Court Opinions

Format: 06/24/2017
Format: 06/24/2017
Rodney And Tammy Henderson, et al. v. The Vanderbilt University - dissenting opinion
M2016-01876-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph p. Binkley, Jr.

“The law of negligent infliction of emotional distress has been called ‘one of the most disparate and confusing areas of tort law.’” Lane v. Estate of Leggett, No. M2016-00448-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 1176982, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 29, 2017) (citing Camper v. Minor, 915 S.W.2d 437, 440 (Tenn. 1996)). While this is a statement with which I agree, I must respectfully dissent from the majority opinion. I certainly do not dispute that the Plaintiffs in this case have suffered extreme emotional distress, nor do I mean to discount their grief and suffering as a result of the death of their daughter, Halle Henderson.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Rodney And Tammy Henderson, et al. v. The Vanderbilt University
M2016-01876-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendant hospital on the ground that the plaintiffs could not establish that they witnessed or perceived an injury-producing event for purposes of their negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. We hold that the alleged failure of the defendant hospital to provide care to the plaintiffs’ daughter, despite repeated assurances from the hospital that it would occur, constitutes an injury-producing event that was witnessed by plaintiffs. Accordingly, the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiffs’ negligent infliction of emotional distress claims on this basis.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Transfill Equipment Supplies & Services, Inc. v. Advanced Medical Equipment, LLC
M2016-00288-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

In this breach of contract case, Transfill Equipment Supplies & Services, Inc. (TESS) sued Advanced Medical Equipment, LLC (AME) for delinquent payments of (1) rent due on TESS’s equipment, (2) purchases of medical oxygen, and (3) the fair market value of rented equipment that AME had not returned to TESS. AME filed a separate lawsuit against TESS seeking damages for conversion of oxygen tanks. After consolidating the cases, the Sumner County General Sessions Court awarded damages to TESS and dismissed all of AME’s claims. AME appealed to the trial court. The court found that AME was guilty of breach of contract due to its failure to make timely payments. As a consequence, the court awarded judgment to TESS in the amount of $34,999.45. The trial court also found that TESS had not converted AME’s oxygen tanks. AME appeals. We affirm.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Lemuel Lewis v. Lynn Moore, et al.
M2015-02473-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael Binkley

In this breach of contract action, the plaintiff entered into a contract with a sole proprietor whereby he purported to purchase 10% of the sole proprietorship. The contract entitled the plaintiff to 10% of the cash withdrawals made from the business's account. It further provided that, should the sole proprietor dissolve the business and form a new entity of which she was a majority owner, the plaintiff would be entitled to 10% of the cash withdrawals taken by the sole proprietor from the new entity. Two years later, the sole proprietor closed the business and formed a new entity, a limited liability company, with another individual. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging breach of contract and violations of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court found for the sole proprietor, concluding that the sole proprietor was free to close her business at will. It further found that the sole proprietor did not breach the express terms of the contract, nor did she breach her implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, in closing her business and forming the LLC. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
In Re James V., et al.
M2016-01575-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her two sons.  The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that four grounds for termination were proven and that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate parental rights.  Mother appeals but only challenges the best interest determination.  We have also reviewed the evidence regarding each ground for termination.  We vacate the trial court’s finding regarding one ground for termination but otherwise affirm the trial court’s order and affirm the termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Overton County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
State of Tennessee v. John Alfred Waters
M2016-00522-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Defendant, John Alfred Waters, appeals as of right from his convictions for aggravated assault, violation of an order of protection, and attempted aggravated burglary. The Defendant contends (1) that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions for aggravated assault as charged in counts 6, 7, and 8; (2) that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of the Defendant’s previous conviction for violating an order of protection; and (3) that the trial court erred in allowing a police officer to testify that one of the victims was the “most terrified” victim he had ever seen because such evidence was irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/17
Antonio L. Fuller v. Blair Leibach, Warden
M2016-02514-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Antonio L. Fuller, appeals as of right from the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Petitioner contends that the petition stated a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/17
In Re: Candice H., et al
M2016-02305-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal arises from the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Jeffrey H. (“Father”) to his minor children Candice, Danonie, and Izabella (“the Children”). The Children had entered DCS custody after a domestic incident between Father and the Children’s mother. After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father’s parental rights and that termination is in the Children’s best interest. Father appealed. Finding it inapplicable to putative biological parent Father, we reverse the ground of failure to establish paternity found as regards the child Danonie. We affirm the rest of the Juvenile Court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to the Children.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
L.J. Jackson, et al. v. CitiMortgage, Inc.
W2016-00701-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This appeal involves a dispute between a loan servicer and a family who subsequently defaulted on a mortgage for a piece of property. The loan servicer foreclosed and sold the property according to the express terms of the mortgage note and deed of trust after the family had been in default for multiple years and after multiple failed attempts to seek loan modification. The family sued for breach of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, and intentional misrepresentation, asserting that the loan servicer promised to postpone the foreclosure sale until after completion of the most recent loan modification review process. The trial court granted summary judgment to the loan servicer on all claims. The family appealed on all four issues. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Davarius Smith v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00345-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, Davarius Smith, appeals as of right from the Lauderdale County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he was entitled to post-conviction relief based on the following alleged violations of his constitutional rights: (1) that the State withheld exculpatory evidence; (2) that, alternatively, he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel regarding this undisclosed evidence; (3) that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to file a motion to suppress a witness’ prior identification of the Petitioner; and (4) that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel due to appellate counsel’s failure to challenge an allegedly impermissible comment by the prosecutor during closing arguments and to properly challenge a special jury instruction provided by the trial court. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Ebony Marshall
W2015-01835-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Ebony Marshall, was convicted upon his guilty pleas of two counts of robbery, a Class C felony. He was sentenced to terms of twelve and thirteen years as a persistent, Range III offender for the offenses. The sentences were imposed to run consecutively, for an effective sentence of twenty-five years. The Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, (2) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences, and (3) he was denied his rights to due process and self-representation in the trial court proceedings. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/17
Eagle CDI, Inc., et al. v. Michael J. Orr, et al.
E2016-01399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This appeal involves a contract dispute between a general contracting company and a husband and wife who sought the company’s assistance to build a log cabin home. After the husband and wife defaulted on the original construction contract, the husband and wife and the company signed a second contract, a promissory note, for the remaining balance. The husband and wife subsequently defaulted on the promissory note. The trial court held that the husband and wife breached the second contract, the terms were clear and unambiguous, and a potential ambiguity in the first contract regarding a nonrefundable deposit and/or retainer was legally irrelevant in determining the amount owed under the second contract. Because the second contract was clear and unambiguous, we hold that the total sum owed by the husband and wife is proper despite any ambiguity in the first contract. Further, we hold that the trial court properly denied the husband and wife’s motion to amend their answer because of undue delay. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
David Lamar Hayes v. Glen Turner, Warden
W2016-01166-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a pro se inmate’s complaint for failure to prosecute. After filing his complaint in 2005, the plaintiff took no action in the case for more than 10 years. In 2015, the trial court directed the plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Instead of providing an explanation for the delay, the plaintiff sought a default judgment against the defendant. The trial court then dismissed the case with prejudice. On appeal, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 05/31/17
Deadrick Garrett v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01519-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Deadrick Garrett (“the Petitioner”) appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder and resulting life sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to: (1) communicate with the Petitioner and adequately explain criminal and trial procedure; (2) review discovery with the Petitioner, including witness statements and forensic evidence; (3) have the Petitioner evaluated by a mental health expert and pursue a diminished capacity theory of defense; (4) anticipate that the trial court would deny a self-defense jury instruction and develop a viable alternative defense; and (5) object to the Petitioner’s demonstrating on crossexamination that he could open the knife used in the murder with one hand. The Petitioner further asserts that trial counsel improperly: (6) advised a defense witness to be hostile towards the victim; (7) instructed the Petitioner to “cry on cue”; and (8) fabricated the Petitioner’s trial testimony “so as to create some justification for [the Petitioner’s] stabbing [the victim].” After a thorough review of the appellate record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/31/17
Tysheka Barnett v. B.F. Nashville, Inc. DBA Wendy's Of Nashville
M2016-00762-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Tysheka Barnett brought this action solely against her employer, B.F. Nashville, Inc., dba Wendy’s of Nashville, alleging that Wendy’s general manager, William Rogers, sexually harrassed her during her employment at a Wendy’s restaurant. After a four-day bench trial, the court found that plaintiff had not met her burden of proof to show that the sexual conduct between her and Rogers was unwanted, and, therefore, she was unable to show harassment. On appeal, plaintiff primarily argues that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s determination that the sexual interaction in question was not unwelcomed by plaintiff. This ruling was driven and determined in large part by the trial court’s evaluation of the credibility, including demeanor, of the various witnesses. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
David E. Scott v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01184-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Scottie R. Buckles, pled guilty in ten separate cases to a total of sixty-three separate offenses for which he received an effective sentence of fifteen years as a Range II, multiple offender. The trial court denied alternative sentencing after a hearing. Defendant appeals the denial of alternative sentencing on the basis that the trial court failed to consider whether Defendant should be sentenced under the special needs provision of the Community Corrections Act. After a review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Scottie R. Buckles
E2016-01645-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Defendant, Scottie R. Buckles, pled guilty in ten separate cases to a total of sixty-three separate offenses for which he received an effective sentence of fifteen years as a Range II, multiple offender. The trial court denied alternative sentencing after a hearing. Defendant appeals the denial of alternative sentencing on the basis that the trial court failed to consider whether Defendant should be sentenced under the special needs provision of the Community Corrections Act. After a review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Charlene Trussell
E2016-00003-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Defendant, Charlene Trussell, was found guilty by a Bledsoe County Circuit Court jury of three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, three counts of the attempted sale of a controlled substance, and felony possession of drug paraphernalia. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417 (Supp. 2013) (amended 2014) (sale and delivery); 39-17-425 (2014) (drug paraphernalia); 39-12-101 (criminal attempt) (2014). The trial court merged the delivery convictions into the attempted sale convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective three years’ probation. The court did not impose sentences or enter judgment forms for the delivery convictions. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her convictions and (2) as a matter of plain error, evidence of the confidential informant’s previous statements were inadmissible hearsay, violated the Defendant’s right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and were inadmissible because the probative value was substantially outweighed by the prejudicial impact. Although we affirm the Defendant’s convictions, we remand the case to the trial court for the imposition of sentences and the entry of judgments for the delivery of a controlled substance convictions, merger of the attempted sale convictions into the delivery convictions, and entry of corrected judgments for the attempted sale convictions.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/30/17
Alejandro Avila Salazar v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01336-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

The Petitioner, Alejandro Avila Salazar, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Wayne County Circuit Court. The Petitioner previously entered guilty pleas to second degree murder and attempted aggravated rape, for which he received an effective sentence of forty years' confinement. On appeal, he argues that he is entitled to withdraw his guilty plea because his sentence for attempted aggravated rape is illegal and was a material, bargained-for element of his plea agreement. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Rafael Moreno, Jr.
M2016-01305-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

Defendant, Rafael Moreno, Jr., pled guilty to one count of aggravated statutory rape. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to a three-year sentence of incarceration as a Range I, standard offender. Defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion and/or an alternative sentence. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Perry County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/30/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Betty Ann Torres (Stone) Spurlock v. Cesar G. Torres
W2016-01633-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

In this child support action, the respondent father, who resides in Texas, filed a motion seeking to vacate the trial court’s previous child support orders, alleging that the court had no personal jurisdiction over him. The State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the mother, asserted that the father had consented to the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction by previously seeking administrative review of the child support award. The trial court agreed, determining that its exercise of personal jurisdiction was proper. The father has appealed. Having determined that the trial court did not have a proper basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the father, we reverse the trial court’s adjudication concerning personal jurisdiction. Because the trial court’s prior child support orders are void, we remand this matter to the trial court for a determination concerning whether exceptional circumstances exist that would justify denying relief from the prior void orders.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
Tom Watson v. Rosemarie Ralston-Good et al.
E2016-01505-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

The plaintiff business owner, who provided carpet cleaning services, filed an action in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court (“general sessions court”) against a customer, alleging that the customer had failed to compensate him for services rendered. The customer subsequently filed a counterclaim against the business owner, alleging that he had ruined an oriental rug in her home and sprayed chemicals on her furniture. The general sessions court entered a judgment in favor of the customer. The business owner appealed to the Hamilton County Circuit Court (“trial court”). Following a de novo trial, the trial court also found in favor of the customer, determining that the business owner had damaged the customer’s carpet. The trial court awarded damages to the customer in the amount of $500.00. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/30/17
Jackie F. Curry v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01893-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Petitioner, Jackie F. Curry, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to reopen post-conviction proceedings. Petitioner argues that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (2012), established a new rule of constitutional law that should be applied retroactively to his case. Because Petitioner failed to follow the statutory requirements to seek discretionary review of a motion to reopen, this Court does not have jurisdiction, and we dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/17
Courtney R. Logan v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
E2016-01535-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey H. Wicks

The Petitioner, Courtney R. Logan, appeals as of right from the Morgan County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Petitioner challenges his long-ago extradition to the state of Mississippi. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/17
Kenneth J. Cradic v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01082-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Petitioner, Kenneth J. Cradic, appeals as of right from the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis relief. The Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court erred in denying his petition because he presented newly discovered evidence of his actual innocence through a new witness who would discredit the victim’s trial testimony and evidence that the victim recanted her trial testimony on numerous occasions since the trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/17