Court Opinions

Format: 02/23/2017
Format: 02/23/2017
Siminder Kaur v. Vaneet Singh
W2016-02058-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This is an interlocutory appeal limited to the issue of whether the orders of an Indian court regarding matters pending in India is entitled to full faith and credit, such that this state’s trial court lacks jurisdiction over custody of the minor child pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The mother, an Indian citizen but permanent resident of the United States, filed an action in India seeking the return of her minor son. She contends that her son, a citizen of the United States, is being detained illegally in India by her husband and his family. The Indian court ruled that the child should remain with the paternal grandparents in India at this time. The mother, thereafter, filed an action for divorce in Shelby County. After a hearing, the state trial court ordered, inter alia, that the father, also an Indian citizen but permanent resident of the United States, return the child to Tennessee within seven days. Upon the trial court’s denial of the father’s request for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9, the father sought a Rule 10 extraordinary appeal of the trial court’s ruling. We find that the appeal was improvidently granted. Accordingly, we decline to address the issue presented and dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/02/17
Danny Hale v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00249-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: William O. Shults, Commissioner

This appeal involves a suit filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission against the State of Tennessee for the wrongful death of Tammy Hale. The claimant, Ms. Hale’s father, titled his cause of action as one for “negligent care, custody, and control of persons” pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 9-8-307(a)(1)(E). The claimant alleged that the State was responsible for the actions of an inmate whose release was not conditioned upon participation in community supervision for life as required by section 39-13-524. The State sought dismissal, alleging that the claim was really one for “negligent deprivation of statutory rights” based upon the failure to adhere to section 39-13-524, which does not confer a private right of action. Following a hearing, the Claims Commission, William O. Shults, Commissioner, agreed and dismissed the claim. The claimant appeals. We affirm.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 02/02/17
James R. Haynes, III, et al. v. Leslie E. Lunsford, et al.
E2015-01686-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

Purchasers of real estate brought suit against the seller as well as the real estate agent and agency that assisted the buyers, alleging, inter alia, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of duty to disclose adverse facts related to the purchased property, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The buyers argued that the defendants misrepresented the age and history of the home and did not disclose that it had a mold problem. Upon motion for summary judgment, the agent and the agency were dismissed as defendants. The trial court subsequently denied the buyers' motion to reconsider the summary judgment order. The buyers appeal. Finding no error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 02/02/17
Joseph Martin Colley v. Alisha Dale McBee
M2014-02296-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

This case concerns modification of a parenting plan. Following her divorce in Tennessee, Mother moved with her child to Maryland. Father initially opposed the move, but an agreed order entered after the move adopted an amended permanent parenting plan, which named Mother the primary residential parent. The amended permanent parenting plan granted Father parenting time over the summer, during certain holidays, and when either Father traveled to Maryland or Mother traveled to Tennessee. After experiencing difficulties exercising parenting time and growing concern over Mother’s care of the child, Father filed a petition requesting to be named primary residential parent. The trial court denied the request. Although it found a material change in circumstances based on the child’s serious mental health issues, the court determined that it was in the best interest of the child to remain with Mother. Father appeals arguing that the trial court erred in: (1) finding it was in the child’s best interest for Mother to remain the primary residential parent; (2) not finding Mother in contempt; and (3) awarding attorney’s fees to Mother. We affirm the decision of the trial court.  

Marion County Court of Appeals 02/02/17
Anthony D. Herron, Jr. v. Tennessee Department of Human Services
W2016-01416-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This is an administrative appeal in which Petitioner challenges the decision of the Tennessee Department of Human Services to suspend services he received pursuant to the state’s vocational rehabilitation program. The Division of Appeals and Hearings upheld the Department’s decision to suspend Petitioner’s services and this decision was affirmed by the Department’s commissioner. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for judicial review with the Shelby County Chancery Court. The court upheld the Department’s actions and dismissed the petition. Petitioner appealed; we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/01/17
In re Kayla B., et al.
E2016-01192-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry M. Warner

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to six children and a father’s parental rights to three of those children. The juvenile court found clear and convincing evidence of five grounds for termination of parental rights and that termination of parental rights was in the children’s best interest. We conclude that DCS did not prove abandonment by an incarcerated parent by clear and convincing evidence. Because the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support four grounds for termination, namely, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, persistence of conditions, and severe child abuse, and that termination is in the best interest of the children, we affirm.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 02/01/17
Trevor Howell v. Kennedy Smithwick
E2016-00628-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nicole Cantrell

Mother has appealed the trial court’s decisions regarding parenting time, criminal contempt, child support, and the child’s surname. We have determined that the trial court erred in finding Mother in criminal contempt as to one of the three incidents at issue, in setting temporary child support, in failing to order Father to pay child support by wage assignment, and in ordering the child’s surname to be changed to Father’s surname. In all other respects, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 02/01/17
In Re Anna B. et al
M2016-00964-CCA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This is a termination of parental rights case. Father appeals the termination of his parental rights, to two minor children, on the grounds of: (1) severe child abuse, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(4) and 37-1-102(22)(C); and (2) abandonment by willful failure to support and willful failure to visit, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(i).  Father also appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of his parental rights is in the children’s best interests.  Because Appellees did not meet their burden to show that Father willfully failed to provide support for the children, we reverse the trial court’s finding as to the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support.  The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 02/01/17
Mahlon Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00665-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Petitioner, Mahlon Johnson, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief for his convictions for sexual battery and aggravated assault. On appeal, he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Rocky M. White
W2016-00283-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Pro se Petitioner, Rocky White, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court‟s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion. Because the sentences in this action have expired, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. DeKarlos Johnson
W2015-02412-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A Shelby County Criminal Court jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Dekarlos Johnson, of aggravated robbery, and the trial court imposed a sentence of nine years with a release eligibility of eighty-five percent. On appeal, Johnson argues: (1) the admission of his redacted statement negatively impacted the jury's verdict; (2) he was denied the opportunity to present evidence in his own defense; (3) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument; and (4) the cumulative effect of these errors entitles him to relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Deangelo Lee
W2016-00107-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Pro se Petitioner, Marcus Deangelo Lee, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
Ronnie Hughes v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02131-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Ronnie Hughes, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief by the Shelby County Criminal Court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
Paul Harrison Gant v. Wanda Norene Gant
M2015-02160-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Thomas Austin

In this divorce action, Wife appeals contending the trial court erred in classifying Husband’s interest in his family’s business as his separate property and by failing to classify the appreciation in value of this asset as marital property. Wife contends she should have been awarded more than one-half of the marital estate, given that she is in poor health, unable to work and Husband has separate assets of significant value. She contends the award of alimony in futuro is insufficient and the trial court erred by requiring her to pay her attorney’s fees and expenses. Husband contends the trial court erred by failing to award him certain items of personal property that are of sentimental value. We affirm the classification of Husband’s interest in his family business as his separate property. We modify the division of the marital property by increasing Wife’s share of the cash proceeds from the sale of the home, the adjoining land, cattle, and farm equipment from fifty (50%) percent to fifty-five (55%) percent. As for the specific items of tangible personal property Husband seeks to recover, we remand this issue to the trial court to make specific findings of fact and enter judgment accordingly. As for alimony in futuro, we have determined that Husband has the ability to pay more, and Wife has a need that is greater than what was awarded; therefore, we modify the award of alimony in futuro by increasing the amount to be paid monthly. We affirm the trial court’s discretionary decision denying Wife’s request to recover the attorney’s fees she incurred at trial. As for the attorney’s fees and expenses Wife incurred on appeal, we conclude that she should be awarded the reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses she incurred in this appeal and remand for the trial court to make the award it deems appropriate in its discretion. 

Warren County General Sessions Courts 01/31/17
Heather Lewis v. Michael James Parmerter
M2015-01335-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Father appeals the order entered on the motion of the Mother of four children awarding her sole decision-making authority regarding the children’s religious upbringing and designating that the children attend her church, contending, among other things, that the mandate that the children attend Mother’s church violates his and the children’s freedom of religious expression, as protected by the Federal and Tennessee Constitutions. We hold that the court did not abuse its discretion in granting Mother sole authority regarding the children’s religious upbringing and modify the order to remove that portion specifying the church that the children are to attend.   

White County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Eric D. Wallace
W2016-00907-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Eric D. Wallace (“the Defendant”) filed a Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence under Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging that his sentences for first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder were illegal because the trial court constructively amended the corresponding indictments by instructing the jury on “alternative theories for felony murder.” The trial court summarily denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
Kathaleen Moriarty King v. Hal David King
2016-01451-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal involves a 1997 divorce judgment that awarded the wife a percentage of the husband’s federal retirement annuity. The parties entered into a settlement agreement, later incorporated into a judgment, which provided that the wife would receive one-half of the marital portion of the husband’s retirement. The 1997 judgment contained no provisions regarding salary adjustments or cost-of-living adjustments applicable to the retirement annuity. In 2008, the husband’s attorney filed and the trial court entered a “Court Order Acceptable for Processing,” which provided for the wife’s fractional share of the husband’s retirement annuity but made no mention of salary adjustments applicable thereto. This order did provide, however, that the wife would be entitled to cost-of-living adjustments. Following his retirement in 2015, the husband filed a motion in 2016 seeking relief from the trial court’s prior final orders pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60. The trial court granted the motion, determining that the relief sought merely “clarified” but did not modify the earlier orders. The wife has appealed. We conclude that the trial court impermissibly granted relief to the husband pursuant to Rule 60.01, which had the effect of modifying the parties’ settlement agreement and the court’s prior orders. We therefore vacate the trial court’s order granting Rule 60 relief.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Dantario Burgess, Rodriguez McNary and Joseph Jones-Cage
W2015-00588-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendants, Dantario Burgess, Rodriguez McNary, and Joseph Jones-Cage, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of reckless endangerment. Mr. Jones-Cage and Mr. McNary also were convicted of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Mr. Burgess also was convicted of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously convicted of a felony and of possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of violence. The trial court sentenced Mr. Burgess to an effective term of fifty-five years, Mr. Jones-Cage to an effective term of fifty years, and Mr. McNary to an effective term of forty-one years. On appeal, the Defendants raise the following issues either collectively or individually: (1) the trial court erred in denying Mr. Burgess‘ motion to suppress a witness‘s identification of him in a photographic lineup and in limiting the
cross-examination of the victim during the suppression hearing; (2) the failure to name the predicate felony in the indictment for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony voids the conviction; (3) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (4) the trial court committed plain error in not allowing defense counsel to impeach the victim‘s testimony at trial with her statement to the police; (5) the malfunctioning of the recording equipment during the trial warranted a mistrial; (6) the sentences of Mr. Burgess and Mr. McNary are excessive; (7) the cumulative effect of the errors warrants a new trial; and (8) the trial court erred in denying Mr. Burgess‘ pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis. We conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support Mr. McNary‘s conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and reverse the conviction. We remand the matter for a new trial on possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony as a lesser-included offense. We also remand the case for entry of corrected judgments reflecting that Mr. Jones-Cage was convicted of attempted first degree murder in count one and is to serve 100 percent of his sentence for the firearm conviction in count three. We otherwise affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
F&M Marketing Services, Inc. v. Christenberry Trucking And Farm, Inc. et al.
E2016-00205-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The question presented is whether the corporate veil of Christenberry Trucking and Farm, Inc. (CTF), should be pierced and its sole shareholder, Clayton V. Christenberry, Jr., be held personally liable for a debt owed by CTF to F&M Marketing Services, Inc. In 2012, F&M obtained a judgment against CTF for breach of contract. By that time, CTF, a trucking company, had suffered mortal setbacks primarily owing to the great recession. CTF was administratively dissolved that same year. CTF had no assets to satisfy the judgment. F&M brought this action, seeking to hold Mr. Christenberry personally liable for the debt. After a bench trial, the court held that F&M did not meet its burden of proving that CTF’s corporate veil should be pierced. F&M appeals. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
James Floyd Thomas v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01630-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest Durard, Jr.

The petitioner, James Floyd Thomas, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2014 Bedford County Circuit Court
guilty-pleaded convictions of the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, for which he received an effective sentence of 18 years.  Because the petitioner failed to file a timely petition for post-conviction relief, the post-conviction court’s order is affirmed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
Jonathan D. Grigsby v. Alexandra Alvis-Crawford
W2016-00393-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William A. Peeler

This custody dispute involves the child born to Jonathan D. Grigsby (Father) and Alexandra Alvis-Crawford (Mother). In July 2014, the parties were residing together when Mother moved out of the house with the child and refused to let Father see or talk to him. Shortly thereafter, Mother had medical issues and was admitted to the hospital where she remained until September 2014. During this time, the child lived in the home of the maternal grandparents of the child. Because the maternal grandparents refused to allow Father to see or speak with the child, he filed a petition seeking an ex parte order for immediate custody of his minor child. Based on Father’s petition, the trial court entered an order finding that the grandparents were unlawfully keeping the child from Father. The trial court gave Father immediate temporary custody of the child. The trial court did not make a permanent custody determination at that time. In December 2014, Mother filed a petition for custody. In January 2016, the trial court held a hearing on Father’s amended emergency petition and Mother’s petition. The trial court found that it is in the best interest of the child to stay with Father. Accordingly, the court designated Father as the primary residential parent. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
In Re: C.H.
E2016-00702-COA-R9-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis "Will" Roach, II

This is a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. Biological grandparents of a child at issue in a termination of parental rights action sought to intervene in the termination proceeding. The child had lived in the grandparents' home with them and the child's parents. The Department of Children's Services removed the child from that home and later sought to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents. The grandparents filed a motion to intervene. The trial court denied their motion, but granted their request for an interlocutory appeal. Thereafter, we also granted their request for interlocutory review. We affirm the decision of the trial court and now remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
Michael Sipes, et al. v. Terry Sipes, et al.
W2015-01329-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

This appeal concerns a dispute between a father and his adult son over the transfer of real property. In 1997, the father constructed a house on a portion of his two-acre tract of land for his son. Several years later, the son agreed to purchase the house. Subsequently, a disagreement led the parties to discover identical errors in the legal descriptions in the warranty deed executed by the father transferring the property to the son and the deed of trust securing the son’s purchase money loan. The trial court, upon its finding of mutual mistake, reformed the incorrect legal descriptions in the deeds, but the court also granted the father a right to use a shed and garden on the son’s land. We affirm the trial court’s reformation of the legal descriptions in the deeds. However, because we conclude that the evidence is less than clear and convincing that the parties intended the deeds to include the father’s right of use, we reverse the trial court’s decision to grant the interest.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
Parris Keane, et al v. John P. Campbell, III et al
M2016-00367-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This cause came on to be heard upon the record on appeal from the Davidson County Circuit Court, the briefs of the parties, and the arguments of counsel. Upon consideration of the entire record, this court finds and concludes that the trial court’s judgment should be affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/31/17
In Re Lydia N.-S.
M2016-00964-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna B. Johnson

The minor child at the center of this appeal was born on April 3, 2012, in El Paso, Texas. Mother and child moved to Nashville, Tennessee, three months later. Father subsequently moved to Delaware. While living in Delaware, Father pled guilty to two counts of rape and was sentenced to concurrent twenty-five year sentences beginning June of 2013. Mother married Stepfather in late 2013, and in October 2014, Stepfather and Mother filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights and to allow Stepfather to adopt the child. The petition, as amended, alleged abandonment by failure to visit and failure to support, abandonment by failure to visit or support in the four months prior to Father’s incarceration, and Father’s incarceration under a sentence of ten or more years with the child being under eight years of age as grounds for termination. Following a trial at which Father, who was incarcerated, participated by telephone, the court terminated Father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment and incarceration under a sentence of ten years or more and upon a finding that termination was in the child’s best interest; the petition for adoption was also granted. Father appeals the termination of his rights, stating that the court erred in denying a motion to continue so he could appear in person and in determining that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the minor child. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court as modified. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/31/17