Court Opinions

Format: 07/23/2016
Format: 07/23/2016
Amanda Parker Jones v. Parker Jones
W2015-01304-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Tenn. R. App. P. 3(a).

Gibson County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
Micah Seamus Reynolds, et al v. Bethany Rich, et al
E2015-01245-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.

Micah Seamus Reynolds (“Plaintiff”) and Susan Reynolds sued Ted Rich (“Defendant”) and Bethany Rich for negligence after Plaintiff fell while assisting with the installation of a roof on a house. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Carter County (“Trial Court”) granted the defendants summary judgment after finding and holding, inter alia, that “[t]he record fails to show any evidence of a violation of any duty to [Plaintiff] that [defendants] owed to him . . . .” Plaintiffs appeal to this Court. We find and hold that the defendants owed a duty to Plaintiff and that there are genuine disputed issues of material fact regarding whether defendants breached this duty. As such, summary judgment was granted improperly. We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand this case to the Trial Court for further proceedings.

Carter County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
In Re: Estate of Joan Uhl Pierce
E2016-00013-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arises from a dispute over purported wills. Joan Uhl Pierce (“Decedent”) died and was survived by five living children (“Petitioners”). Another of Decedent’s children, Brock Andrus, predeceased her, and he was survived by two adult children of his own (“Respondents”). The Administrator of Decedent’s estate filed a petition for declaratory judgment in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) seeking a determination as to whether Decedent died testate or intestate. Petitioners filed a verified petition seeking to admit a purported holographic will of Decedent’s to probate, under which Respondents did not inherit. Respondents asserted that the document, a completed questionnaire, was not a valid holographic will. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered an order in which it held that the questionnaire was not a holographic will, and instead entered into probate an earlier purported will and codicil of Decedent’s in which Respondents did inherit. Petitioners appeal. We hold that the questionnaire is not a valid holographic will. However, we hold also that the Trial Court erred in admitting the putative will and codicil into probate when there was no verified petition before the Trial Court seeking their admission. We vacate the admission of the putative will and codicil and remand for the Trial Court to address the lack of a verified petition. The judgment of the Trial Court is affirmed, in part, and, vacated, in part, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
David Reed v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01441-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The petitioner seeks habeas corpus relief, alleging that he is imprisoned despite the fact that his sentence has expired. The crux of the petitioner's argument is that his two-and-one-half-year sentence for burglary was to be served prior to his two-year sentence for vandalism and that the burglary sentence therefore expired prior to the time he violated his probation. He also disputes the award of sentencing credits. Because the face of the record shows that the petitioner's sentence for burglary was to be served after his sentence for vandalism and that the probationary period had not expired at the time of revocation, we conclude that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition, and we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
Norman C. Reece, II v. Jennifer Louise Reece
E2015-01915-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.

In this post-divorce action, Norman C. Reece, II (“Father”) appeals the June 9, 2015 order of the Circuit Court for Johnson County (“the Trial Court”) which, inter alia dismissed Father's motion for contempt against Jennifer Louise Reece (“Mother”) and adjusted visitation with, and support for, the parties' minor children. Father's brief on appeal severely fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We, therefore, find that Father has waived his issues on appeal. Furthermore, the record on appeal contains no transcript and Father's statement of the evidence contains nothing whatsoever to show what evidence was heard by the Trial Court. As such, the record presented to this Court precludes meaningful review of the issues on appeal. Given all this, we affirm.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Demetrius J. Pirtle and Cordarius R. Maxwell
W2014-02222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendants, Demetrius J. Pirtle and Cordarius R. Maxwell, were each convicted by a jury of one count of robbery, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; six counts of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; six counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; one count of vandalism of property worth $1,000 or more, a Class D felony; and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. After merging the aggravated assault convictions into the attempted second degree murder convictions, the trial court sentenced both defendants to an effective thirty-year sentence. On appeal, Mr. Pirtle challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that his identity was insufficiently proven on all counts save the vandalism conviction and that the elements of robbery were not established. Mr. Maxwell raises the same issues as Mr. Pirtle, and he also challenges the conviction on the weapons offense as inconsistent with the other parts of the jury's verdict and contests the imposition of consecutive sentences. The appeals were consolidated. Following our review, we affirm the defendants' sentences and convictions.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
Arthur Ray Turner v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01572-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The petitioner, Arthur Ray Turner, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated rape, and attempted aggravated rape, for which he received a sentence of 70 years.  In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Mack C. Stone
M2016-00273-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The defendant, Mack C. Stone, 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 1992 Davidson County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of the sale of cocaine.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. John A. Bailey
W2015-02330-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

On October 26, 2007, the defendant, John A. Bailey, pled guilty to aggravated robbery and evading arrest and received an eight-year sentence for aggravated robbery, two-year sentence for evading arrest, and almost five years of pretrial jail credit. The trial court then imposed alternative sentences of unsupervised state probation for both convictions. The sentences were to be served concurrent with one another and a prior federal sentence, for which the defendant was already incarcerated. The defendant’s state sentences expired on December 21, 2010, yet he filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence on July 6, 2015, asserting in part that he illegally received probation for the aggravated robbery conviction. The trial court summarily denied the motion without a hearing and without appointing counsel for the defendant. The defendant now appeals, maintaining that his sentence was illegal. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s untimely motion to correct his sentence.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Reinsburg
W2014-02436-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Aaron Reinsberg, was convicted by a Shelby County Jury of two counts of rape (Counts 1 and 2), one count of assault (Count 3), and two counts of official misconduct (Counts 4 and 5). At the sentencing hearing, the trial court merged Counts 2 and 3 into Count 1, and Count 5 was merged into Count 4. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven years for rape in Count 1 and one year for official misconduct in Count 4 to be served concurrently for an effective sentence of eleven years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was not sufficient to support his rape convictions and that the trial court erred in sentencing him to eleven years. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
Ram Tool & Supply Company, Inc. v. HD Supply Construction Supply LTD., et al
M2013-02264-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

A construction tools and materials distribution company filed a complaint against one of its former employees for unlawfully recruiting some of the plaintiff company’s other employees to work for a competitor, alleging breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty. The plaintiff company also named as defendants the competing company and one of the competitor’s employees, asserting these defendants aided and abetted its employee’s breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty. The plaintiff company further alleged all the defendants were liable for engaging in a civil conspiracy. All parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the defendants’ motions on the basis that the plaintiff company’s claims were preempted by the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“TUTSA”). On appeal, we hold that the plaintiff company asserted viable claims against the defendants that do not depend on the company’s trade secrets and are, therefore, not preempted by TUTSA. The trial court’s judgment dismissing the plaintiff company’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty/duty of loyalty, aiding and abetting, and civil conspiracy is reversed, and the case is remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Central Bank v. Jeff Wilkes, et al.
W2015-02399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

This case arises from a delinquent loan. Appellant is one of the principals of a development company that obtained a loan in the amount of $250,000 from Appellee bank. Appellant was allegedly unaware of this loan. Subsequent to the $250,000 loan, Appellee bank gave the company another loan in the amount of $300,000, which all of the company’s principals, including Appellant, personally guaranteed. The guaranty agreement provided that the principals would personally guarantee all of the company’s debts which “may now or at any time hereafter” be owed to the Appellee bank. One of the company’s other principals paid the $300,000 loan in full. A year later, Appellee bank brought suit against all three principals for the $250,000 loan. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellee bank. Appellant appeals. Affirmed and remanded.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
Central Bank v. Jeff Wilkes, et al.
W2015-02079-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

This case arises from a delinquent loan. Appellee is one of the principals of a development company that obtained a loan in the amount of $250,000 from Appellant bank. Appellee was allegedly unaware of this loan. Subsequent to the $250,000 loan, Appellant bank gave the company another loan in the amount of $300,000, which all of the company's principals, including Appellee, personally guaranteed. The guaranty agreement provided that the principals would personally guarantee all of the company's debts which “may now or at any time hereafter” be owed to the Appellee bank. Appellee paid the $300,000 loan in full in exchange for Appellant bank releasing a lien on 32 acres of land owned by the development company. A year later, Appellant bank brought suit against all three principals for the $250,000 loan. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the Appellee, finding that the Appellee affected an accord and satisfaction with Appellant bank. Appellant appeals. Affirmed and remanded.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Kevin E. Trent
E2015-00753-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John McAfee

The defendant, Kevin E. Trent, appeals the trial court's denial of his request for alternative sentencing. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant pled guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, a Class B felony. The agreement specified an eight-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the court ordered that the sentence be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues that the decision was error because the trial court incorrectly concluded that confinement was necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense. Following review of the record and the evidence before us, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in requiring full confinement and reverse the sentence consistent with this opinion.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Jason Gonzalez
E2015-01107-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

In this appeal as of right by the State, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court dismissing the case. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and no other event occurred to timely commence the prosecution in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
James Thomas v. Randy Lee, Warden
E2015-02427-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Petitioner, James Thomas, filed a petition in the Johnson County Criminal Court seeking habeas corpus relief from his aggravated assault conviction, alleging that his conviction was void because the affidavit of complaint attached to his arrest warrant was not signed. The habeas corpus court denied relief without a hearing, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. David Leo Pipes
W2015-02073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

The defendant, David Leo Pipes, was indicted for theft of property valued over $1000 but less than $10,000. After trial, a jury found the defendant guilty. The trial court subsequently held a sentencing hearing and imposed a six year sentence with a thirty-five percent release classification to be served as a Range II, multiple offender. After the denial of his motion for a new trial, the defendant filed this timely appeal. On appeal, the defendant argues there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction, and the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
Curtis Stanton v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01479-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Curtis Stanton, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Wayne Evans
M2015-00897-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The Defendant, Patrick Wayne Evans, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by impairment, a Class B felony, with an agreed sentence length of eight years.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Defendant serve his eight year sentence in confinement.  The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court: (1) erroneously relied upon enhancement factors that are not applicable to the Defendant’s offense; (2) erroneously admitted improper evidence at the sentencing hearing; (3) failed to properly consider mitigating factors; (4) erroneously found the Defendant had no potential for rehabilitation; and (5) failed to comply with the purposes and principles of sentencing when it denied a sentence of “split confinement.”  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we reverse and remand to the trial court for re-sentencing.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
Melinda K. Fields v. Neil M. Friedman
E2016-00328-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge David W. Tipton

Mother appeals the juvenile court's child support determinations. Because Mother failed to file a brief in compliance with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and failed to present arguments to support her contentions, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Carmelo Gonzalez-Fonesca
M2015-01322-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

This is Defendant’s, Carmelo Gonzalez-Fonesca’s, direct appeal from his convictions by a jury of one count of possession of 150 grams or more of heroin with the intent to sell or distribute and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to prepare and package a controlled substance.  As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifteen years in incarceration as a Range I, standard offender.  Defendant appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the expert testimony of Sergeant Gene Donegan, and the chain of custody with respect to the evidence.  After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
Utopia Place, LLC, et al v. Eastern Properties, Inc.-Bellevue, et al
M2014-02196-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

A commercial landlord filed suit against its tenant seeking a declaratory judgment that the purchase option and right of first refusal in their lease were no longer enforceable and damages for tortious interference with business relations. On a motion for summary judgment, the trial court found that all rights of the tenant to purchase the leased premises were void. The landlord subsequently voluntarily dismissed its tortious interference claim, and the trial court entered an order dismissing the claim without prejudice. The order dismissing the claim disposed of the last claim asserted by the landlord. Several months later, the trial court entered an order dismissing the case with prejudice and taxing costs to the landlord. The tenant filed its notice of appeal within thirty days of the order dismissing the case with prejudice. Because we find the notice of appeal untimely, we dismiss the appeal.        

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
In Re: Elias Mc.
M2015-01202-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Petitioners sought to terminate the parental rights of both parents. After a trial, the court found that the grounds of wanton disregard, abandonment by willful failure to visit, and abandonment by willful failure to pay support did not exist as to the father. Petitioners took a voluntary dismissal as to the mother. Petitioners appealed the trial court’s decision as to the father. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
In Re: Elias Mc.
M2015-01202-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Petitioners sought to terminate the parental rights of both parents. After a trial, the court found that the grounds of wanton disregard, abandonment by willful failure to visit, and abandonment by willful failure to pay support did not exist as to the father. Petitioners took a voluntary dismissal as to the mother. Petitioners appealed the trial court’s decision as to the father. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/20/16
Geraldine Abbott, et al. v. Mark Abbott, et al.
E2015-01233-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

This appeal involves a dispute concerning a purported right of first refusal in a deed. In a section titled "Right of First Refusal," the deed provided that the purported holders of the right "shall have a right of first refusal to purchase said property and once a price is agreed upon," the holder will have a certain time period in which to raise the funds to pay the purchase price. The trial court found that the provision was enforceable and imposed a "reasonable time" in which the parties could negotiate and agree upon a price. The sellers appealed. We reverse.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 07/20/16