Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/21/2020
Format: 10/21/2020
Carolyn Richardson v. H & J Properties, LLC, et al.
W2019-02082-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

A residential tenant was injured after slipping on water that accumulated from a leak in the ceiling of her home. Prior to the accident, the tenant notified the owner of the residence and the property manager of the leak. The tenant brought suit for her injuries, alleging a common law negligence claim and a claim for the defendants’ alleged failure to comply with requirements in the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on both claims, finding that the tenant had co-extensive knowledge of the dangerous condition, so the defendants were not liable for her injuries. The tenant appeals, primarily arguing that the common law rule on landlord non-liability is displaced by the Act. We affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/21/20
Liberty Construction Company, LLC v. Peter H. Curry, Et Al.
M2019-00951-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This is an action by a construction company to recover on a written stipulated sum contract and an oral cost-plus contract for the construction of a commercial building. The construction company sought to recover for additional work performed that was not included in the scope of the stipulated sum contract and the remaining balance of the cost-plus contract. The building owners contended that the construction company was not entitled to additional payment under the written agreement and counterclaimed for payments the owners made directly to suppliers for work included in the scope of the stipulated sum contract, and for reimbursement of funds expended to correct a defect caused by the construction company. The trial court held that neither the construction company nor the owners were entitled to recover under the stipulated sum contract; that the owners were not entitled to reimbursement because they failed to establish that the construction company caused the defect or, in the alternative, failed to provide a reasonable opportunity to cure; and that the construction company was entitled to judgment for work performed in connection with the cost-plus agreement. We reverse the court’s determination that the owners were not entitled to a credit for certain payments made directly to suppliers, that prejudgment interest commenced on November 10, 2014, when the notice of completion was filed, and that the owners did not provide the construction company with notice and an opportunity to cure. We affirm the trial court’s holding in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/21/20
Kabir Afzali Et Al. v. Shirzad Etemadi
M2019-01769-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

This appeal concerns a trial court’s dismissal under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) based on the affirmative defenses of res judicata and waiver. This is the second action between the parties involving the same real property. In the first action, the plaintiffs sought to enforce an option to purchase property they were leasing from the defendant. While the action was pending, the defendant recorded a document with the Davidson County Register of Deeds that purported to create an ingress-egress easement across the property to an adjoining tract he owned. During the pendency of the first action, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, pursuant to which the defendant agreed to sell the property to the plaintiffs, and the parties released all claims against each other. After the first action was dismissed, the plaintiffs discovered the purported easement, which prompted them to file a motion to set aside the dismissal. Meanwhile, the parties set a deadline for closing, and the defendant prepared a warranty deed that reserved the same easement he previously attempted to create. The plaintiffs insisted that the deed be rewritten without the easement. When the defendant refused, they proceeded with the closing. Shortly after the closing, the trial court denied the motion to set aside the dismissal of the first action. The plaintiffs recorded a Notice of Acceptance of Deed under Protest the day after the deed was recorded and commenced this action three weeks later. The complaint asserted that the defendant clouded the property’s title by filing a defective easement and breached the settlement by delivering a deed that did not describe the property as bargained for. On the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the trial court found the matter had been adjudicated in the first action and that the plaintiffs waived their claims by closing on the property. We have determined that neither the doctrine of res judicata nor the doctrine of waiver applies. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/21/20
Candace Renea Cavness Howard (Beasley) v. Breck Markham Beasley
W2019-01972-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

This appeal concerns a post-divorce motion to terminate transitional alimony. In the parties’ MDA, they agreed the ex-wife would receive transitional alimony for eleven years. In 2013, the ex-husband filed the motion to terminate, alleging that the ex-wife had remarried and was cohabitating with her new spouse and that the new spouse was providing financial support. Several years later, the trial court heard the motion and terminated transitional alimony as of December 31, 2018. In rendering its decision, the trial court failed to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01. Therefore, we vacate the trial court’s decision and remand with instructions to make the necessary findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 10/20/20
City of Athens v. William Straser
E2019-02298-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

In a direct appeal from the Athens City Court (“municipal court”), the McMinn County Circuit Court (“trial court”) determined that the defendant, William Straser, was not entitled to a trial by jury in defense of a citation issued by the plaintiff city. Following a bench trial conducted on November 22, 2019, the trial court further determined that Mr. Straser had erected a carport on his property in violation of a municipal ordinance requiring a thirty-foot minimum setback. Mr. Straser has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 10/20/20
Alexandra Mattie Steadman v. Christopher John Sakacsi
E2020-00977-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge William K. Rogers

The notice of appeal filed by the appellant, Alexandra Mattie Steadman, stated that the appellant was appealing the judgment entered on July 10, 2020. As the July 10, 2020 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 10/19/20
Ezra Maize v. Friendship Community Church Inc, Et Al.
E2019-00183-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

Plaintiff, a former pastor at a church in Chattanooga, brought suit against the church, church elders, and another pastor at the church, alleging that various torts were committed against him. Following a series of motions by the defendants that sought the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims, the trial court ultimately dismissed all legal theories that were asserted in the case. Among other bases for the dismissal, the trial court held that a number of plaintiff’s claims were barred by the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. Discerning no error in the trial court’s decision to dismiss plaintiff’s claims, we affirm its judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/19/20
In Re M.L.S.
E2019-01794-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This appeal involves a petition to enforce a visitation order after the entry of a final decree of adoption. The adoptive parents filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted in part and denied in part. The trial court ordered the parties to participate in depositions to address the issue of “acquiescence” and determine “if an enforceable right of visitation with the minor Child was acquired by the Petitioners being allowed to visit after the adoption of the minor Child was finalized.” The adoptive parents sought and were granted permission to file an interlocutory appeal, challenging the denial in part of their motion to dismiss. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 10/16/20
In Re Adoption of M.L.S.
E2019-01918-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This case involves a petition to set aside a final decree of adoption. The trial court granted the adoptive parents’ motion to dismiss the petition. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 10/16/20
In Re Meghan M.R.
E2020-00023-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Sammons

A trial court terminated the parental rights of a mother based on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, persistence of conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. The mother appealed, and we affirm the termination on all grounds.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 10/16/20
Peter R. Culpepper v. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. Et Al.
E2019-01932-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

In this legal malpractice action, the trial court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants, determining that the plaintiff had waived any conflict of interest in his signed engagement letter. The court also ruled that the plaintiff’s legal malpractice claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiff has appealed. Upon our review of the pleadings and acceptance as true of all well-pleaded facts contained in the plaintiff’s complaint and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom, we determine that the plaintiff has pled sufficient facts in support of his claim of legal malpractice. We therefore reverse the trial court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings with regard to the plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/16/20
Rodney Stafford, et al. v. Christy M. Lucas, A.P.N., et al.
W2019-01438-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

The trial court dismissed this lawsuit for failure to timely serve the defendants after finding that it was “unaware of an exception to this rule or authority to expand the time for service.” Prior to the hearing, however, the plaintiffs filed a motion for enlargement of time under Rule 6.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court did not specifically address this motion. As such, the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint is vacated, and this matter is remanded with instructions for the trial court to rule on plaintiffs’ motion for an enlargement of time.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/15/20
James Justice v. Paul Gaiter, Et Al.
M2019-01299-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

This appeal arises from a motor vehicle accident in a shopping center complex during the Christmas season. Plaintiff appeals the jury’s finding that he was sixty percent at fault for the accident and the trial court’s denial of his motion for a new trial. Finding that the jury’s apportionment of fault is supported by material evidence and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/15/20
Jeremy Archer, Et Al. v. The Home Team, Inc. Et Al.
M2019-01898-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. Mark Rogers

This appeal arises from an alleged misrepresentation of real estate acreage. The plaintiffs commenced an action against both the real estate agent and the seller claiming they misrepresented that the property was 1.9 acres when it was only 1.16 acres. They asserted claims against the real estate agent for misrepresentation and concealment and claims against the seller for, inter alia, misrepresentation, concealment, and breach of contract. Following discovery, the seller and real estate agent each filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court summarily dismissed all claims against the real estate agent. The court granted the seller partial summary judgment dismissing the claims based on misrepresentation, concealment, and breach of contract. We affirm the dismissal of the misrepresentation claims against both defendants because the undisputed facts establish that the plaintiffs did not rely on the alleged misrepresentations in deciding to purchase the property. We also affirm the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ concealment claims based on the plaintiffs’ constructive notice of the correct acreage by way of a publicly recorded plat. Additionally, we affirm the summary dismissal of the breach of contract claim given that the warranty deed identifies the property by reference to the recorded plat, which shows the correct acreage. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/15/20
In Re John B.
M2019-02022-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ken Witcher

Father appeals the trial court’s decision to reduce his parenting time significantly. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Macon County Court of Appeals 10/15/20
In Re: Rosylyn W.
E2019-01838-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

Sarah E. (“Mother”) and Scott W. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their parental rights to their minor child, Roslyn W. (“the Child”). In September 2018, Michael D. (“Uncle”) and Megan D. (“Aunt”) (collectively, “Petitioners”) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the parents to the Child in the Hawkins County Chancery Court (“Trial Court”). The Trial Court conducted a trial in August 2019. Following the close of Petitioners’ proof, the Trial Court involuntarily dismissed the statutory ground of abandonment for failure to visit against both parents upon oral motion by the parents, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02. At the conclusion of the trial, the Trial Court terminated Mother’s parental rights based on the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to support the Child and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility of the Child. The Trial Court terminated Father’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment by failure to support the Child. The Trial Court further found that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child was in the Child’s best interest. Upon its termination of the parents’ rights to the Child, the Trial Court ordered that Petitioners and the parents must enter into an agreed order or a “preadoption contract” that will survive the adoption to allow for reasonable visitation between the Child and the parents to continue their relationship. Both Mother and Father timely appealed the Trial Court’s judgment. The Petitioners raise two additional issues. We reverse the Trial Court’s involuntary dismissal of the statutory ground of abandonment by failure to visit pertaining to Father at the conclusion of Petitioner’s proof, as well as the requirement that the parties enter into an agreed order or “preadoption contract” allowing reasonable visitation between the parents and the Child after the adoption. We affirm the Trial Court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 10/13/20
In Re Conservatorship of Annette H. Cross
W2018-01179-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Appellees in this long and storied family dispute over the conveyance of real property held in a testamentary trust. The trial court also awarded Appellees’ attorneys’ fees. We affirm both the award of summary judgment and the award of attorneys’ fees.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/09/20
Debra Smith, et al. v. Ronnie Outen, M.D., et al.
W2019-01226-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

In this health care liability action, the defendant pharmacists were sued for dispensing the wrong medication to the plaintiff. The defendants then alleged comparative fault against Appellant doctor, who was treating the patient. The plaintiff amended her complaint to allege fault against the doctor. However, the doctor was eventually granted summary judgment when no expert was produced to support the claim. Appellant doctor then sought sanctions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d)(3) on the basis that, inter alia, the defendants’ certificate of good faith was supported by the written statement of an incompetent expert witness. The trial court denied the motion for sanctions. We affirm.

Benton County Court of Appeals 10/09/20
Knoxville Community Development Corporation v. Orchard Entertainment Group, LLC, Et Al. - Concurring
E2019-01831-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

I concur with the majority opinion but write separately to more fully address KCDC’s argument that it was not required to provide notice to OEG of the Board of Commissioners’ decision to acquire the Property by eminent domain because the Redevelopment Plan does not contain a notice requirement.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/09/20
Knoxville Community Development Corporation v. Orchard Entertainment Group, LLC, Et Al.
E2019-01831-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal involves the condemnation of a property within a redevelopment area in Knoxville, Tennessee, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 13-20-202. The plaintiff obtained entry of an order granting it title to the property based upon assertion of eminent domain. The defendant claims that it did not receive due notice of hearings and that the plaintiff failed to follow the procedures set forth in the relevant redevelopment plan prior to initiating the taking. Upon the trial court finding that the plaintiff acted properly, the defendant timely filed a notice of appeal. We reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/09/20
BOP, LLC, Et Al. v. Plastic Surgery Of Nashville, P.C., Et Al.
M2019-00588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall

This appeal arises from a complaint for breach of a commercial lease agreement brought by the landlord to recover damages from the tenant and its guarantor. The tenant admitted breaching the lease but asserted that the landlord had been made whole prior to the commencement of this action and was not entitled to an award of damages. The tenant also asserted a counterclaim for attorney’s fees as authorized by the lease. The trial was bifurcated. A jury determined that the landlord was not entitled to recover any damages because the landlord recovered its damages in full in a previous proceeding in general sessions court, the landlord failed to mitigate its damages, and its claims were barred by res judicata. Following a bench trial on the parties’ competing claims to recover attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to the lease agreement, the court determined that the tenant and guarantor were entitled to recover their attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing parties. The landlord appeals. We affirm the court’s decision in all respects. Because the lease agreement states the prevailing party in any action, or appeal thereon, shall be entitled to its reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs and Defendants prevailed on all issues on appeal, we remand with instructions for the trial court to award Defendants the reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and costs they incurred in this appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/08/20
Rex Allen Moore v. Silvia Hill
E2019-01692-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This appeal concerns a dispute between a landlord and her former tenant. Rex Allen Moore (“Plaintiff”), the former tenant, filed suit against Sylvia Hill (“Defendant”) in the General Sessions Court for Knox County (“the General Sessions Court”) for violation of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (“the URLTA”). Plaintiff obtained a judgment in his favor, which Defendant appealed to the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Circuit Court”). There, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, and Defendant filed a counterclaim against Plaintiff. At trial, Plaintiff asked for a continuance, which was denied. The Circuit Court ruled against Plaintiff and in favor of Defendant on her counterclaim. Plaintiff appeals. Plaintiff’s brief severely fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We find, therefore, that Plaintiff has waived whatever issues he has attempted to raise on appeal. We affirm the Circuit Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/08/20
Cored, LLC v. Steve Hatcher, Et Al.
M2020-00083-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Golden
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This is an appeal from a company’s claim of a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act against the individual owners of a limited liability company serving as its contractor. In 2017, Cored, LLC entered into a construction contract with Astercor Group, LLC for the construction of two homes in Nashville. A dispute arose as to the specifics of the contract, and a complaint was filed against Cored, LLC, for breach of contract. In response to the complaint against it, Cored, LLC filed its own complaint against the individual owners of Astercor Group, LLC for violating the Contractor’s Licensing Act of 1994 and thus violating the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Although the respective lawsuits were eventually consolidated, this appeal concerns only Cored, LLC’s lawsuit against the individual owners of Astercor Group, LLC. The trial court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the statute of limitations had run due to the company’s failure to properly serve the individual owner defendants. Additionally, the trial court denied the individual owners’ request for attorney’s fees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-12-119(c). For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court in both respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/06/20
In Re Layton W.
M2020-00197-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The trial court terminated a father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and abandonment by failure to support his child. The father stipulated to certain grounds for termination but appeals the trial court’s conclusion that terminating his parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Because the trial court’s findings as to the grounds for termination do not relate to the father’s conduct during the relevant time period prescribed by statute and the trial court’s final order fails to show that the trial court considered the best interests factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 10/06/20
Teresa Grimes Kidd, Et Al. v. James Q. Dickerson, Et Al.
M2018-01133-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

In this health care liability action, the surviving daughter of a woman who died as a result of a stroke brought suit as executrix of her mother’s estate and as her next-of-kin against two physicians and their practice group as well as a pharmacist who filled a prescription for her and the pharmacist’s employer. Plaintiff alleged that the death occurred due to a stroke her mother suffered as a result of taking the drug Pradaxa, which had been prescribed by the defendant doctors and filled by the defendant pharmacist and the defendant pharmacy (the “pharmacy defendants”).  The trial court granted summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants on all claims, holding that the proof submitted by Plaintiff was insufficient to establish the element of causation; the court granted summary judgment to the defendant doctors on Plaintiff’s claims that their negligence caused and hastened the decedent’s death, and the claim that the doctors did not have the decedent’s informed consent to administer Pradaxa; the court granted summary judgment to one doctor on all claims; and the court denied summary judgment to one doctor and the practice group on the remaining claims.  Plaintiff appeals the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants and the doctors; the remaining doctor and practice group appeal the denial of their motions for summary judgment on the remaining claims.  Upon ourde novo review, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants; we affirm the grant of summary judgment to Dr. Thomas Farmer in toto; we affirm in part the grant of partial summary judgment to the doctors and their group and remand for further proceedings on whether the nurse practitioner’s actions caused Ms. Grimes’ injury and suffering during the period of October 20 until she was stabilized in the hospital, as well as whether the remaining doctor and practice group are liable for that negligence under a respondeat superior theory.

Maury County Court of Appeals 10/05/20