Court Opinions

Format: 11/22/2017
Format: 11/22/2017
Quinton Albert Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02574-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The pro se Petitioner, Quinton Albert Cage, appeals the denial of his motion to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief.  Following our review, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the Petitioner failed to comply with the statutory requirements to seek discretionary review of a motion to reopen post-conviction proceedings.   

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/17
Natalie Sharp v. Tennessee Department of Commerce And Insurance
M2016-01207-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This appeal involves the trial court’s order of disclosure of certain public records over the objection of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the corresponding denial of attorney fees for failure to disclose the said records. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Susan Jo Walls - Concurring in result only
M2014-01972-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

I concur only in the result in this case. The defendant is not entitled to a new trial based on waiver and the absence of plain error. The majority errs by proceeding further and establishing the appellate standard of review regarding late-night court proceedings. By addressing the appellate standard of review under the guise of a plain error analysis, the majority overreaches and violates longstanding, conservative prohibitions on issuing advisory opinions. 

Bedford County Supreme Court 11/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Susan Jo Walls
M2014-01972-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

We granted this appeal by the State of Tennessee to consider whether the trial court erred by allowing the jury in this case to deliberate late into the night and early morning on the last day of trial before convicting the defendant of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the defendant relief on this issue, reasoning that absent a showing of unusual circumstances, late-night trial proceedings should be avoided and that such circumstances were not presented in this case. We accepted this appeal to examine this issue and clarify the applicable standard of review on appeal. Following our review, we conclude that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in concluding that the trial court’s conducting late-night trial proceedings requires reversal of the defendant’s convictions. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed and the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.  

Bedford County Supreme Court 11/09/17
Jason Lee Holley v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00510-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, Jason Lee Holley, entered a guilty plea to one count of possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell in exchange for the dismissal of other charges. Petitioner received a twelve-year sentence as a Range II offender and was ordered to serve one year of the sentence day-for-day prior to being released to community corrections for the balance of the sentence. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. Because Petitioner failed to show that he received ineffective assistance of counsel or that his guilty plea was unknowingly and involuntarily entered, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/17
Adnan A. Alattiyat v. Faiza A. Qasqas
W2016-00855-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This is a divorce case. Appellant/Husband appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for summary judgment, his motion to vacate the pendente lite award, the division of marital property, and the award of alimony. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Lavely L. Brown
E2016-02099-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Lavely L. Brown, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court denying the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Charles Timothy Krauss, Alias
E2016-02329-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Charles Timothy Krauss, alias, pled guilty to two counts of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000 and received a total effective sentence of ten years as a Range III, persistent offender. He applied for but was denied probation. Additionally, the trial court denied his request for pretrial jail credits for the time he had spent in confinement in Mississippi. He filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 motion requesting jail credits for the period from January 9, 2013, to February 9, 2016. According to the Defendant, he was entitled to the credits because he had requested, pursuant to the Interstate Compact on Detainers, that he be transferred to Tennessee to answer to the Knox County charges. The trial court denied the motion, and we affirm that denial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Lee Clymer
M2016-01124-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Brandon Lee Clymer, was convicted of rape of a child by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury. He is serving a twenty-six-year, Range II sentence. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the victim’s forensic interview, (3) the trial court erred in admitting the Defendant’s pretrial statement without redacting opinions expressed by police officers, (4) the trial court erred in overruling the Defendant’s objection to the State’s rebuttal closing argument, (5) he is entitled to a new trial due to cumulative trial error, and (6) the trial court imposed an unconstitutional and excessive sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/17
Jason Donaldson v. Susan Donaldson
E2017-01806-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nicole Cantrell

This is an appeal from an order granting a motion filed pursuant to Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The order on appeal vacated and set aside the Final Decree of Divorce, Permanent Parenting Plan and Marital Dissolution Agreement previously entered by the Trial Court in the proceedings below. The appellee has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal arguing that the lack of a final judgment deprives this Court of jurisdiction. We agree and grant the motion to dismiss.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/09/17
Charles D. Belk v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00700-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

The Petitioner, Charles D. Belk, appeals the Obion County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of introducing a controlled substance into a penal institution, a Class C felony; Class C felony unlawful possession of a weapon; Class D felony unlawful possession of a weapon; possessing marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, a Class E felony; and simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor, and resulting effective sentence of twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he received the ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/17
Linda Beard v. James William Branson, et al
M2014-01770-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

This appeal is before the court on remand from the Supreme Court for our consideration of two issues that were not resolved by the Supreme Court in Beard v. Branson, No. M2014-01770-SC-R11-CV, __ S.W.3d __, 2017 WL 3725519 (Tenn. Aug. 30, 2017). This is a medical malpractice, wrongful death action in which Plaintiff seeks to hold Trinity Hospital, LLC (“Trinity”) and James William Branson, M.D. (“Dr. Branson”), liable for the wrongful death of Ruth Hartley on September 29, 2004. Plaintiff alleged that Mrs. Hartley died because of delay in treatment of a bowel perforation she developed as a complication of colon surgery performed by Dr. Branson. In a partial summary judgment ruling, the trial court determined that a non-party, Stanley Anderson, M.D. (“Dr. Anderson”), the radiologist with whom Trinity contracted to provide services to its patients, was an apparent agent of Trinity and that Trinity was vicariously liable for any negligent acts or omissions of Dr. Anderson. Following a trial, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $750,000.00, allocating 50% of the fault for Mrs. Hartley’s death to Trinity, 10% to Dr. Anderson, and 40% to Dr. Branson. The two issues we must consider are: (1) whether the trial court erred in granting partial summary judgment to Plaintiff by finding that Dr. Anderson was the apparent agent of Trinity; and (2) whether the trial court erred in assessing discretionary costs in the amount of $68,945.85 against Trinity. Finding no error, we affirm.

Houston County Court of Appeals 11/08/17
ADP, LLC v. Eric Manchir
M2016-02541-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This appeal concerns an employment-related restrictive covenant. Eric Manchir (“Manchir”) worked as a sales manager for ADP, LLC (“ADP”), a company that deals in human resources and business outsourcing matters. As a prerequisite to obtaining restricted stock options from ADP, Manchir consented to a restrictive covenant agreement (“the Agreement”). The Agreement contained, among other things, a non-competition clause extending to twelve months after Manchir left ADP. New Jersey law governs the Agreement. Manchir later resigned from ADP and went to work for an ADP competitor, Paycor, Inc. (“Paycor”). ADP sued Manchir in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) for breach of contract and sought specific enforcement of the Agreement. ADP filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Trial Court granted. The Trial Court also awarded ADP, pursuant to a provision in the Agreement, attorney’s fees and costs. Manchir appeals. We hold, inter alia, that the Agreement is reasonable and enforceable under New Jersey law, that Manchir breached the Agreement, and that specific performance is an appropriate remedy. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/08/17
In Re Brooklyn S., Et Al
M2017-00390-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This is a dependent and neglect action in which the mother of three minor children appeals the circuit court’s finding that her children were subjected to severe abuse and that she “either committed the severe abuse herself, or knowingly failed to protect her four month old infant from the severe abuse that led to his death.” Mother contends the circuit court erred by allowing three grandparents who intervened in the juvenile court proceedings to fully participate as parties in the circuit court proceedings. She further contends the circuit court failed to conduct a true de novo hearing following her appeal from the juvenile court, and that the circuit court erred by admitting the transcripts from the juvenile court hearings into evidence. We affirm the trial court in all respects but one. We find the evidence insufficient to clearly and convincingly establish that Mother committed the severe abuse herself; however, we affirm the circuit court’s ruling that Mother committed severe child abuse by knowingly failing to protect Hunter from the severe abuse that led to his death.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 11/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Taris C. Frazier
M2016-02397-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Taris C. Frazier, was convicted by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, Class A felonies; three counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies; resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor; and criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to an effective term of seventy-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to his sentence in another case. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence convicting him of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/17
In Re Ashton B.
W2017-00372-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

The partial guardian of the child appeals the trial court’s order assessing the totality of the guardian ad litem’s fees to it following the denial of the partial guardian’s termination of parental rights petition. Because guardian ad litem’s fees may be assessed against parties pursuant to Rules 17.03 and 54.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure in parental termination proceedings, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/07/17
B&W Pipeline, LLC v. Tennessee Regulatory Authority Et Al.
M2016-02013-COA-R12-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge:

B&W Pipeline, LLC (“B&W”), a public utility that owns a gas pipeline in three Tennessee counties, filed a petition with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (“the Authority”) seeking a rate increase. As part of the rate increase request, B&W sought to include in the rate base $2.6 million in acquisition costs that it had incurred when it purchased the pipeline and several oil and gas wells in 2010. A contested case hearing took place on September 14, 2015. Following deliberation, the Authority denied B&W’s proposed acquisition adjustment and instead utilized a 2008 federal income tax return filed by the pipeline’s previous owner to establish the pipeline’s value for the purpose of determining the rate base. The Authority issued its final order on March 10, 2016. B&W timely filed a motion for reconsideration. The Authority denied the motion for reconsideration with respect to the value of the pipeline while granting the motion for reconsideration with respect to certain due diligence and other costs B&W incurred in the acquisition. After the submission of briefs, the Authority affirmed its decision to exclude the additional acquisition costs. The Authority issued a final order concerning reconsideration on August 4, 2016. B&W filed a timely petition for review with this Court on October 3, 2016. Discerning no error, we affirm the Authority’s decision.

Court of Appeals 11/06/17
Christine Greenwood v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2016-00897-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This is a case about an unleashed German shepherd. The dog belonged to Appellant’s neighbor, who allowed the dog to remain unleashed in his yard. Appellant reported this to several employees of the City of Memphis, who ultimately determined that the dog was appropriately restrained in the neighbor’s yard by an invisible electric fence. Appellant was unsatisfied with this determination and filed suit against the City and its employees for tort claims and violations of her constitutional rights. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/06/17
Ray W. Buck v. Accurate C & Services, Inc., ET Al.
E2017-00231-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Elledge

Ray W. Buck (“Plaintiff”) appeals the January 4, 2017 order of the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to Accurate C & S Services, Inc. (“Accurate”) and R&R Properties of Tennessee, LLC (“R&R”) in this suit for premises liability. We find and hold that the defendants made properly supported motions for summary judgment and that Plaintiff failed to respond with genuine disputed issues of material fact showing that a rational trier of fact could find in his favor. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/06/17
In Re: Conservatorship of Glen Travis Campbell
M2016-02563-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

This appeal involves attorney’s fees awarded during the course of a conservatorship. Upon a petition filed by the ward’s eldest two children, a response filed by the ward’s spouse, the report of a court-appointed guardian ad litem, and a mediated agreement, the probate court entered an order establishing a conservatorship for the ward and appointing the ward’s spouse as conservator on May 11, 2015. During the course of the conservatorship, the trial court found in three instances at issue that the conservator was entitled to attorney’s fees in disputes involving various requests to release information concerning the ward in a public forum. The trial court subsequently denied a motion to set aside, vacate, and stay enforcement filed by the original petitioners, who have appealed to this Court. Having determined that the original petitioners were given insufficient notice of two of the three hearings resulting in the assessment of attorney’s fees and costs against them, we vacate the trial court’s respective orders awarding attorney’s fees and costs in those two instances. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects at issue on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/03/17
Anthony Holder, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee
W2017-00609-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is the second appeal of this governmental tort liability action. After his son committed suicide while in custody at the Shelby County Jail, Appellee filed suit against the Appellant Shelby County for negligence under a theory of vicarious liability. On remand from this Court, the trial court held a bench trial and determined that Appellant’s employee’s failure to perform wellness checks was negligent conduct but not intentional. Accordingly, the trial court held that Appellant was not immune from suit under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205, and entered judgment in favor of Appellee. Shelby County appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/03/17
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Michael Johnson
M2016-01479-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Zachary Michael Johnson, was indicted for five counts of rape by force or coercion, a Class B felony, all involving the same victim and occurring over a short period of time. The jury convicted him of the lesser offense of sexual battery, a Class E felony, in two counts of the indictment and acquitted him of the remaining three counts of the indictment. The trial court subsequently sentenced him as Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of two years for each conviction, suspended to three years of supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and argues that the trial court committed plain error by not instructing the jury on the lesser-included offense of assault by extremely offensive or provocative physical contact. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the convictions but that the trial court erred in not instructing the jury as to the lesser-included offense. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of conviction and remand for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/17
In Re Conservatorship of Otto Tillman Stiefel
W2016-02598-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathleen N. Gomes

This is a conservatorship dispute. The trial court found that there was clear and convincing evidence that Appellant was in need of a conservator. We conclude that the evidence presented at trial was not clear and convincing as to whether Appellant was in need of a conservator. Because there is some question in the record, however, as to whether the parties reached an agreement to allow the appointment of a conservator, we vacate and remand this case to determine this issue. Reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/03/17
State of Tennessee v. Kevin E. Trent
E2015-00753-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge John McAfee

Kevin E. Trent pled guilty to one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication. He was sentenced by agreement as a Range I standard offender to eight years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court after a hearing. The trial court subsequently ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. On direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and, additionally, affirmatively ordered the Defendant to be placed on full probation. We granted the State’s application for permission to appeal to review the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to reverse the trial court’s order that the Defendant serve his sentence in confinement and to affirmatively order that the Defendant be placed on full probation. We agree with the Court of Criminal Appeals that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings for the appellate courts to review the sentence with a presumption of reasonableness. Moreover, our review of the record reveals it is inadequate to conduct an independent review of the sentence imposed by the trial court. As a result, we also hold that the record is not sufficient to support the Court of Criminal Appeals’ modification of the Defendant’s sentence to order full probation. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, vacate the sentencing determination of the trial court, and remand this matter to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.   

Claiborne County Supreme Court 11/03/17
Phillip Alexander McWilliams v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00275-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Petitioner, Phillip Alexander McWilliams, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated domestic assault and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After a review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we determine Petitioner has failed to establish that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/02/17