Court Opinions

Format: 03/31/2020
Format: 03/31/2020
Robert Lee Algee v. David Anthony Craig as personal representative of the Estate of Nancy P. Craig
W2019-00587-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

This personal injury action concerns an automobile accident. The defendant died shortly after the accident. The estate was opened, administered, and closed before the plaintiff filed suit against the former personal representative within the applicable statute of limitations. The personal representative moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff moved to enlarge the time for filing service of process based upon a claim of excusable neglect. The trial court dismissed the action as untimely. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Michael Shane McCullough v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00629-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery W. Parham

The Petitioner, Michael Shane McCullough, challenges the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief attacking his jury convictions for criminal littering, initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine, and promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance due to (1) trial counsel’s failure to interview the arresting officer and investigate the case, especially as it related to the weather conditions on the night of the Petitioner’s traffic stop; (2) trial counsel’s failure to adequately cross-examine the State’s witnesses at trial about the substance found in the ditch; and (3) trial counsel’s (who was also appellate counsel) failure to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his Class B misdemeanor conviction for criminal littering. After our review, we conclude that the Petitioner received ineffective assistance with regard to the appropriate classification of his criminal littering conviction; however, the Petitioner’s other allegations of ineffective assistance are without merit. We must reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment and remand the case for correction of the Petitioner’s mitigated criminal littering conviction judgment form to reflect the appropriate Class C misdemeanor classification and a corresponding thirty-day sentence.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Jay Hathaway
M2019-00540-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The Defendant, Jay Hathaway, appeals the probation revocation order from a February 25, 2019 probation violation hearing. The trial court determined that the Defendant had violated the terms of his probation sentence, applied eighty-five days of time served toward the revocation sentence, and ordered an additional sixty days to serve in jail before the Defendant would be reinstated to a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that he was denied due process because he was not provided an expert on the issue of drug patch testing. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Ricardo Bonds
W2018-01954-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma Mcgee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

A Dyer County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Christopher Ricardo Bonds, of evading arrest, a Class A misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve nine months in jail at seventy-five percent release eligibility. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court arbitrarily imposed the percentage of the sentence to be served in confinement. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/20
Reginald D. Hughes v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, ET AL.
M2019-00487-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A state inmate filed a petition for a common law writ of certiorari seeking judicial review of the prison disciplinary board’s decision to deny parole. The board filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court granted the board’s motion to dismiss because the petition was not filed within the sixty-day period prescribed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-9-102 (2017). We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Rickey Thompson v. State of Tennessee, Department of Correction
M2018-02262-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This appeal concerns the court’s summary judgment dismissal of the plaintiff’s age discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims against the State of Tennessee, Department of Correction. We affirm the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
In Re Nevaeh B. Et Al.
E2019-01539-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal arises from the termination of a father’s parental rights to his three children. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that two grounds for termination were proven and that termination is in the best interest of the children. The father appeals. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Shirley Lunsford v. K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.
E2019-01272-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

This appeal involves a slip and fall premises liability case filed by an invitee against a business proprietor. The trial court granted summary judgment to the business proprietor because invitee’s evidence did not show that the condition in the business proprietor’s store was inherently dangerous and because the court found the condition to be open and obvious. For the following reasons, we agree with the trial court that the condition at issue was not inherently dangerous and summary judgement should be granted for Defendant.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Amanda Gale Gates v. Scott Gates
M2019-00894-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Binkley

In this divorce action, the issue is whether the trial court correctly credited the number of parenting days awarded to each parent for purposes of calculating child support under the terms of the permanent parenting plan (PPP). Scott Gates (father) argues on appeal that the trial court miscalculated his residential time by undercounting the number of days awarded him in the PPP. We hold that there are irreconcilable inconsistencies in the PPP that require us to vacate the trial court’s order and remand for clarification of the actual number of days awarded and recalculation of child support.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Jeffrey Glenn Mitchell v. Carol Ann Thomas Mitchell
E2019-00759-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Brewer, Jr.

This is the second appeal in this post-divorce action involving the interpretation of the parties’ marital dissolution agreement and allegations of contempt for failure to comply with the same. We remanded the case to the trial court for submission of additional findings of fact and conclusions of law. The husband appeals the trial court’s opinion on remand. We affirm the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 03/31/20
Kira Mendiola Leonard v. Craig Michael Leonard
W2018-02235-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This case involves the classification and division of marital property between ex-military spouses. In dividing the marital property, the trial court failed to address the factors listed in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-121 or make necessary findings of fact and conclusions of law as is required under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01. For the reasons stated herein, we vacate the trial court’s decision and remand with instructions to properly address the required statutory factors.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/30/20
Dontavious Hendrix v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00171-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Dontavious Hendrix, was convicted of second-degree murder and subsequently sentenced to twenty-five years. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-210(a)(1). Following denial of his direct appeal, the Petitioner filed a petition seeking postconviction relief, alleging that trial counsel was ineffective based on the following grounds: (1) implementing an inappropriate trial strategy by allowing Monderrius Miller to testify on behalf of the defense; (2) failing to properly advise the Petitioner of his right to testify on his own behalf; and (3) failing to interview potential witnesses. Following our review, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/20
John R. Fuller v. Community National Bank
E2018-02023-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

Plaintiff John R. Fuller invested more than a million dollars with Jack Brown, who, unbeknownst to Fuller, was running a Ponzi scheme that eventually resulted in Brown’s involuntary bankruptcy and significant losses to numerous investors. Brown had several accounts with Community National Bank (the bank). Brown later died and plaintiff was unsuccessful in recovering from him or his estate. In this action, plaintiff sued the bank, alleging negligence; fraud; aiding and abetting Brown’s fraud and breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty; and violations of Tennessee’s versions of the Uniform Fiduciaries Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 35-2-101 (2015) et seq., and Uniform Commercial Code, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 47-3-307(b)(2) and 47-3-402(a) (2001). The trial court granted the bank summary judgment. It held plaintiff’s action was barred by the equitable doctrine of unclean hands, based on its finding that plaintiff “was using Brown to launder his ill-gotten gains,” namely, “upwards of one million dollars in cash [plaintiff kept] in safes to avoid paying income tax . . . accumulated from poker machines in his store.” The trial court further held that plaintiff’s UCC claims were barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations, Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-3-118(g); that plaintiff “set forth no facts that demonstrate a genuine issue that [the bank] had knowledge of any breach of Brown’s fiduciary duty or had knowledge of such facts that its actions . . . amounted to bad faith”; that plaintiff’s common law claims were displaced by the UCC; that he could not establish an unjust enrichment claim because he did not confer any benefit upon the bank; and that plaintiff failed to establish any damages stemming from the bank’s conduct. We affirm. 

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
In Re Kayleigh B. et al.
E2019-01153-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenlyn Foster

Jennifer G. (“Mother”) and Brian B. (“Father”) appeal the termination of their parental rights to their minor children, Kayleigh B., Layla B., Isaiah B., and Ja’Nyla B. (collectively, “the Children”). In March 2018, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate the parents’ rights to the Children in the Blount County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”). Following a hearing in May 2019, the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s parental rights based on the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, abandonment by wanton disregard, abandonment by failure to support prior to her incarceration, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistent conditions. The Juvenile Court also terminated Father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to support prior to the petition’s filing and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. The Juvenile Court further found that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Both Mother and Father timely appealed. We reverse the statutory ground of abandonment by failure to support concerning Mother’s parental rights. We affirm the Juvenile Court’s judgment in all other respects including the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights.

Blount County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
Michael Benanti v. Jamie Satterfield Et Al.
E2018-01848-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This is a defamation case. Michael Benanti (plaintiff) was convicted of committing multiple felonies, including: armed bank extortion, kidnapping, and carjacking. He is serving four consecutive life sentences at a federal prison in California. Shortly after his incarceration, plaintiff filed a complaint against Jamie Satterfield, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and USA Today (defendants), seeking $3,000,000 in damages. Plaintiff alleged that defendants defamed him by falsely reporting that the FBI suspected plaintiff of committing additional crimes, including murder. The trial court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss and subsequently denied plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
Jill St. John Parker v. Virgil Duane Parker
E2019-01536-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This is an appeal from a trial court’s order holding an ex-husband in civil contempt on twelve counts and ordering him to pay $240,507.70 in attorney fees and accounting fees incurred by the ex-wife in this case and a related bankruptcy proceeding. The exhusband appeals. We affirm the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
Louise Ann Mawn v. Gregg Thomas Tarquinio
M2019-00933-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

During the pendency of a divorce, Husband was convicted of six counts of criminal contempt for violating the statutory injunction under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-106(d). On appeal, Husband contends that the trial court erred in finding that he willfully violated the statute. Because we are unable to determine if the trial court applied an impermissible conclusive presumption to find that Husband was aware of his obligations under the statutory injunction, we vacate and remand to the trial court for reconsideration.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
Kimberly Sue Noland v. Matthew Cook, Administrator Ad Litem of Estate of Ronnie Sue Lowe
E2019-01170-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carter Scott Moore

This is an appeal from a personal injury case where the trial court entered a directed verdict on liability and where the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff $0 in damages. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, for additur. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in not giving the jury an instruction that she was entitled to damages for medical evaluation and diagnostic expenses following her motor vehicle accident and that there is no material evidence to support the jury’s verdict because the unrefuted expert testimony indicated she had suffered an injury and had incurred medical evaluation and diagnostic expenses following the accident. Finding no error by the trial court or with the jury’s verdict, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 03/27/20
Eugene Spivey v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
W2019-00932-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The pro se petitioner, Eugene Spivey, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/20
State of Tennessee v. LaDarius Berry
W2019-00310-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County grand jury indicted the defendant, LaDarius Berry, for attempted second degree murder (count 1), aggravated assault (count 2), employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (count 3), and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon (count 4). After trial, a jury convicted the defendant as charged in counts 2, 3, and 4 and found him guilty of the
lesser-included offense of attempted voluntary manslaughter in count 1. The trial court merged the defendant’s convictions in counts 1 and 2 and imposed an effective twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and the sentencing imposed by the trial court. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court, but remand the case for the specific purposes of entry of amended judgments as to counts 1 and 2 to reflect the non-merger of the offenses as well as the determination by the trial court as to whether the sentences in counts 1 and 2 should be served consecutively or concurrently.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Antwon Young
W2019-00492-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Antwon Young, of aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping, for which he received an effective sentence of thirty years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and asserts the State made two improper statements during closing argument. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Rashari Jones
W2018-02180-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County grand jury indicted the defendant, Rashari Jones, for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault while acting in concert with two or more persons, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of six years in confinement followed by four years of supervised probation. On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court erred in allowing the State to cross-examine the defendant regarding his whereabouts preceding the shooting, in finding the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity and omitting the “no duty to retreat” language from the self-defense instruction, and in failing to merge his convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. We conclude that although the self-defense instruction was erroneous, the error was harmless. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/20
Eric Wooten v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01228-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Eric Wooten, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition as untimely. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/20
William M. West Jr. v. Julie West
E2018-02277-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This appeal arises from detainer warrants sought by a decedent’s son seeking to remove a surviving spouse from a house. The trial court granted possession of the property to the son. We find it necessary to vacate the trial court’s ruling and to remand the matter for more in-depth findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/26/20
Jason A. Brock v. Fed Loan Servicing
M2019-00722-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

The trial court dismissed the complaint filed by the pro se appellant for failure to state a claim and denied his motion to vacate the dismissal. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/26/20