Court Opinions

Format: 05/25/2017
Format: 05/25/2017
Deborah Lacy v. HCA Health Service of TN, Inc., et al.
M2016-01027-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

Plaintiff appeals the dismissal of her case and the award of sanctions against her. The trial court dismissed the action for failure of Plaintiff to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act. Plaintiff also argues that the trial court engaged in judicial misconduct. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment as modified.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Sherra Robinson Wright v. The Estate of Lorenzen Vern-Gagne Wright, et al.
W2016-01251-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This case involves a divorced party’s request to recover unpaid child support and alimony. The petitioner filed her lawsuit in the Shelby County Circuit Court, which denied her request for relief. Although the petitioner appeals, we conclude that the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction over the petitioner’s claims. Because the petitioner’s ex-husband is deceased and the claims at issue are against the ex-husband’s estate, the petitioner was required to file her claims against the estate in the Shelby County Probate Court. We therefore vacate the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Franklin Square Towne Homeowners Association Inc., et al. v. Joseph B. Kyles, et al.
W2016-02018-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This case involves a dispute over property. The trial court ruled that the defendants’ driveway and air conditioner pads encroached onto the plaintiffs’ property but declined to order their removal. Rather, the trial court awarded the plaintiffs damages and ruled that the encroachments could remain in place. Both parties appealed. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that plaintiffs’ action with regard to the driveway is not barred by the Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-2-103 statute of limitations. We reverse the trial court’s ruling, however, to note that any action regarding the air conditioners and their placement is barred by the section 28-2-103 statute of limitations. We also reverse the trial court’s ruling allowing the driveway to remain in place.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/10/17
Jeffrey Walton v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01395-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Jeffrey Walton (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of vandalism over the value of $10,000 and burglary of a building and received an effective sentence of twenty-seven years. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that second and third trial counsel’s performance was deficient because they (1) failed to prepare a trial strategy; (2) failed to investigate the background of Barrow-Agee Laboratories and discover a fatal variance in the indictment; (3) failed to properly cross-examine witnesses; and (4) failed to request jury instructions on the defenses of duress and necessity. The Petitioner asserts that he was prejudiced because absent these deficiencies, he would have likely been convicted of a lesserincluded offense or acquitted of the offenses. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/17
Victor Dunn v. Tradesmen International, Inc.
E2015-01930-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

Victor Dunn (“Employee”), a Tennessee resident, was injured in Iowa while working for Tradesmen International, Inc. (“Employer”).  Employer accepted the injury as compensable but disputed Tennessee’s jurisdiction over the claim, contended that any award of permanent disability benefits should be limited to one and one-half times the impairment rating, and disagreed with Employee’s calculation of his average weekly wage.  The trial court held that it had jurisdiction, that the claim was not “capped,” and that Employee’s proposed average weekly wage was correct. It awarded permanent partial disability benefits of 25% to the body as a whole.  Employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court’s ruling on the average weekly wage issue was incorrect. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51.  We affirm the judgment.

Johnson County Workers Compensation Panel 05/10/17
Gwendolyn Hagerman v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01555-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

Petitioner, Gwendolyn Hagerman, was convicted of five counts of rape of a child and sentenced to an effective sentence of sixty years. Subsequently, she sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief and dismissed the petition. Petitioner appealed. After a review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
Christopher Lee Richardson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00793-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

A Bedford County jury convicted the Petitioner, Christopher Lee Richardson, of attempted theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, disorderly conduct, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance for sale or delivery, resisting arrest, possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance, and promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. The trial court ordered an effective sentence of twelve years. On appeal, this Court affirmed the convictions and sentence. See State v. Christopher Lee Richardson, No. M2013-01178-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 12651041, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, June 12, 2014), no perm. app. filed. The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, and following a hearing the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Heath Bell
W2016-00136-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Heath Bell, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder and first degree felony murder. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment. The Defendant raises the following five issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress tainted eyewitness identification testimony; (2) whether his due process rights were violated by the State’s withholding of exculpatory evidence of a possible third party perpetrator; (3) whether the trial court erred by not granting his request for a new trial based on the newly discovered exculpatory evidence; (4) whether the evidence was sufficient to establish his identity as one of the perpetrators; and (5) whether the trial court erred by limiting his closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
Wayne Sellers v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01776-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Wayne Sellers (“the Petitioner”) appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court conviction for aggravated rape, for which he received a sentence of twenty-three years’ incarceration. In this appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to explain the defense strategy to the Petitioner and object to the victim’s in-court identification of the Petitioner. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of postconviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
Darryl Lee Davis v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02193-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Darryl Lee Davis, the Petitioner, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus claiming that his twenty-five year sentence had expired and that he was being illegally restrained of his liberty. The habeas corpus court found that the Petitioner’s sentence had not expired and summarily dismissed the Petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Hill-Williams
W2015-01743-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced him to life. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, that the trial court erred by ruling that evidence of the victim’s gang affiliation was irrelevant to the Appellant’s claim of self-defense, that the trial court erred by admitting hearsay text messages into evidence, and that the trial court erred by giving a flight instruction to the jury. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
David E. Breezee v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02251-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

The Petitioner, David E. Breezee, appeals the Benton County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of rape of a child, rape, and two counts of incest and resulting effective thirty-four-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel, that the post-conviction court erred by denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, and that he is entitled to a second post-conviction evidentiary hearing due to post-conviction counsel’s deficient performance. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Jarvis Sherrod and Antonio Dodson
W2015-02022-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendants, Jarvis Sherrod and Antonio Dodson, were each convicted by a Shelby County Jury of three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Sherrod was also convicted of one count of aggravated sexual battery and was sentenced to seventy-three years’ incarceration; Antonio Dodson was sentenced to forty-four years’ incarceration. In Jarvis Sherrod’s appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion to sever his case from that of his co-defendant; (2) denying his right to a speedy trial; (3) improperly admitting a gun into evidence at trial; (4) allowing the victims’ prior consistent statements at trial; and (5) improperly exercising its duty as thirteenth juror. In Antonio Dodson’s appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion to sever his case from that of his co-defendant; (2) finding that the evidence was sufficient to support two of his especially aggravated kidnapping convictions; (3) allowing improper closing argument by the State; (4) allowing the victims’ prior consistent statements at trial; (5) allowing improper expert witness testimony; and (6) denying his motion to dismiss count ten of the indictment for failure to provide sufficient notice of the charge. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
Raymond Buford v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00514-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, Raymond Burford, was convicted of premeditated first degree murder and received a life sentence. He appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief arguing that trial counsel was ineffective by (1) recalling a witness knowing that she would offer evidence of the Petitioner’s prior bad acts that had not been introduced in the State’s case in chief and (2) failing to adequately research diminished capacity as a defense. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/17
Tina Yvette Vaughn v. Methodist Hospital Staff & Aministration
W2016-00422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment, dismissing Appellant’s defamation lawsuit against Appellee. The trial court held that Appellant’s claim sounded in slander. Because Appellant filed her lawsuit more than six months after the offending statements were made, the trial court granted summary judgment on the sole ground that the applicable statute of limitations for slander, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-103, had run. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Kandi L. Smith v. Britani N. Thorne
M2016-01966-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth R. Goble


This appeal involves child support for two minor children, H.T. and C.B. (“the Children”). Upon a prior dependency and neglect petition, the Montgomery County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) had awarded custody of the Children to their grandmother in an order entered December 29, 2010. The court had also granted the Children’s mother weekly visitation and ordered the mother to pay $410.00 monthly in child support. In April 2011, the State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the grandmother, filed a petition to set child support, which the trial court dismissed upon finding that support previously had been set. In December 2011, the State issued an administrative order, finding that the mother owed an arrearage of $4,510.00 and ordering her to pay an additional $205.00 per month. The mother subsequently filed a petition seeking custody of the Children and naming the grandmother as the respondent. Without notice to the State, the mother and the grandmother announced agreements to the trial court, which the court memorialized in two agreed orders: (1) a March 13, 2015 order returning custody of the Children to the mother and granting reasonable visitation to the grandmother and (2) a May 28, 2015 order waiving all child support arrearages owed to the grandmother, directing the mother to pay a $1,488.00 child support arrearage to the State at a rate of $50.00 per month, and reinstating the mother’s driver’s license. In September 2015, the State filed a petition for criminal contempt against the mother for failure to pay child support. The State subsequently filed a “motion to reconsider or set aside” the May 2015 agreed order, citing Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying the State’s motion, directing the mother to pay the $1,488.00 arrearage to the State she previously had agreed to pay, and issuing an attachment for the mother’s failure to appear and failure to pay support. The State has appealed. Having determined that, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159(a), the circuit court has sole jurisdiction to consider this appeal flowing from a dependency and neglect action, we transfer this appeal to the Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Terry Trammell
E2016-01267-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Terry Trammell, was convicted of two counts of theft after a jury trial. The trial court merged the two counts and sentenced Defendant to a twelve-year sentence. On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of a continuance and the sufficiency of the evidence. After a review, we determine Defendant waived the issue with respect to the continuance for failure to raise the issue in a motion for new trial and failure to present an adequate record on appeal. Additionally, we determine the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Jaymes Harrison
M2016-01875-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The Appellant, Jaymes Harrison, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/17
In Re: Addison P.
E2016-02567-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

This is the second appeal of this case. In the first appeal, this Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the trial court only for a determination of whether mother’s failure to visit the child was willful. On remand, the trial court found that mother’s failure to visit the child was willful. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence established the ground of willful failure to visit by an incarcerated parent. We also affirm the trial court’s determination that termination is in the child’s best interest. Consequently, we affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 05/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Wynell Ford
W2016-01515-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Wynell Ford, pled guilty in the Madison County Circuit Court to convicted felon in possession of a firearm with a prior violent felony, a Class C felony, and was sentenced by the trial court as a multiple offender to ten years in the Department of Correction at thirty-five percent. On appeal, he challenges the trial court’s denial of his request for alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the sentencing determinations of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Corey Jermaine Hart
W2016-00565-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Corey Jermaine Hart, appeals from the trial court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 for failure to assert a colorable claim. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17
Michael Clark v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01013-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Michael Clark (“the Petitioner”) was indicted for second degree murder and attempted second degree murder in a single indictment. In his first trial, the Petitioner was convicted of attempted second degree murder, and a mistrial was declared as to the charge of second degree murder. In the second trial, the Petitioner was convicted of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. The Petitioner was sentenced to twenty years as a multiple offender for attempted second degree murder and to fifteen years as a persistent offender for voluntary manslaughter to be served consecutively. The Petitioner filed a single petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel in both trials, which the post-conviction court denied following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel during his first trial are properly before this court, that first and second trial counsel’s representations were deficient, and that he was prejudiced by those deficiencies. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief from the judgment entered in the second trial and dismiss the Petitioner’s appeal related to the judgment entered in the first trial because the petition was not filed within one year of the date our supreme court denied the application for permission to appeal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Octavius Flynn and Derrick Benson
W2015-01648-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendants, Octavius Flynn and Derrick Benson, appeal their convictions for second degree murder and their respective sentences of twenty-five and twenty-four years. On appeal, the Defendants argue, either individually or collectively, that (1) the trial court erred in denying their motions to sever; (2) a witness’s identification of Mr. Flynn in a photographic array was unreliable and should have been suppressed; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; (4) the trial court erred in denying Mr. Flynn’s motion to dismiss due to spoliation of evidence; (5) the jury failed to follow the trial court’s instructions and improperly compromised on a verdict of second degree murder; and (6) the sentences are excessive. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert Grisham
E2015-02446-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Robert Grisham, was convicted of observation without consent, unlawful photography, and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. In this appeal of right, the Defendant challenges the following: (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress the deleted files retrieved from his cell phone using highly-sophisticated equipment; (2) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, arguing that there was insufficient proof of “sexual activity” by “lascivious exhibition” on the video; and (3) the trial court’s enhancement of his sentencing term for especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor to nine years by utilizing the abuse of private trust enhancement factor. In light of our supreme court’s recent decision in State v. Whited, 506 S.W.3d 416 (Tenn. 2016), we conclude that the proof was insufficient to support the element of sexual activity and are, therefore, required to reverse and vacate the Defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. However, because the proof is sufficient to support the lesser-included offense of attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, which was charged to the jury, we remand this matter to the trial court for entry of an amended judgment reflecting a conviction for attempt and for resentencing on this modified conviction. The Defendant’s convictions for unlawful photography and observation without consent are affirmed. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17
In Re Travis H.
E2016-02250-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis Roach, II

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights on grounds of: (1) failure to substantially comply with permanency plans; (2) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (3) persistence of conditions, (4) abandonment by an incarcerated parent for wanton disregard; and (5) abandonment by an incarcerated parent for willful failure to support. We vacate the trial court’s determination regarding the ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent for willful failure to support, but otherwise affirm the trial court’s determinations regarding the remaining grounds for termination. We likewise affirm the trial court’s determination that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights.

Jefferson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/17