Court Opinions

Format: 08/31/2015
Format: 08/31/2015
Terry Pantuso v. Wright Medical Technology Inc., et al.
W2014-02315-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

In this interlocutory appeal, the defendants appeal the trial court's denial of their motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit on the ground of forum non conveniens. Discerning no abuse of discretion by the trial court, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
George Hardin v. State of Tennessee and Eric Qualls, Warden
E2014-01458-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Petitioner, George Hardin, appeals the Bledsoe County Circuit Court’s denial of his third petition for habeas corpus relief from his 1988 conviction for first degree murder and his life sentence. He contends that (1) although he has filed two previous petitions for habeas corpus relief, the arguments contained in the petitions were not considered and (2) the 1990 judgment and a 1996 order are void because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter them. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
Billy Drew Massengill v. State of Tennessee
E2014-02431-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

The petitioner, Billy Drew Massengill, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Cocke County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded convictions of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, the sale and delivery of Oxymorphone, driving on a revoked license, theft of $500 or less, and failure to appear, for which he received an effective sentence of eight years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Paul Gagne, Jr.
E2015-00502-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The petitioner, Thomas Paul Gagne, Jr., appeals the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Eddie James Bright
M2014-01992-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The defendant, Eddie James Bright, pled guilty to initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and, following a sentencing hearing, was sentenced to ten years and one day incarceration.  On appeal, he argues that the State breached its contractual obligations to him by mentioning his pending charges at the sentencing hearing, contrary to the plea agreement’s preclusion of the mention of such charges at sentencing.  After review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new sentencing hearing.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
Chandra L. Berry v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, et al.
W2014-02175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This appeal involves the assignment of a deed of trust. Plaintiff/Appellant purchased a home in Memphis in 2004 and later defaulted on her mortgage. Appellees advised of their intent to foreclose on the home, which prompted Plaintiff to file suit and obtain a temporary restraining order preventing foreclosure. Plaintiff asserted several legal theories, which were all dismissed by the trial court. Plaintiff appealed, and this Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal on all but one fraud claim. Upon remand, the trial court then granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment on the remaining fraud claim. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Tim E. Shaw v. FSGBank, N.A.
E2014-01365-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

In 2007, Tim E. Shaw contacted FSGBank, N.A. (FSG) regarding the refinancing of multiple loans. FSG initiated the processing of his request for refinancing; in the meantime, it extended to him a new loan for $60,000 to enable him to purchase another piece of property for investment purposes. The new loan was secured by a trust deed on property he owned at 430 Highland Avenue in Cleveland, Tennessee. In 2010, after an apparent default by Mr. Shaw on the $60,000 loan, FSG sought foreclosure proceedings on the Highland Avenue property and advertised a trustee sale. As a result, Mr. Shaw filed a complaint against FSG in 2010. He alleged a number of claims, specifically (1) breach of an agreement for future loans; (2) breach of contract; (3) conversion; (4) fraud; and (5) misrepresentation. FSG subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, contending that Mr. Shaw’s complaint failed to state an actionable claim as there was not in existence a written agreement by FSG to make additional loans. Further, FSG claimed that Mr. Shaw’s misrepresentation claim was barred by the statute of limitations and because it was based upon FSG’s alleged failure to make loans it never agreed to make.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Jimmy L. Hensley v. Cocke Farmers Cooperative
E2014-01775-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

Jimmy L. Hensley brought this action to enforce his agreement with a former employer, Cocke Farmer’s Cooperative (the co-op), providing for the payment of severance pay to him in the event his employment was terminated without cause. Each side moved for summary judgment. The trial court held the agreement to be valid and enforceable. Accordingly, it granted Hensley summary judgment, awarding him the severance pay set forth in the agreement. The co-op appeals. We affirm.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
In re L.J., Jr.
E2014-02042-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

J.S.H. (Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, L.J., Jr. (the Child). Mother contends that the trial court erred in its finding – said to be made by clear and convincing evidence – that she abandoned the Child by willfully (1) failing to pay support and (2) failing to visit the Child in the four months immediately preceding the filing of the termination petition. She also challenges the trial court's holding that she failed to provide the Child a suitable home. Mother argues that the trial court erred when it held that termination is in the Child's best interest. Mother has three other children, B.H., J.T., and A.T. The Department of Children's Services (DCS) was awarded temporary legal custody of all of the four children on September 20, 2012, due to the trial court's finding that each was dependent and neglected. Mother's other three children now live with their paternal grandmother. Only Mother's parental rights with respect to L.J., Jr. are at issue on this appeal. We modify the trial court's judgment. As modified, the judgment terminating Mother's rights is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Travis G. McCosh v. Jennifer Burns McCosh
E2014-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This is a post-divorce case. Travis G. McCosh (Father) appeals the trial court’s judgment increasing his child support payment retroactively to the date that Jennifer Burns McCosh (Mother) filed a counterclaim seeking (1) to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan and (2) the recalculation of child support pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. Father also appeals the trial court’s award of $500 in attorney’s fees to Mother. We hold that the proof establishes a significant variance between the amount of the current support order and the amount of the presumptive support based upon the relevant facts before the trial court. The significant variance is due primarily to the fact that Father’s income has increased significantly between the time of the last child support order and the filing of Mother’s petition. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
William Steven Still v. City of Knoxville
E2014-01841-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler

The employee, a police officer, was diagnosed with coronary artery disease after a routine stress test in February 2011. He sought workers’ compensation benefits, asserting he was entitled to the presumption of causation created by Tennessee Code Annotated section 7-51-201(a)(1). His employer denied the claim. At trial, both sides presented expert medical testimony from board-certified cardiologists. The trial court found that the employer did not rebut the statutory presumption and awarded benefits. The employer has appealed. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Upon review, we conclude that the employer rebutted the statutory presumption and the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding of causation. Therefore, we reverse the judgment.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Bruce Marvin Vann
W2014-02119-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Bruce Marvin Vann, was indicted and, following a jury trial, convicted of three counts of rape of a child. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-522. The trial court imposed sentences of thirty-five years for each conviction and ordered the sentences to run concurrently, for a total effective sentence of thirty-five years to be served at 100 percent. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (2) that the prosecutor committed misconduct during his closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
John A. Bailey v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02499-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Appellant, John A. Bailey, appeals as of right from the Madison County Criminal Court's denial of his two separate motions for correction of illegal sentences pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Appellant argues that the trial court erred by summarily denying his motions without appointing counsel after he had stated colorable claims for relief regarding the legality of the concurrent nature of his various sentences and his eligibility for community corrections and subsequent placement in that program. Following our review of the parties' briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court's summary denial of the Appellant's Rule 36.1 motions.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Sandra Mitchell
W2015-00043-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The defendant, Sandra Mitchell, pled guilty to theft of property of $60,000 or more but less than $250,000, a Class B felony. She received a twelve-year sentence to be served consecutively to a prior six-year sentence. On appeal, she challenges the trial court’s decision to impose consecutive sentences. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. James Hawkins
W2012-00412-CCA-R3-DD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, James Hawkins, appeals from his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of premeditated first degree murder, see T.C.A. 39-13-202(a)(1); initiating a false report, see id. 39-16-502, a Class D felony; and abuse of a corpse, see id. 39-17-312, a Class E felony. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for the first degree murder conviction based upon its findings that the defendant was previously convicted of one (1) or more felonies whose statutory elements involve the use of violence to the person, see id. ' 39-13-204(i)(2); and that the defendant knowingly mutilated the body of the victim after death, see id. 39-13-204(i)(13); and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. For the remaining felonies, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of 18 years' incarceration to be served consecutively to the death sentence. On appeal, Defendant alleges that (1) the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress his statements given to the police; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to accept Defendant's guilty pleas to counts two and three of the indictment; (3) the trial court erred by admitting statements made by the victim through the victim's children, through Melvin Gaither, and through an application for order of protection; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of other acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (5) the trial court erred by admitting photographs of bone fragments taken from the victim;(6) the trial court erred by admitting crime scene photographs that had not been provided during pretrial discovery; (7) the trial court erred by permitting improper closing argument by the State; (8) the evidence is insufficient to support Defendant's conviction of first degree murder; (9) the trial court erred by not requiring the State to provide discovery concerning an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse committed by Defendant's father against Defendant's sisters for use in the penalty phase of the trial; (10) the trial court erred by denying Defendant's special jury instruction request to charge the jury on the presumption that any sentence imposed for the first degree murder conviction would be carried out according to the laws of this State; (11) myriad aspects of Tennessee's death penalty statutes and procedure are unconstitutional in general and as applied to Defendant; (12) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence in both length and manner of service relative to the sentences for filing a false report and abuse of a corpse; and (13) the cumulative effect of these errors violated Defendant's right to due process. As an additional issue, Defendant alleges that the trial court erred by denying his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Following oral argument at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis and this court's full consideration, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Dewayne Staggs
M2015-00889-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Appellant, Curtis Dewayne Staggs, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his motion to correct a clerical error in the judgments of conviction.  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
Nonprofit Housing Corporation, et al. v. Tennessee Housing Development Agency
M2014-01588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

Three non-profit corporations filed suit alleging that they were wrongfully denied low income housing tax credits. The trial court determined that the plaintiffs’ claims were moot, and we concur.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
Kenneth Ray Griffin v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00239-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The pro se Petitioner, Kenneth Ray Griffin, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief. Because the Petitioner failed to comply with the statutory requirements for seeking discretionary review of the dismissal of his motion, this court is without jurisdiction in this case. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Devon Elliott Cruze
E2014-01847-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Devon Elliott Cruze, alias, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of judicial diversion and order that he serve his two-year sentence in split confinement following his guilty-pleaded convictions for two counts of theft of property and one count of burglary of an automobile. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103, -14-402. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by failing to consider the applicable factors for judicial diversion and by denying judicial diversion. The Defendant further contends that the trial court erred by ordering his sentences for non-violent property offenses be served in split confinement in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court did not properly set forth the factors to be considered when denying judicial diversion and that this case should be remanded for a sentencing hearing where the trial court is instructed to consider and weigh the applicable factors on the record. Furthermore, we conclude that the trial court erred by sentencing the Defendant to a period of continuous confinement for a non-violent property offense. Therefore, the Defendant’s sentence is vacated and, on remand, the trial court should impose a sentence in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Edwards
W2014-00987-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Mickey Edwards (“the Defendant”) was convicted of four counts of aggravated burglary, four counts of theft of property, one count of identity theft, and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the denial of a motion to suppress evidence seized during his arrest, the denial of his motion to sever the counts in the indictment, the denial of his motion to exclude evidence of his prior convictions, and the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
Springfield Investments, LLC et al v. Global Investments, LLC et al.
E2014-01703-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This case involves a claim for, inter alia, intentional interference with business relationships. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants, owners and operators of a franchise pursuant to an agreement with Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant (“Wendy's') in Cleveland, Tennessee, interfered with the plaintiffs' ability to timely secure a franchise agreement with Wendy's to build a new restaurant in Cleveland. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants improperly used a non-compete agreement, entered into in 1998 by the defendants and a brother of one of the plaintiffs, to object to Wendy's grant of the new franchise. Following a bench trial, the trial court found, inter alia, that the plaintiffs failed to establish the claim of intentional interference with business relationships. The court did enter a judgment, however, in favor of the plaintiffs for nominal damages in the amount of $500. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
Robert Edward Williams, III v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01879-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Robert Edward Williams III, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  In this appeal, the Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to adequately communicate with him and because trial counsel “coerced” the Petitioner to enter guilty pleas, rendering his pleas unknowing and involuntary.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
David G. Young v. City of Lafollette, et al.
E2013-00441-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

We granted permission to appeal to address two issues: (1) Whether the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101 to -408 (2012 & Supp. 2014), applies to Tennessee Public Protection Act (“TPPA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304 (2008 & Supp. 2009), claims against governmental entities; and (2) If the GTLA does not apply, whether a constitutional or statutory right to trial by jury applies to TPPA claims brought in circuit court. As to the first issue, we hold that the GTLA does not apply to TPPA claims because the TPPA is an independent and specific body of law, which removes governmental immunity and thus controls the adjudication of TPPA claims against governmental entities. As to the second question, we hold that there is no constitutional right to trial by jury for TPPA claims and that there is no statutory right to trial by jury for TPPA claims filed in circuit court. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed on the separate grounds stated herein, and this matter is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Campbell County Supreme Court 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Decornick Moore
W2015-00169-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn L. Peeples

The Defendant, Decornick Moore, pleaded guilty to attempt to commit second degree murder and received a ten-year sentence. More than ten years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence because his sentence should have been served consecutively to a previously imposed sentence. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Hopson
W2014-01718-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Ricky Hopson, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. He received a sentence of ten years which was suspended and ordered to be served on probation. On appeal Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he acted in self-defense at the time of the offense. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15