Court Opinions

Format: 08/05/2020
Format: 08/05/2020
George E. Chittenden, Et Al. v. BRE/LQ Properties, LLC
M2019-01990-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is a premises liability action arising from an injury suffered by a guest who slipped on ice in the parking lot of a hotel.  The plaintiffs appeal the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant.  Upon a thorough review of the record, we conclude that there is no dispute of material fact and that summary judgment in favor of the defendant was properly granted; accordingly, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/15/20
The City of Jackson v. Lou Bosco ET AL.
W2019-00547-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:

This case concerns a municipality’s attempt to restrict the persons who are able to collect and dispose of construction waste within its city limits. In relevant part, the municipality generally prohibits persons from collecting and disposing of waste accumulated within its borders. That task is reserved, subject to certain exceptions, to the municipality, who has entered into an exclusive contract with a corporate entity for waste disposal. The Appellants herein are a waste disposal services company and its managing member. The managing member was cited individually in the municipality’s Environmental Court for unauthorized refuse and trash disposal, and he was found to be in violation of the municipal ordinance. A de novo appeal was thereafter taken to the Circuit Court, where the waste disposal services company became a participating party. Among other things, the waste disposal services company asserted that the municipality’s effort to circumscribe waste collection was a violation of the Tennessee Constitution’s anti-monopoly and equal protection provisions. These constitutional claims were dismissed at summary judgment. In addition to its asserted constitutional claims, the waste disposal services company averred that certain of the City’s municipal ordinances provided it with authority to conduct its operations. Following a later hearing, the Circuit Court declined to issue any fines but nonetheless enjoined the waste disposal services company from further removal of waste when it was not the actual producer of waste. Several issues are now raised for our review on appeal. For the reasons stated herein, the judgment of the Circuit Court is reversed, and the injunction is vacated.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/14/20
Carol Buckley v. The Elephant Sanctuary In Tennessee, Inc.
M2020-00883-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Deanna Bell Johnson

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal, pursuant to the de novo standard as required under Rule 10B, § 2.01, we reverse the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal and remand with instructions for another judge to be designated to preside over this case.

Lewis County Court of Appeals 07/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Darius Patterson
E2019-01173-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The defendant, Darius Patterson, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping, possession with intent to sell or deliver .5 grams or more but less than 15 grams of heroin, possession with intent to sell or deliver 26 grams or more of cocaine, simple possession of marijuana, evading arrest, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony after having been previously convicted of a felony, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the sentencing decision of the trial court. We discern no error in the proceedings below, and, as a result, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/20
Kane Stackhouse v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01651-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The petitioner, Kane Stackhouse, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2008 Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. In this appeal, the petitioner claims, as he did below, that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Lonnie Duane Orr
M2019-01555-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The Defendant, Lonnie Duane Orr, appeals from the trial court’s community corrections revocation for his eight-year, Range III sentence for his conviction of burglary. He contends that the court erred in revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his sentence in the Department of Correction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/20
Jarrett A. Jones v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01601-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner, Jarrett A. Jones, on one count of sexual exploitation of a minor (over 100 images) and thirty-four counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, all Class B felonies. Petitioner pled guilty as a Range I offender to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor (over 100 images) and two counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. All other counts were dismissed based upon his guilty plea. The trial court sentenced Petitioner, pursuant to the plea agreement, to eight years at 100% on each count and ordered the sentences to run consecutively, for a total effective sentence of twenty-four years’ incarceration. Petitioner timely filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, and the post-conviction court appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief in a written order. On appeal, Petitioner argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not entered into knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Catherine Ann Pinhal
M2019-01516-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Defendant, Catherine Ann Pinhal, was convicted upon her 2019 guilty pleas of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, a Class C felony, and two counts of possession of contraband in a penal facility, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-213 (2019) (vehicular homicide); 39-16-201 (2019) (possession of contraband). The length and manner of service of her sentence were reserved for the trial court’s determination. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed six years for the vehicular homicide conviction and four years for each possession of contraband in a penal facility conviction. The court, likewise imposed partial consecutive service, for an effective ten-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying her request for alternative sentencing and by imposing consecutive service. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/20
Douglas D. Dailey v. Violet L. Dailey
E2019-00928-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

This appeal arises from a divorce action. During the trial court proceedings, the parties agreed on a distribution of a majority of the marital property. However, a hearing was necessary concerning missing gold and silver that had been purchased during the marriage. The Trial Court found Husband not to be a credible witness. The Trial Court further found that the gold existed, that Husband had control of the safe room where the gold was located, and that Husband was responsible for the gold being missing. Husband appeals the Trial Court’s judgment to this Court. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 07/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Monqueze L. Summers
M2019-01006-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Monqueze L. Summers, Defendant, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in which he argued that his life sentence was illegal. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/13/20
State of Tennessee v. George Anthony Vasser
W2019-01374-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Defendant, George Anthony Vasser, was convicted by a Gibson County Circuit Court jury of selling or delivering cocaine, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-417 (2018). He received a sentence of eight years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence does not support the Defendant’s conviction for selling or delivering, (2) the evidence only supports a conviction for the lesser included offense of casual exchange of drugs, and (3) the trial court erred by failing to enter a judgment of acquittal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/20
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Terell Mays
W2019-01095-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Timothy Terell Mays, was convicted on his guilty pleas to two counts of sale of cocaine, a Class C felony, and two counts of delivery of cocaine, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-417(a)(2), (3), (c)(2)(A) (2018). The delivery offenses were merged with the sale offenses. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received six-year sentences, to be served concurrently to each other and consecutively to a previous sentence, and he reserved a certified question of law regarding mandatory joinder of the present offenses with the offenses from a previous prosecution in which his guilt had already been adjudicated. We affirm the judgments of the trial court, and we remand the case for correction of a clerical error.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/20
State of Tennessee v. Buford Cornell Williams
M2019-01073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Defendant, Buford Cornell Williams, was convicted of selling .5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine. Defendant appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. This court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. State v. Buford Williams, No. M2017-00507-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 6028876, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 5, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 12, 2018). Defendant subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to file a timely motion for new trial. The post-conviction court granted relief for the purpose of filing a motion for new trial which would permit an appeal if the motion was denied. Defendant filed a motion for new trial which was denied by the trial court. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss based on the State’s failure to preserve evidence or exclude evidence from the trial. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/20
In Re Daniel B. Jr. Et Al.
E2019-01063-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brian J. Hunt

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children. The juvenile court determined that there were five grounds for terminating the mother’s parental rights and that termination of her parental rights was in the children’s best interest. Because the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support both the grounds for termination and the best interest determination, we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/10/20
Joseph A. Colwell, Sr. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00212-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

The Petitioner, Joseph A. Colwell, Sr., appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, seeking relief from his two convictions of rape and two convictions of incest and resulting effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to object to evidence of prior sexual abuse pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), failed to file a motion to question one of the victims about her prior sexual behavior pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412, and failed to present evidence from electronic devices that would have been helpful to his case. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/20
Kimberley Arnold Bates v. Charles Anthony Bates
M2019-00505-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

A wife filed for divorce after approximately seventeen years of marriage. Following a bench trial, the trial court declared the parties divorced, divided the marital estate, and awarded the wife alimony in futuro. The husband appealed, challenging the trial court’s valuation of his separate property interest in a closely held corporation and the division of the marital estate. We have determined that the trial court erred in undervaluing the husband’s separate property interest and modify the valuation to $255,000. Because the trial court failed to allocate all of the marital debt, we vacate the trial court’s division of the marital estate and award of alimony and remand the case for further consideration.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 07/09/20
State of Tennessee v. Jesus Alfonso Castillo
M2019-01256-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

Defendant, Jesus Alfonso Castillo, was indicted by a Rutherford County Grand Jury along with four co-defendants for conspiracy to sell over 300 grams of methamphetamine in a drug free zone. Defendant was also indicted for delivery of over 300 grams of methamphetamine in a drug free zone and possession of over 300 grams of methamphetamine in a drug free zone. The second and third counts and the drug free zone enhancement were dismissed prior to trial. A jury convicted Defendant on the conspiracy count. The trial court imposed a fifteen-year sentence to be served in confinement. Defendant filed a motion for new trial that was denied by the trial court. Defendant timely appeals whether the trial court had territorial jurisdiction and whether venue was proper. Defendant further argues the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/20
State of Tennessee v. James Ruba Hill, Jr.
E2019-00556-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, James Ruba Hill, Jr., of burglary, theft, and evading arrest. The trial court sentenced the Appellant as a career offender to a total effective sentence of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his burglary conviction and that the theft conviction should be merged into the burglary conviction. Upon review, we conclude the evidence is sufficient to sustain his burglary conviction and remand to the trial court for the theft conviction to be merged into the burglary conviction.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/20
Robin Drewry Luttrell (Wassenberg) v. Samuel Richard Wassenberg
W2017-02443-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

Five years after the parties’ divorce, the father relocated to another state. Both parents moved for modification of the joint parenting plan, seeking to be named primary residential parent. Finding that the father’s move was a material change in circumstances, the court entered a temporary plan that designated the mother as primary residential parent. Before trial, the court sanctioned the father for his complete failure to respond to the mother’s Rule 34 requests. After a trial, the court found that modification of the parenting plan was in the child’s best interest. The modified plan named the mother the primary residential parent and substantially reduced the father’s parenting time. The court also modified child support retroactive to the date of the mother’s petition and found the father in both civil and criminal contempt. Because the court’s final order lacks sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to explain its modification decision, we vacate that part of the court’s order and remand for entry of an order in compliance with Rule 52.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. We also vacate the post-trial civil contempt sanctions imposed by the court for the father’s violation of the modified plan. In all other respects, we affirm.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 07/09/20
In Re Nehemiah H. Et Al.
M2019-01167-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Elizabeth C. Asbury

This dependency and neglect action focuses on ten siblings: Josiah, Nehemiah, Jonathan, Hadasah, Nathaniel, Noah, Hope, Malachi, Obadiah, and Grace (“the Children”), whose ages ranged from eighteen years to one year at the time of trial. All of the Children were born during the marriage of Amy H. (“Mother”) and Timothy H. (“Father”). The Children were taken into the custody of the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) based on allegations of abuse and neglect by the parents. The Fentress County Juvenile Court (“juvenile court”) determined that the Children were dependent and neglected, and the parents appealed that ruling to the Fentress County Circuit Court (“trial court”). Following a de novo trial, the trial court also determined that the Children were dependent and neglected and that the parents had committed severe child abuse. Both Mother and Father have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Fentress County Court of Appeals 07/08/20
James Rodney Smith v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00820-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

The Petitioner, James Rodney Smith, appeals the Houston County Circuit Court’s order summarily dismissing his petition for
post-conviction relief as untimely. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that due process requires the tolling of the one-year limitations period. After reviewing the record, we conclude that while the petition was untimely, the Petitioner has alleged facts that would toll the limitations period. As such, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the Petitioner is entitled a late-filed petition for post-conviction relief.

Houston County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/08/20
Helen M. Bell v. D. Breck Roberts, II
M2018-02126-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The plaintiff filed this personal injury action seeking compensation for injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile accident. The jury found in favor of the defendant and awarded zero damages. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the jury verdict was inadequate and the special verdict form was misleading. We conclude that there is material evidence in the record to support the jury award. And we deem the plaintiff’s second issue waived. So we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Jose Gonzalez Bonilla
M2019-01193-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Defendant, Jose Gonzalez Bonilla, was convicted by a jury of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and he received an effective sentence of thirty-five years in confinement. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever, that the trial court erred in permitting the testimony of a forensic social worker, that he is entitled to relief from the convictions under the theory of cumulative error, and that the trial court erred in sentencing him. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the Defendant is not entitled to appellate relief, and we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Novodny Young
M2019-01221-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Novodny Young, appeals after the trial court revoked his probation and ordered him to serve his effective eight-year sentence in incarceration. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Maliq Asadi Muhammad
E2019-01988-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant, Maliq Asadi Muhammad, appeals from the Blount County Circuit Court’s revocation of probation for his Range I,
eight-year sentence for possession with the intent to sell 0.5 gram or more of cocaine, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-417 (2018). The Defendant contends that the trial court erred in revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/20