Court Opinions

Format: 11/11/2019
Format: 11/11/2019
In Re Janiyah J. Et Al.
E2018-02006-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory ground of severe child abuse and that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/04/19
Stephny Young, et al. v. Paxton V. Dickson, M.D.
W2019-01442-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B petition for recusal appeal was filed in this Court after the trial court denied a motion for recusal. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/03/19
State of Tennessee v. Raymond Watison
W2018-00552-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The defendant, Raymond Watison, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree premeditated murder, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the statements he gave to the police following his arrest, that the trial court erred by admitting certain testimony in violation of evidence rule 404(b), that the trial court erred by permitting the State to admit the defendant’s statements as rebuttal evidence, that the State knowingly presented false testimony, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the prosecutor impermissibly misled the jury during closing argument, and that the cumulative effect of the errors deprived him of a fair trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Teresa Adams v. Rich Products Corporation
W2018-00288-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davise
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joedae Jenkins

Teresa Adams (“Employee”), a general laborer at Rich Products Corporation (“Employer”) developed carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands. After two separate surgeries, Employee developed bilateral hand stiffness and deformity of her fingers. Due to the disparity between the impairment ratings assigned by her treating physician and the Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) physician, Employer sought review through the Medical Impairment Rating Registry (MIR) program. The MIR physician opined that Employee suffered from inflammatory arthritis unrelated to her employment. The IME physician disagreed with the MIR physician’s impairment rating and diagnosed Employee with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”). The trial court found that Employee rebutted the presumed accuracy of the MIR physician’s impairment rating by clear and convincing evidence. Employer has appealed alleging that the accurate impairment rating presumption was not rebutted. 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.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 08/30/19
Dantario Burgess v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01707-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Dantario Burgess, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Glenn A. Stark v. Jana A. Burks
W2018-01283-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Brigham

In this action concerning enforcement or modification of a permanent parenting plan, the trial court analyzed the issues in accordance with the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated Title 36 concerning child custody matters, rather than Title 37, involving dependency and neglect proceedings. Following the trial court’s modification of the parties’ permanent parenting plan, the father filed post-trial motions seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem and entry of an order providing for joint counseling sessions with the father and the child. The trial court denied these motions and awarded the mother attorney’s fees as the prevailing party pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-103(c). The father has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Henry County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Rashida Tyquisha Groomster
M2018-00579-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Jury in Case No. 2017-C-1591 convicted Defendant, Rashida Tyquisha Groomster, of theft of property over $1,000 in value. She also pled guilty to theft of property less than $1,000 in value in Case No. 2017-B-1407. The trial court initially imposed an effective one-year sentence to be served in confinement. However, an amended judgment was subsequently entered indicating that Defendant was to serve her effective one-year sentence on community corrections. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction for theft of property over $1,000 in value, that the trial court improperly denied her request for judicial diversion, and the trial court erred by denying alternative sentencing. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Dominique Alexander Booker
E2018-00777-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

In 2017, the Defendant, Dominque Alexander Booker, pleaded guilty to three counts in two separate cases, and the trial court sentenced him to a probationary sentence. In 2018, the Defendant’s probation officer filed a probation violation warrant alleging that the Defendant had violated his probation by committing assault and vandalism and by not notifying his probation officer of the new offenses. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation sentences for both cases. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it admitted into evidence the police officer’s recount of the victim’s statements about the assault as an excited utterance over the Defendant’s hearsay objection. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Devin Whiteside v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02051-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Devin Whiteside, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his guilty-pleaded convictions of aggravated robbery, alleging that his guilty pleas were invalid because he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Raymon Muhammad
W2018-02141-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Raymon Muhammad, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Erik Standback
W2018-01804-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Erik Standback, of attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and reckless endangerment. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of eighteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Ronnie Ingram v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01875-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Ronnie Ingram, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Samuel Winkfield v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01873-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Samuel Winkfield, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his second degree murder and tampering with evidence convictions, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Wayne Jackson
M2017-01528-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant with second degree murder (count one), vehicular homicide (count two), aggravated assault (count three), failure to complete boating safety certification (count four), and operating a motorboat without a valid identification number (count five). Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant entered a guilty plea to reckless homicide, a lesser included offense of second degree murder (count one). The plea agreement further provided that the Defendant plead guilty as a Range II, multiple offender pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706, 709 (Tenn. 1997) (holding that a knowing and voluntary guilty plea waives any irregularity as to offender classification or release eligibility), with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of his sentence. In exchange for the Defendant’s plea of guilty, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining counts in the indictment. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of five-years’ imprisonment. Ten days later, the Defendant filed a motion to modify his sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Following a second hearing, the trial court denied relief and imposed the same sentence. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant and in failing to grant his Rule 35 motion to modify the sentence. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Clarence Reed Julian
E2019-00074-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

Defendant, Clarence Reed Julian, pled guilty to criminal simulation in exchange for a sentence of two years as a Range II, multiple offender with the manner of service of the sentence to be determined after a sentencing hearing. At the hearing, the trial court denied an alternative sentence, ordering Defendant to serve the sentence in incarceration. Defendant appeals. After a review, we determine there is a clerical error in the judgment form. The judgment form wrongly designates Defendant as a Range I, standard offender and the technical record indicates that Defendant, as a Range I offender, has already received the benefit of Determinate Release from the Department of Correction. We remand for entry of a corrected judgment form, designating Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender, requiring Defendant to complete his sentence as such an offender. Otherwise, we affirm the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Chivon G.
E2018-02012-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on the minor child of the mother/appellant. The child was placed in the legal custody of the petitioner/appellee on November 8, 2016, based upon the trial court’s finding that the child was dependent and neglected while in the mother’s care. On June 7, 2018, the petitioner filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of the mother upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the mother had abandoned the child by willfully failing to provide financial support and (2) the conditions leading to the child’s removal from the mother’s home persisted. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The mother has appealed. Having determined that the statutory ground of persistence of the conditions leading to removal was not proven by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse the trial court’s finding as to this ground. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the mother’s parental rights to the child.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Nina Villalba Et Al. v. Ciara McCown
E2018-01433-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

In this personal injury action arising from an automobile accident, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant upon finding that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate service of process in the originally filed action, which had been dismissed, such that the plaintiffs’ refiled action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiffs have appealed. Having determined that, pursuant to the version of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(11) in effect at the time that the initial complaint was filed, the plaintiffs demonstrated valid service of process of the initial complaint, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to the defendant and grant partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs concerning the affirmative defenses of ineffective service of process and expiration of the statute of limitations. We remand this action for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Matasia R. Et Al.
E2018-01834-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Johnny Alan Howell Et Al. v. Nelson Gray Enterprises Et AL.
E2019-00033-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

This appeal involves a motorcycle/vehicle collision that occurred when a vehicle exited from a restaurant parking lot and collided with the plaintiffs’ motorcycle on a public highway. The plaintiffs filed a negligence and premises liability claim against the property owner, the restaurant owner, and the franchisee. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and noted that the defendants did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs, effectively negating an essential element of the plaintiffs’ claim. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the grant of summary judgment by the trial court.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Brenlee F.
E2018-01498-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment by her (1) failure to visit; (2) failure to support; and (3) conduct that exhibited a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We reverse the trial court on its finding that the mother abandoned the child by failing to remit support. We affirm the trial court on all other rulings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Randy Champion
W2018-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Randy Champion, of one count of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of attempt to commit second degree murder, two counts of employment of a firearm, one count of attempt to commit especially aggravated robbery, and one count of attempt to commit aggravated robbery. For these convictions, the trial court ordered an effective sentence of twenty-four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to prove his identity as a perpetrator of the offenses, that the trial court improperly denied his motion for severance, and that the State presented inconsistent theories of prosecution at trial. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
James Walter Grooms, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01777-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

The petitioner, James Walter Grooms, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, which petition challenged his conviction for two counts of aggravated assault, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael Andrew Lethco
E2018-01042-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The defendant, Michael Andrew Lethco, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery for which he received a nine-year sentence. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and asserts the State elicited improper testimony from the victim regarding other instances of abuse which prejudiced the defendant. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
Arnold Cunningham v. Sunice, Inc.
M2018-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

A Canadian company hired an independent contractor domiciled in Tennessee to market its sportswear to golfers on the PGA Tour. After the Canadian company terminated the contract, the independent contractor filed a breach of contract action in Tennessee. The Canadian company moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding insufficient minimum contacts with Tennessee, the trial court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, we conclude that the plaintiff failed to establish sufficient minimum contacts for the exercise of general or specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. So we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/19
In Re Estate of Jerry Bradley Espy
M2018-01594-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tolbert Gilley

The only child of the decedent contests the validity of her father’s will on the grounds that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity, and the will was the result of his step-daughter’s undue influence. When the step-daughter, who was designated as the executrix and sole beneficiary, filed a petition to admit the will to probate, the daughter filed a will contest. Following discovery, the step-daughter filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the will contest. The motion was properly supported by a statement of undisputed facts that principally relied on the affidavit of the attorney who prepared the decedent’s will and attended the execution of the will. The attorney’s affidavit stated that the decedent was of sound mind when he executed his will and that the step-daughter, who was the sole beneficiary of the will, was not involved in the preparation of the will and was not present when the will was executed. The motion for summary judgment was also supported by the affidavit of a nurse who cared for the decedent at the veterans’ home and who also witnessed the execution of the will. The nurse testified that he was responsible for the day to day care of the decedent for three years and interacted with him on a daily basis. He also testified that he witnessed the genuine love and affection the decedent and his step-daughter shared, that the decedent wanted to leave everything to her, and that the decedent “was of sound mind and memory when he signed his Will in my presence.” The daughter filed a response to the motion; however, she failed to make specific citations to the record, as Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03 requires, of facts that would support her contentions of lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence. She also filed medical records concerning the decedent’s medical history; however, the records were not authenticated. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment based on the finding that there was no genuine dispute of material facts and the step-daughter was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/29/19