Court Opinions

Format: 02/20/2018
Format: 02/20/2018
State of Tennessee v. Dwight Michael Alston
W2017-00184-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker

A Tipton County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Dwight Michael Alston, of first degree premeditated murder, and he received a life sentence. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because it fails to show he premeditated the killing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Ware
W2016-02082-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

Defendant, Timothy Ware, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated sexual battery. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to 16 years’ confinement. On appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain his conviction. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/18
Curtis Keller v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00416-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Curtis Keller, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which Petitioner alleged that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/18
Louis Garassino v. Western Express, Inc., Et Al.
M2016-02431-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joshua Baker

Louis Garassino (“Employee”) sustained a compensable lower back injury in the course of his work as a truck driver for Western Express (“Employer”). After a compensation hearing, the trial court awarded benefits to Employee. The order also awarded discretionary costs, in an unspecified amount. The parties disagreed over the issue. Employee filed a motion to award discretionary costs, including the fees of his examining doctor for reviewing records and conducting the examination. The trial court awarded those fees. Employer appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, which reversed the trial court as to the award of those two items. Employee has appealed, and the appeal has been assigned to this Panel pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.  

Workers Compensation Panel 02/08/18
Quinton Clovis v. Raquel Hatter, Commissioner, Tennessee Department Of Human Services
M2017-00203-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young

Quinton Clovis (“Plaintiff”) appeals the February 7, 2017 order of the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) ordering, inter alia, that the Tennessee Department of Human Services (“the Department”) reinstate Plaintiff’s food stamp benefits. We find and hold that Plaintiff is not an aggrieved party, and thus, lacks standing to appeal. We, therefore, dismiss this appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/08/18
Maurice Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00037-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

Maurice Johnson (“the Petitioner”) appeals the Bradley County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of first degree felony murder, for which he was sentenced to life without parole. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to: (1) adequately investigate potential witnesses; (2) adequately investigate two witnesses who testified at trial; (3) prepare the Petitioner for testimony; (4) object to irrelevant and prejudicial evidence relating to the Petitioner’s drug dealing and “the Sweetwater fight”; (5) question co-defendant Twanna Blair about her statement to police that the perpetrators were white men; and (6) adequately protect the Petitioner’s appellate rights. The Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to relief based on these claims individually and based on the cumulative effect of these errors. The Petitioner additionally asserts that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief “in the face of structural error.” Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/18
Victoria Leanne Potts v. Timothy S. Potts
E2016-02283-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This appeal involves a contentious continuing dispute over visitation with the parties’ young daughter. After numerous hearings, the trial court reluctantly continued limited structured visitation to the mother. The principal issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court’s rulings were in the best interests of the child. Having carefully reviewed the voluminous record before us, we find that the evidence supports the parenting plan determination and other rulings made by the court.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 02/08/18
Alecia Gaynell King McKay v. Michael Patrick McKay
M2016-01989-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna B. Johnson

This post-divorce action primarily involves a provision in the parties’ marital dissolution agreement (“MDA”) concerning disposition of the marital residence. The parties were divorced in 2011. The wife filed a petition in March 2015, seeking, inter alia, to enforce the divorce decree and MDA by obtaining an order requiring the husband to vacate the marital residence so that she could reside there with the parties’ minor child and her three foster children. The MDA provides that the wife is to retain sole and exclusive possession of the marital residence until it is sold while the husband is to deposit one-half of the monthly mortgage payment into the wife’s personal checking account each month “in lieu of” spousal support. The MDA also provides that the marital residence would not be placed on the market for sale until January 1, 2013, but it does not supply a deadline by which the parties would have to place the home on the market. At the time that the wife commenced this action, the wife had vacated the home, and the husband had been residing there for approximately one year. Following a bench trial conducted in May 2016, the trial court granted the wife’s petition to enforce the MDA, entering an order directing the husband to vacate the marital residence immediately and to make needed repairs to the home. The court also found that a purported post-divorce oral agreement between the parties for the husband to purchase the wife’s share of the marital residence had not constituted a valid contract. Crediting the husband with $12,000.00 he had paid to the wife toward purchase of the marital residence as payment toward a spousal support arrearage, the trial court ordered the husband to pay additional spousal support arrears at a rate of $300.00 per month and to pay the wife’s attorney’s fees. Specifically at issue on appeal is a provision the trial court included in the order, directing that the wife, the parties’ minor child, and the wife’s three foster children could remain in the marital residence until the parties’ minor child, who was then eleven years of age, graduated from high school or became otherwise emancipated. Also finding that the husband had behaved in a harassing and intimidating manner toward the wife, the trial court granted the wife’s request for a restraining order in part, limiting the number of times each day the husband could text the wife and his minor child. Seeking to have the provision at issue set aside, the husband filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the trial court denied. The husband has appealed. Having determined that the trial court’s order impermissibly modified the MDA by creating an extended timeframe for sale of the marital residence not originally contemplated by the parties, we vacate the provision in the judgment allowing the wife to remain in the residence until the parties’ minor child graduates from high school or is otherwise emancipated. Inasmuch as the husband has raised this sole issue on appeal, we expressly do not disturb the remainder of the trial court’s judgment. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.      

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/07/18
State of Tennessee v. Ricardo Davidson
M2017-00598-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The Appellant, Ricardo Davidson, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/07/18
Jessie Morgan v. Memphis Light Gas & Water
W2016-01249-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

Plaintiff, who fell in a puddle of water on property adjacent to a water tower located on property owned by defendant, a governmental entity, brought suit under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, alleging that the water that caused him to fall was caused by drainage from the water tower on defendant’s property. Following a trial, the court held that there was no dangerous or defective condition in the water tower, such that it was foreseeable that a person would be injured, and that the defendant had no actual or constructive notice of any dangerous condition that caused plaintiff to fall; as a consequence the Governmental Tort Liability Act did not operate to remove immunity. The court also held that plaintiff and the owner of the property where plaintiff fell were each at least 50 per cent at fault and, therefore, plaintiff could not recover. Plaintiff appeals; discerning no error we affirm the judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/06/18
Christopher O'Dneal, et al. v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton, et al.
W2016-01912-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Plaintiff parents of infant who died in child birth appeal a jury verdict in favor of the medical provider defendants. During voir dire, the trial court denied Plaintiffs’ request for additional peremptory challenges under Tennessee Code Annotated section 22-3-104(b) on the basis that Plaintiffs were bringing their claim on behalf of the decedent infant. Based upon the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision in Beard v. Branson, 528 S.W.3d 487 (Tenn. 2017), we conclude that the trial court erred in treating Plaintiffs as a single “party plaintiff” and that Plaintiffs were entitled to eight peremptory challenges under the statute at issue. We also hold that under Tuggle v. Allright Parking Sys., Inc., 922 S.W.2d 107 (Tenn. 1996), the trial court’s error resulted in prejudice to the judicial process that necessitates a new trial. All other issues are pretermitted. Reversed and remanded.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 02/06/18
In Re Taya K.
M2017-00846-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

Mother and Stepfather filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights and to allow Stepfather to adopt the minor child. Following a hearing, the trial court terminated Father’s parental rights, finding that Father abandoned his child by willful failure to visit and support, and that Father failed to establish paternity of the child. The trial court also found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Father timely appealed. After review, we have determined that the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support two of the three grounds for termination, and to support the trial court’s conclusion that terminating Father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Thus, we affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 02/06/18
Chuck's Package Store Et Al. v. City of Morristown
E2015-01524-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

From 2011–2014, a municipality charged alcoholic beverage retailers higher inspection fees than was authorized by the municipality’s ordinance. A group of alcoholic beverage retailers paid the excess fees, but not under protest. After the municipality denied the retailers’ requests for refunds, they sued the municipality for recovery of the excess collections and other damages. The municipality moved to dismiss, arguing that Tennessee Code Annotated sections 67-1-901, et seq., required the retailers to have paid under protest any disputed taxes before filing suit to recover the overpayments. The trial court disagreed and awarded the retailers a judgment for the overpayments, ruling that Tennessee Code Annotated sections 67-1-1801, et seq., applied and payment under protest was not required. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We hold that Tennessee Code Annotated sections 67-1-901, et seq., rather than sections 67 1-1801, et seq., apply to a suit to recover municipal taxes. Under section 67-1-901(a), the retailers were required to have paid under protest the disputed taxes before filing suit. Because the retailers did not pay the taxes under protest, they are not entitled to refunds.

Hamblen County Supreme Court 02/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Rosemary L. Decosimo
E2017-00696-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

Defendant-Appellant Rosemary L. Decosimo entered a plea of nolo contendere to driving under the influence per se and reserved a certified question regarding the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss the indictment, or in the alternative, motion to suppress the test results from her blood test. She argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying her motion on the basis that Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-413(f), which gives the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation $250 for each DUI conviction that is obtained using a blood or breath test, is unconstitutional. For the reasons that follow, we agree with Decosimo and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/18
State of Tennessee v. David Way
E2016-02289-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

The Defendant-Appellant, David Way, appeals from his Sevier County jury convictions of burglary, theft over $1,000, vandalism over $1,000, and possession of burglary tools. As a career offender, he received an effective sentence of thirty-six years in confinement. The sole issues presented for our review are whether the trial court erred in denying Way’s motion to suppress certain evidence due to the State’s failure to establish a proper chain of custody and whether the evidence is sufficient to support each of his convictions. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/18
Randy Wayne Bennett v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00575-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Petitioner, Randy Wayne Bennett, appeals from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel led to his rejection of a more beneficial plea offer from the State. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Barbara Pinnix
M2017-00822-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The Defendant, Barbara Pinnix, pleaded guilty to attempted conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, and the trial court imposed an eight-year sentence, with the Defendant to serve twenty-seven days followed by the remainder of her sentence on probation. The Defendant’s probation officer filed an affidavit for a probation violation warrant, alleging that the Defendant had brought contraband into jail. The Defendant pleaded guilty to the revocation but later filed a motion to set aside the revocation order, claiming that her decision was hastily made. The trial court denied the motion, and the Defendant appeals. On appeal, she contends that the trial court erred when it denied her motion to withdraw her admission to a probation violation and that it should have reviewed her motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(f). After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/18
Cheryl Dortch, Personal Representative of Estate of Latavius Dujuan Dortch v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals, et al.
W2017-01121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This is a health care liability case. Appellant/Plaintiff first filed suit against Appellees/Defendants for medical malpractice in April 2014. Defendants filed motions to dismiss based on Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements for health care liability claims. Before the trial court could hear Defendants’ motions to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary nonsuit, and an order was entered thereon. Plaintiff subsequently re-filed her case against Defendants in September 2016 in reliance on the one year savings statute. Defendants moved the court to dismiss Plaintiff’s suit based on the statute of limitations. The trial court granted Defendants’ motions and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice, holding that, because Plaintiff’s original presuit notice was defective, her first complaint was untimely and she could not rely on the savings statute to revive a time-barred cause of action. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/05/18
Asata Dia Lowe v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
E2017-01109-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Petitioner, Asata Dia Lowe, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s summary denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2000 convictions for two counts of first degree murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery and his effective sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole plus twenty-five years. The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred by summarily dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Travis Eugene Taylor
M2017-00302-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Travis Eugene Taylor, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In exchange for his guilty pleas, he received consecutive sentences of fifteen years for voluntary manslaughter and six years for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Many years later, Defendant sought to set aside the trial court’s judgment, arguing that his convictions violated the principles of double jeopardy. Defendant appeals the denial of his motion. Because Defendant’s motion fails regardless of how it is construed, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Marvin Devon Summers
M2017-00033-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

A Bedford County jury found the Defendant, Marvin Devon Summers, guilty of theft of property valued between $10,000 and $60,000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve a ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient, his sentence is excessive, and he requests plain error review of "all objections" and "all issues regarding venue and jurisidiction." After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/18
Charvasea Lancaster v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00553-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Charvasea Lancaster, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because his trial counsel was ineffective in explaining the possible sentencing outcomes to him. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/18
Latisha Jones v. Trinity Minter, Warden
W2016-01697-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, Latisha Jones, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for a writ of habeas corpus, wherein she sought relief from her convictions for first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. In this appeal as of right, the Petitioner alleges that her convictions are void because she was illegally extradited from Mississippi to Tennessee, depriving the trial court of lawful jurisdiction. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/18
Dorothy Denise Cross v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00263-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Petitioner, Dorothy Denise Cross, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from her assault conviction, alleging that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to seek a continuance due to the Petitioner’s mental health issues. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/18
In Re Jabari B.
M2017-00557-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal 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 termination of the mother’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, and the persistence of conditions which led to removal. The court further found that termination of the mother’s rights was in the best interest of the child. The mother appeals. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/02/18