Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/07/2022
Format: 07/07/2022
Adam J. Rothberg v. Fridrich & Associates Insurance Agency, Inc. et al.
M2022-00795-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is an expedited appeal pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B.  Based on the Appellant’s failure to comply with the requirements of Rule 10B, we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/17/22
In Re Addisyn P. et al.
M2021-00871-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Bussart

In this case involving termination of the father’s parental rights to his children, the Marshall County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) determined that several statutory grounds for termination had been proven by clear and convincing evidence.  The trial court further determined that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest.  The father has appealed.  Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 06/16/22
In Re Khloe O.
M2021-01125-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This appeal involves a petition to terminate parental rights and for adoption.  The chancery court found by clear and convincing evidence that a ground for termination was proven and that termination was in the best interests of the child.  The mother appeals.  We vacate and remand.

Warren County Court of Appeals 06/16/22
Lauren Frontz v. Tristan J. Hall
E2021-00154-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

Lauren Frontz (“Petitioner”) filed a petition for an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend Tristan J. Hall (“Respondent”) on July 31, 2020. The trial court granted an ex parte order of protection and set a hearing for ten days later. Several bridging orders were subsequently entered by the trial court extending the length of time for the protective order. Petitioner alleged Respondent was guilty of criminal contempt by violating the order of protection. After a hearing, the trial court found Respondent guilty on five counts of criminal contempt and sentenced him to fifty days in jail. The trial court also awarded Petitioner her attorney’s fees in the amount of $77,525.75. Respondent appeals, arguing that the bridging orders were invalid and that the trial court erred in its award of attorney’s fees. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/15/22
James Scarlett v. AA Properties, GP
E2021-00615-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Jerome Melson

In this appeal, the parties have stipulated that the trial court erred in awarding the appellee attorney’s fees incurred in an earlier appeal under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20- 12-119(c)(1). So we reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/14/22
Steven Simmons v. Mayor Jim Strickland, et al.
W2020-01562-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

In this appeal from the trial court’s dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02 on the defenses of lack of jurisdiction over the person, insufficiency of process, and insufficiency of service of process, we affirm the trial court. We also conclude the appeal is frivolous and remand for an assessment of damages.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/13/22
Linda Michelle Watts v. David Wayne Suiter
W2021-00496-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This appeal involves unmarried parties who jointly own real property together. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court divided the equity in the jointly owned property equally, stating that it could not “speculate” as to the parties’ agreements or “parse through” their relationship “to determine who paid what or who did what when.” The trial court also dismissed related tort claims and ordered one party to pay a share of the other’s attorney fees. We vacate in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/13/22
Joshua Clint Hopper v. Obion County School System
W2021-00805-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

This is an interlocutory appeal from a personal injury case involving a minor who was struck in the eye by a mechanical pencil while attending an afterschool program. The trial court denied the school system’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the school system permission to seek an interlocutory appeal. Thereafter, the school system filed its application for permission to appeal, which we granted. We reverse the decision of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Obion County Court of Appeals 06/13/22
Estate of Jennifer Diane Vickers v. Diversicare Leasing Corporation et al.
M2021-00894-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge, Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bonita Jo Atwood

A nursing home resident commenced this health care liability action after she had 18 teeth extracted, after which she suffered excessive bleeding. Before suing, the plaintiff’s daughter, acting as her mother’s attorney in fact, provided each prospective defendant with a form that purported to authorize the release of the plaintiff’s health information as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(1). Four months later, the plaintiff filed her complaint and a certificate of good faith as required by § 29-26-122(a). The defendants responded by moving to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the pre-suit authorizations were invalid because the daughter lacked the authority to make “health care decisions” for the plaintiff. The trial court denied the motions, finding the general power of attorney authorized the daughter to release the plaintiff’s medical records. After the plaintiff filed an amended complaint to add a claim for lack of informed consent, the defendants moved to dismiss all claims set forth in the amended complaint based on the plaintiff’s failure to file a new certificate of good faith. The plaintiff argued that a new certificate was unnecessary; nevertheless, she moved for an extension of time to comply. Following a hearing, the court found that a new certificate of good faith was required by § 29-26-122(a) because the amended complaint asserted a new claim. The court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time to comply on the ground that the plaintiff failed to establish “extraordinary cause” to justify an extension. Based on these findings, the court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss all claims. This appeal followed. We agree that a new certificate of good faith was required; however, we find that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard to deny the motion for an extension of time in which to comply. This is because the standard applicable to a motion for an extension of time to comply is “good cause,” not “extraordinary cause,” and good cause is a less exacting standard than extraordinary cause. See Stovall v. UHS Lakeside,LLC, No. W2013-01504-COA-R9-CV, 2014 WL 2155345, at *12 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 22, 2014) (citations omitted), overruled on other grounds by Davis ex rel. Davis v. Ibach, 465 S.W.3d 570 (Tenn. 2015). Accordingly, this issue, along with the trial court’s decision to dismiss the entire amended complaint, are vacated and remanded for further consideration by the trial court. As a result, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 06/13/22
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter v. HRC Medical Centers, Inc. et al.
M2021-00488-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

The State appeals the trial court’s holding that Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-8-101(1) applied to the State’s attempt to have the Defendants’ real estate sold in order to collect on its judgment, such that the statutory right of redemption could not be barred. Because we conclude that the sale sought by the State could proceed under subsection (2) of that statute, we vacate the court’s order and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/10/22
Wilson Bank & Trust et al. v. Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County et al.
M2021-00167-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bonita Jo Atwood

In 2014, development company KW Group, LLC (“KW”) purchased a tract of land located in Rutherford County, Tennessee, from Wilson Bank & Trust (“Wilson Bank”). The land was intended for a subdivision. A previous holder of the land, Mid-Cumberland Development, Inc. (“Mid-Cumberland”), had deeded two lots out of the main tract to Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County (“CUD”) in 2011. Desiring to have a portion of the two lots re-consolidated with the primary tract, KW and Wilson Bank filed suit against CUD and Mid-Cumberland in 2016. The plaintiffs sought reformation and/or rescission of the 2011 deed conveying the lots to CUD and stated causes of action for promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment. Following briefing by the parties, the trial court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. We affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 06/10/22
Cedarius M. v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01594-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

The appellant is a minor who was charged with a serious crime. After the state notified the appellant of its intent to seek transfer of the appellant for prosecution as an adult, the appellant asked for an in-person transfer hearing. The juvenile court denied the motion, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The appellant then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the circuit court, which was denied. On appeal, the appellant contends that the juvenile court’s order violates various constitutional protections that he should be afforded under the circumstances. But the parties now agree that transfer hearings are taking place in-person in the Shelby County Juvenile Court. Because we conclude that this appeal is now moot and not subject to any recognized exception to the mootness doctrine, we dismiss this appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/09/22
In Re Estate of James M. McKinney
M2021-00703-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

In this appeal, we construe a will. The trial court determined that the will disinherited one of the testator’s two daughters by necessary implication when the testator identified only one daughter as his child in the “Family” clause and did not indicate a specific intent to include the other daughter in the residue clause that disposed of his estate. Upon our de novo review, we hold that inclusive language in the family clause does not operate to disinherit one daughter when the residue clause defined “children” differently, such that both of the testator’s daughters are beneficiaries under the will. We therefore reverse the judgment of the chancery court and remand the matter for further proceedings.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/09/22
In Re Jayce S.
E2020-01573-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

Father appeals from a trial court’s termination of his parental rights. Due to the lack of a sufficiently complete record on appeal, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand the matter for a new trial.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 06/09/22
Ashley Shearin Meade v. Paducah Nissan, LLC et al.
M2021-00563-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

Wife appeals from the trial court’s decision to dismiss a complaint against the car dealership managed by her estranged husband for claims associated with the use of a demonstrator vehicle. We affirm the decision of the trial court. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/09/22
Malcolm D. Myers as Executor of the Estate of Charles Price Boone v. Dawna Divine Boone
W2020-01167-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This appeal stems from a divorce proceeding, in which the Shelby County Circuit Court (“Trial Court”) found that two billboard marketing agreements for billboards located at 5871 Poplar Avenue and 0 Ricky Bell Cove were property belonging to the corporation, St. Charles Place, Inc., a corporation owned solely by Husband. The Trial Court found that the parties’ marriage was short-term in nature and distributed the marital property, awarding Dawna Divine Boone (“Wife”) 60% of the marital estate and Charles Price Boone (“Husband”) 40% of the marital estate. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the Trial Court in all respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/08/22
Lee Richard Slotnik v. Shani Marie Slotnik
M2022-00645-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

In this accelerated interlocutory appeal, a mother seeks review of the denial of her motion to recuse the trial judge.  She contends that statements the trial judge made at a hearing present a reasonable basis for questioning the judge’s impartiality or could only stem from an extrajudicial source.  We conclude that they do not.  So we affirm. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/07/22
Gary A. Montgomery v. Lesley B. Montgomery
M2022-00663-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Wayne Collins
This is an appeal from a final order dismissing a post-divorce petition on the grounds of res judicata. Because the appellant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the final order as required by Rule 4(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.
 
Wilson County Court of Appeals 06/06/22
John Doe 1, et al. v. Woodland Presbyterian, et al.
W2021-00353-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal arises from a lawsuit alleging that a number of Presbyterian church entities were negligent regarding the sexual abuse of minors by a Presbyterian clergyman. John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and John Doe 3 (“Plaintiffs”) , members and/or attendees of Woodland Presbyterian Church (“Woodland”) in the 1990s, sued former pastor James B. Stanford (“Stanford”) and a host of Presbyterian institutional defendants for negligence in the Circuit Court for Shelby County (“the Trial Court”). The institutional defendants filed motions to dismiss, which were granted by the Trial Court. Plaintiffs appeal arguing, among other things, that the statute of limitations was tolled due to fraudulent concealment. They argue further that the Trial Court erred in dismissing their claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress stemming from certain of the institutional defendants allegedly releasing Plaintiffs’ names to the media in 2019. We affirm the Trial Court’s dismissal of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation and Evangelical Presbyterian Church for lack of personal jurisdiction. However, we hold further, inter alia, that in view of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s holding in Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis, 363 S.W.3d 436 (Tenn. 2012), the Trial Court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint at the motion to dismiss stage based upon the statute of limitations when Plaintiffs alleged that efforts were made by certain of the institutional defendants to hide the sexual abuse and a “whitewash” ensued. As Plaintiffs successfully alleged fraudulent concealment, we reverse the Trial Court with respect to the statute of limitations issue. We also reverse the Trial Court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against Woodland and Presbytery of the Central South, Inc. We, therefore, affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Trial Court, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/03/22
Trena R. Jefferson, et al. v. Patricia A. Williams-Mapp
W2021-01058-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Gadson W. Perry

Appellant’s brief in this case fails to substantially comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/03/22
In Re Morgan R.
E2021-01206-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri Bryant

This is an appeal by Mother from the trial court’s termination of her parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. Mother contends that her actions were not willful such as to warrant termination, while also arguing that termination is not in the best interest of the child. For the reasons discussed herein, we affirm the trial court’s termination.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
Jeffrey Polhamus v. State of Tennessee
E2021-01253-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody

This case arises from a single-vehicle motorcycle accident at the intersection of State Route 1 and State Route 36 within the city limits of Kingsport, Tennessee. The cyclist contends the accident was caused by the failure of the State of Tennessee and the City of Kingsport to properly maintain the state highways; specifically, he alleges that their failure to repair a pothole caused the accident. The plaintiff filed a claim against the State with the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration, and shortly thereafter he commenced this action against the City in the Sullivan County Circuit Court. The claim against the State was later transferred and consolidated with the action against the City. Both the State and the City claimed immunity and moved for summary judgment. The State asserted that it had immunity because the City contractually agreed to maintain the highways where the accident occurred. The City asserted that it had immunity because the State owned the highways where the accident occurred. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City upon the finding the City had immunity because it did not “own” the state highways; however, it denied the State’s motion because “[t]o hold that both the State and the City [were] immune from suit would be against public policy.”

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
Christie Lee (Upchurch) Vanwinkle et al. v. Robert Martin Thompson
M2020-01291-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

A wife and husband obtained a “Final Decree of Divorce.” The wife then remarried. Her first husband claimed their divorce was not final, and thus filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that her second marriage was bigamous. The declaratory judgment action was ultimately dismissed. The wife and her new husband filed a defamation action against the first husband, claiming that he had falsely accused them of bigamy. The trial court dismissed the defamation action. Because the first husband’s allegedly defamatory statements are entitled to the absolute litigation privilege, we affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 06/02/22
In Re: Conservatorship Of Abigail Olmore
E2022-00588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/01/22
Christina Jane Compher v. Dana Janelle Whitefield
M2021-00474-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport
This appeal is a parentage action involving a same-sex domestic partnership, in which the petitioner filed a petition seeking to be recognized as a legal parent of a child born by artificial insemination after the parties made the mutual decision to have the child. The juvenile court granted the respondent’s motion to dismiss finding that the petitioner lacked standing. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.
 
Rutherford County Court of Appeals 06/01/22