Court Opinions

Format: 04/27/2018
Format: 04/27/2018
500 Block, LLC v. Donald Bosch
E2016-02449-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This case was brought by the landlord of a building that was leased to a limited liability company for purposes of operating a restaurant; the restaurant failed, and the company defaulted on its obligations under the lease and took bankruptcy. The landlord filed suit to recover damages from four persons who had signed agreements guaranteeing performance of the lease to the extent of the guarantors’ interest in the lessee. The case proceeded to trial against one guarantor and, after a bench trial, the court dismissed the action, finding that the guaranty lacked consideration and that the guaranty was invalid and unenforceable because only the guarantor signed it. On appeal, the landlord contends that the trial court erred in both respects. Upon a de novo review of the record, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for entry of a judgment against the guarantor in the amount of $60,037.97 and for a determination of interest on the judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/12/18
State of Tennessee v. Andre Brown
W2017-00770-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Andre Brown, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and domestic assault and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I, standard offender to an effective term of thirty years at 100% in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and argues that the trial court erred by enhancing his sentences and ordering consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth O. Williams
W2017-01623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Kenneth O. Williams, entered a guilty plea to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The Defendant filed a motion to correct his sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, asserting that the trial court was without jurisdiction to sentence him as a Range II, multiple offender or to enhance his sentence above the minimum in the sentencing range. The trial court denied the motion for failure to state a colorable claim, and the Defendant appeals. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the Defendant has not articulated a colorable claim that his sentence is illegal, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Minor - Concurring
W2016-00348-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

Christopher Minor was sentenced to serve additional time in prison for violations of the criminal gang offense statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121(b) (2014). While his case was on appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118, 157 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), declared that a portion of the criminal gang offense statute was unconstitutional. Today, the Court vacates Mr. Minor’s convictions for violating the criminal gang offense statute. It is only fair that Mr. Minor should not have to serve additional time in prison for violating a statute that an appellate court declared unconstitutional while his appeal was pending. 

Madison County Supreme Court 04/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Minor
W2016-00348-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

We granted this appeal to clarify the interplay among appellate review preservation requirements, the plain error doctrine, and the retroactive application of new rules. We conclude that a new rule applies retroactively to cases pending on direct review when the new rule is announced but does so subject to other jurisprudential concepts, such as appellate review preservation requirements and the plain error doctrine. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016), declaring the criminal gang offense statute, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-121(b) (2014), unconstitutional applies to the defendant’s appeal because it was pending on direct review when Bonds was decided. Nevertheless, we evaluate the defendant’s entitlement to relief by applying the plain error doctrine because the defendant failed to challenge the constitutionality of the statute in the trial court. We conclude that the defendant has established the criteria necessary to obtain relief pursuant to the plain error doctrine. Therefore, we reverse that portion of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision denying the defendant relief and vacate the defendant’s convictions under the criminal gang offense statute. We remand this matter to the trial court for resentencing on the defendant’s remaining convictions in accordance with the sentencing classification ranges established by the specific statutes creating the offenses, without any classification or sentence enhancement pursuant to the criminal gang offense statute.

Madison County Supreme Court 04/11/18
In Re: Roderick R. Et Al.
E2017-01504-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgerty, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case. Upon the petition of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the trial court terminated the parental rights of both the mother and father of two children. Clear and convincing evidence supports each ground relied upon by the trial court and the trial court’s conclusion that termination of both parents’ parental rights is in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 04/11/18
In Re: Conservatorship For Ralph C. Williams
E2017-00777-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex A. Dale

This is a conservatorship action in which the wife sought appointment as her husband’s conservator. Following a hearing, the court found that the husband was fully disabled and in need of a conservator to manage his personal and financial affairs. The court appointed the wife to serve in that capacity and awarded her spousal support. We affirm.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 04/11/18
Marilyn (Reso) Ramsey v. Warren A. Reso, Jr.
E2017-01305-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This is a post-divorce case dealing with numerous issues of interpretation of the parties’ marital dissolution agreement and permanent parenting plan. The plaintiff wife appealed one portion of the on-going case. We affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/11/18
Lara C. Stancil v. Todd A. Stancil
M2017-01485-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge. D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this post-divorce dispute, Mother filed a petition to modify parenting time and obtained an ex parte restraining order based upon Father’s physical altercation with his wife during parenting time with the parties’ children. After a hearing in December 2015, the trial court suspended Father’s parenting time until he took steps to address his anger management issues. At a review hearing in August 2016, the trial court determined that the suspension of Father’s parenting time was no longer in the best interest of the children and adopted the recommendations of Father’s psychologist concerning the reintegration of Father into the lives of the children. The trial court subsequently awarded Mother her attorney fees and discretionary costs incurred throughout the case. On appeal, Father asserts that he should have been awarded his attorney fees for the period of time after the December 2015 hearing and that the trial court erred in awarding Mother her discretionary costs for the same period. Both parties seek their attorney fees on appeal. We affirm the trial court’s award of attorney fees in full. With respect to discretionary costs, we affirm the trial court’s award with the exception of the costs of preparation and travel, which are not authorized by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.04. Each party shall pay his or her own attorney fees and costs on appeal.
 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/10/18
Lascassas Land Company, LLC v. Jimmy E. Allen, Et Al.
M2017-01400-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

This appeal involves a dispute between two limited liability companies (and an individual with an interest in both companies) over four lots in a residential subdivision. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court awarded the plaintiff-company $116,151.87 in proceeds from the sale of lots that were originally owned by the plaintiff. However, the trial court ruled that the defendant-company was entitled to recover $512,795.07 for the amount it expended constructing homes on those lots. The plaintiff-company has appealed, challenging numerous rulings made by the trial court. For the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/10/18
Ludye N. Wallace v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee Et Al.
M2018-00481-SC-RDM-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

We assumed jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d)(1) and Rule 48 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court and ordered expedited briefing and oral argument. The issue we must determine is whether the vacancy in the Office of Mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County may be filled at the August 2, 2018 election, or whether it must be filled at a special election pursuant to section 15.03 of the Metropolitan Charter. We conclude that section 15.03 of the Metropolitan Charter requires that a special election be set, that the Davidson County Election Commission therefore acted in contravention of the Charter in setting the election on August 2, 2018, and that the trial court erred in denying Mr. Wallace’s claims for relief and dismissing this case. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed. The Commission is hereby ordered to set a special election in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-14-102(a). This opinion is not subject to rehearing under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 39, and the Clerk is directed to certify this opinion as final and to immediately issue the mandate.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/10/18
State of Tennessee v. Danyelle McCullough
W2016-01942-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Defendant, Danyelle McCullough, was charged with one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of forgery over $1,000 in an indictment returned by the Shelby County Grand Jury. Following a jury trial, she was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of four years for each count to be served in confinement. In this appeal, Defendant’s sole issue is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
Jerry Harlan, Et Al. v. Cornerstone Church Of Nashville, Inc.
M2017-00671-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young

This appeal involves a dispute over ownership of three easements and allegations of fraud stemming from the failure of Appellee to honor its alleged oral promise to purchase the disputed easements and an adjacent parcel of land owned by Appellants. The trial court, on Appellee’s Motion to Dismiss, ruled that Appellants had no interest in the easements and that Appellants’ claim arising from the alleged oral promise to purchase the easements and the adjacent parcel of land was barred by the Statute of Frauds. We affirm the trial court’s judgment and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
Vern Braswell v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00912-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Vern Braswell, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for second degree murder and his twenty-four-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to provide the defense with statements of witnesses, items recovered from the Petitioner’s home, and the contents of a sealed envelope that was discovered during the pendency of post-conviction proceedings. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
Michael Brandon Adams v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00606-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

This is an appeal from an order entered on February 5, 2018, dismissing the appellant’s Petition for Writ for Habeas Corpus ad Testificandum. The appellant filed his notice of appeal on April 2, 2018, together with a motion to accept a late notice of appeal. Because the thirty day time limit for filing a notice of appeal is jurisdictional in civil cases and cannot be waived, we deny the appellant’s motion and dismiss the appeal.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
In Re Sharda R., Et Al.
M2018-00616-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles L. Rich

This is an appeal from an order entered on February 23, 2018, terminating the mother’s parental rights. The mother filed her notice of appeal on April 5, 2018, together with a motion to accept an untimely notice of appeal. Because the thirty-day time limit for filing a notice of appeal is jurisdictional and cannot be waived, we deny the mother’s motion and dismiss the appeal.

Bedford County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
Local TV Tennessee, LLC d/b/a WREG-TV v. N.Y.S.E. Wolfchase, LLC d/b/a The New York Suit Exchange
W2017-00675-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This is a breach of contract action in which both parties assert affirmative claims. Plaintiff, a Memphis TV station, sued one of its advertisers for breach of an advertising agreement to recover approximately $511,000 for past advertising services. Defendant Advertiser filed a counterclaim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, for constructive fraud, and for breach of contract. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings with respect to the breach of contract claim in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages of $510,000. Subsequently, the trial court granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss Defendant’s Second Amended Counter-Complaint in its entirety, finding that Defendant failed to state any claims upon which relief could be granted. Defendant appealed. We have concluded that Defendant’s Answer constituted a denial that Defendant owed approximately $511,000 in unpaid advertising fees; therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings should have been denied. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of Defendant’s claims for constructive fraud; however, we have determined that the factual allegations in the Second Amended Counter-Complaint are sufficient to state claims for breach of contract, and claims under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Therefore, we reverse the dismissal of these claims and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Shane T. Usrey
M20917-01563-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

Shane T. Usrey, the Defendant, pled guilty to theft of property over the value of $500 in case numbers CR6120, CR6493, and CR7510. In 2017, the Defendant was arrested for violating the terms of his probation by committing domestic assault and aggravated assault. After a hearing, the trial court fully revoked the Defendant’s probation in all three cases and imposed the original sentences. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court should not have placed any probative value on the victim’s testimony because she was intoxicated at the time of the offenses; and (2) the evidence was insufficient for the trial court to have found that the Defendant violated his probation. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
In Re: Tegan W.
E2017-01748-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Toohey

This is a termination of parental rights case wherein the trial court terminated a mother’s parental rights based upon the sole statutory ground of abandonment by incarceration. The court further found that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The mother timely appealed. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
Steven Tyler Nabi v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00041-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Petitioner, Steven Tyler Nabi, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately prepare for trial, failing to properly cross-examine the State’s witnesses at trial, and failing to pursue the issues of the State’s lack of DNA evidence and defense of a third party. Petitioner entered guilty pleas following the State’s presentation of its evidence at trial. Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were unknowingly and involuntarily entered because he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the plea acceptance hearing, the trial court failed to properly advise him under Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Petitioner did not understand that his sentence would be served at 85 percent. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
Randy Roberts v. Tennier Industries, Inc.
E2017-00992-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal arises from a claim of retaliatory discharge. Randy Roberts (“Roberts”) was fired by Tennier Industries, Inc. (“Tennier”) for several stated reasons, including that he kept an unmarked bottle of pills at his desk and was insubordinate. Roberts contends that he was, in fact, fired for having complained about a manager who harassed him. Roberts sued Tennier in the Circuit Court for Scott County (“the Trial Court”). Tennier filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that it fired Roberts for valid, non-pretextual reasons. Roberts filed a motion to continue in which he requested more time for discovery in order to probe Tennier’s practices in situations similar to his. The Trial Court denied Roberts’ motion to continue and granted Tennier’s motion for summary judgment. Roberts appeals to this Court. We hold, inter alia, that the information for which Roberts sought additional time for discovery could have assisted his case and that the Trial Court erred in denying his motion to continue. We vacate the judgment of the Trial Court and remand for further proceedings.

Scott County Court of Appeals 04/09/18
Great American Opportunities, Inc. v. Brad Patterson, Et Al.
M2016-02034-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is a breach of contract action in which the plaintiff employer filed suit against its employee, claiming that he was liable for balances on his commission and sales accounts and for breach of loyalty pursuant to the terms of the employment agreement. Following a bench trial, the court ruled in favor of the employee and ordered the employer to direct the redemption of his stock held in the parent company. We reverse, in part, and hold that the parent company is not obligated to redeem the stock and that the employer is entitled to $15,000 in damages for unearned compensation as a result of the employee’s breach of loyalty. The court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects. We remand for the collection of attorney fees and costs.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/06/18
Great American Opportunities, Inc. v. James A. Brigman
M2016-02035-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is a breach of contract action in which the plaintiff employer filed suit against its employee, claiming that he was liable for balances on his commission and sales accounts and for breach of loyalty pursuant to the terms of the employment agreement. Following a bench trial, the court ruled in favor of the employee and ordered the employer to direct the redemption of his stock held in the parent company. We reverse, in part, and hold that the parent company is not obligated to redeem the stock and that the employer is entitled to $15,000 in damages for unearned compensation as a result of the employee’s breach of loyalty. The court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects. We remand for the collection of attorney fees and costs.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/06/18
In Re B.L., Et Al.
M2017-01252-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ronnie J. T. Blevins, II

In this termination of parental rights case, the Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the rights of J.R.L. (mother) with respect to her two children, B.M.L. and Z.A.L (the children). DCS alleged four grounds for termination: (1) abandonment by failure to support; (2) failure to provide a suitable home; (3) substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; and (4) persistence of conditions. DCS did not seek in the trial court to support the ground of failure to support. The court found clear and convincing evidence of (1) mother’s failure to provide a suitable home; (2) mother’s failure to substantially comply with the permanency plan; and (3) persistence of conditions. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the children. Mother appeals. We affirm.  

Marion County Court of Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Dale Merritt
E2017-01200-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Dale Merritt, was convicted by a Knox County jury of one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park and one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a child care agency. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant to seventeen years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18