s representation, which is an essential element of a claim for negligent misrepresentation. Therefore, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/15/15
Terry Pritchett v. Comas Montgomery Realty & Auction Company, Inc. et al
M2014-00583-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff purchased a commercial building at auction. After determining that the building was smaller than represented in the auction advertisements, Plaintiff filed suit asserting a claim against the auction company for negligently misrepresenting the square footage of the building. Defendant admits the advertisement incorrectly stated the square footage but insists it is not liable because, prior to the auction, Plaintiff signed a “Terms of Sale” agreement stating that Plaintiff “shall rely entirely on [his] own inspection and information,” and that “[e]verything will be sold ‘AS IS, WHERE IS’, with no guarantee of any kind, regardless of statement or condition made from the auctioneer,” and the same terms were restated immediately prior to the commencement of bidding. Defendant further relies on the contract of sale, which included the “as is” clause and did not contain a representation concerning the square footage of the building. After engaging in discovery, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not have justifiably relied on the representations in light of the “as is” disclaimers he signed and heard, and that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, which Plaintiff contends was error. We have determined that Plaintiff’s agreement to rely entirely on his own inspection and information and to purchase the property on an “as is” basis negates any reliance on Defendant’s representation, which is an essential element of a claim for negligent misrepresentation. Therefore, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Derek C. Miller
M2014-01169-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Derek C. Miller, appeals his conviction for attempted tampering with evidence.  He argues that the trial court wrongly denied his motion for judgment of acquittal as to the charged offense of tampering with evidence because the evidence adduced by the State was insufficient to support this charge.  According to Defendant, had the trial court not erred in denying his motion, the trial court would have been precluded from charging the jury with the lesser-included crime of attempt, of which Defendant was ultimately convicted.  After careful review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we conclude that Defendant is not entitled to relief.  Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Perry County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/15
A.C. Odom v. J.B. Odom
E2014-01049-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a petition to terminate alimony. A.C. Odom (“Husband”) filed a petition to terminate his alimony obligation to his ex-wife J.B. Odom (“Wife”) in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”).1 Husband’s petition was based on his retirement from his career as an orthopedic surgeon. The Trial Court found that there had not been a substantial or material change in circumstances and denied Husband’s petition to terminate alimony. Husband appealed to this Court. We find and hold that Husband’s retirement was objectively reasonable, that it constitutes a substantial and material change in circumstances, that Wife is no longer economically disadvantaged relative to Husband, and Husband’s alimony obligation to Wife is terminated henceforth. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
In Re E.G.H. et al.
E2014-01146-COA-R3-PT

S.J. (Mother) challenges the order terminating her parental rights to her minor children, E.G.H. and E.W.H. (collectively, the Children). The Children were removed from Mother’s custody as a result of (1) Mother’s drug use during pregnancy as well as (2) domestic violence in the home. In 2009, a year after the Children came into state custody, they were placed in the custody of an uncle, V.E.E. (Uncle), and his wife, J.G.E. (Aunt) (collectively, Petitioners). In 2012, Petitioners filed a petition seeking termination of the biological parents’ rights and the adoption of the Children. Following a trial, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Mother abandoned the Children by willfully failing to visit them. By the same evidentiary standard, the court determined that termination is in the Children’s best interest. On this appeal, Mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence proffered to establish a ground for termination and the trial court’s best interest decision. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
Suzanne King v. Greene County School System
E2014-00484-SC-R3-WC

An employee injured her back in a fall while working for her employer. The trial court assessed an 8% impairment to the body as a whole and awarded permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, arguing that the employee failed to prove causation and that the trial court erred in obligating the employer to pay unauthorized medical expenses. After our review of the record, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Greene County Workers Compensation Panel 04/14/15
Derek Williamson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00183-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Derek Williamson, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree murder and his life sentence. He contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/15
Colette Suzanne Turman v. Fred Turman
W2014-01297-COA-R3-CV

The trial court referred this divorce case to a Special Master, indicating that the issues to be decided by the Special Master would be determined by the parties. The Special Master limited her consideration to the valuation of the parties’ property. The trial court subsequently entered an order purporting to resolve all the remaining issues in the case. However, the trial court failed to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in its written order. Accordingly, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Henry County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
In re Alexis B.
E2014-00943-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Alexis B., the minor child (“the Child”) of Katie R. (“Mother”) and Johnny R.B. (“Father”). On August 26, 2013, the Child's paternal grandparents, Johnny B. and Deborah B. (“Grandparents”), filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents and adopt the Child. Father subsequently agreed to surrender his parental rights to the Child, and he 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 financial support and willfully failing to visit the Child in the four months preceding the filing of the petition. 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. Having concluded that the evidence preponderates against a finding that Mother had the ability to financially support the Child during the determinative period, we reverse the trial court's finding that Mother abandoned the Child by willfully failing to provide support. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother's parental rights.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
Christy L. Griffith v. Glen H. Griffith
E2014-00892-COA-R3-CV

This divorce case involves issues of property classification, valuation, and division. The parties were married for fifteen years, with one child born of the marriage. At the time the parties married, the husband owned an interest in his family's motorcycle dealership. The husband inherited remaining interests in that dealership from his parents during the marriage. At trial, the court found that the dealership was a separately owned asset that became marital property by reason of transmutation. The trial court also made determinations regarding the value of the dealership and the real property upon which it operates. Following these determinations, the trial court rendered what it considered to be an equitable division of the parties' marital assets. Husband has appealed. Because we determine the trial court's classification and valuation of the dealership to be in error, as well as the valuation of the business-related real property, we further determine the overall distribution of marital assets to be in error. We vacate the trial court's judgment with regard to those issues and remand for further proceedings. The balance of the trial court's judgment is affirmed.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
Terry Earl Jackson v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01511-CCA-R3-PC
Petitioner, Terry Earl Jackson, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. He alleges that his sentences are illegal because his concurrent sentences had to run consecutively because he was on probation at the time of the offenses. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/15
In Re Jarett M.
W2014-01995-COA-R3-PT

This is a parental termination case. Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights with regard to the minor child at issue. The trial court terminated Father’s parental rights based on its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Father abandoned the child by willful failure to visit and willful failure to support the child. The trial court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interests of the child. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 04/13/15
John C. Crim v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00948-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, John C. Crim, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief for failure to state a colorable claim.  After careful review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we conclude that the petition alleged a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, thereby entitling Petitioner to appointed counsel and to an opportunity to amend his petition with the aid of post-conviction counsel.  Additional claims made by Petitioner were previously determined during his direct appeal and were, therefore, properly dismissed.  Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/15
John C. Crim v. State of Tennessee-Concurring in part and dissenting in part
M2014-00948-CCA-R3-PC

I respectfully dissent from that portion of the majority’s opinion which affirms part of the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the post-conviction petition. A colorable claim was made in the pro se petition. The post-conviction court clearly erred by summarily dismissing the petition. I conclude that upon remand under these circumstances the interests of justice dictate that the entire pro se petition must be considered by the post-conviction court. It may be that some of Petitioner’s claims have been waived or previously determined - but that should be determined after a full hearing. This court should not sanction a rush to judgment when a trial court has erred as in this case. Accordingly, I would respectfully reverse the order of the post-conviction court without affirming any portion of it.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/15