Court Opinions

Format: 07/22/2014
Format: 07/22/2014
Monday, July 21, 2014
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:
07/21/14
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TOMMY DALE ADAMS
M2013-01080-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

A Wilson County Jury convicted Defendant, Tommy Dale Adams, of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  He received concurrent  sentences of life for first degree felony murder, twenty years for second degree murder, and twenty years for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the trial court erred in admitting a photograph into evidence after finding that its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect; (2) that the trial court erred in excluding testimony by Dewy Raymond, finding that it was inadmissible hearsay; and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  After a thorough review, we remand the matter to the trial court for entry of a corrected judgment to reflect that the convictions of felony murder and second degree murder are merged into one count of felony murder.  In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
Samuel Bridgefourth, Jr. v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc.
W2013-02468-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rubert Samual Weiss

Plaintiff’s car was repossessed. Plaintiff paid the amount owed, but never received the car. Plaintiff sued and won a judgment for conversion. He was also awarded attorney’s fees, first as special damages and then, in an amended order, as punitive damages. Defendant appeals. We reverse because attorney’s fees cannot be awarded as punitive damages and no statute or contract involved in this case provides for attorney’s fees.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/21/14
Wilma Griffin v. Campbell Clinic, P.A.
W2013-00471-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

The plaintiff filed a civil action in the general sessions court asserting a health care liability
claim against the defendant. Following a trial, the general sessions court entered judgment
in the defendant’s favor. The next day, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and deposited
$211.50 with the general sessions court clerk, which represents the amount of the standard
court cost of $150 for an appeal to the circuit court required by Tennessee Code Annotated
section 8-21-401(b)(1)(C)(i) plus state and local litigation taxes. The circuit court dismissed
the plaintiff’s appeal, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the
plaintiff failed to file a bond “with good security . . . for the costs of the appeal” under
Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-5-103. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s
judgment, concluding that payment of the standard court cost is sufficient to perfect an
appeal from the general sessions court to the circuit court. After a thorough review of the
statutory scheme at issue, we conclude that the plaintiff’s cash bond was sufficient to perfect
her appeal to the circuit court. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals and
remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/21/14
LEONARD ALLEN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-00840-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

On January 3, 2003 the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner, Leonard Allen, for especially aggravated robbery.  Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the charged offense.  The trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty years of incarceration.  Petitioner filed a notice of appeal.  Subsequently, Petitioner filed a petition to plead guilty to aggravated robbery in the same case.  The trial court, upon agreement of the parties, vacated the conviction for especially aggravated robbery and accepted a plea agreement to aggravated robbery with a sentence of ten years at thirty percent with credit for time served and the balance of the sentence to be served on probation.  Petitioner appealed, challenging various aspects of his original conviction as well as the guilty plea.  See State v. Leonard Allen, No. M2007-02581-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 1344462 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, April 5, 2011), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. July 14, 2011).  On direct appeal, this Court invalidated the plea agreement, finding, among other things, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the plea agreement where Petitioner had already filed a notice of appeal.  This Court then reinstated Petitioner’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery.  On remand, the trial court reinstated the accompanying twenty-year sentence.  Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief in which he argued, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.  Following a hearing, the post-conviction court entered an order denying Petitioner relief.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief based on ineffective assistance of his trial counsel.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition for relief.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Nicole Bolden
E2013-02324-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Defendant, Jacqueline Nicole Bolden, pled guilty to one count of theft of property in an amount more than $60,000, a Class B felony, with an agreed upon sentence of eight years as a Range I offender with the trial court to determine manner of service of the sentence. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve her eight-year sentence on “split confinement” with fifty days to be served on the weekends. Defendant was also ordered to perform one day of community service per month for the first three years of her sentence. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred by denying her request for full probation. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
Ok Nan Kim Lambert v. Mark Stephen Lambert
M2013-01885-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal involves the interpretation of two marital dissolution agreements. The parties married, divorced , and then remarried each other. They stayed remarried for a few years and then divorced again. In both divorces, the parties entered into a marital dissolution agreement. Years later, after the husband retired from military service, this litigation was commenced regarding the award of a portion of the husband’s military retirement benefits to the wife. The trial court held that the wife’s award of benefits was based on the combined duration of both marriages. Both parties appeal. The husband argues that the trial court erred in not limiting the wife’s award to the duration of the first marriage only. We construe the parties’ marital dissolution agreement as awarding the wife the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits, irrespective of the duration of marriage. Thus, we decline to adopt the husband’s argument. The wife does not argue on appeal that the trial court erred in failing to award her the agreed percentage of all of the husband’s military retirement benefits. Accordingly, we are constrained to affirm the trial court’s decision to base the award on the combined duration of both of the parties’ marriages.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
State of Tennessee v. Christopher I. Thrasher
M2013-02495-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Leon C. Burns, Jr.

The Defendant, Christopher I. Thrasher, was convicted by an Overton County jury of delivery of oxycodone within 1000 feet of a school zone, and the trial court imposed a sentence of seventeen years for that conviction.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that the following errors were made at his trial: (1) that his motion to suppress should have been granted because he was under the influence of drugs at the time he waived his rights and gave his statement; (2) that the chain of custody regarding the pills was not sufficiently established; and (3) that enhancement of his sentencing term above the range minimum was improper.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Overton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/14
Cheryl Hall v. James H. Crenshaw, M.D., The Jackson Clinic Professional Association, et al.
W2013-00662-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. KIrby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This interlocutory appeal involves ex parte communications between defense counsel for a defendant medical entity and non-party physicians who treated the plaintiff’s decedent and are employed by the defendant medical entity. The plaintiff filed this healthcare liability action against the defendant medical entity arising out of treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. The trial court held that the attorneys for the defendant medical entity are barred under Alsip v. Johnson City Medical Center, 197 S.W.3d 722 (Tenn. 2006), from conferring ex parte with treating physicians employed by the defendant medical entity who are not named as defendants in the lawsuit. The defendant medical entity was granted permission for this interlocutory appeal. We hold that the defendant medical entity has an independent right to communicate privately with its employees, and this right is not abrogated by the filing of the plaintiff’s healthcare liability lawsuit. Therefore, Alsip does not bar the medical entity’s attorneys from communicating ex parte with physicians employed by the medical entity about the physician employee’s medical treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. Accordingly, we reverse.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
Hanna (John) Nazi, et al. v. Jerry's Oil Company Inc.
W2013-02638-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Nathan B. Pride

In this contract dispute, the parties disagree as to whether the signatory of the contracts may be personally liable thereon, as well as to whether the contract provides for a fuel surcharge. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/18/14
State of Tennessee v. William Avery Crisp
M2013-01339-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Crigler

The defendant, William Avery Crisp, pled guilty to one count of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), a Class A misdemeanor; one count of vehicular homicide, a Class C felony; one count of vehicular homicide as a proximate result of intoxication, a Class B felony; one count of vehicular assault as a proximate result of intoxication, a Class D felony, and one count of a violation of the open container law, a Class C misdemeanor.  The defendant’s guilty pleas reserved four certified questions of law having to do with the trial court’s denial of his motions to suppress certain evidence.  He also appeals the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing.  We conclude that the trial court properly determined that there was probable cause to believe the defendant was driving while intoxicated even if he passed the field sobriety tests administered by law enforcement.  The other certified questions are not dispositive of any of the defendant’s convictions, and the trial court did not err in sentencing.  Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/14
Robert Maloney v. Gloria Maloney
W2013-02409-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen R. Williams

Husband and paramour are represented by two partners in the same law firm. Wife sought to disqualify Husband’s attorney. The trial court granted the motion to disqualify, citing the inevitability of conflict. Husband appealed. We reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the motion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/17/14
Jarvis Payne v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01435-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Petitioner, Jarvis Payne, pled guilty to second degree murder pursuant to a plea agreement and was sentenced to fifteen years as a violent offender. He filed a post-conviction petition in which he alleged that a dying declaration by the victim showed that he lacked the requisite intent for second degree murder. He claimed that his attorney was ineffective because she did not make him aware of the victim’s dying declaration and urged him to plead guilty without explaining the importance of intent in the charged offense. After listening to testimony from Petitioner’s public defender and the prosecuting attorney, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/14
Jean Marie Bailey v. Billie Carson Bailey
E2013-02195-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

In this post-divorce action, the petitioner sought to terminate or modify his spousal and child support payments. The trial court terminated the petitioner’s child support obligation, lowered the monthly spousal support amount, and reduced the spousal support arrearage owed. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 07/17/14
Nashville Metro Government v. New Orleans Manor, Inc., et al.
M2013-00706-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

Metropolitan Government filed suit for recovery of delinquent real property taxes on property leased by the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. Taxpayers filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding, asserting that its obligation to pay taxes arose from its lease obligation and was extinguished when the Airport Authority released taxpayers from all obligations under the lease. Metropolitan Government moved for summary judgment on the ground, inter alia, that the taxpayers did not have standing to challenge the taxes because they had failed to pay the tax under protest as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 67–1-901; the trial court granted the motion. We affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
Michael O'Neil v. Clinically Home, LLC
M2013-01789-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Laurence M. Mcmillan, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

The Chief Executive Officer of a Company and the Company executed an Employment Agreement that covered, among other issues, consequences of termination with or without cause, either by the Officer or by the Company. A year or so later, the Officer called a meeting and issued an ultimatum to the board of directors threatening to resign if certain changes were not made. The Company later wrote a letter to the Officer accepting his resignation without “Good Reason” as defined in the Employment Agreement. The Officer asserted the Company terminated him “without cause” and that he did not resign. The Company responded that it did not terminate the Officer,but simply accepted his resignation. The Officer filed a complaint seeking severance pay and other benefits he claimed he was entitled to pursuant to the Employment Agreement.  The trial court agreed with the Officer and granted his motion for summary judgment.  The Company appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
In Re: The Adoption of Male Child A.F.C. By: C.M.C. and D.F.C., and J.L.B.
M2013-00583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

Parents of a child born of a surrogate mother with an anonymously donated egg and the father’s sperm and Tennessee Department of Health appeal order entered in consolidated parentage and adoption proceedings which required the live birth certificate issued for the child to list the mother as “unknown.” Having determined that the definition of “mother” for the purpose of completing the birth certificate is the same as that used in preparing the standard birth certificate promulgated bythe National Center for Health Statistics,we reverse the trial court’s decision and hold that the gestational carrier should be listed as the mother.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
Brandon Alexander Rankin v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01216-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

Petitioner, Brandon Alexander Rankin, pled guilty to second degree murder and accessory after the fact or facilitation to commit first degree murder, to which he was sentenced to concurrent 40-year sentences at 100%. Petitioner subsequently filed a timely motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and trial counsel filed a motion to withdraw as counsel on the same date. A hearing was conducted on the two motions. The trial court elected to classify petitioner’s motion to withdraw the guilty plea as a post-conviction petition. Trial counsel’s motion to withdraw was sustained. Petitioner’s “Amended Petition for Post-Conviction Relief combined with Rule 36 Motion to Correct Clerical Error in Order” was filed through newly appointed counsel. The post-conviction court dismissed the amended petition as time barred. Petitioner timely appealed. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court erred in construing Petitioner’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas as a petition for post-conviction relief. As a result, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for consideration of Petitioner’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/14
Charlie Lovell Leavy III v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00719-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker III

The Petitioner, Charlie Lovell Leavy, III, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief from his convictions for aggravated burglary, burglary of a building, theft over $1,000, felony evading arrest, and simple assault. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/14
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Lamont French
M2013-01270-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Appellant, Kevin Lamont French, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of premeditated murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  He received life sentences for the murder convictions, and the trial court sentenced him to a concurrent sentence of twenty-one years for his especially aggravated robbery conviction.  On appeal, he argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred by admitting prior bad act testimony; (3) the trial court erred by admitting a letter purportedly written by appellant; (4) the trial court erred by admitting testimony regarding weapons found in appellant’s home; (5) the assistant district attorney general committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments; and (6) the trial court erred by admitting certain autopsy photographs.  Following our review of the record, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case for the trial court to merge the two murder convictions.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/14
State of Tennessee v. Mark Edward Greene
M2013-02710-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Appellant, Mark Edward Greene, appeals the denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 motion to correct a clerical error.  He alleges that the trial court should have granted pretrial jail credits from the time that Williamson County lodged a detainer against him until the date he was sentenced.  Following our review, we affirm the circuit court’s decision.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/14
Scott Ostendorf, Et Al. v. R. Stephen Fox, et al.
E2013-01978-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Andrew R. Tillman

Scott Ostendorf, et al. (“Plaintiffs”) sued R. Stephen Fox, Mark S. 1 Dessauer (“Attorney Dessauer”), and Hunter, Smith & Davis, LLP (“the Firm”) with regard to a transaction involving the sale of substantially all of the assets of Mothwing Camo Technologies, Inc. The defendants filed motions to dismiss. After a hearing, the Chancery Court for Scott County (“the Trial Court”) granted the motions to dismiss. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court. We find no error in the Trial Court’s finding and holding that Plaintiffs’ claims against Attorney Dessauer and the Firm are barred by the statute of limitations. We, however, find error in the sua sponte dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against Mr. Fox for improper venue. We affirm the dismissal of the claims against Attorney Dessauer and the Firm, vacate the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against Mr. Fox, and remand this case for further proceedings.

Scott County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
Tracy W. Hamilton v. Pemberton Truck Lines, Inc., et al.
E2013-01329-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry H. Puckett

The employee sustained a work-related injury to his cervical spine. The trial court found permanent and total disability as a result of the injury. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding. 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 of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 07/16/14
In Re: Conservatorship of Robert E. L. Hathaway, Ward
W2013-01474-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly M. Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Benham

This is a conservatorship proceeding. The ward’s wife filed a petition to appoint a conservator in which she asked to be appointed as conservator for the ward. After a trial, the trial court held that the ward was disabled and in need of a conservator but appointed a public conservator instead of the wife. The trial court also set aside a transfer of real property, purportedly made by the ward prior to the filing of the conservatorship action. The wife now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in setting aside the transfer of real property and in rejecting her request to be appointed conservator. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/16/14