Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/27/2022
Format: 05/27/2022
In Re K.W.
M2021-00408-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sharon Guffee

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights case.  The trial court determined that three grounds for termination existed and that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests.  We vacate one ground for termination relied upon by the trial court due to the application of an incorrect standard in the court’s order, but we affirm the court’s reliance on the remaining grounds for termination and its best interests determination.  The trial court’s termination of the father’s parental rights is accordingly affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/07/21
Timothy Rosebrough v. Karen Caldwell f/k/a Karen Rosebrough
W2020-00538-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

In this post-divorce case, Mother appeals the trial court’s denial of her motion to modify the permanent parenting plan to designate her as the Child’s primary residential parent. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 12/06/21
A.B. Normal, LLC v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01390-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Haltom

A property owner whose property was destroyed by a lightning-induced fire filed suit against the State on the theory of negligence.  The Claims Commission dismissed the case after concluding that any negligence on the part of the State was not the proximate cause of the property owner’s injury.  Finding no error, we affirm the decision of the Claims Commission.

Court of Appeals 12/03/21
James G. Akers v. Gregory Funding, LLC et al.
M2020-01351-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

A homeowner sued to stop a foreclosure on his home.  Most of the defendants filed motions to dismiss, which the trial court orally granted.  But before written orders of dismissal could be entered, the homeowner filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.  The court then entered an order of voluntary dismissal without prejudice, as well as the orders of dismissal with prejudice.  Claiming that the orders were inconsistent, the homeowner filed a post-judgment motion for reconciliation of conflicting orders.  The court clarified that the order granting the voluntary dismissal without prejudice only applied to claims against defendants that did not file motions to dismiss.  But the dismissals with prejudice applied to claims against defendants that did file such motions.  Finding no error, we affirm.    

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/30/21
In Re Bailey J. Et Al.
E2021-00446-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her twins. The juvenile court terminated on grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans. The court also determined that termination was in her children’s best interest. Mother argues that she lacked notice of the grounds and consequences of abandonment and the procedures for terminating her rights. She also argues that the evidence of the grounds for terminating her parental rights and of her children’s best interests was less than clear and convincing. We conclude Mother waived her notice argument. And while we agree that the evidence of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans was less than clear and convincing, clear and convincing evidence does support the ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent and the court’s best interest determination. So we affirm termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/30/21
In Re Conservatorship of Jerome Edward Douglas
M2020-01685-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

This appeal arises from the grant of an emergency conservatorship.  Specifically, the appellant, as the wife of the individual at issue, contends that the trial court improperly granted the emergency conservatorship, alleging that there existed no legal basis to do so.  She further contends that the assessment of attorney’s fees against her was improper.  Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/30/21
In Re Markus E.
M2019-01079-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

A mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights.  The trial court concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence of two statutory grounds for termination of the mother’s rights and one statutory ground for the termination of the father’s parental rights.  The trial court also concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that termination of their parental rights was in their child’s best interest.  After a thorough review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/30/21
Park Place Boat Dock Association, Inc. Et Al. v. Gary Phillips Construction, LLC Et AL.
E2021-00160-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John C. Rambo

This appeal concerns easement rights. The Park Place Community Association, Inc. (“the PPCA”) and the Park Place Boat Dock Association, Inc. (“the PPBDA”) (“Plaintiffs,” collectively) filed suit in the Chancery Court for Washington County (“the Trial Court”) against Gary Phillips Construction, LLC and Gary Phillips (“Phillips”). Plaintiffs sought access to a certain boat dock and sun deck on Boone Lake over a strip of land previously owned by the community’s developer that Phillips bought at a bankruptcy auction. After a trial, the Trial Court found Plaintiffs had proven the elements of an easement by implication and an easement by necessity over the property at issue. Phillips appeals raising a number of issues, including whether Plaintiffs have standing. We find, inter alia, that Plaintiffs have standing to bring this action. We further find that lake access has been, and is, essential for Plaintiffs’ use and beneficial enjoyment of Park Place, in some instances representing the exclusive reason why people bought their homes in the community. Plaintiffs have proven the elements of an easement by implication and an easement by necessity. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court in all respects.

Washington County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
Deborah P. Linn v. Mark A. Linn
M2020-01624-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Louis W. Oliver, III

At issue in this appeal is the trial court’s characterization of the alimony obligation in the parties’ divorce decree. The trial court determined that the alimony is part alimony in solido and part alimony in futuro. Based in part on this conclusion, the court denied Husband’s petition to modify his alimony obligation. The trial court also entered judgment against Husband for alimony arrearages, life insurance premiums, and Wife’s discretionary costs and attorney’s fees. Additionally, the court found Husband in contempt for failing to pay alimony and life insurance premiums. Because we conclude the trial court mischaracterized the alimony at issue, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and vacate in part its judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
Miracle Tenney Ex Rel. Desirae B. v. Daniel Paul Bullington
M2020-01432-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

The father of a fourteen-year-old daughter appeals the propriety of two separate orders of protection issued upon the mother’s petition for the protection of their daughter. Because both orders of protection have expired, we dismiss the father’s challenges to the propriety of the orders of protection on the basis of mootness and decline the father’s claim to recover his attorney’s fees. Notwithstanding the dismissal of the father’s issues, the mother seeks to recover the attorney’s fees and costs she incurred in defending the father’s appeal. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s recent decision inNew v. Dumitrache, 604 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2020), makes it clear that the legislative mandate in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-617(a)(1) extends to the reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred on appeal by victims of domestic abuse, even if the respondent’s challenge to the order of protection is no longer justiciable. Accordingly, we hold that the mother is entitled to an award of the reasonable attorney’s fees and costs she incurred in defending this appeal and remand this case for the trial court to make the appropriate award.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
First Community Mortgage, Inc. v. Appraisal Services Group, Inc., et al.
W2020-01246-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

A mortgage company appeals the dismissal of its lawsuit against an appraisal company and its employee as barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The appraisal company and its employee urge this Court to affirm the dismissal of the lawsuit and to award them attorney’s fees under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-12-119(c). We affirm the dismissal of the mortgage company’s action against the appraisal company and its employee. We conclude, however, that section 20-12-119(c) does not authorize the award of attorney’s fees incurred for appellate work.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
In Re Ashanti P. Et Al.
M2021-00039-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights, arguing only that the court abused its discretion in denying her motion to continue the trial. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the juvenile court’s denial of the motion to continue. The record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds on which the mother’s rights were terminated and to support a conclusion that termination was in the children’s best interest; accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the juvenile court terminating the mother’s parental rights.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
Brian Koblitz v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00282-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

An out-of-state resident filed a petition for declaratory judgment to challenge the constitutionality of certain amendments to the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act of 2004, Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 40-39-201 et seq., as applied to him.  The petition named the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as respondents.  The respondents moved to dismiss, and the trial court granted their motions on several grounds.  Because the petitioner did not appeal all of the trial court’s grounds for dismissal, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/29/21
John William Owens v. Meredith Elizabeth Owens
E2020-01470-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Casey Mark Stokes

This is an appeal of rulings by the trial court in a contentious divorce action. Following a bench trial, the trial court valued the parties’ marital assets and divided the marital estate equally. The court awarded the husband the marital home upon his payment to the wife of one-half the combined equity, equal parenting time, and designation as the primary residential parent. The court found that the wife was not entitled to alimony. The wife, inter alia, challenges the trial court’s division and valuation of the marital estate, in declining to award her attorney’s fees, in awarding the parties equal parenting time, and the designation of the husband as primary residential parent. Having carefully reviewed the voluminous record, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 11/24/21
Mark DeLong Et Al. v. Brian Paul General Partner, LLC
M2021-00075-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

Appellant debtor appeals the judgment of the trial court on the sole basis that the choice of law provision in the parties’ contract means that another state is the exclusive forum for this action. We affirm the decision of the trial court and award Appellee creditors damages for responding to a frivolous appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/24/21
Stefani Franklin v. Jimmy Franklin
W2020-00285-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L Smith

In this post-divorce case, Father appeals the trial court’s order allowing Mother to relocate with the parties’ son from the Memphis area to Houston, Texas. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/24/21
Stacy Renee Lofton v. James Warren Lofton
W2020-01349-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

This is a divorce case. On appeal, the husband raises issues about the trial court’s property division and spousal support award. We generally affirm the trial court’s judgment. For the reasons discussed herein, however, we vacate the trial court’s partition of Husband’s railroad retirement pension benefits, not because of any error with the intended disposition, but for the entry of an order that is fully compliant with 20 C.F.R. § 295.3.

Obion County Court of Appeals 11/23/21
Buttercup Ridge Farms, LLC, Et Al. v. McFall Sod & Seeding, LLC, Et Al.
M2021-00457-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher V. Sockwell

This is an action to quiet title to a strip of land used as an ingress/egress for property perpendicular to the land at issue.  The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff.  We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 11/23/21
G.T. Issa Construction, LLC v. Bonnie Blalock
E2020-00853-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This is a controversy between a homebuyer, the plaintiff, and a residential developer/contractor concerning the construction and sale of a newly constructed custombuilt home and lot within a subdivision with restrictive covenants. The parties executed a fill-in-the-blank “Purchase and Sale Agreement” (“the Agreement”) pursuant to which the defendant agreed to construct a custom home and sell the home and lot to the plaintiff. The principal matter in dispute is whether the defendant was contractually obligated to provide a brick veneer on the retaining wall installed by the defendant. The Agreement did not expressly include the construction of a retaining wall; however, the parties agree that a retaining wall was to be constructed and included in the sale. Although the brick veneer had not been installed and the hotly disputed issue remained unresolved, the sale closed. Shortly thereafter, the buyer commenced this action in which she asserted, inter alia, claims for breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to finish the retaining wall with brick veneer as required by the subdivision’s restrictive covenants and implicitly required by the Agreement. In its answer, the defendant denied liability and asserted that it had no obligation to provide a veneer finish on the retaining wall.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/23/21
Johah Paul Anders v. Mayla C. Anders
W2018-02172-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This is an appeal from a final decree of divorce. The trial court granted the parties a divorce instead of the annulment Husband requested, among other findings. Husband now appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/22/21
Terrell Biggs, Jr. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
E2021-00138-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

The plaintiff challenges the order of the Sullivan County Circuit Court (“trial court”) granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Liberty Insurance Corporation1 (“Liberty”), and dismissing his complaint on the merits with prejudice. The trial court granted summary judgment to Liberty based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and its conclusion that the plaintiff would be unable to produce sufficient evidence at trial to withstand a motion for directed verdict. Because the plaintiff’s claims are barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Liberty, albeit for a different reason than that found by the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 11/22/21
In Re Ima D. Et Al.
M2021-00022-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy Cook Puckett

In this case involving termination of the father’s parental rights to his children, the Hickman 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.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 11/22/21
Yolanda Burse v. Lakeside Behavioral Health ET AL.
W2021-00048-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

Appellant appeals the trial court’s judgment dismissing her claims against three healthcare entities. Because Appellant’s brief substantially fails to comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss this appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/18/21
Jorge I. Calzada, M.D. v. State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company
M2020-01697-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

A doctor’s professional liability insurer refused to insure him against claims brought against him by his former partners and investigations of him being conducted by state and federal agencies. The trial court found that the insurer was not required to provide coverage for the doctor against the claims or the investigations. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/18/21
Rachel Ransom Strickland v. Patrick Dustin Strickland
M2020-01070-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

In this post-divorce action, a former husband filed a motion to modify his alimony obligation after his former wife began living with a romantic partner.  The wife contended that she and her romantic partner equally divided their living expenses and that she still needed the previously awarded alimony despite her new living arrangement.  The trial court disagreed and suspended the husband’s alimony obligation retroactively to the filing of his petition to modify.  In addition to the alimony issue, the trial court determined that wife successfully proved two civil contempt claims against the husband, awarded her the reasonable attorney fees she incurred to prosecute those claims, and dismissed a civil contempt claim she raised regarding his late payment of the value of the wife’s interest in two certificates of deposit (“CD”) awarded to her in the parties’ marital dissolution agreement.  The wife appealed, challenging the suspension of the husband’s alimony obligation, the dismissal of her civil contempt claim, and the award of attorney fees.  Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in suspending the husband’s alimony obligation, we reverse that part of the court’s decision and remand for a determination of her reasonable attorney fees relating to that issue.  We affirm the part of the trial court’s judgment dismissing the civil contempt claim. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/16/21