Court Opinions

Format: 10/22/2018
Format: 10/22/2018
State of Tennessee v. Rubin P. Pena
M2017-01663-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Rubin P. Pena, was convicted by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, a Class C felony, three counts of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-213 (2014) (amended 2015) (vehicular homicide by reckless conduct), 39-13-102 (reckless aggravated assault) (2014) (amended 2015), 55-10-101 (leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death) (2014). The Defendant was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender and received a six-year sentence for vehicular homicide by reckless conduct and concurrent four-year sentences for each reckless aggravated assault conviction. The Defendant also received a two-year consecutive sentence for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, for an effective sentence of eight years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his vehicular homicide by reckless conduct and reckless aggravated assault convictions and (2) the trial court erred during sentencing by applying certain enhancement factors. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Patricia Ann Bingham, a.k.a. Patricia Ann Starnes
M2017-02059-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The Defendant, Patricia Ann Bingham, a.k.a. Patricia Ann Starnes, appeals her jury conviction for aggravated robbery, for which she received a sentence of ten years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges the following errors: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction, arguing that the State failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that she personally assaulted the victim or directed her co-defendant during the robbery and that the State failed to prove that either she or her co-defendant used a deadly weapon to accomplish the robbery; and (2) that trial court failed to properly supervise the jury’s viewing of the surveillance video footage and that admission of the entire surveillance video was error because all of the angles contained on the recording were not properly authenticated. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/18
Katherine E. Anderson v. Ming Wang, Et Al.
M2018-00184-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a health care liability case. The trial court granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment on Appellant’s res ipsa loquitur claim under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115(c). Appellant appeals. Because Appellant presented sufficient evidence at the summary judgment stage to create a dispute of fact, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Martrell Holloway
W2017-01816-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Pro se Petitioner, Martrell Holloway, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his “Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order” and “Motion to Alter and Amend Judgment Dated August 16, 2017 Denying ‘Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order.’” On appeal, he argues that his original convictions are invalid because the trial court clerk failed to file-stamp his judgments of conviction in accordance with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(e) and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58. The State contends that the Petitioner’s appeal is not properly before this court, and despite the lack of jurisdiction, the Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the merits of his claim. Upon review, we agree with the State and dismiss this appeal pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Jamaal Austin
W2017-01632-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Jamaal Austin, was convicted by a jury of one count of first degree felony murder; one count of first degree premeditated murder; one count of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony; two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and one count of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-202, -13-402, -13-403, -14-403, -17-1324(b). The trial court then merged the first degree premeditated murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life imprisonment plus twenty-four years. On appeal, the defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his severance motion; (3) that his convictions violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy; (4) that the trial court failed to fulfill its duty as the thirteenth juror; and (5) that the trial court abused its discretion by imposing partial consecutive sentences. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery. We vacate that conviction and modify it to aggravated robbery. The case is remanded to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing on the modified conviction, entry of an amended judgment form reflecting the modification, and entry of corrected judgment form in Count 1 reflecting the trial court’s merger of the first degree premediated murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction. We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
Christopher M. Hooten v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00122-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Petitioner, Christopher M. Hooten, appeals the denial of his petition for post conviction relief from his convictions of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, aggravated robbery, and tampering with evidence. On appeal he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner also appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis based upon newly discovered evidence. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
Herbert T. Stafford v. Matthew L. Branan
M2018-00072-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey F. Stewart
Appellant appeals the trial court’s grant of an easement by implication in favor of Appellee along a common driveway on Appellant’s property. Because Appellee met his burden to establish an easement by implication, we affirm.
Sequatchie County Court of Appeals 10/05/18
GREGORY WHITE, ET AL. v. JACK MILLER, ET AL.
M2018-00381-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith
This is the second appeal of this action involving a residential real estate transaction decided upon cross motions for summary judgment. We remanded to the trial court for ruling upon the remaining claims of breach of fiduciary duty and a corresponding violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 62-13-404(2) raised in the complaint but not ruled upon by the trial court. Upon remand, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant real estate agent and brokerage firm. We affirm.
Wilson County Court of Appeals 10/05/18
Tina Y. Vaughn v. Kimberly Dickens-Durham
W2017-00716-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

Appellant, surviving child of Decedent, brought suit against Appellee, Decedent’s granddaughter, for alleged violations of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act. Appellant filed the lawsuit in her individual capacity, and the trial court dismissed the case, finding that Appellant lacked standing. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/04/18
In Re Marneasha D., et al.
W2017-02240-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the parental rights of two fathers to their respective children who were born to the same mother. On March 21, 2017, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and the children’s guardian ad litem jointly filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the children’s mother and the two fathers. Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated the parents’ parental rights to the children on multiple statutory grounds and upon a determination that termination of their parental rights was in the best interest of the children. Because we are unable to ascertain whether the trial court’s judgment is an independent judgment of the trial court, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for sufficient findings of facts and conclusions of law in compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1- 113(k) (2017).

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/04/18
State of Tennessee v. David Merrell Maness
W2017-02335-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant, David Merrell Maness, appeals the Henderson County Circuit Court’s order revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his sentence in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Jack Austin
W2017-02042-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

On July 19, 2017, the Defendant, Jack Austin, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to eight years and six months at 85% in the Department of Correction. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. He additionally argues that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence by misapplying an enhancement factor. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
Stephen B. Wlodarz v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
E2017-02252-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery H. Wicks

Petitioner, Stephen B. Wlodarz, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus from his 2001 convictions for first degree premeditated murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of manufacturing a Schedule VI controlled substance. Petitioner entered “best interest” pleas under North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S. Ct. 160, 27 L. Ed. 2d 162 (1970), and was sentenced to a total effective sentence of life imprisonment “without parole.” Following our review, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief. Therefore, we affirm the summary dismissal of his petition.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
Adriane Allen v. American Yeast, Inc., et al.
W2017-00874-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This appeal involves a post-mediation agreement reached between a plaintiff and the defendants following a car collision in Memphis, Tennessee. After the agreement was executed, the plaintiff refused to perform under the contract. The trial court determined that the agreement was an enforceable contract and ordered compliance with its terms. The plaintiff continued to refuse to perform, and the defendants filed a motion to hold the plaintiff in civil contempt. The plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion requesting the trial court to require the defendants to interplead the settlement funds despite the plaintiff’s nonperformance. The trial court denied the motion for civil contempt, granted the motion for interpleader of the settlement funds, and dismissed the case with prejudice. On appeal, we conclude that the plaintiff lost the ability to appeal the validity of the post-mediation agreement by failing to file a timely appeal. We further conclude that the trial court erred in considering the motion to interplead the settlement funds filed by the plaintiff’s attorney but affirm the trial court’s final order in all other respects. We, therefore, vacate in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/04/18
Victor Clark v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2018-00134-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Pro se Petitioner, Victor Clark, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Wayne County Circuit Court. The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether the Petitioner’s judgment of conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, see T.C.A. § 39-17-1324(b), is void because he was acquitted of the predicate dangerous felony of attempted second degree murder as charged in the indictment. After review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
In Re Kaycee M.
M2017-02160-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Stella L. Hargrove

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to support, abandonment based upon his conduct prior to incarceration, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility of the child. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
Janet Thornton v. Coffee County Board of Education
M2018-00300-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

This interlocutory appeal involves a complaint for damages under the Public Employee Political Freedom Act. The chancery court transferred the case to circuit court after determining that only unliquidated damages were “available” under the statute. We conclude that the complaint failed to allege any liquidated damages. As such, the chancery court correctly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this case. The trial court’s decision to transfer this case to circuit court is therefore affirmed.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
Vicki Baumgartner, Personal Representative Of The Estate of Richard R. Baumgartner v. Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System
M2017-01715-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal involves the forfeiture of the retirement benefits of a former Tennessee trial judge after he was convicted in federal court of numerous felonies arising out of his official capacity as a trial judge and constituting malfeasance in office. The former trial judge appealed the termination of his benefits and participated in a contested case proceeding before an administrative law judge, who ultimately determined that the retirement benefits were properly terminated based on the felony convictions and that the statute requiring such forfeiture was not unconstitutional as applied to the former trial judge. The chancery court agreed with these conclusions. We likewise conclude that the application of the forfeiture statute did not unconstitutionally impair the pension contract of the former trial judge, nor did it unilaterally impose an impermissible retrospective law or constitute an excessive fine. We further conclude that the retirement benefits were suspended as of the appropriate date, despite the former trial judge’s insistence to the contrary. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the chancery court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
Advanced Banking Services, Inc. v. Zones, Inc.
E2017-02095-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This action involves the applicability of a forum selection clause contained within a contract for the installation of two network telephone systems. On April 8, 2015, the seller corporation sent to the buyer corporation a twenty-four-page, itemized quote for equipment and licensing required for the network telephone systems, which the buyer corporation’s president signed and returned to the seller. The quote, consisting of a purchase order with specified terms and conditions on each page, contained provisions for “Shipping Terms” and “RETURNS.” Under the heading for returns, the purchase order stated that additional terms and conditions applied and were available on the seller’s website. Following a dispute, the buyer filed a complaint in the Rhea County Circuit Court (“trial court”) against the seller, alleging breach of contract, misrepresentation, negligence, and unjust enrichment. The seller subsequently filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue, citing a forum selection clause contained in the “General Terms and Conditions of Sale” from the seller’s website, which specified King County, Washington, as the sole venue for litigating the terms of the contract. In an Order entered September 27, 2017, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the forum selection clause was valid and enforceable. The buyer has appealed. Determining that the additional terms and conditions from the seller’s website were only applicable to returns and not to the contract as a whole, we reverse the trial court’s grant of the seller’s motion to dismiss.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
State of Tennessee v. Charles Phillip Maxwell
M2017-00865-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Defendant, Charles Phillip Maxwell, was convicted of driving on a suspended license (second offense) following a bench trial. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at sixty percent release eligibility and a fine of $2,500.00. On appeal, Defendant raises twenty-seven issues. A number of these issues we have deemed are waived. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
Delbert Collier v. Legends Park, LP, et al.
W2017-02313-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

This is a personal injury lawsuit. Plaintiff, while standing on a public street outside of his apartment, owned by Defendants, was approached from behind by an assailant. The assailant shot Plaintiff in each leg with an assault rifle and proceeded to rob him. Plaintiff sued Defendants for negligence, alleging that Defendants knew or should have known of the foreseeable presence of dangerous persons and that their failure to maintain the property in a safe condition was the direct cause of Plaintiff’s injuries. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff presented no proof that Defendants had notice of the assailant’s presence or an opportunity to prevent the shooting. We affirm, although on different grounds.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
State of Tennessee v. John Palladin Gibson - concurring in part and dissenting in part
E2017-01567-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

I agree with the majority’s conclusion to affirm Defendant’s conviction for driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license. Additionally, I agree with the majority’s conclusion on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. However, I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion to reverse both DUI convictions. I am of the opinion that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the blood-sample evidence because there was sufficient authentication to establish a chain of custody. Therefore, I would affirm the decision of the trial court regarding both DUI convictions. Further, even if the trial court erred in admitting the blood-sample evidence, it was harmless error with regard to the DUI by impairment conviction. A rational jury could have grounded its verdict on both Deputy Sulewski’s testimony and the dashboard video showing Defendant’s speech and performance on three field-sobriety tests. Therefore, I would affirm the conviction for DUI by impairment on that basis as well.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
State of Tennessee v. John Palladin Gibson
E2017-01567-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, John Palladin Gibson, was convicted of two counts of driving under the influence (DUI), Class A misdemeanors; two counts of fourth-offense DUI, Class E felonies; and one count of second or subsequent offense driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 55-10-401 (2013) (amended 2015) (DUI), 55-10-402(a)(4) (2013) (amended 2014, 2015, 2016) (fourthoffense DUI), 55-50-504 (2013) (amended 2016) (driving while privilege cancelled, suspended, or revoked). The trial court merged the DUI convictions and sentenced the Defendant, a career offender, to six years for DUI and eleven months, twenty-nine days for driving on a revoked license. The sentences were imposed concurrently. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in (1) admitting blood tests results without sufficient proof of the chain of custody and (2) denying his ineffective assistance of counsel claim related to his trial counsel’s alleged failure to review evidence with him, causing him to reject a plea offer that he would have accepted if he had been aware of the evidence. We reverse the DUI convictions and remand for a new trial, and we affirm the driving on a revoked license conviction.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
Lawrence B. Hammet, II Et Al. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA
M2018-00352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is a residential foreclosure case. Homeowners appeal the trial court’s dismissal of their claims regarding the foreclosure of their home under Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon our review, we conclude that the Appellants’ claims should not have been dismissed on a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/02/18
City of La Vergne v. Brian Ristau
M2018-00542-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

The case involves the defendant’s violation of a city ordinance. The city cited the defendant for parking his commercial semi-truck on his private driveway and on city streets, which the city claimed was cracking the sidewalk and bringing mud into the street. The municipal court found the defendant in violation of the ordinance, and the defendant appealed the municipal court’s decision to the circuit court. The defendant raised several state and federal constitutional issues regarding the ordinance, but the circuit court found his arguments to be without merit and affirmed the municipal court’s decision. Finding no error, we affirm the decision of the circuit court. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/02/18