Court Opinions

Format: 02/16/2018
Format: 02/16/2018
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
State of Tennessee v. Edward Jerome Harbison
E2017-00520-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge. J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The defendant, Edward Jerome Harbison, was convicted of first-degree murder, second degree burglary, and grand larceny for the 1983 death of Edith Russell and sentenced to death. State v. Harbison, 704 S.W.2d 314 (Tenn. 1986). The defendant’s death sentence was eventually commuted, and he is currently serving a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. After numerous appeals, the defendant filed the present motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The defendant argues his sentence under the prior Tennessee statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-2-202(a) (1982), is unconstitutional in addition to a plethora of other claims. Having reviewed the record and the procedural history of the defendant’s convictions, we conclude that the defendant’s claims are either not cognizable under Rule 36.1 and/or have been previously reviewed and resolved by our courts. As a result, the defendant is not entitled to relief.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/01/18
Suntrust Bank v. Matthew Robert Ritter
E2017-01045-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

A bank filed an action against a debtor to collect the outstanding balance on an installment loan approximately five and one-half years after the cause of action accrued. After finding that Florida’s five-year statute of limitations for actions on contracts applied, the trial court denied the bank’s motion for summary judgment and granted the debtor’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The bank appeals, and we reverse the trial court’s judgment.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 02/01/18
Eddie Charles Warlick v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00703-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Eddie Charles Warlick, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which petition challenged his 2015 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/18
State of Tennessee v. Roy Lee Ellis
W2017-00699-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Carroll County Grand Jury issued a five-count indictment in Case No. 2015-CR-8, charging Roy Lee Ellis (“the Defendant”) with especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, aggravated assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, and theft of services. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was found guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia but was acquitted of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, and aggravated assault of A.H., an adult female. The theft of services count was not presented to the jury. Based on video images captured from one of the Defendant’s cellular phones during the police investigation into Case No. 2015-CR-8, the State also obtained an indictment of the Defendant for two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in Case No. 2016-CR-87. The Defendant filed a “Motion to Quash Indictment Because [o]f Misjoinder and/or Double Jeopardy” (“the Motion”). Following a hearing on the motion, the trial court found that the State violated the mandatory joinder requirement of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) and dismissed the indictment, and the State appealed. Because the two counts of sexual exploittion of a minor were not “based on the same conduct” nor did they “arise from the same criminal episode” as the offenses for which the Defendant was tried, we reverse the trial court, reinstate the indictment in Case No. 2016-CR-87, and remand for further proceedings.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/18
TWB Architects, Inc. v. The Braxton, LLC, Et Al.
M2017-00423-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor David D. Wolfe

This is the second appeal in a dispute over enforcement of a mechanic’s lien. An architect entered into an architect agreement with the developer to build a condominium project in Ashland City, Tennessee. The architect later entered into a purchase agreement with the successor developer to receive a penthouse as “consideration of design fees owed” on the first contract. The architect never received payment for its work and filed suit against the successor developer and its surety to enforce its mechanic’s lien for the amount owed under the architect agreement. The trial court held that the purchase agreement was a novation, extinguishing the rights and obligations of the parties under the architect agreement. In the first appeal, this Court found a lack of intent for a novation and, therefore, reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. On remand, after additional discovery, the architect moved for summary judgment on its claim. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the architect. In this appeal, the developer argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on its defense of novation and multiple other defenses. We affirm the decision of the trial court.  

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 01/31/18
In Re Michael J.
M2016-01985-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport

Putative father appeals the juvenile court’s adjudication of parentage, arguing that the court erred in considering a paternity test report previously entered as an exhibit in proceedings before a magistrate. Although the court erred in taking judicial notice of the report, we conclude the error was harmless. We also conclude that the preponderance of the evidence supports the court’s paternity determination. Thus, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/31/18
Starlink Logistics, Inc. v. ACC, LLC, Et Al.
M2014-00362-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

In this case, several entities were attempting to address the pollution issues of Sugar Creek and Arrow Lake. An Amended and Restated Consent Order was approved. StarLink Logistics, Inc., a property owner, appealed. Initially, this court reversed. After an appeal, the Supreme Court of Tennessee remanded for this court to review under the proper standard of review. We now affirm the trial court’s decision to approve the Consent Order.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/31/18
State of Tennessee v. Sandra Kay Stutts
W2016-01681-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Sandra Kay Stutts, was convicted by a Dyer County jury of one count of burglary of an automobile and one count of misdemeanor theft of property valued at $500 or less. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to one year in confinement for burglary of an automobile and to eleven months and twenty-nine days for misdemeanor theft and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve sixty days of her sentence in confinement and the remainder on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict her of burglary and of theft and that the trial court erred in sentencing her to continuous confinement for the non-violent property offense of burglary of an automobile. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court with respect to sufficiency of the evidence for both convictions but reverse the judgment for burglary of an automobile as to sentencing and remand for imposition of an appropriate sentence.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/18