Court Opinions

Format: 04/24/2018
Format: 04/24/2018
Fisher Dezevallos v. Terry Burns Insurance Agency, LLC
M2017-02030-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Appellee brought a claim against Appellant insurance agency for “unlawfully and fraudulently” withdrawing funds from Appellee’s bank account and accepting premium payments on two insurance policies after Appellee allegedly cancelled his policies. Although not asserted as a claim in its general sessions summons, the circuit court, on appeal, awarded Appellee a judgment for unjust enrichment in the amount of $397.00. Because the preponderance of the evidence does not support the judgment, we reverse and remand.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/24/18
Jennie Roles-Walter, Et Al. v. Robert W. Kidd, Et Al.
M2017-01417-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

This is a property damage case. Appellants assert that their property is being damaged by the defective gutter systems of adjacent buildings, which are owned by Appellees. The trial court granted Appellees’ Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motions to dismiss Appellants’ complaint, finding that Appellants’ claim was barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to claims for property damage. Tenn. Code Ann. §28-3-105. Appellants contend that their complaint sounds in nuisance, specifically temporary nuisance, and not in negligence. Accordingly, Appellants argue that the statute of limitations renews with each rain. While we agree with the trial court that Appellants’ claim is one for negligence and not for nuisance, we conclude that the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint as time-barred. Applying the discovery rule and giving Appellants all reasonable inferences based on the averments in their complaint, we conclude that Appellants have pled facts sufficient to survive the motions to dismiss.  

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 04/24/18
In Re Estate of James Donald Meadows
M2017-01062-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Meise

Appellants, an estate and its co-executors, appeal from the trial court’s order disqualifying their counsel due to a purported conflict of interest. Because the appellants have appealed from a non-final order, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. 

Dickson County Court of Appeals 04/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Julie Christine Ottmer
E2017-01309-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Defendant, Julie Christine Ottmer, pled nolo contendere to simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor, and received an agreed upon sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418. Thereafter, the Defendant filed a motion to withdraw her nolo contendere plea. The trial court denied the motion, finding that there was no manifest injustice to support withdrawal of the plea. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion because she “misunderstood the terms of her plea.” Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Unicoi County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Joel Hartwell
E2017-00633-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The Defendant, Christopher Joel Hartwell, pleaded guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement in case number C22683 to conspiracy to commit money laundering, a Class C felony, maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used, a Class D felony, two counts of possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, a Class D felony, two counts of possession with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, a Class D felony, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a non-dangerous felony, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-903 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014), 53-11-401 (2008) (amended 2010), 39-17-417 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014), 39-17-1307 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014). The Defendant also pleaded guilty in case number C22684 to the sale or delivery of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, a Class D felony. See id. § 39-17-417 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014). The Defendant pleaded guilty in case number C22685 to the sale or delivery of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, a Class D felony. See id. § 39-17-417 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014). Finally, the Defendant pleaded guilty in case number C23659 to two counts of the delivery of a controlled substance in a drug-free school zone, a Class C felony. See id. § 39-17-417 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014). After the appropriate merger of the offenses, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to an effective five-year sentence of which three years were to be served at 100%. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by (1) denying judicial diversion, (2) allowing confidential informants to testify at the sentencing hearing, and (3) not requiring the State to produce discovery materials related to the confidential informants. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/18
In Re Estate of Francis J. Kowalski
M2017-00533-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Randy Kennedy

Thomas Kowalski, Michael Kowalski, John J. Kowalski, and Margaret Kowalski (“Plaintiffs”) appeal the February 2, 2017 judgment of the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) finding and holding, inter alia, that the holographic Last Will and Testament of Francis J. Kowalski (“the Will”) contained a residuary clause such that Francis J. Kowalski (“Deceased”) did not die partially intestate and that the Will granted a conditional life estate in real property located at 2820 Azalea Place (“Azalea Place”) in Nashville to Trevor Walker for as long as Walker operates Thrill Building Music, LLC. We find and hold that the Will does not contain a residuary clause and that Deceased died partially intestate. We further find and hold that the Will granted a fee determinable estate in Azalea Place to Trevor Walker for as long as Walker operates Thrill Building Music, LLC. Given all this, we reverse the Trial Court’s judgment as to whether the Will contained a residuary clause and modify the judgment to reflect that the Will granted a fee determinable estate in Azalea Place to Trevor Walker for as long as Walker operates Thrill Building Music, LLC.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/23/18
Toniann Whitaker v. James B. Devereaux
E2017-01812-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper, II

After Appellant’s son violated an order of protection entered against him, Appellant sought relief from the trial court. Although the trial court ruled on some of the issues raised by Appellant, not all of her claims were adjudicated. We therefore dismiss the appeal due to the absence of a final judgment.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 04/23/18
Eddison Williams v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00626-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: William O. Shults, Commissioner

This appeal involves the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Claims Commission to hear an action brought by a former medical student, Eddison Williams (claimant), against the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University. Claimant alleged that the State, acting through medical school officials, “negligently breached its contractual duties regarding following policies before dismissing [him] on disciplinary grounds.” He argued his action stated a claim for “negligent care, custody and control of persons,” a category of claims the Commission has jurisdiction to hear under Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8- 307(a)(1)(E) (Supp.2017). The Commission concluded it had no subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/23/18
James Robert Oliphant v. State of Tennessee
E2017-02147-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The petitioner, James Robert Oliphant, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which challenged his 1983 Washington County Criminal Court conviction of assault with intent to commit second degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Mack Mandrell Loyde, AKA Mandrel Loyde, AKA Michael Loyde
M2017-01002-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The defendant, Mack Mandrell Loyde, was convicted of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced the defendant as a career offender for the aggravated burglary and employing a firearm convictions, and imposed fifteen-year sentences for each. For the aggravated robbery conviction, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a repeat violent offender to life without parole. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. The defendant also challenges the trial court’s sentencing as to his status as a repeat violent offender and resulting life sentence without the possibility of parole. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s application of the repeat violent offender statute to the defendant’s aggravated robbery conviction and the trial court’s determination as to the sufficiency of the evidence for the three convictions, but remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on the matter of sentencing as to Counts 1 and 3.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Penny
M2017-01151-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The defendant, Anthony Penny, pled guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual battery. The plea agreement provided for the defendant to be sentenced by the trial court with an agreement his sentences would be served concurrently. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of ten years for each count to be served in confinement. On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion by failing to properly consider the purposes and principles of sentencing, by applying enhancement factor four, and by failing to properly consider certain mitigating factors under the “catch-all” provision of the statute. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/18
Roy Len Rogers v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00445-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The petitioner, Roy Len Rogers, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2010 Rhea County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree premeditated murder, second degree murder, and reckless endangerment, for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/18
Thomas Nathan Loftis, Sr. v. Randy Rayburn
M2017-01502-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

The former director of a culinary program filed a complaint alleging defamation by implication or innuendo and false light invasion of privacy against an individual he claimed was the source of statements made in a newspaper article. The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the statements were not actionable as a matter of law. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the former director appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the complaint and remand the issue of attorney’s fees to the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/20/18
Sugar Creek Carriages v. Hat Creek Carriages, Et Al.
M2017-00963-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

This case involves a claim for procurement of breach of contract. The plaintiff and the defendants operate competing businesses that provide carriage rides for hire in Nashville, Tennessee. The plaintiff sued the defendants for violating Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-50-109 by procuring one of its carriage drivers to breach his noncompete agreement with the plaintiff by driving a carriage for the defendants’ business. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants upon the determination that the plaintiff could not prove an essential element of a procurement of breach of contract claim, that the underlying contract was enforceable. Agreeing with the determination that the noncompete agreement was not enforceable, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/19/18
Jamie N. Grimes v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00319-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Jamie N. Grimes, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of selling twenty-six grams or more of cocaine within one thousand feet of a school and resulting twenty-five-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that the State violated the mandatory joinder rule. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
George A. Stanhope v. State of Tennessee - Concurring
M2017-00599-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

I concur in the affirmance of the post-conviction court’s judgment, but write separately to state my conclusion that trial counsels rendered deficient performance by failing to object to the prosecutor’s inappropriate questioning during voir dire. The inappropriate questioning is set forth in the majority opinion and does not need to be repeated here. Obviously, it is impossible to determine some things from the record reflected only in the transcript. For instance, the appellate court is unable to ascertain the volume, inflection, and body language of the prosecutor during this rather unorthodox voir dire. Was the prosecutor waiving arms in order to instruct the entire venire to answer aloud at the same time? When the prosecutor informed the venire that the first two answers (by individual members of the venire) were wrong, what was the emphasis on the word “wrong?” What was utilized to successfully have the entire venire adopt the State’s theory in an apparent rhythmic cadence during voir dire? Appellate judges cannot know the answers to these questions from a cold record. However, the answers are not necessary to conclude that the pertinent line of questioning was outside the bounds of proper voir dire. Pertinent to the legal issues involved in this post-conviction appeal is the fact that the prosecutor’s questions had absolutely nothing to do with whether the potential jurors could perform their duty without regard to bias or prejudice. The questioning was a blatant closing argument with the added ability to interact by conversations with the potential jurors.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
George A. Stanhope v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00599-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert R. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

George A. Stanhope, the Petitioner, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, and aggravated burglary. The Petitioner received a total effective sentence of life without parole plus ten years. His petition for post-conviction relief was denied by the post-conviction court following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that: (1) the State’s voir dire and trial counsel’s concession to second degree murder during closing argument violated the Petitioner’s right to a jury trial and constituted a structural constitutional error; and (2) the Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel during voir dire and closing argument. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
State of Tennessee v. James Kevin Woods
M2017-00800-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

James Kevin Woods, the Defendant, was convicted by a Wilson County jury of three counts of sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine and received a total effective sentence of forty years as a Range II multiple offender. On direct appeal, he argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of sale of cocaine beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court improperly limited the Defendant’s crossexamination of State witnesses; (3) the professional criminal and extensive criminal history factors in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-115(b) are unconstitutionally vague; and (4) the trial court abused its discretion by ordering a partially consecutive sentence. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Joey Boswell
M2017-01127-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The Defendant, Joey Boswell, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued between $2,500 and $10,000. The trial court sentenced him to serve eight years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him because it improperly enhanced his sentence based on enhancement factor (2), that “The defendant was a leader in the commission of an offense involving two (2) or more criminal actors[.]” T.C.A. § 40-35-114(2) (2014). He also contends that his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
Julie Bauer v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00120-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

In 2013, the Petitioner, Julie Bauer, pleaded guilty to attempted murder with an agreed sentence of twenty-nine years of incarceration. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied her petition because she received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/18
Sherilyne D. Duty v. East Tennessee Children's Hospital Association, Inc.
E2017-02027-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyer

Sherilyne Duty (“Employee”) was employed by East Tennessee Children’s Hospital (“Employer”) as a unit secretary. On March 22, 2006, she was assaulted by a visitor in the waiting area of the pediatric intensive care unit (“PICU”). She sustained an injury to her eye and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) as a result of the incident. A settlement was reached as to all aspects of her workers’ compensation except the issue of temporary total disability. The settlement was approved by the Department of Labor, and Employee then brought this action seeking temporary disability benefits from July 2007 until November 2015. Employer contended Employee was not entitled to benefits because she was able to work and because she had been terminated for cause. The trial court denied the claim, finding Employee’s medical proof was not credible. Employee appeals, contending the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s 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.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Jaselyn Grant
W2017-00936-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Jaselyn Grant, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of second degree murder, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault and was sentenced to an effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the minor victim; (2) the trial court erred in allowing a witness to testify about statements the minor victim made to her; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain her convictions; and (4) the trial court erred in including a “defense of another” instruction in the jury charge. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Dale Vinson Merritt
E2017-01199-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, Dale Merritt, was convicted by a Knox County jury of one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park and one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a child care agency. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant to seventeen years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Cameron Buchanan
W2017-01795-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

“The Movant,” Cameron Buchanan, filed a “Motion to Vacate, Correct Clerical Error, and/or, otherwise Set Aside an Illegal Sentence” (“the motion”). The gist of the Movant’s claim is that his fifteen-year sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping in case 98-09641 was ordered to be served concurrently, not consecutively, with his fifteenyear sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping in case 98-09629, and therefore, his effective sentence was twenty-five years, not thirty years. The trial court treated the motion as a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 motion to correct clerical mistakes in the judgments and summarily dismissed the motion finding “that there [we]re no clerical errors as alleged by [the Movant].” We determine that there are clerical errors in the judgments for cases 98-09635 through 98-09639 and case 98-09641. The errors in the judgments also correspond with the language of the “Negotiated Plea Agreement” forms for cases 98-09635 through 98-09639 and case 98-09641. Additionally, the trial court did not address the Movant’s Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 claim that his sentence was illegal. The judgment summarily dismissing the motion is reversed, and the case remanded for correction of the clerical errors, which may require appointment of counsel and a hearing, and for determination as to whether or not the motion stated a colorable claim under Rule 36.1.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Andrew De Bose-Maben
W2017-00969-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Andrew De Bose-Maben (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery, for which the trial court imposed a sentence of nine years to serve in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the State to question the victim about his interaction with the Defendant during a recess at trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/18