Court Opinions

Format: 01/24/2020
Format: 01/24/2020
Donita Dale Dowden v. Ronald J. Feibus
E2019-00036-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge J.B. Bennett

This appeal arose from post-divorce litigation concerning the trial court’s distribution of marital assets, specifically the distribution of the marital portion of the husband’s federal government pension to the wife. In its divorce decree entered on August 10, 2004, the trial court awarded to the wife “1/2 of [the husband’s] Administrative Law Judge Government Pension through the date of this Final Decree.” Upon the husband’s appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in all respects, including the trial court’s award to the wife of one-half of the marital portion of the husband’s pension. Dowden v. Feibus, No. E2004-02751-COA-R3-CV, 2006 WL 140404 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 18, 2006) (“Dowden I”). The husband sought no further judicial review at that time. Following his retirement from federal employment on May 1, 2017, the husband received correspondence concerning the calculation of the wife’s portion of his pension from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”). On August 2, 2018, the husband filed a “Motion for Clarification and/or Relief from Judgment” contending, inter alia, that OPM miscalculated the portion of his pension that would be diverted to the wife because the trial court’s final decree was “too vague” and did not “provide sufficient guidance to OPM to allow them to correctly compute” the wife’s interest in the pension. On December 6, 2018, the trial court entered an order finding that there was “no lack of clarity” in its final decree and denying the husband’s motion. The husband has appealed. Having determined that the trial court did not err in denying the husband’s motion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand to the trial court for enforcement of the judgment. We decline to award attorney’s fees on appeal to the wife.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Johnny David Key
M2019-00411-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Johnny David Key, was convicted upon his guilty pleas of vehicular homicide, a Class B felony, and vehicular assault, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-213 (vehicular homicide) (2018), 39-13-106 (vehicular assault) (2018). The plea agreement called for Range I sentences of eight and four years, respectively, to be served concurrently, with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the court ordered that the Defendant serve his effective eight-year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/19
Linda Bridges v. Lifford L. Lancaster, M.D., Et Al.
M2019-00352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a health care liability action.  The trial court determined that Plaintiff’s evidence did not establish that any act or omission of Defendant caused Plaintiff to suffer an injury that would not have otherwise occurred.  The trial court awarded summary judgment to Defendant physician.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
James F. Logan, Jr. Et Al. v. The Estate of Mildred Cannon Et Al.
E2018-02043-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

Upon remand from this Court in a previous appeal, the trial court conducted a bench trial on a claim of common law adverse possession initiated by the plaintiff concerning a onequarter ownership interest in an unimproved 7.18-acre tract of real property located in Bradley County, Tennessee. In its final order, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s action in its entirety upon finding that although the plaintiff had presented evidence that preponderated in favor of adverse possession, the evidence did not rise to the level of the clear and convincing standard required to establish ownership through adverse possession. The plaintiff has appealed. Having determined that the plaintiff demonstrated adverse possession of the property interest at issue by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. City of Memphis, et al. - dissent
W2019-00299-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

The majority chooses to affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by EPE on the basis of the doctrine of res judicata. Because I conclude that an essential element of the doctrine of res judicata has not been established, I must respectfully dissent.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/26/19
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00299-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Appellants appeal the trial court’s grant of Appellees’ Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02 motions in this declaratory judgment action. The trial court dismissed Appellants’ complaint on the ground that Appellants had no standing to seek a declaratory judgment interpreting a contract, to which Appellants were neither parties nor third-party beneficiaries. We affirm the dismissal of Appellants’ complaint for declaratory judgment on the ground that the complaint is barred as res judicata.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Donald Dodd
W2018-01961-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Donald Dodd, of second degree murder as charged, and the trial court imposed a sentence of twenty-five years at one hundred percent release eligibility. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-210, 40-35-501(i). On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
In Re: Rader Bonding Company, Inc.
M2017-01687-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

We granted this appeal to determine whether a surety remains obligated under a bond agreement entered on the defendant’s arrest for driving under the influence second offense when a subsequent indictment charged the defendant with driving under the influence fourth offense.  We conclude that sureties remain obligated pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 40-11-130(a)(1), -138(b) and this Court’s holding in Young v. State, 121 S.W.2d 533 (Tenn. 1938).  We hold, therefore, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it entered the final judgment of forfeiture against Rader Bonding Company, Inc. (“Rader”) for the total amount of the bond and declined to grant Rader’s motion to alter or amend.  Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision holding that Rader should have been relieved from forfeiture on the $7,500 bond in connection with the defendant’s DUI charge and affirm its conclusion that Rader remains obligated on the $2,500 bond in connection with the defendant’s driving on a revoked license charge.

Davidson County Supreme Court 12/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Andrew K. Johnston
M2019-00219-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Appellant, Andrew K. Johnston, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, and the Bedford County Circuit Court summarily denied the motion. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the twenty-seven-year sentence he received pursuant to his guilty plea to second degree murder is illegal because it is outside the maximum range of punishment for a Range I offender convicted of a Class A felony. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
State of Tennessee v. James R. Baysinger
E2018-02295-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The Defendant, James R. Baysinger, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-215 (2018). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine the length and the manner of service. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two years and ordered him to serve five months, followed by four years’ probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the court erred by denying his requests for judicial diversion and full probation. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
Heather P. Hogrobrooks Harris v. Jimmie L. Smith
W2019-00394-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This appeal arises from a lawsuit over a car accident. Heather P. Hogrobrooks Harris (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, sued Jimmie L. Smith (“Defendant”) in the Circuit Court for Shelby County (“the Trial Court”) for diminution in the value of her vehicle, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of use of her vehicle, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. On several occasions over the course of the case, Plaintiff failed to show up to court. When Plaintiff failed to appear for trial, the Trial Court granted a continuance with a warning that, should Plaintiff fail to appear again, her case would be dismissed. Plaintiff subsequently failed to appear, and the Trial Court dismissed her case with prejudice for lack of prosecution, as it warned it would. Plaintiff appeals to this Court, arguing among other things, that the Trial Court Judge was biased against her and that the Trial Court erred in dismissing her case. First, we find no evidence whatsoever that the Trial Court Judge was biased against Plaintiff. Second, Plaintiff’s stated reasons for failing to show up for trial, that it was cold and rainy that day and her car was old and unreliable, respectfully will not suffice. We find no abuse of discretion in the Trial Court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s case for lack of prosecution. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Douglas Nattress
M2019-00408-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

The defendant, Matthew Douglas Nattress, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original ten-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Howard Hose Horton, III
M2019-00266-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The defendant, Howard Hose Horton III, entered open pleas to one count of aggravated assault and one count of felony vandalism, and the trial court sentenced the defendant to an effective sentence of eight years’ incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. William Kevin Kennedy
E2019-00403-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William K. Rogers

The defendant, William Kevin Kennedy, appeals the revocation of the sentence of probation imposed for his 2016 Sullivan County Criminal Court convictions of solicitation of a minor and attempted aggravated sexual battery, claiming that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at the revocation hearing. Because the interests of justice do not require the waiver of the timely filing of the notice of appeal in this case, the appeal is dismissed as untimely.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Reginald Bernard Wilson
E2018-01684-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Reginald Bernard Wilson, of resisting arrest, and the trial court sentenced the Defendant to ninety days of unsupervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it denied his request for a jury instruction on self-defense and that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for resisting arrest. After review, we conclude that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury as to self-defense. We, therefore, reverse the judgment of conviction and remand for a new trial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
Steven J. Dale v. Sharon K. Ball Dale
M2018-01999-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this post-divorce matter, the mother appeals the award of attorney fees to the father, who prevailed in his opposition to the mother’s request to relocate out of state. The mother gave notice to the father that she wanted to move to Arizona while the parties’ competing petitions to modify the parenting plan were pending. The trial court denied the mother’s request to relocate and awarded attorney fees to the father as the prevailing party in the relocation matter. As for the petitions to modify the parenting plan, the court ruled that the mother was the prevailing party and awarded to the mother the attorney fees she incurred in the modification matter. The mother appeals contending she should have been awarded fees in both matters as the “overall” prevailing party. Alternatively, the mother contends the trial court erred by awarding the father attorney fees solely on the basis he was the prevailing party in the relocation matter. Having found the trial court identified and properly applied the most applicable legal principles and that the award of attorney fees to the father was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/20/19
Vanquish Express, LLC v. Dixie Ohio Xpress, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-01934-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Golden
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson
This is an appeal from the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion to set aside an agreed order, which, among other things, dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice. Defendants alleged that their former counsel entered into the agreement without their authorization. Finding that the defendants submitted no evidence to support the allegation, the trial court denied the motion. Defendants appeal. We affirm.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Robbie Joe Kilgore
M2019-00281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The defendant, Robbie Joe Kilgore, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original three-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Reuben Eugene Mitchell
E2017-01739-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The defendant, Reuben Eugene Mitchell, was convicted of one count of arson and one count of presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the defendant’s arson conviction but reversed his conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  We granted the State’s application to appeal to address whether the proof at trial was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  Our review leads us to conclude that the evidence was sufficient.  Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstate the defendant’s conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim. 

Knox County Supreme Court 12/20/19
Tommy Dale Adams v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00470-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
The Petitioner, Tommy Dale Adams, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges the following grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel: (1) failure to present a cohesive defense theory, investigate, interview the Petitioner and witnesses, and explain the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) failure to object to the trial court’s ex parte communication with the jury during deliberations; and (3) failure to advise the Petitioner of his right to testify. He also alleges ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and cumulative error stemming from trial counsel’s alleged deficiencies. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
Voltaire Younger v. State of Tennessee
E2018-02168-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everette Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

 

The Petitioner, Voltaire Younger, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty pleas to the possession of heroin with the intent to deliver and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  The Petitioner received an effective sentence of fifteen years.  On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were not voluntarily entered.  After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/19
Alan O. Tennessee Department of Children's Services
E2019-01053-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

The Appellant filed suit complaining that the Department of Children’s Services denied him an administrative hearing concerning the determination that he was a child abuser. The trial court ultimately dismissed the Appellant’s petition for review, noting that there had already been a prior judicial determination, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Appellant had committed severe child abuse. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/19/19
Darla McKnight v. Hubbell Power Systems, Et Al.
M2019-00205-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

Employee filed a motion asking the trial court to require Employer to provide additional treatment for a work-related injury she suffered in March 2007. The trial court granted Employee’s motion and denied Employer’s motion to appoint a neutral physician. Employer’s appeal has been referred to this Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51, '1.  After reviewing the evidence in the record and the parties’ arguments, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.    

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 12/19/19
Justin C. Howell v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02050-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

The Petitioner, Justin C. Howell, appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/19
Billy Anglin v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00083-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The Petitioner, Billy Anglin, appeals from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment, for which he is serving an effective sentence of life plus twenty-five years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel and due process claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/19