Court Opinions

Format: 01/24/2020
Format: 01/24/2020
Richard Terry Woodson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02153-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Petitioner, Richard Terry Woodson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He argues that his conviction should be set aside because requiring him to register as a sex offender violates his right to be free from ex post facto laws, his right to due process, his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and violates principles of double jeopardy. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/20
Brent G. Pitchford v. Loves Truck Stop
M2019-02262-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

This appeal arises out of an inmate’s lawsuit alleging that an employee of Loves Truck Stop filed a false police report. The trial court dismissed the suit on September 4, 2019, for failure to file an affidavit of indigency and failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-407. The inmate, Brent G. Pitchford, filed a notice of appeal with the clerk of this court on December 16, 2019. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/24/20
Joel David Cormier v. Pat Hankins Et Al.
E2018-00396-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

A prisoner filed suit against a fellow inmate and several county defendants. The county defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed the prisoner’s cause of action as to the county defendants. The prisoner appealed. Because the order appealed does not dispose of all of the prisoner’s claims against all defendants, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Greene County Court of Appeals 01/24/20
State of Tennessee v. LaToya Ann Shelton
M2018-00712-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, LaToya Ann Shelton, was convicted by a Bedford County jury of the sale or delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; two counts of the sale or delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony; the possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class C felony; simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to an effective term of twenty years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and argues that the twenty-year sentence of incarceration is excessive. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/20
Pamela Cotham v. Nicholas Jay Yeager Et Al.
E2019-00423-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

The plaintiff filed this action seeking to recover damages on behalf of Anderson County based upon the plaintiff’s allegations that the defendants had submitted false claims for payment by the county. The trial court dismissed the action, determining that the plaintiff’s amended complaint had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment of dismissal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 01/24/20
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Ray Myatt
M2018-01466-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, Ronnie Ray Myatt, appeals the judgments of the trial court following a June 25, 2018 probation violation hearing in which the court revoked his probation in case numbers CR7357, CR7358A, and 22CC-2010-CR-115. The Defendant argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction in the first two cases because the sentences for those cases had expired prior to the filing of the revocation warrant. The Defendant also requests that we remand to the trial court for entry of a modified judgment in case number 22CC-2010-CR-115 to award to the Defendant applicable jail credits. The State concedes that the sentences in case numbers CR7357 and CR7358A expired before the filing of the instant revocation warrant and that the trial court therefore lacked jurisdiction to revoke the probation in those cases. Although not raised as an issue by the Defendant, the State argues that the trial court appropriately revoked the Defendant’s probation in Case Number 22CC-2010-CR-115. Following our review, we reverse the probation revocation orders in case numbers CR7357 and CR7358A, affirm the revocation of probation in case number 22CC-2010-CR-115, and remand to the trial court for determination of the appropriate jail credits to be applied toward the Defendant’s sentence in the latter case.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/20
Gary Fisher v. Villages At Henley Station, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-01990-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This appeal involves a slip and fall premises liability claim filed by a tenant against his landlord.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the landlord because the tenant’s evidence did not show that the allegedly dangerous condition was in existence as of the date of the lease or that the landlord had actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition.  The tenant appeals.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/24/20
State of Tennessee v. Shandejah Andrea Stone
M2018-01519-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County jury convicted Shandejah Andrea Stone of simple assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, with all suspended except ninety days to be served by incarceration. Following release from jail, Defendant is to be on two years of unsupervised probation. On appeal, Defendant argues that her sentence is excessive and that her alternative sentence should not include any period of incarceration. In addition, Defendant asserts as an issue that during the sentencing hearing, the trial court erroneously allowed admission into evidence a Facebook video over objection that the exhibit had not been properly authenticated. After review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/20
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Jackson
M2018-01971-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Appellant, Matthew Jackson, appeals the Robertson County Circuit Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated rape, which resulted in an effective twenty-five-year sentence. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/20
In Re Michael W. Et Al.
E2019-00107-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of abandonment, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. Because the record on appeal contains no permanency plans that apply to the children at issue in this case, we reverse the substantial noncompliance with permanency plans ground for termination. We affirm the remaining grounds for termination, as well as the trial court’s best interest finding.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 01/23/20
Bakersouth, LLC v. Green Hills Mall TRG, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-02129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This appeal involves a long-running dispute among neighboring property owners over a parking easement near the Green Hills Mall that was formerly owned by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County in connection with its operation of a public library.  The chancery court declared that the plaintiff now owns fee simple title to its lots in addition to the easement appurtenant over the defendants’ lots for parking purposes.  The defendants appeal.  We affirm and remand for further proceedings. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/23/20
Benigo Cruz v. Sherman Byrd
E2019-00444-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This is an appeal regarding the breach of a lease agreement between Mr. Cruz, the landlord, and Mr. Byrd, the tenant. Mr. Cruz initiated this action against Mr. Byrd because he did not pay any rent for the term of the lease. Mr. Byrd argued that he was not obligated to pay rent because the lease was rendered void and unenforceable upon discovery of a city ordinance that prohibited the intended use of the Property. We disagree. There was no evidence, and Mr. Byrd did not assert, that Mr. Cruz took any action that would violate the agreement; he was able to exercise his right to occupy the Property for the entire term of the lease. Therefore, the lease was enforceable. Furthermore, the lease provided Mr. Byrd a right to terminate if the designated use of the Property was prohibited by law; he did not invoke this remedy. Thus, Mr. Byrd was obligated to pay the rent owed under the lease. Finding no error in the trial court’s decision, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 01/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Bretton Bly
M2018-00653-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

Christopher Bretton Bly, Defendant, was arrested in Coffee County for two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of theft under $500, two counts of vandalism over $1,000, one count of theft over $1,000, one count of theft over $500, and one count of vandalism under $500. Subsequent to this arrest, Defendant was incarcerated in the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) for a probation violation in Wilson County. After Defendant completed his service on the Wilson County sentence, he pled guilty to the charges in Coffee County. Defendant later filed a Rule 36 motion to obtain pretrial jail credit on the Coffee County case, and the trial court partially granted the motion. On appeal, Defendant argues that he is entitled to the time he served in TDOC on the Wilson County probation violation as pretrial jail credit on the Coffee County case. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/20
Maurice Jevon Chapman v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00246-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna Bell Johnson

The Petitioner, Maurice Jevon Chapman, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, and the trial court entered the sentence to which the parties agreed, twenty years, as a Range II offender. The State filed a notice of nolle prosequi of nine other counts against him. The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that his counsel was ineffective for failing to explain to him the theory of criminal responsibility for another, rendering his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily entered. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/20
Floyd McCall v. Ferrell Paving Co. ET AL.
W2018-01676-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amber E. Luttrell

Floyd McCall (“Employee”) was a truck driver for Ferrell Paving (“Employer”). The parties stipulated that Employee sustained an injury arising out of and in the course and scope of employment on October 6, 2014, and that Employee gave timely notice of the injury. Employee received authorized medical treatment for the injury, paid for by Employer. Employee also received temporary total disability benefits for the period October 7, 2014 to February 5, 2015. Employee did not return to work for Employer following the injury. After being released from his authorized treating physician, Employee subsequently received unauthorized treatment, including surgery on his cervical spine. Employee filed this action seeking additional past temporary disability and medical benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and future medical benefits. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims determined that Employee was not entitled to any additional workers’ compensation benefits. Employee has appealed that decision. 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 01/22/20
Snake Steel, Inc. v. Holladay Construction Group, LLC
M2019-00322-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A subcontractor sought statutory penalties against a prime contractor based on the contractor’s failure to comply with the Prompt Pay Act’s requirement that any retainage withheld be deposited into an interest-bearing escrow account as set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-34-104(a). The prime contractor moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to statutory penalties, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a)(1)(C). The trial court granted the prime contractor’s motion and dismissed the complaint. On appeal, we hold that the discovery rule applies to this type of claim for statutory penalties under the Prompt Pay Act and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/22/20
Nena Proffitt Valentine v. Fred Holt et al.
E2019-00186-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

The original plaintiff filed this action to set aside a quitclaim deed and died while the case was still pending. When no motion for substitution of party was filed within 90 days of the original plaintiff’s death being suggested on the record, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The original plaintiff’s son filed a response and requested that he be substituted as the plaintiff. Finding excusable neglect, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss and allowed the original plaintiff’s son to be substituted as the plaintiff. The trial court determined that the quitclaim deed was valid and conveyed to the defendants four tracts of land but did not convey a fifth tract due to an inadequate description of the property. The defendants appealed the trial court’s decision. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss, but we vacate the trial court’s decision regarding the adequacy of the property description and remand for further proceedings.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 01/22/20
Brandan Dane Windrow v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01911-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Brandan Dane Windrow, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of aggravated assault and felony vandalism and resulting effective sentence of fourteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/20
Alexander J. Bynum, et al. v. Mark D. Sampson, et al.
W2019-00188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This appeal concerns an alleged breach of contract. Alexander Bynum and his father, Hal Bynum, (“the Bynums,” collectively) bought a slaughterhouse owned by Mark D. Sampson (“Defendant”) and his then-wife Kimberly Sampson (“the Sampsons,” collectively) and kept it running as Southern Chop Shop, LLC. The contract for sale provided that all plumbing systems would be in working order on the day of closing. A year after closing, the Bynums discovered a pipe on the property that was gushing animal blood straight from the kill floor of the slaughterhouse into a ditch. Defendant knew about but had not disclosed the pipe. The State became involved and demanded a halt to the discharge. When remedial efforts proved economically unfeasible, the Bynums shut down the slaughterhouse. The Bynums and Southern Chop Shop, LLC (“Plaintiffs,” collectively) sued the Sampsons for breach of contract in the Chancery Court for Weakley County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court found for Plaintiffs, ordering rescission or, if that is not possible, a monetary judgment against the Sampsons. Defendant appealed and argues that the plumbing system was in working order on the day of closing notwithstanding the blood-gushing pipe. We disagree and find that, contrary to the representations made by Defendant and relied upon by the Bynums, the plumbing system was not in working order on the day of closing. Defendant, therefore, breached the contract. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
Rose Coleman v. Bryan Olson
M2019-00176-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This is the second time this dispute has been before this court. The appeal arises from a violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d)(2), which prohibits a divorcing party from “canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning, or allowing the lapse” of any insurance policy that provides coverage to either spouse or their children without the consent of the other spouse, a court order, or abatement of the action. In this case, the wife modified her life insurance policy by replacing her husband with her mother as the sole beneficiary of the policy during the pendency of a divorce action and without the husband’s consent or a court order. The wife died one week later, which caused an abatement of the divorce action. After the insurance company remitted the proceeds of approximately $393,000 to the wife’s mother, the husband commenced this action to recover the proceeds. Following the first trial, the trial court found the wife intended to remove the husband and substitute their minor child as the insurance beneficiary, and it awarded the proceeds to the child. Both parties appealed. In the first appeal, we reversed the trial court and, after applying an equitable-balancing test, awarded the proceeds to the husband. See Coleman v. Olson, No. M2015-00823-COA-R3-CV, 2016 WL 6135395, at *15 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 20, 2016) [hereinafter Coleman I]. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed our use of an equitable-balancing test but determined there was insufficient evidence to decide the merits on appeal. Coleman v. Olson, 551 S.W.3d 686, 697 (Tenn. 2018) [hereinafter Coleman II]. Thus, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to hear additional evidence and, after considering the equities of the parties, “remedy the violation of the statutory injunction by awarding all or a portion of the life insurance benefits to either or both parties.” Id. at 688. However, the Court did not identify the equitable factors to consider. Following an evidentiary hearing on remand, the trial court found the equities weighed in favor of the husband receiving the insurance proceeds. The wife’s mother appeals, contending the trial court erred in determining that the equities between the parties weighed in favor of depriving her of the insurance proceeds. We have determined that the trial court’s ruling was based on the erroneous determination that the court was limited to two options, enforcing the policy based on the beneficiary designation when the statutory injunction went into effect or enforcing the policy based on the beneficiary designation when the divorce action abated, instead of having the discretion to award a portion of the proceeds to each party based on the equities. Recognizing that the purpose of the § 106(d)(2) injunction was merely to preserve the status quo, not to make the ultimate determination of the rights of the parties to the proceeds, we have determined that the husband was entitled to an amount necessary to prevent an “unjust result” due to the wife’s inability to assist in caring for the parties’ minor child or to provide financial support to care for and educate the child until he reaches the age of majority. Having considered the financial benefits and burdens resulting from the wife’s death, we modify the judgment to award the husband a lump sum based on a support payment of $500.00 a month calculated from the month of the wife’s death until the minor child turns eighteen. Because the husband has been receiving a monthly payment of $500.00 since the trial court ordered the clerk of the court to remit such monthly payments out of the insurance proceeds on deposit with the clerk, the aggregate sum the husband has received from the clerk shall be deducted from the lump sum awarded to the husband. The wife’s mother shall be awarded the balance of the insurance proceeds on deposit with the clerk. We also vacate the judgment awarded against the wife’s mother and the award of prejudgment interest to the husband. The case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Abu Musa Abdullah
M2019-00510-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Abu Musa Abdullah, of three counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of fifty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On delayed appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it: (1) limited cross-examination of two State witnesses; and (2) ordered an excessive sentence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Brian Anthony Wiley
M2018-01817-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

The Defendant, Brian Anthony Wiley, pled guilty to multiple drug offenses and received an effective eight-year sentence. The Defendant’s plea agreement reserved a certified question of law regarding the legality of the search of the Defendant’s automobile that was parked in the overnight camping area of a local music festival. Following our review, we conclude that the warrantless search of the Defendant’s automobile did not violate Fourth Amendment protections and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20
In Re C.L. Et Al.
E2018-02032-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel G. Boyd

C.A. (petitioner) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of H.L. (mother) and R.L. (father) with respect to their two children, C.L. and A.L. (the children). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate mother and father’s parental rights on two grounds: abandonment by willful failure to support and persistent conditions. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of mother and father’s parental rights is in the best interest of the children. Both parents appeal. We vacate the trial court’s finding that there is clear and convincing evidence to terminate mother and father’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support. Nevertheless, we affirm the court’s order terminating mother and father’s parental rights because there is clear and convincing evidence that termination is supported by the ground of persistent conditions and is in the best interest of the children.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
In Re Aubrie W.
E2019-00862-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

This is an appeal from the termination of the father’s parental rights. The trial court found the petitioners had proved that the father abandoned the child by willfully failing to visit, willfully failing to support the child, and exhibiting conduct showing a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare and that termination of the father’s parental rights, was in the child’s best interest. Following the entry of the order terminating his rights, the father appealed. Finding the record does not clearly and convincingly establish the ground of abandonment by wanton disregard, we reverse the trial court’s determination on that ground; however, the record clearly and convincingly established the other two grounds and that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, we affirm the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Rashan Lateef Jordan
E2018-00471-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

Defendant, Rashan Lateef Jordan, appeals from his conviction for the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within one thousand feet of a childcare agency. Defendant was sentenced to 15 years for his conviction. On appeal, Defendant contends: (1) that the trial court erred by not granting his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial; (2) the jury instructions were inadequate and failed to include a lesser included offense; and (3) the jury instructions were confusing to the jury and in attempting to make clarifications, the trial court unduly influenced the jurors. Having reviewed the parties’ briefs and the entire record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20