Court Opinions

Format: 05/25/2017
Format: 05/25/2017
Teresa Kocher, et al. v. Laua Bearden, et al.
W2016-02088-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal involves a third-party’s attempt to intervene in this case in order to gain access to documents in the record, as the entire record was previously sealed by the trial court pursuant to an agreed order between the original parties. The trial court denied the third-party’s motion to intervene and also denied its motion to modify the order sealing the record. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion to intervene, vacate its denial of the motion to modify the protective order sealing the record, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Larsheika Hill
M2016-00526-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Appellant, Larsheika Hill, appeals the Marshall County Circuit Court’s revocation of her community corrections sentence for selling or delivering cocaine and order that she serve ten years in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Mario D. Frederick
M2016-00737-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Mario Frederick, was convicted of two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class E felony, two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor less than thirteen years of age, a Class C felony, and three counts of indecent exposure, a Class B misdemeanor. He received an effective sentence of five years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to sever the counts of the indictment and his motion for arrest of judgment. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company-Partial Dissent
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Although I agree with the majority Opinion’s discussion of the improper jury instructions given by the trial court in this case, I cannot agree with the majority’s analysis with regard to the duty owed by Ford. Because Ford’s duty is a threshold issue that must be determined prior to any consideration of the jury instructions given by the trial court, I therefore file this partial dissent.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company-Concur
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

I concur fully in the majority Opinion. I also agree with the dissent that this Court “has no authority to overrule or modify Supreme Court’s opinions.” Bloodworth v. Stuart, 428 S.W.2d 786, 789 (Tenn. 1968). I, however, disagree with the dissent regarding duty of care as the Trial Court was in fact cognizant of and adhered to our Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Satterfield v. Breeding Insulation Co., 266 S.W.3d 347 (Tenn. 2008).

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is a jury case. Automobile mechanic and his wife, Appellees, filed suit against Appellant Ford Motor Company for negligence in relation to wife’s diagnosis of mesothelioma. Appellees allege that Ford’s brake products, which contained asbestos, were unreasonably dangerous or defective such that Ford owed a duty to warn Mr. Stockton so that he, in turn, could protect his wife from exposure to air-borne asbestos fibers. The jury returned a verdict against Ford for $3.4 million. Ford appeals. Because the jury verdict form is defective, in that it omits two necessary questions in products liability cases, i.e., that the product at issue was unreasonably dangerous or defective and that the plaintiff’s injuries were reasonably foreseeable, we vacate the judgment and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Wondimu Borena v. Jason Jacocks, et al.
M2016-00449-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a mechanic’s lien case. Appellee/auto repair shop agreed to repair Appellant’s vehicle for $5,267.30. Appellant paid this amount, but Appellee raised the estimate to $9,489.30. Appellant did not pay the additional costs. Under a purported mechanic’s lien, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-19-103, Appellee sold Appellant’s vehicle for $4,500.00. Appellant filed a complaint, seeking damages for conversion and for violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claim. Concerning the conversion claim, the trial court held that Appellee did not have a valid mechanic’s lien and had converted the property. The trial court awarded $10,000.00 in damages to Appellant. Appellant appeals, arguing that the damage award is insufficient. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Kalandra Lacy
W2016-00837-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The defendant, Kalandra Lacy, appeals her Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of abuse of a corpse, arguing that the trial court erred by denying her bid for judicial diversion. Following a de novo review occasioned by the trial court’s failure to consider on the record all the factors relevant to the denial of judicial diversion as well as the trial court’s consideration of irrelevant factors, we conclude that the defendant is entitled to judicial diversion. We remand the case for entry of an order placing the defendant on judicial diversion under the same terms and conditions of her previously imposed sentence of probation.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
J. Alexander's Holdings, LLC v. Republic Services, Inc.
M2016-01526-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A Tennessee company brought an action in the Davidson County General Sessions Court against an Arizona company for breach of contract and negligence, seeking recovery for damage to plaintiff’s restaurant, which was located in Michigan. The case was dismissed on the ground of improper venue. Plaintiff appealed to the circuit court, which granted summary judgment to defendants on the basis of improper venue, lack of personal jurisdiction, and forum non conveniens. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the holdings that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant and that venue was improper; we affirm the dismissal on the ground of forum non conveniens and vacate the denial of the motion to amend the complaint.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Shawn P. Bradley
W2015-02228-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Defendant, Shawn P. Bradley, appeals from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s order declaring him to be a Motor Vehicle Habitual Offender (MVHO). On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in declaring him to be a MVHO because the judgment forms for the qualifying offenses were facially invalid. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. William Langston
W2015-02359-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camile R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, William Langston, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of the second degree murder of his wife and received a twenty-year sentence. On appeal, Langston argues: (1) the trial court erred by denying his request to enter a guilty plea to a pending indictment charging him with voluntary manslaughter; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it accepted a police officer as an expert in the field of blood spatter analysis at trial; (3) the instructions in his case precluded the jury from considering the offense of voluntary manslaughter; (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (5) his sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting the date that the second degree murder conviction was entered following sentencing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
In Re Sydney B.
M2016-01236-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

In this termination of parental rights case, prospective adoptive parents appeal the trial court’s dismissal of their petition after finding that father did not willfully fail to pay support for the child. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Levon Cosper
E2016-00212-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Ronald Levon Cosper, was convicted of first degree felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2) (2014) (felony murder), 39-13-403 (2014) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-12-101 (2014) (criminal attempt). He received concurrent sentences of life for the felony murder conviction and ten years for the attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and (2) he was deprived of due process because the State introduced unreliable identification evidence of him as the perpetrator of the offenses. We affirm the first degree felony murder judgment of the trial court. We affirm the attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction but vacate the judgment and remand for entry of a corrected judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
In Re: Wesley P.
W2016-02131-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is the second appeal regarding the termination of Father’s parental rights with respect to this child. On October 22, 2014, the trial court entered an order terminating both Mother’s and Father’s rights to their son based on a finding of severe abuse and a determination that it was in the child’s best interest that both parents’ rights be terminated. Mother and Father appealed that determination to this Court. On May 29, 2015, this Court issued an opinion, In re Wesley P., No. W2014-02246-COA-R3-PT, 2015 WL 3430090 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 29, 2015), affirming the trial court’s finding of severe abuse but reversing the termination of parental rights on the basis that it was not in the best interest of the child to do so at that time. On January 12, 2016, DCS filed another petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights, alleging several grounds for termination. Mother subsequently surrendered her parental rights to the child voluntarily, and her rights are not subject to this appeal. After a full hearing, the chancery court found by clear and convincing evidence that all grounds for termination alleged against Father existed and that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Travis Smith
W2015-02360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A jury convicted the Defendant, Travis Smith, of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and he was sentenced to serve twenty-five years in prison. The Defendant appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court’s decisions regarding the admission of testimony, the sufficiency of the bill of particulars, the timing of the State’s election, the jury instructions regarding the election, the introduction into evidence of a videotape of the victim’s forensic interview, and the State’s alleged failure to turn over exculpatory evidence. The Defendant also asserts he is entitled to relief for cumulative error. Discerning no error, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Randall Keith Reed
E2015-01638-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

Defendant, Randall Kenneth Reed, was convicted by a Hamilton County Jury of four counts of the fraudulent use of a debit card, first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, and theft of property less than $500.00. The trial court merged the premeditated murder conviction with the felony murder conviction and imposed a life sentence to be served concurrently with 25 years for especially aggravated robbery and 11 months, 29 days each for theft of property less than $500 and four counts of the fraudulent use of a debit card. The trial court further ordered the sentence to be served consecutively to a probation violation in an unrelated case. On appeal, Defendant argues as follows: (1) that the trial court erred by allowing Milo Geiger to testify that he agreed to take a lie detector test and that Defendant refused to take one; (2) that the trial court improperly admitted photographs of the victim; (3) that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter; and (4) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. After a thorough review of the record, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Scott Long
E2015-01287-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Defendant, Jeffrey Scott Long, was indicted by the Blount County Grand Jury for first degree murder, felony murder during the perpetration of a burglary, aggravated burglary, and aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged, and the trial court merged the two murder convictions. The trial court imposed a life sentence for the murder conviction and concurrent six-year sentences for the remaining two convictions. In this appeal as of right, Defendant raises the following issues for our review: 1) Defendant’s statement to police should have been suppressed because he made an unequivocal request for counsel, and he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights; 2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence an order of protection granted to the victim against Defendant; 3) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence autopsy photos; 4) the trial court should have suppressed evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search of Defendant’s apartment; 5) the trial court erred by allowing expert testimony outside the scope of the forensic pathologist’s expertise; 6) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s request for a special jury instruction; 7) the trial court erred by allowing evidence that was not properly authenticated; 8) Defendant was denied a fair trial because a portion of trial testimony was not transcribed; 9) the evidence was insufficient to sustain Defendant’s convictions; 10) the State exceeded the scope of its closing argument on rebuttal; and 11) the cumulative effect of the errors requires reversal of Defendant’s convictions. Having carefully reviewed the entire record and briefs of the parties, we conclude that the there is no error. Accordingly, we affirm Defendant’s convictions.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
Tracy Darrell Adkins v. Rhonda Forlaw Adkins
M2017-00495-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

After the trial court denied Wife’s motion to set aside the mediated Marital Dissolution Agreement and Permanent Parenting Plan and entered its order declaring the parties divorced, Wife filed a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge. The judge denied the motion, and Wife timely filed her petition for recusal appeal seeking an interlocutory appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B from the trial court’s denial of her motion. We affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
Kim L. Higgs v. John C. Green
M2016-01369-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal arises from a two-car accident. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the collision occurred because Defendant violated several statutory rules of the road by failing to yield the right of way and making a turn across traffic without confirming it was safe to do so. Defendant denied any negligence and claimed that Plaintiff was more than 50% at fault. Following a trial, the jury found that Plaintiff was 75% at fault; as a result, judgment was entered for Defendant. On appeal Plaintiff contends she is entitled to a new trial for two reasons. She contends the trial court abused its discretion by limiting the testimony of the investigating police officer to what the parties told him at the scene and to matters that are reflected in his accident report. She also contends she is entitled to a new trial due to jury misconduct. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Scarlet I. Martin
M2016-00615-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

Defendant, Scarlet I. Martin, was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”) and driving under the influence of an intoxicant with a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) greater than .08 (“DUI per se”). She appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress the results of a warrantless blood draw. After carefully reviewing the record, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient and that the blood draw was justified by exigent circumstances. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Desmond Eugene Davis
E2016-01608-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Desmond Eugene Davis, pled guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to eight years on probation. A violation of probation warrant was issued against the Defendant. Following a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in prison. The Defendant appeals. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
Chase Home Finance, LLC v. Jo Ann Street
W2016-01026-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

Appellant appeals from the trial court’s decision granting a judgment of possession to the Appellee bank. Because of profound deficiencies in Appellant’s brief, we hold that her arguments are waived. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Paula Jean Lacommare
M2016-01794-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The Defendant, Paula Jean Lacommare, pled guilty to initiation of the manufacturing process of methamphetamine and was sentenced to eight years on probation.  A violation of probation warrant was issued against the Defendant for testing positive for methamphetamine.  Following a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered her to serve her sentence in prison.  The Defendant appeals.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Pearman
M2015-02271-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant-Appellant, Jacob Pearman, was convicted as charged by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of first degree premeditated murder, aggravated assault, and child abuse, and he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus five years. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202(a)(1), -102(a)(1), -15-401(a). On appeal, Pearman argues: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a change of venue; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in declining to strike a juror for cause; (3) the evidence is insufficient to show that he premeditated the victim’s killing; (4) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s statements pursuant to the state of mind hearsay objection; (5) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its rebuttal closing argument; and (6) the trial court failed to properly exercise its role as the thirteenth juror.1 We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/17
Michael Todd Sansom v. Amanda Jane Sansom
M2016-01111-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley


This is a post-divorce child custody and parental relocation case. Father petitioned the trial court to modify the parties’ parenting plan to designate him as the minor child’s primary residential parent and to allow him to relocate the child from Tennessee to Virginia. Mother opposed Father’s petition and filed a counter-petition requesting the court modify the residential parenting schedule to reflect Father’s move to Virginia. The trial court found that a material change in circumstances existed to permit an examination of whether changing the child’s primary residential parent from Mother to Father was in the child’s best interest. After an analysis of the best interest factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-106(a), the court concluded that it would be in the child’s best interest to remain in Tennessee with Mother as her primary residential parent. The court also adopted Mother’s proposed residential parenting schedule. The trial court then calculated Father’s retroactive and prospective child support obligations and awarded Mother the attorney’s fees she incurred in defending Father’s petitions and successfully pursuing her own. Father subsequently filed a Rule 59 motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment and to reopen the proof in the matter. The trial court denied Father’s request and awarded Mother additional attorney’s fees she incurred in defending the motion to alter or amend. Father has appealed the trial court’s determination that Mother should remain the child’s primary residential parent, the new residential parenting schedule, the court’s application of Tennessee’s parental relocation statute, the calculation of the income of the parties, the calculation of child support, and the award of attorney’s fees. We conclude that the trial court erred in calculating the amount of Father’s monthly gross income. The award of child support is therefore vacated and remanded for reconsideration. We affirm the judgment of the trial court in all other respects. We decline both parties’ requests for attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/10/17