Court Opinions

Format: 03/22/2017
Format: 03/22/2017
State of Tennessee v. Carl Hall
W2016-00915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Appellant, Carl Hall, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. William Crayton
W2016-01708-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, William Crayton, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2009 Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of criminal attempt to commit first degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Wolfe
W2016-00903-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Tony Wolfe, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reopen his post-conviction petition on the basis of newly discovered scientific mental health evidence. He contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying his motion without conducting a hearing on the merits. Because the Petitioner has no appeal as of right from the denial of a motion to reopen and did not follow the procedure required for seeking permission to appeal, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Earl Vantrease
M2016-01200-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary S. McKenzie

The Defendant, Earl Vantrease, was convicted by a Putnam County jury of aggravated robbery in 2003 and received a sixteen-year sentence as a Range II offender.  Thirteen years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence.  The trial court summarily dismissed the motion.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/22/17
In Re Ashton V.
M2016-00842-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Brown
This appeal arises from a juvenile court’s modification of a primary residential parent designation. The mother appeals the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that a change in the primary residential parent was in the child’s best interest. The mother also challenges the juvenile court’s denial of her Rule 60.01 motion. Upon review, we conclude that the juvenile court erred in relying on a report that was not entered into evidence at the hearing, but the error was harmless. Even excluding the report, the evidence does not preponderate against the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that modification of the primary residential parent designation was in the child’s best interest. We further conclude that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying the mother’s Rule 60.01 motion.
Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Joe Patton Rogers, et al. v. Bradley Dean Hadju, et al.
W2016-00850-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

Appellants filed this lawsuit against Appellees for damages resulting from the alleged negligence of Appellees’ subcontractor. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, ruling that they could not be vicariously liable for the subcontractor’s negligence because the uncontroverted facts conclusively established that the subcontractor was an independent contractor. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Associates Asset Management, LLC v. Angela Blackburn
W2016-00801-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This is a breach of contract case. After Appellant purchased a package of default loans, which contained Appellee’s second mortgage note, Appellant waited almost four years to file suit against Appellee for breach of contract. Appellee raised laches as an affirmative defense. The trial court held that gross laches applied to bar Appellant’s lawsuit. We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in applying gross laches to bar Appellant’s claim in that Appellee’s injuries were only economic, and Appellee failed to pursue her claims for predatory lending, misrepresentation, and/or lender misconduct. Reversed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Troy Love
E2015-02297-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Troy Love, was found guilty by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of two counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-522 (2014) (rape of a child), 39-13-504 (2014) (aggravated sexual battery). He was sentenced to consecutive terms of twenty-five years each for the rape of a child convictions and to a concurrent term of ten years for aggravated sexual battery, for an effective sentence of fifty years to be served as a Violent Offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement, (2) the court erred in denying the Defendant‘s pretrial motions relative to interaction between the victim and State agents and for a "taint hearing" to determine the victim‘s reliability, (3) the court erred in failing to conduct a pretrial hearing to corroborate the reliability of the Defendant‘s pretrial statements, (4) the court erred in denying the motion for a directed verdict and for judgment of acquittal, (5) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, (6) the court and the prosecutor improperly referred to "Count 8" despite the fact that only three counts were submitted to the jury, (7) the court erred in its jury instructions, (8) the sentence is improper, and (9) due process requires relief due to the existence of cumulative error. We affirm the rape of a child convictions, and we reverse the aggravated sexual battery conviction and remand for a new trial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Jamie Joy Williams v. Deadrick Donnell Woods, Sr.
W2016-00935-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a child support action involving one child, who was born in 1995 and had reached the age of majority by the time of trial. Upon the father’s voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the trial court entered an order of legitimation in April 1996. The State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the mother, filed a petition to modify a child support order in April 2002. The father filed a motion to dismiss, and the State subsequently withdrew the petition because no prior child support order had been established. The mother then filed a petition for child support in September 2014. Following a bench trial before a special judge, the trial court established the father’s retroactive child support obligation in the amount of $79,647.00, giving credit to the father for $59,229.00 he previously had paid toward the child’s support and expenses. The court incorporated three income shares worksheets representing three different time periods during the child’s minority. The father has appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the trial court erred by finding that the child had resided with the mother for 285 days per year during the time period of January 1, 2010, through May 31, 2014, because the child resided with the mother’s stepfather on weekdays while attending high school. To correct an apparent mathematical error in the judgment, we modify the number of months for which the first income shares worksheet is to be applied from eighty-one to ninetytwo and the number of months for which the third income shares worksheet is to be applied from sixty-four to fifty-three, resulting in a total reduction in the father’s retroactive child support obligation from $79,647.00 to $74,818.00. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Quinton Clovis v. Tennessee Human Rights Commissions
M2016-01534-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman
This appeal arises from a complaint filed with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in which Plaintiff alleged he was denied public accommodation at the Metropolitan Public Library in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-301 and -501. More specifically, Plaintiff contended that the Library discriminated against him based on his Christian beliefs and in retaliation for filing a previous religious discrimination complaint against the Library. After conducting an investigation, the Commission found no reasonable basis for Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff appealed the Commission’s decision to the Davidson County Chancery Court. Following a hearing, the chancery court upheld the decision of the Commission. This appeal followed. We
affirm.
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Clayton Eddy Powers v. A&W Supply, Inc.
E2016-01489-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arose from a contract dispute between the plaintiff employee and the defendant corporation regarding shares of corporate stock. The parties signed an agreement in June 1993, which provided that the plaintiff would become vested with the right to receive two and one-half percent of the total number of issued and outstanding shares of the corporation’s capital stock so long as the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation from the date of said agreement until the vesting date of December 31, 2001. It is undisputed that the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation on the vesting date. Following the vesting date, the corporation never delivered stock certificates to the plaintiff or recognized the plaintiff as a shareholder within the company. The corporation terminated the plaintiff’s employment in October 2014, and in November 2014, the plaintiff made his first inquiry about his ownership interest in the stock to which he was entitled under the agreement. The defendant company denied that the plaintiff owned any stock in the company. The plaintiff thereafter filed an action against the corporation, seeking specific performance, declaratory judgment, and damages resulting from breach of contract. The plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment, requesting a determination that the plaintiff was automatically vested in two and one-half percent of the total number of shares of the corporation’s capital stock. The defendant also filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that because the corporation never took action to transfer the shares of capital stock to the plaintiff on the vesting date, the plaintiff’s cause of action accrued in 2001, rendering the plaintiff’s present action time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court determined that the plaintiff was vested with ownership of the shares on the vesting date and that the plaintiff’s action was not barred by the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Steven Yen v. University of Tennessee Knoxville
M2016-00875-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle
This is an appeal of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s termination of a tenured faculty member. After the University terminated Appellant, he appealed the validity of his termination to an administrative hearing officer pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Following a contested hearing, the hearing officer upheld the University’s termination of Appellant. Appellant then petitioned the chancery court to reverse the decision of the hearing officer. The chancery court held that there was substantial and material evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s decision to affirm the termination of Appellant’s employment and tenure. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Mitchell Nathaniel Scott v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01210-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

After pleading guilty to one count of aggravated child abuse, Petitioner sought unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea.  Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, among other things.  The post-conviction court denied relief, and Petitioner appeals.  After a review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Lee Williams
M2016-00568-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Defendant, Christopher Lee Williams, was convicted of reckless endangerment, aggravated kidnapping, and domestic assault.  Defendant raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether dual convictions for aggravated kidnapping resulting in bodily injury and domestic assault based on bodily injury are proper, and (2) whether the trial court failed to consider a statutory mitigating factor in fashioning Defendant’s sentence.  After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
Kelley Elizabeth Cannon v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01869-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Kelley Elizabeth Cannon, of first degree premeditated murder and a life sentence was imposed.  On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence.  State v. Kelley Elizabeth Cannon, No. M2010-01553-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 5378088, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Oct. 30, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 9, 2013).  The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel, asserts that the post-conviction court erred by preventing her use of trial exhibits for a demonstration and challenges the validity of the search warrants in this case.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher L. Smith
M2016-00662-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The defendant, Christopher L. Smith, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated assault, all Class C felonies, in exchange for an effective sentence of six years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of confinement, which the defendant now challenges.  After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/17
Cedric Watkins v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00681-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The petitioner, Cedric Watkins, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his first degree premeditated murder conviction, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial counsel.  Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/17
In re Conner C., et al.
M2016-01669-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Mother appeals the circuit court’s dismissal of her de novo appeal of the juvenile court’s dependency and neglect order.  We agree with the circuit court that the juvenile court’s adjudicatory order was not a final order subject to appeal to the circuit court.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 03/20/17
Old Republic Life Insurance Company v. Roberta Woody, et al
E2016-00844-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This case involves the interpretation and application of the prior suit pending doctrine. Old Republic Life Insurance Company (Insurer) brought this action in the McMinn County Circuit Court (the trial court) as subrogee of Darrell King, its insured, who had been injured in an accident. King’s attorneys filed three separate notices of appearance on his behalf. King also moved to intervene in his Insurer’s suit, but later withdrew his motion. Still later, Insurer moved to join King as a necessary and indispensible party. The trial court granted the motion. More than two and half years after Insurer’s complaint was filed, King filed a complaint in Davidson County seeking compensation for his injuries. The trial court granted King’s motion to dismiss this action based on the prior suit pending doctrine. We hold that, under the prior suit pending doctrine, the trial court, McMinn County Circuit Court, is the proper forum. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for futher proceedings.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/17/17
Tehren Wilson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00770-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Petitioner, Tehren Wilson, appeals as of right from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to file a written request for a jury charge on fraudulent use of a credit card as a lesser-included offense of identity theft. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/17/17
In Re Promise A., et al.
M2015-02144-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The Department of Children’s Services received custody of two children as a result of a petition it filed to have the children declared dependent and neglected; the children’s mother had died, and they were unable to be placed with their father due to uncertainty regarding his paternity of the children and housing arrangement.  After custody was granted to the Department and a permanency plan developed, the father established his paternity; the permanency plan required that he continue to address his housing and employment situations, among other matters.  Eleven months after the children came into custody, the Department filed a petition to terminate Father’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit or support, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistence of conditions.  After a trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed as to all grounds and that termination was in the best interest of the children. Father appeals, contending that the evidence preponderates against various findings of the court, that the evidence does not support a conclusion that any of the grounds were established, or that termination is in the children’s best interest.  Inasmuch as the children were not removed from the Father’s home at the time they came into the Department’s custody, we reverse the judgment terminating the Father’s rights on the grounds of persistence of conditions and abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; in all other respects, the judgment is affirmed. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Keith Toone, Jr.
W2015-02332-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Defendant-Appellant, Jeffery Keith Toone, Jr., pled guilty to two counts of extortion, ten counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, and two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor and received an effective four-year sentence, suspended to supervised probation after service of two consecutive sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days in the county jail. As a condition of his guilty plea, Toone sought to reserve several certified questions of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), generally arguing that the transfer of his case from juvenile court to circuit court was improper. Because Toone's certified questions are overly broad, the appeal is dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/17
Kenneth A. Parigin et al. v. M. Shane Mills
E2016-00640-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the defendant, who was actively involved in the formation of a limited liability company, is a member of the company. The trial court held that the defendant’s prospective membership interest was contingent on making a financial contribution of $180,000 plus business equipment, and because he failed to make the required contributions, he was not a member. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 03/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Joe Edward Daniels
M2015-01939-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

A jury convicted the Defendant, Joe Edward Daniels, of first degree (premeditated) murder.  The Defendant was also convicted of certain collateral crimes and traffic offenses, including tampering with evidence, a Class D felony; abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony; failure to give notice of an accident, a Class C misdemeanor; leaving the scene of an accident, a Class C misdemeanor; driving on the wrong side of the road, a Class C misdemeanor; and failure to use due care, a Class C misdemeanor.  The Defendant appeals his murder conviction, asserting that the State failed to prove premeditation and that the State’s proof regarding the chain of custody of the corpse should have preceded the medical examiner’s testimony.  The Defendant also claims error in the jury instructions, including the trial court’s decision not to charge attempt; the trial court’s decision to charge flight; the trial court’s inclusion of a charge regarding criminal responsibility and lack of notice regarding that charge; and the trial court’s failure to charge facilitation.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Jackson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/17
Cassidy Lynne Aragon v. Reynaldo Manuel Aragon
M2014-02292-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In this post-divorce litigation, we granted permission to appeal to address the standard for determining what constitutes a “reasonable purpose” for a parent’s relocation with the parties’ child under Tennessee’s parental relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108. In this case, the father spent the majority of the residential parenting time with the parties’ child.  He sought to move with the child to Arizona because he had secured an advantageous job in an area where he and the child would live near his parents and his extended family and have their support, and where he and the child would live near some of the mother’s extended family as well.  The trial court held that the father did not have a reasonable purpose for the relocation.  In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The dissent in the Court of Appeals questioned the interpretation of the term “reasonable purpose” used by the majority, which originated in a prior Court of Appeals decision, Webster v. Webster, No. W2005-01288-COA-R3CV, 2006 WL 3008019 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2006), that construed the term “reasonable purpose” to mean one that is significant or substantial when weighed against the loss to the parent opposing the relocation.  We overrule Webster insofar as it misconstrued the meaning of the term “reasonable purpose” as used in Tennessee’s parental relocation statute.  Under the natural and ordinary meaning of the term “reasonable purpose,” we hold that the father stated a reasonable purpose for relocating to Arizona with the parties’ child and that the mother did not carry her burden of establishing a ground for denying the father permission to relocate with the child.  Under section 36-6-108(d)(1), “[t]he parent spending the greater amount of time with the child shall be permitted to relocate with the child unless the court finds” that the parent opposing the relocation has proven one of the enumerated grounds.  Because the mother did not prove a ground to deny permission to relocate, we reverse the trial court’s denial of permission for the father to relocate to Arizona with the child, and we also reverse the trial court’s modification of the parties’ parenting plan to designate the mother as the primary residential parent.  On remand, the trial court is authorized to fashion an appropriate transitional parenting plan that results, within a reasonable time, in designating the father as the primary residential parent and permitting him to live in Arizona with the parties’ child.  Accordingly, we reverse the trial court and the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 03/16/17