Court Opinions

Format: 01/20/2017
Format: 01/20/2017
State of Tennessee v. Jill Alyse Patrick
E2016-00741-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck
Defendant, Jill Alyse Patrick, appeals her conviction for facilitation of a violation of the sex offender registry as well as her resulting sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation after the service of thirty days in incarceration. After a review of the evidence, we determine Defendant is not entitled to relief. However, a clerical error in the judgment requires our remand to the trial court for correction of the error. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed and remanded.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/16
Bobby D. Murray, et al.. v. Michael Murphy, et al.
E2016-01908-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton
The pro se appellants, Bobby Murray and Loretta Murray, appeal from an order of the Trial Court which does not resolve all the issues and claims raised in the consolidated proceedings below. The appellees, Michael Murphy and Vicki Murphy, have filed a motion to dismiss the appeal arguing that the lack of a final order deprives this Court of jurisdiction. Because the appellants concede in their response to the motion to dismiss that “the case is not over and the Final Order is not yet made,” it appears that the motion to dismiss is well-taken and this appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Roane County Court of Appeals 12/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Mario Jones
W2015-01646-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Mario Jones, was convicted of two counts of rape of a child involving two different victims. He now appeals as of right from those convictions challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, noting that there was no forensic evidence to bolster the victims' narratives and asserting that those narratives lacked credibility. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant's convictions. Therefore, the trial court's judgments are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/16
Andrew Taylor v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00664-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Petitioner, Andrew Taylor, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty pleas to carjacking and aggravated robbery and his effective sentence of eight years in prison at eighty-five percent. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel, which rendered his pleas unknowing and involuntary. We affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Justin T. Knox
W2016-00617-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Petitioner, Justin T. Knox, appeals the trial court's dismissal of his “Motion to Correct Sentence Calculation.” The trial court found both sentences had expired and thus the motion was moot. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/16
In re G.L.
E2016-00597-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth N. Bailey, Jr.

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of C.L. (Mother)1 to her child, G.L. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of grounds supporting termination due to severe child abuse and abandonment by an incarcerated parent. The court also found, by the same quantum of evidence, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
Rainbow Ridge Resort, LLC, et al. v. Branch Banking And Trust Co.
E2015-01221-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The facts in this case implicate the doctrine of res judicata. In 2012, a real estate development limited liability company and its members filed suit in the Sevier County Circuit Court against their mortgage lender, Branch Banking and Trust Company (the bank). In that action, the developers alleged, inter alia, that the bank was guilty of fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. That suit involved four separate parcels of real property. While the case in circuit court was pending, the bank sued three individuals in the Sevier County Chancery Court, seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the priority of a security interest in one of the parcels of property at issue in the circuit court case. In the chancery court action, the bank joined the developers as parties. In response, the developers filed a counterclaim in which they repeated allegations included in the circuit court case and asserted other claims derived from the same set of facts. The two cases were later consolidated. In each case, the bank filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court heard both motions at a single hearing. On June 8, 2015, the trial court filed two orders – one in the circuit court suit and one by interchange in the chancery court action – granting the bank's motions. The developers appealed only the circuit court order. Unchallenged, the chancery court order became final. The bank later moved to dismiss this appeal, arguing that the doctrine of res judicata barred further litigation. We deferred a ruling on the bank's motion. We now hold that the motion has merit. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's judgment dismissing this case. We do so based upon the doctrine of res judicata.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Johnson
E2016-00334-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The defendant, Joshua Johnson, appeals his Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convictions of 34 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, see T.C.A. § 39-17-1003, claiming that the trial court erred by refusing to suppress the defendant's pretrial statement to the police, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the four-year effective sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/16
Civis Bank v. The Willows At Twin Cove Marina Condominium And Home Owners Association, Inc.
E2016-00140-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Elizabeth C. Asbury

This case involves a residential development on Norris Lake in Campbell County called The Willows at Twin Cove Marina. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for the development grants certain rights to the individual/entity described in the document as the “Declarant.” As pertinent to this case, those rights include an exemption from payment of maintenance assessments to the homeowner's association under certain circumstances. The original owner of the development defaulted on construction loans, resulting in a foreclosure sale of certain portions of the development property and the personal property of the original owner. Civis Bank, the successor owner of the property sold at foreclosure, brought this action asking the trial court to declare it to be the “Declarant,” and thereby exempted from assessments levied by the defendant homeowner's association. Both sides moved for summary judgment. The trial court held that Civis did not meet the applicable definition of “Declarant” in the Declaration. We agree. Accordingly, we affirm the court's grant of summary judgment to the homeowners' association.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Darrell E. Childress
M2016-00799-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Jones

A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, Darrell E. Childress, of Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”), fourth offense, and the trial court sentenced him to 150 days of incarceration followed by two years of supervised probation.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to impeach him with his prior conviction for public intoxication; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to ask the arresting officer about the results of a field sobriety task; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/16
Mitchell Hunter Oakes v. Patricia Marie Oakes
E2016-00274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sam E. Benningfield, Jr.

In this divorce case, Mitchell Hunter Oakes appeals the trial court’s division of the marital estate. Husband’s appellate brief contains no case citations or references to the record. Furthermore, there is no authority cited other than the statute addressing a division of marital property. These multiple deficiencies are clear violations of Tenn. R. App. P. 27(a). In addition, Husband’s brief does not contain a table as required by Court of Appeals Rule 7. As we have held on numerous occassions, deficiencies such as these constitute a waiver of any issues raised by the offending party. Because of these omissions, this appeal had no reasonable chance of success. Accordingly, we agree with his former spouse, Patricia Marie Oakes, that his appeal is frivolous in nature. Therefore, Wife is entitled to recover from Husband her reasonable fees and expenses incurred on appeal. Appeal dismissed.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
Billy Coffey, et al. v. Hamblen County, et al. - Concurring and Dissenting
E2016-01116-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

I fully concur in the majority’s opinion with the exception of the majority’s determination that “we simply cannot agree with the trial court’s classification of the claim at issue as a consumer claim when Plaintiffs filed suit pursuant to a contract between the County and EMS for the failure to provide services as promised in the service agreement.” I instead believe that the language of the AHLA, as set out in the majority’s opinion and applicable to this issue, is broad enough to cover an alleged failure to provide services as promised in the service agreement. Specifically, I believe the definition in the AHLA, as quoted by the majority, defining a Consumer Case to be “a dispute between a Health Care Entity and a Consumer concerning: (a) the delivery of care or treatment by the Health Care Entity. . .” is broad enough to cover a failure to deliver the required care or treatment.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
Billy Coffey, et al. v. Hamblen County, et al.
E2016-01116-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This is a breach of contract action in which the plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of the decedent, who died as a result of suicide in the county jail. The plaintiffs sought damages from the designated emergency medical services provider pursuant to a contract between the provider and the county. The provider filed a motion to stay and compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the contract. The plaintiffs argued that the arbitration provision in the contract was invalid because it did not contain the required notice advising the parties of the waiver of trial by jury and appeal. The trial court agreed and denied the motion. We reverse and remand for arbitration

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 12/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Marty E. Hughes
E2015-01907-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

The Defendant-Appellant, Marty E. Hughes, was convicted by a Hawkins County jury of two counts of aggravated assault. Although he was represented by appointed counsel at trial, Hughes signed a waiver of his right to appointed counsel prior to his sentencing hearing. He was subsequently sentenced as a Range III, persistent offender to concurrent sentences of ten and fifteen years for his convictions. Thereafter, Hughes filed a pro se notice of appeal before filing an untimely pro se motion for new trial. On appeal, Hughes argues: (1) the trial court violated his due process rights and committed plain error when it failed to expand the jury instruction on self-defense to include the rights of a person in a dwelling; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for aggravated assault; (3) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence; and (4) his due process rights were violated when he proceeded to the sentencing hearing as a pro se defendant who was unaware and improperly advised of his right to file a motion for new trial. Because the record shows that Hughes did not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive his right to counsel prior to his sentencing hearing, we vacate the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for appointment of new counsel and a new sentencing hearing.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Gerald E. Thomas, Jr.
E2016-00372-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword
The Defendant, Gerald E. Thomas, Jr., pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-102 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective seven years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/16
Christina Lee Cain-Swope v. Robert David Swope
M2015-00872-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

In this divorce action, the wife appeals, contending the trial court erred in calculating her child support obligation by failing to impute income to the husband and by not deviating downward from the child support guidelines for the private school tuition and expenses she pays. The wife also contends the trial court erred in awarding the husband alimony in futuro in the amount of $2,400, and ordering her to pay $10,000 of the husband’s attorney’s fees. The wife further contends the trial judge made statements during opening arguments regarding the issue of alimony that indicated bias. As for child support, the wife is correct in stating that the trial court did not consider a deviation in child support for extraordinary educational expenses; however, the wife did not request a deviation and the parties agreed that the wife is not required to pay for private school tuition after the divorce. Accordingly, we find no error with the trial court not considering a deviation based on the possibility that the wife may or may not incur extraordinary educational expenses in the future. As for the amount of alimony to be paid, the trial court’s findings of fact concerning the wife’s ability to pay and the husband’s need for alimony fail to satisfy the mandatory requirements of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Therefore, we vacate the award of alimony in the amount of $2,400 per month and remand for the trial court to make findings of fact and state separately its conclusions of law concerning the wife’s ability to pay and the husband’s need for alimony, and direct the entry of a judgment setting the appropriate amount of alimony in futuro. We affirm the trial court in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/23/16
In re Sophie O. et al.
E2016-01141-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights. The minor children at issue were removed from Mother’s custody after the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) received referrals alleging that Mother was abusing drugs and that one of the children tested positive for opioids at the time of his birth. Thereafter, the juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent and neglected and found that Mother’s drug use while pregnant constituted severe child abuse. The children were subsequently placed in the custody of their father, and Mother was ordered to have no contact with the children. After it was discovered that Mother had violated the order by living with the children and their father, the children were once again placed in state custody. DCS then filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of severe abuse, abandonment by wanton disregard and failure to support, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, and persistence of conditions. The juvenile court found that each of these grounds existed and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Mother appealed; we affirm

Sevier County State Court Clerks 12/23/16
Gregory A. Snow v. Turney Center Disciplinary Board, et al
M2016-01148-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

An inmate was relocated from one cell to another in 2012 as part of a large-scale inmate reassignment, and two knives were found in the door to the inmate’s cell in 2015. The inmate was charged with the possession of a deadly weapon and was found guilty by the disciplinary board following a hearing. The inmate claimed he did not know anything about the knives and that he did not believe the cell was searched prior to his reassignment, as the prison policies require. The inmate exhausted his administrative appeals before filing a petition for writ of certiorari. In an effort to prove his cell was not searched prior to his reassignment and that the evidence did not support his conviction, the inmate sought permission to discover documents from the State, which the trial court denied. The trial court granted the writ of certiorari but denied the inmate any relief. The inmate raises several issues on appeal. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 12/22/16
Sandra L. Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church, et al
E2015-01827-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

The plaintiff’s husband collapsed and died after participating in a cycling class at a fitness and recreation facility owned and operated by the church. Although the cycling class instructor and others present at the fitness facility attended the plaintiff’s husband and called 911 soon after his collapse, they did not utilize the automated external defibrillator (“AED”) on site at the facility. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the church, alleging, among other things, that the church had negligently failed to utilize the onsite AED, to train facility personnel on the proper use of the AED, and to comply with applicable state statutes. The church denied negligence and subsequently filed a third-party complaint against the company that sold it the AED, asserting that the seller had contractually agreed to provide a physician oversight program, which, among other things, included oversight of the church’s compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The church alleged that, should the plaintiff recover a judgment against it for failing to comply with statutes, the seller should be solely responsible for the judgment. The plaintiff then filed a second amended complaint naming the seller as a defendant and alleging, as relevant to this interlocutory appeal, that: (1) the seller had negligently breached a duty it owed to her husband and others using the fitness facility to properly maintain the AEDs, to ensure that they were accessible, and to ensure that the church’s employees had the knowledge, training, and ability to operate the AEDs; (2) the seller had breached its contract with the church; (3) her husband was a third-party beneficiary of the contract; and (4) the seller’s negligence and breaches of contract caused her husband’s death, entitling her to recover against the seller on her wrongful death and loss of consortium claims.

 The seller moved for summary judgment against the plaintiff and the church, arguing that: (1) it owed no duty of care to the plaintiff or her husband; (2) the church had no common law or statutory duty to acquire or use an AED; (3) neither the plaintiff nor her husband were third-party beneficiaries of the seller’s contract with the church; (4) the undisputed facts established that the seller had not breached its contract with the church; and (5) the undisputed facts failed to establish that any of the alleged breaches of contract caused the plaintiff’s husband’s death. The trial court denied the seller’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that disputes of material fact remained, but it granted the seller permission to seek an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals denied the seller’s application for an interlocutory appeal, but this Court granted the seller permission to appeal pursuant to Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. We conclude that the seller did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff’s husband or other users of the fitness facility independent of its contract with the church and that the church had no statutory or common law duty to acquire or use the AED it purchased from the seller, and as a result, the plaintiff’s husband was not a third-party beneficiary of the church’s contract with the seller. For these reasons, the seller is entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s second amended complaint and the church’s third-party complaint. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the seller on all claims and for any other necessary and appropriate proceedings consistent with this decision.

Hamilton County Supreme Court 12/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Kathy Bell Noble
M2015-02288-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Following a jury trial, Defendant, Kathy Bell Noble, was convicted of driving on a suspended license, violation of the vehicle registration law, and failure to obey a traffic control device.  The trial court imposed a sentence of six months and the jury’s fine of $500 for driving on a suspended license and concurrent sentences of thirty days each for violation of the vehicle registration law and failure to obey a traffic control device.  Defendant was ordered to serve forty-eight hours for driving on a suspended license with the remainder of the sentence subject to supervised probation.  The thirty-day sentences for violation of the vehicle registration law and failure to obey a traffic control device were suspended.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/16
In re Heaven J.
W2016-00782-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his daughter. The trial court terminated the father’s parental rights upon finding by clear and convincing evidence that several grounds for termination were proven and that termination was in the best interest of the child. We conclude that the record contains insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings as to grounds for termination. We accordingly reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Travis Dewayne Melton
M2015-02421-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

Travis Dewayne Melton (“the Defendant”) appeals his Overton County convictions for reckless homicide and assault, for which the Defendant received an effective sentence of four years’ incarceration.  The Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on lesser included offenses when the Defendant requested that the trial court not charge any lesser included offenses; (2) his dual convictions for assault and reckless homicide violated double jeopardy principles; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Overton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/16
Vernon Lockhart v. Commissioner of The Tennessee Department of Safety
M2016-00083-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell

This appeal arises from a civil forfeiture. Vernon Lockhart (“Lockhart”) was charged and later convicted on a number of criminal counts related to the distribution of large amounts of marijuana. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (“the Department”) declared as forfeited certain of Lockhart’s properties alleged to be derived from illegal drug transactions. An Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”) found in favor of the Department by a preponderance of the evidence, a decision which was affirmed on appeal by the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”). Lockhart appeals to this Court, arguing, in large part, that the evidence used against him should have been suppressed and that the ALJ and Trial Court erred by failing to conduct an analysis of his suppression issue independent of the resolution of that issue in the criminal court proceedings. We hold, inter alia, that the ALJ’s order of forfeiture was supported by a preponderance of the evidence and that the doctrine of collateral estoppel bars Lockhart from re-litigating whether the evidence should have been suppressed as that issue has been resolved finally on appeal in his criminal proceedings. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court upholding the ALJ’s order declaring Lockhart’s designated properties forfeited to the state.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/16
Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Estate of Richard M. Archie and Jessica Cossitt
W2016-01287-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal involves a dispute regarding a household exclusion clause in an automobile insurance policy. Following a motorcycle accident in which the defendant was injured while riding as a passenger of the insured, the insurance company filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the exclusion relieved it of liability for the defendant’s claims because the defendant was residing in the insured’s household at the time of the accident. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that the defendant was not residing in the insured’s household at the time of the accident for purposes of determining liability coverage and denied the insurance company’s request for declaratory relief. The insurance company appealed. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/21/16
Moufak Sakaan v. FedEx Corporation, Inc., et al.
W2016-00648-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

The Plaintiff filed suit against a number of corporate and individual Defendants alleging claims for intentional and negligent misrepresentation. After filing answers to the complaint, the Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on the basis that the asserted claims were time-barred. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the Plaintiff’s case with prejudice. Discerning no error in this decision, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/21/16