Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014
In the Matter of Ryan K.M., et al.
W2013-02201-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Mother’s parental rights to her three sons were terminated after she pled guilty to the second degree murder of a fourth son. On appeal, Mother concedes that termination grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence; she challenges only the trial court’s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the children’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s best interest finding, and thus, its termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Chester County Court of Appeals 04/23/14
Kathy Austin, et al v. Jacob Wilds, Jr., et al
E2013-01310-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

Kathy Austin, Vickie Shipley, and Sherry Foshie (“Plaintiffs”) sued their brothers, Jacob Wilds, Jr. and James Wilds (“Defendants”), seeking to have certain deeds from their mother set aside due to alleged undue influence and/or duress. After a bench trial, the Chancery Court for Greene County (“Trial Court”) entered its order rendering judgment in favor of Defendants after finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs had failed to prove the existence of a confidential relationship necessary to show that the subject deeds were procured through undue influence. Plaintiffs appeal. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Melinda Jan Metzinger v. Ronald Wayne Metzinger
W2013-02220-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

This appeal involves the classification and division of Husband’s $66,000.00 personal injury settlement in a divorce proceeding. The trial court classified the settlement as marital property, it deducted $13,400.00 for what it found to be “legitimate expense[s] of the marriage” paid by Husband, and it awarded Wife one-half of the balance, or $26,300.00. We reverse the trial court’s award to Wife.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Norma Simpson, Ind. and next of kin of J. W. Simpson v. Faye Fowler
W2013-02109-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is the second appeal of this case, involving the application of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 31-1-105 to set aside certain transfers by decedent to his long-term companion, which transfers were allegedly made with intent to deny his surviving spouse of her share of his estate. From the totality of the circumstances, and applying the factors outlined by this Court in Finley v. Finley, 726 S.W.2d 923 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986), we conclude that the evidence preponderates in favor of the trial court’s award of $8,500.00 in insurance proceeds to the surviving spouse for decedent’s funeral costs, but that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s award of a $28,000.00 bank account to the surviving spouse. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Obion County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Carroll Marie Stovall, et al. v. UHS of Lakeside, LLC, et al.
W2013-01504-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge John R. McCarroll, Jr.

Appellant medical providers appeal the trial court’s denial of their motions to dismiss a medical malpractice complaint for failure to strictly comply with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-26-122(d)(4). Because we conclude that the trial court had good cause to grant an extension, within which to file a certificate of good faith, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Michael James Little, Jr. v. Rhonda G. Little
M2013-00983-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

The trial court determined that no material and substantial change in circumstance had occurred and denied Father’s petition to modify the parties’ parenting plan. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/21/14
Cassidy Aragon v. Reynaldo Aragon
M2013-01962-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ross H. Hicks

This post-divorce case concerns parental relocation. Father sought to relocate to Arizona, citing family ties and increased career opportunities. The parties agreed that Father spent substantially more time with the child than Mother; however, Mother objected to the relocation, arguing that the move had no reasonable purpose. The trial court agreed with Mother and entered a parenting plan naming Mother primary residential parent. Because the trial court made no best interest finding regarding either the proposed relocation, or the parenting plan, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings. Vacated and Remanded.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 04/21/14
Carl Scott Blankenship v. Amy Lynn Cox
M2013-00807-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

This appeals arises from the post-divorce modification of child support following the emancipation of the parties’ oldest of three children. Both parents appeal numerous rulings by the trial court including its child support calculations, a judgment against Mother arising from Father’s overpayment of child support following the emancipation of their oldest child, the imputation of income to Mother for voluntary unemployment, an upward deviation for extraordinary education expenses, allocation of the uncovered medical expenses, allocation of the tax exemptions for the two minors, and attorney’s fees. We have determined that although the trial court was justified in finding a deviation for extraordinary education expenses, the trial court erred by applying the deviation prospectively rather than retroactively to the date of the petition. We reverse the trial court only on this issue and remand for the trial court to recalculate the amount of child support and the judgment against Mother consistent with this finding. We affirm the trial court in all other respects and deny both parties’ request to recover attorneys’ fees incurred in this appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
In Re: John H. B.
M2013-00496-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge David R. Farmer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ken Witcher

Father appeals the trial court’s determination that he is willfully and voluntarily underemployed and the parenting schedule established by the trial court. Mother appeals the trial court’s determination that it lacked the authority to award attorney’s fees under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-103(c). We affirm the trial court’s judgment with respect to the parenting schedule and the finding of voluntary underemployment, and vacate with respect to the issue of attorney’s fees. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Macon County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
In Re: Josephine E.M.C.
E2013-02040-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her young daughter. The trial court terminated the mother’s parental rights based upon four separate grounds: substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; abandonment by willful failure to visit; abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; and persistent conditions. We find that DCS failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it made reasonable efforts to reunify the mother and her child, and we reverse the trial court’s finding that grounds for termination were proven by clear and convincing evidence. This matter is remanded for such further proceedings as may be necessary.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
Duckworth Pathology Group, Inc., a Professional Association v. The Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The Med)
W2012-02607-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

A surgical pathology group filed this action in chancery court, claiming that the Med violated its own rules and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to award the petitioner with a contract after a lengthy request for proposals process. The petition stated that the chancery court had subject matter jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to the statutes governing petitions for certiorari. The trial court granted the Med’s motion to dismiss for numerous reasons, including lack of jurisdiction. We find that the petition was not subject to dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and we reverse the trial court’s finding to the contrary. However, due to the petitioner’s failure to appeal the trial court’s alternative grounds for dismissal, we find it unnecessary to consider the issues raised on appeal, and we otherwise affirm the order of dismissal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
Susan E. Rich et al v. The City of Chattanooga et al.
E2013-00190-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This case presents the issue of whether citizens who reside on real property that is proposed for deannexation by a municipal ordinance may, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-51-201 (2011), properly bring a quo warranto or declaratory judgment action against the municipality to challenge adoption of the deannexation ordinance. The trial court dismissed these claims against the municipality, and the plaintiffs have appealed. The plaintiffs have also taken issue with the propriety of the trial court’s determination regarding who would be qualified to vote in the referendum election, as well as other procedural and evidentiary issues. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
The Bank of New York Mellon f/k/a The Bank of New York, et al. v. William Barry Goodman, et al.
M2013-01372-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

Bank made a loan to an individual who owned real property and obtained a deed of trust on the property securing the loan. Bank recorded the deed of trust in the wrong county. A few years later Second Bank obtained two judgment liens and properly registered them in the correct county. Bank later realized its error and registered its deed of trust in the correct county but was by that time in the junior creditor position. Bank filed a complaint seeking equitable subrogation in an effort to obtain the prioritycreditor position and get placed ahead of Second Bank, which had no security interest in the property at issue, but which had filed its liens first. The trial court denied Bank this relief after balancing the equities of the parties. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/16/14