Court Opinions

Format: 04/24/2019
Format: 04/24/2019
State of Tennessee v. Mandon Rogers
W2018-01599-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Mandon Rogers, Defendant, was convicted of attempted first degree murder (resulting in serious bodily injury), employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant claims the evidence was insufficient to show that he intended to kill the victim or that the victim suffered serious bodily injury and that, if the attempted murder conviction is reversed, his conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony should also be reversed. After a review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Trimon Pruitt
W2018-00039-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Defendant, Trimon Pruitt, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for first degree murder. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 24 years’ imprisonment with 100 percent release eligibility. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends: 1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; 2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a statement made by Defendant; 3) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no error. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Gantt
W2018-01158-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

On March 26, 2018, the Defendant, Kevin Gantt, pleaded guilty to soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to two years at 30% in the Department of Correction and required that he register as a sex offender. The Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court erred in sentencing him to the maximum sentence of two years and in denying his request for judicial diversion. After thorough review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
Randell Sexton v. David Hart, Et Al.
M2018-01537-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

The pro se appellant, a state inmate, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Davidson County Chancery Court (“trial court”). Averring that correction facility officials had wrongfully withheld back pay due to him for thirty-seven days of work he missed in his prison employment program pending his ultimately successful appeal of a disciplinary action, the petitioner requested that the trial court direct prison officials to tender $1,475.37 in back pay plus interest. The prison officials, represented by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the petitioner had waived this action in the trial court by previously filing a claim with the Division of Claims Administration (now known as the Division of Claims and Risk Management) and that the petitioner was not entitled to back pay under the applicable program procedures. In an order entered upon the pleadings, the trial court dismissed the petitioner’s action upon finding that the applicable procedures did not entitle the petitioner to back pay. The petitioner then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the trial court denied. The petitioner has appealed. Having determined that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this action, we vacate the trial court’s order and dismiss this case.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/04/19
Bruce Milton Miller v. Lucinda Miller Miller
E2018-01058-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

Bruce Milton Miller (“Husband”) and Lucinda Miller Miller (“Wife”) were divorced in December of 2017. The parties entered into a Mediation Agreement, a Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”), and a Permanent Parenting Plan in connection with the divorce. In February of 2018, Husband filed a Rule 60 motion seeking to reform the parties’ MDA. The Trial Court entered its order on May 24, 2018, reforming the MDA based upon mutual mistake and awarding retroactive child support. Wife appeals to this Court raising issues regarding the reformation of the MDA and the amount of retroactive child support awarded. We find and hold that no proof was presented of a mutual mistake, and therefore, the Trial Court erred in reforming the MDA. We further find and hold that Wife waived her issue as to retroactive child support. We, therefore, vacate that portion of the Trial Court’s May 24, 2018 order reforming the MDA and affirm the portion awarding retroactive child support.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Rad Mandela Kellar
E2018-00313-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant, Rad Mandela Kellar, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his request for judicial diversion. The Defendant pled guilty to possession of not less than ten pounds, one gram of marijuana nor more than seventy pounds of marijuana with intent to sell, and he was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying judicial diversion. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/19
Edward Harper v. Shelby County Schools
W2018-01100-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This is a case arising out of the Teacher Tenure Act. A tenured middle school teacher sought review of a decision of the board of education upholding his termination for inefficiency, incompetence, and neglect of duty. The chancery court affirmed the board’s decision, sustaining the teacher’s termination. Teacher appealed to this Court. We reverse the chancery court’s findings with respect to neglect of duty. However, we affirm the chancery court’s findings with respect to inefficiency and incompetence, and thereby affirm the teacher’s termination.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert William Ward
M2017-02269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Robert William Ward, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury, a Class A felony, and possession of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2018) (criminal attempt), 39-13-202 (2014) (first degree murder), 40-35-501(k)(5) (2014) (amended 2015, 2016) (sentencing for attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury), 39-17-1324 (2014) (firearms possession). He received an effective thirty-five-year sentence, to be served consecutively to his sentence in another case. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury conviction, (2) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior conduct, (3) the court erred in failing to strike hearsay testimony from the record, (4) the court erred in admitting a State’s witness’s prior statement, (5) the court erred in limiting his cross-examination of a State’s witness, (6) cumulative trial error requires relief, and (7) his attempted first degree murder sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/01/19
Deborah Lacy v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Et Al.
M2018-00832-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

The trial court held that Appellant failed to meet her burden to prove her claims of assault and battery. Appellant appealed. Due to the deficiencies in Appellant’s appellate brief, we do not reach Appellant’s substantive issues and dismiss the appeal.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Jocelin Williams
W2018-00797-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Jocelin Williams, of firstdegree, premeditated murder of Delvin Brown, the victim in this case. She was also convicted of murder during the perpetration of robbery, especially aggravated robbery, and theft of property valued over $500. The trial court merged the murder convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant presents the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress a statement which was given while she was alleged to have been impaired; and (2) whether the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to support her convictions of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. Upon our review, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert Belt
W2018-00785-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Robert Belt, of first-degree, premeditated murder of Delvin Brown, the victim in this case. He was also convicted of murder during the perpetration of robbery and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the murder convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty-five years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant presents the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to convict the Defendant of first-degree murder; and (3) whether the trial court erred in ordering the sentences to be served consecutively. Upon our review, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Derrick Settles
W2018-01560-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The pro se Defendant, Derrick Settles, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Germaine Markques Long
W2018-01203-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The Defendant, Germaine Markques Long, was found guilty by a Madison County Circuit Court jury of two counts of identity theft, a Class D felony, and theft of property valued at $1000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-150 (2018) (identity theft); 39-14-103 (2018) (theft); 39-14-105 (2018) (grading of theft). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of four years for each identity theft conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor theft conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Craig Markeem Taylor
W2018-00242-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Craig Markeem Taylor, was convicted by a Madison County jury of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, attempted aggravated burglary, and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the felony murder convictions into the first degree premeditated murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to life for the murder conviction, five years for each of the attempted aggravated robbery convictions, and three years for the attempted aggravated burglary conviction. The court ordered the attempted robbery sentences to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the sentence for first degree murder. The court ordered that the sentence for attempted aggravated burglary be served consecutively to the sentences for attempted aggravated robbery, for a total effective sentence of life plus eight years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the trial court committed reversible error by excluding proposed witness testimony on the erroneous basis that it constituted alibi testimony for which the State had not received prior notice. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of a corrected judgment in count five in order for the “Jury Verdict” box to be checked to reflect that the Defendant was convicted of the indicted offense pursuant to a jury verdict.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Marick Pettis
W2018-00102-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Appellant, Marick Pettis, pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and identity theft and received a total effective sentence of ten years. Thereafter, the Appellant filed a “Petition for Suspension of Sentence,” which was denied by the trial court. The Appellant appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Nicos Broadnax v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01503-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer S. Nichols

The Petitioner, Nicos Broadnax, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that trial counsel’s admitting that the Petitioner was guilty of robbery in opening statement was “ineffective and prejudicial.” Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Peter D. Billington v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
W2018-01915-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The pro se Petitioner, Peter D. Billington, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Evangeline Webb, et al. v. AMISUB (SFH), Inc.
W2017-02539-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This appeal arises from a re-filed health care liability action brought by the wife of a hospital patient, individually and on behalf of her now-deceased husband, against the hospital. In the first action, the plaintiffs attempted to rely on the 120-day extension to the statute of limitations provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121, which also required the plaintiffs to provide a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization to potential defendants. The complaint asserted that one of the hospital’s doctors and four of its nurses were negligent in treating the husband in the hospital’s emergency department on July 26, 2009, and that the hospital was vicariously liable. The doctor and nurses, but not Saint Francis, successfully moved for summary judgment based on the plaintiffs’ failure to comply with § 121. On interlocutory appeal, the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of § 121’s pre-suit notice requirement. This court affirmed the trial court’s determinations that § 121 was constitutional, was not preempted by HIPAA, and did not violate the equal protection and due process provisions of state and federal law. Accordingly, this court affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the doctor and nurses. Because the claims against the hospital remained, we remanded the case for further proceedings. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the first complaint against the hospital in April 2016. Eight months later, the plaintiffs sent the hospital a new pre-suit notice and medical authorization. Sixty-four days after that, the plaintiffs filed their second complaint against the hospital. The hospital moved to dismiss, asserting the second complaint was timebarred because the plaintiffs failed to provide a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization in the first action and, thus, the 120-day extension was not available and the original complaint was time-barred. The plaintiffs responded by asserting that a HIPAAcompliant medical authorization is unnecessary to obtain the 120-day extension and challenging the constitutionality of § 121, including a challenge based on the right to privacy in medical information. The trial court found that § 121 requires a HIPAAcompliant medical authorization before the 120-day extension applies, the law of the case doctrine barred the plaintiffs from re-litigating all constitutional challenges except that based on the right of privacy, and the right to privacy was not implicated. Based on these findings, the trial court dismissed the second complaint as time-barred. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/29/19
In Re A.P.
M2017-00289-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

Mother appeals the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights as to her minor child. Because we conclude that the trial court erred in allowing Mother’s counsel to withdraw the morning of trial, without considering whether Mother had notice of the withdrawal, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/29/19
Adam Boswell v. Young Men's Christian Association of Middle Tennessee
M2018-00180-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement,Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The plaintiff, a health club member, seeks damages from the health club based on its alleged failure to protect him from sexual assaults in the locker room by another club member. The complaint alleges that the health club “knew who the assailant was, and was aware that [the assailant] had engaged in such actions many times prior to” assaulting the plaintiff. The health club denied liability insisting it had no prior knowledge of sexual assaults by the assailant or anyone else. It also contended the claims were barred by the exculpatory provision in its membership agreement, which released the club from liability for injuries “resulting from” the plaintiff’s “use of [the] facilities.” The trial court found the exculpatory provision was unambiguous and summarily dismissed the claims. Thereafter, and while this matter was on appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court revised the standards by which the enforceability of an exculpatory agreement should be determined. See Copeland v. Healthsouth/Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital, LP, 565 S.W.3d 260 (Tenn. 2018). We have determined that the plaintiff failed to present competent evidence that the health club knew or should have known of prior assaults by the assailant or anyone else. Because there is no genuine dispute of fact, the health club is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and the issue regarding the enforceability of the exculpatory clause is moot. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of summary judgment, albeit on other grounds than found by the trial court, and remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Shawna N. Henson
E2018-01266-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant-Appellant, Shawna N. Henson, was indicted by a Campbell County grand jury for tampering with evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia in Case No. 17592, and for theft over $500 in Case No. 17593. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103; 39-16-503; 39-17-425. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant pled guilty to all three charges. The trial court sentenced her as a Range II, multiple offender to an effective term of nine years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges her sentence as inconsistent with the purposes and principles of sentencing under Tennessee Code Annotated sections 40-35-102 and 103. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Levitt, Hamilton, and Rothstein, LLC, Et Al. v. Ghazi Asfour
M2018-00938-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young


In appealing a non-final order, Appellant asks this Court to adopt a jurisdictional exception to the final judgment rule that would allow an immediate appeal of a trial court’s decision to grant a motion under Rule 60.02 where the trial court purportedly lacked jurisdiction to do so. We decline to adopt a per se exception to Rule 3(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure where the trial court grants a Rule 60.02 motion. We likewise decline to suspend the finality requirement in this particular case. As such, this appeal is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/29/19
Bonnie Shaw v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee
M2018-01157-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This premises liability action involves allegations of negligence and negligence per se. The trial court dismissed the case at summary judgment, opining that no duty was owed to the plaintiff and holding that the plaintiff’s negligence per se claims were legally insufficient. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/29/19
Salvador Sandoval v. Mark Williamson, Et Al.
M2018-01148-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joshua Baker

Salvador Sandoval (“Employee”), an undocumented immigrant, suffered an injury while working for Tennessee Steel Structures (“Employer”). The parties settled the claim, and Employee failed to return to work at the end of the initial compensation period. Employee now seeks additional permanent disability benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 50-6-207(3)(B) because Employee cannot return to work after the injury as he is not eligible or authorized to work in the United States under Federal Immigration Law. Employee challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(3)(F) which does not allow for additional benefits set forth in subdivision (3)(B) for any employee who is not eligible or authorized to work in the United States. The Court of Workers’ Compensations Claims held that it had no jurisdiction to make this determination and denied Employee’s request for increased benefits. Employee appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel pursuant to Tennessee Rule of the Supreme Court 51 section 1. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and hold that Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(3)(F) is constitutional.

Workers Compensation Panel 03/28/19
Brenda Woods v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02345-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Petitioner, Brenda Woods, appeals the McNairy County Circuit Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, seeking relief from her convictions for three counts of procuring an illegal vote and resulting effective two-year sentence to be served on community corrections. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19