Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/28/2022
Format: 01/28/2022
David L. Liles, ET AL. v. Michael E. Young, ET AL.
M2020-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal involves the interpretation of a partnership agreement for the purpose of determining the respective ownership percentages of the partners. After our review of the partnership agreement, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/13/22
Jason Kovatch v. Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Et Al.
E2020-01744-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This appeal involves a denial of unemployment compensation benefits. Specifically, a former employee contends that there existed good cause as to why he resigned from his employment such that he should be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. The Commissioner’s Designee found that no good cause existed as to why the employee terminated his employment and therefore determined that he was not entitled to benefits. The employee then filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court thereafter affirmed the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision. On appeal, we conclude that there is substantial and material evidence in the record to support the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision, and therefore, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 01/12/22
Cathy McKeehan v. Katie Price
E2021-00453-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This appeal concerns an issue of whether a modular home violates a subdivision’s restrictive covenants. Katie Price (“Price”) wanted to place a modular home on her property in Fort Loudon Estates subdivision. Cathy McKeehan (“McKeehan”), a longtime resident of Fort Loudon Estates, sued Price in the Chancery Court for Loudon County (“the Trial Court”). McKeehan alleged that Price’s modular home violated a subdivision restriction against temporary structures. After a bench trial, the Trial Court found in favor of Price. McKeehan appeals. The evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s finding that Price’s home is not a temporary structure. We hold, as did the Trial Court, that Price’s modular home is not prohibited by the subdivision’s restrictions. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 01/11/22
Shane Bruce v. Carolyn Jackson Et Al.
E2021-01426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

Because appellant did not timely file a Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B recusal appeal and the order appealed does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
Lisa Boyd v. David Benjamin Gibson IV M.D. ET AL.
W2020-01305-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is a lawsuit that challenges the appropriateness of care received by a cancer patient. Plaintiff originally filed suit in January 2018 and asserted a number of claims, some of which were predicated on alleged conduct occurring as early as August 2014. In an amended complaint, Plaintiff expanded her allegations, taking issue with conduct occurring as late as September 2016. The trial court ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint in toto as it concerned the Defendants at issue in this appeal. Due to a lack of clarity regarding the court’s specific bases for dismissal with respect to each of the claims involved, we vacate the judgment and remand for further consideration and findings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re C.N. et al.
M2020-01021-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Howard
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed six then-children from the custody of Deanna D. (“Mother”) and David D. (“Father”), in August 2018 after receiving multiple referrals regarding the family. After the children were in foster care for over a year, DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. DCS alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the children, persistence of conditions, severe abuse, and, in regards to Father only, a prison sentence of more than two years for conduct against a child. The trial court found that DCS proved each ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Mother and Father each appeal. Following a thorough review of the record, we affirm in part and reverse in part. We affirm the trial court’s ultimate holding that the parental rights of both Mother and Father should be terminated.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re Conservatorship Of John F. Ress
E2021-00134-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This appeal concerns the trial court’s interpretation of a divorce decree and an incorporated marital dissolution agreement as applied in a conservatorship once the husband died. The wife appeals the trial court’s use of parol evidence in reaching its decision. We reverse the judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
Charles Biggs et al. v. Town of Nolensville
M2021-00397-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This is an appeal from a governmental tort liability case in which the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant governmental entity on the basis that it retained its immunity.  Plaintiffs now appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment.  Specifically, plaintiffs contend that the trial court failed to consider their expert affidavit.  On appeal, we reverse the trial court’s entry of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
Bearing Distributors, Inc. v. David Gerregano, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2020-01075-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In this case involving the plaintiff corporation’s challenge to the business tax assessed against it by the defendant, Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue David Gerregano (“Commissioner”), the parties filed competing motions for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court upheld the business tax assessed against the plaintiff at a retail tax rate, rather than the lower wholesale tax rate that the plaintiff argued was applicable, and which the plaintiff had paid. Granting summary judgment in favor of Commissioner, the trial court awarded to Commissioner a judgment for unpaid taxes in the amount of $141,004.70 plus interest from the date of the adjusted assessment. The plaintiff prematurely appealed the grant of summary judgment prior to the trial court’s entry of a post-judgment order awarding statutory attorney’s fees and expenses to Commissioner. Following entry of the post-judgment order, this appeal proceeded concerning the summary judgment order. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
Philip James Burt v. Shannan Denise Burt
E2021-01173-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nichole Cantrell

The Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant, Philip James Burt, stated that appellant was appealing the judgment entered on September 13, 2021. As the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
David Hughes Et Al v. The Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company
E2020-00225-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The driver of a vehicle covered by a general automobile liability policy notified the insurance carrier of a potential uninsured motorist claim. The insurance carrier responded that the named insured had rejected in writing uninsured motorist coverage for vehicles in use in Tennessee. The driver claimed that the prior rejection was no longer effective because the named insured had submitted a new application during the renewal process. After a bench trial, the court ruled that the policy did not include uninsured motorist coverage. We conclude that the prior written rejection remained in effect when the policy was renewed. And because the named insured did not submit a new application in connection with the renewal transaction, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 12/30/21
Donny N. Parsley v. City of Manchester, Tennessee
M2021-00200-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section, Presiding Judge, Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This is a declaratory judgment action in which the plaintiff—a citizen of the City of Manchester, Tennessee, who was “the next highest vote getter” for Alderman, but not elected in the most recent election—contends he is entitled to fill a mid-term vacancy on the Board of Aldermen. The dispute arose when the City’s Board of Aldermen announced it was accepting applications to fill the vacant seat on the Board. In the Complaint that followed, the plaintiff asked the court to declare the proper procedure for filling a mid-term Board vacancy under the City’s Charter. The trial court dismissed the Complaint pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), explaining that the Complaint failed to state a claim because the unambiguous language in the Charter did not entitle the plaintiff to the vacant seat. The court also ruled the plaintiff did not have standing “as a citizen.” On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the trial court should have declared the rights of the parties instead of dismissing the declaratory judgment action under Rule 12.02(6) and asserts that he had standing as the “next highest vote getter” in the last election. While motions to dismiss “are rarely appropriate in declaratory judgment actions,” Cannon Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Wade, 178 S.W.3d 725, 730 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005) (citation omitted), the plaintiff has not shown that he was prejudiced by the decision. This is because, after thoroughly analyzing the City’s Charter in the context of the facts stated in the Complaint, the court concluded that the Charter was unambiguous and provided no circumstance in which the “next highest vote getter” from the previous election would be entitled to fill a mid-term vacancy. Accordingly, we modify the judgment of the trial court and remand with instructions for the trial court to enter judgment holding that Plaintiff is not entitled to fill the vacancy on the Board of Alderman under Article IV, §6(c) by virtue of the fact that he was the next highest vote getter at the election preceding the occurrence of a vacancy.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 12/29/21
Johnny Ingle v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00334-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Johnny Ingle, for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and domestic assault. Before these charges were resolved, the Defendant filed a habeas corpus petition, which the trial court summarily dismissed as inappropriately filed before there was a final conviction. Based upon the Defendant’s frustration with his case, the trial court held a hearing to address the Defendant’s complaints. During the hearing, the trial court found the Defendant in contempt of court and sentenced him to ten days. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it found him in contempt of court. Our review of the record revealed that the Defendant failed to timely file his appeal, therefore, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/28/21
In Re Zian L.
M2021-00879-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge, D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sammie E. Benningfield, Jr.

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for White County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Hope H. (“Mother”) to her minor son Zian L. (“the Child”). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on three grounds and finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest, all by the standard of clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals, arguing that the Juvenile Court erred in its best interest determination. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

White County Court of Appeals 12/28/21
Marilyn Jones v. Daniel Marshall
M2020-01627-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge, D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

In this legal malpractice action, the plaintiff appeals the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant and dismissing all of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. The trial court found that the plaintiff’s action was untimely and violated the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/28/21
Dillon Brooks v. Heather Avery Andrews
W2021-00106-COA-R10-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This extraordinary appeal arises from an alleged biological father’s complaint for “emergency custody,” injunctive relief, and to set child support, filed in the Shelby County Chancery Court. The chancery court immediately entered a restraining order requiring that the child either remain in Shelby County or be returned to Shelby County in the event she had been removed. It also entered a temporary injunction requiring the mother to place the child in the custody of the alleged father pending further orders. Counsel for the mother filed a notice of limited appearance and a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficiency of service of process, and failure to state a claim. The mother submitted affidavits and other proof in support of her position that she and the child were residents of California and had not been present in the State of Tennessee when the complaint was filed or since, so there was no basis for asserting temporary emergency jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-219. She also argued that the alleged father had no right to custody of the child because he had never obtained an order establishing paternity. At a hearing, the chancellor orally denied the mother’s motion to dismiss. The mother filed an application for an extraordinary appeal to this Court pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and requested a stay of the trial court proceedings. The alleged father then filed an amended complaint. On the same date, this Court stayed the proceedings in the trial court and directed the mother to obtain the entry of a written order memorializing the chancellor’s oral ruling. Thereafter, the chancery court entered a lengthy written order denying the mother’s motion to dismiss on all grounds asserted. This Court granted the mother’s application for an extraordinary appeal and framed the single issue as whether the alleged father had standing to file the complaint for emergency custody, for injunctive relief, and to set child support in Shelby County Chancery Court. We now vacate the trial court’s orders exercising temporary emergency jurisdiction, reverse in part the order denying the motion to dismiss, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/27/21
Timothy Lee Malone v. Anthony Viele, Et Al.
E2021-00637-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

This is a negligence case arising out of an injury suffered by the plaintiff when he fell off a ladder at the defendant’s cabin which was then under construction. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to establish his claim. The plaintiff appeals. We conclude that there is no dispute of material fact and that summary judgment in favor of the defendant was properly granted. Accordingly, we affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 12/27/21
Charlene C. Bradford v. Josh Terry ET AL.
M2019-01340-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

To avoid foreclosure, a homeowner and her daughter made a deal to sell their home. The purchasers paid off the mortgage and, after acquiring title, leased the home back to the daughter with an option to purchase. When the daughter failed to make timely lease payments, the purchasers sued for possession of the home. The (former) homeowner filed her own suit, alleging that the transaction was an equitable mortgage subject to rescission under the Federal Truth in Lending Act. She also alleged that the transaction violated Tennessee’s Foreclosure-Related Rescue Services Act. Following a trial, the court agreed that the transaction created an equitable mortgage that violated the Truth in Lending Act. So, under the federal act, the court rescinded the transaction and awarded damages and attorney’s fees. The court dismissed the claims under the Foreclosure-Related Rescue Services Act after determining it was inapplicable. On appeal, we conclude that the Foreclosure-Related Rescue Services Act, rather than the Truth in Lending Act, applied. We affirm the trial court’s rescission of the transaction under the state act. We reverse the awards under the Truth in Lending Act.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/27/21
Amy Elizabeth Luker v. Terry Eugene Luker
M2021-00758-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This appeal involves a finding of civil contempt pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-9-104 for Husband’s failure to adhere to an alimony provision in a marital dissolution agreement incorporated in a final decree of divorce. The trial court awarded Wife attorney’s fees and expenses associated with the enforcement of the alimony provision in the marital dissolution agreement and finding of civil contempt pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-9-104 and 36-5-103(c). Husband appeals. We affirm and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/22/21
Virgie Katherine Stamps v. Vickie Sharon Starnes
M2021-00250-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This is a civil action by a widow against her deceased husband’s daughter to set aside a 2013 warranty deed pursuant to which the husband conveyed his childhood home to his adult children from a previous marriage. The real property, located in Putnam County, Tennessee, was acquired by the decedent in 1972, fourteen years prior to the marriage to his widow. In this action against the decedent’s only surviving issue, his daughter, the widow sought to, inter alia, establish a constructive or resulting trust and set aside the deed as a fraudulent conveyance pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 31-1-105. The widow asserted that the conveyance was made fraudulently with an intent to defeat or reduce her claim for a distributive share of his net estate. Upon the motion of the decedent’s daughter, the trial court summarily dismissed all of the widow’s claims. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 12/22/21
In Re Jordyn H., et al.
W2020-01618-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rachel J. Jackson

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Lauderdale County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Erica H. (“Mother”) to her minor twin sons, Jordyn and Jadyn H. (“the Children,” collectively). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on a number of grounds. Mother appeals. We find, by clear and convincing evidence, that five grounds for termination were proven against Mother and that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. However, we vacate certain of the grounds found by the Juvenile Court. We therefore affirm the Juvenile Court’s judgment, as modified, terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children.

Lauderdale County Court of Appeals 12/21/21
Nicole Marie Neuman v. Paul Phillips
M2021-01162-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

A mother seeks accelerated review of the denial of her motion for recusal. In her motion, the mother argued that recusal was warranted because the trial judge’s husband, an elected official, expressed a public opinion on the subject matter of the case. In this appeal, she again argues that the opinion of the judge’s husband justified recusal. But she also argues that the order denying her motion for recusal reflected a bias on the judge’s part. We agree that the opinion of the judge’s husband on a political matter did not warrant recusal. And, while the order denying the recusal request did make findings about the motive behind the request that were unsupported by the record, the erroneous findings alone are insufficient to raise a reasonable question as to the judge’s impartiality. So we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/21/21
Paula Harris, Conservator For Saundra Richey v. Reuben "Royce" Richey et al.
M2021-00331-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

This appeal arises from a divorce action, in which the wife’s conservator alleged that the husband had been dissipating marital assets and had withdrawn money from joint accounts. As a result, the trial court ordered the husband to deposit the withdrawn funds with the court’s clerk and master. The wife passed away before the trial court could adjudicate the divorce action. The husband filed a motion requesting that the court return the funds to him because the divorce action had abated upon the wife’s death. The trial court dismissed the suit but denied the husband’s motion and ordered the clerk and master to continue holding the funds until they could be transferred to the probate court upon the filing of a petition to probate the wife’s estate. The husband has appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred by exercising subject matter jurisdiction over the disposition of the funds after the divorce action had abated, we reverse the trial court’s decision to withhold the funds from the husband and retain them with the clerk and master.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/21/21
Ernest Falls et al. v. Mark Goins et al.
M2020-01510-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This case concerns the restoration of voting rights of a Tennessee citizen who was convicted of a felony in Virginia and subsequently granted clemency by the Governor of Virginia. Because the voting applicant did not provide evidence that he paid outstanding court costs, restitution, and/or child support as is required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-29- 202, the election commission denied his application to vote. The voting applicant appealed the election commission’s decision to the circuit court. The circuit court upheld the election commission’s decision as valid. We agree with the trial court and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/21
Mike Bedsole D/B/A Tiny House Chattanooga v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., Et Al.
E2021-00431-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

Because the order appealed from does not constitute a final judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/16/21