Court Opinions

Format: 10/22/2018
Format: 10/22/2018
State of Tennessee v. Dalvin Smith
W2017-01915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

After a jury trial, Defendant, Dalvin Smith, was convicted of two counts of reckless homicide, facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant received a total effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering an excessive sentence. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
William Thomas Fiala v. Kelly Lauren Fiala
M2017-01280-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

Mother appeals the trial court’s finding that a material change in circumstance occurred affecting the best interests of the child and that the child’s best interests were furthered by naming Father primary residential parent. We affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/21/18
Nicholas Keith Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

In this State appeal, the State challenges the post-conviction court’s grant of relief to the petitioner in the form of a new trial for his 2013 Rutherford County Circuit Court jury convictions of two counts of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The State asserts that the post-conviction court erred by concluding that the petitioner was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial and that, but for counsel’s deficient performance, the results of the petitioner’s trial would have been different. Because the evidence preponderates against the findings of the post-conviction court, we reverse the ruling of that court and vacate the order granting post-conviction relief.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Quinton Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00568-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Quinton Cage, appeals the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. After a review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Xavier Todd v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2018-00099-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Appellant, Xavier Todd, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Mario M. Washington, Jr.
M2017-01601-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, Mario M. Washington, Jr., pleaded guilty in the Dickson County Circuit Court to unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class D felony, possession of a Schedule II drug, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of a Schedule IV drug, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B) (2014) (unlawful possession of a firearm), 39-17-418 (possession of a controlled substance) (2014) (amended 2016). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant received a five-year sentence and reserved a certified question of law regarding the search of his residence, which he presents on appeal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Quinton Bonner v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00925-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Lammey

In 2014, the Petitioner, Quinton Bonner, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the trial court imposed a sentence of ten years. The Petitioner then sought to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis that it was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that his trial counsel ineffectively advised him concerning his plea. The trial court denied his motion, and this court affirmed its judgment. State v. Bonner, No. W2015-00812-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 1403308, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, April 7, 2016) no perm. app. filed. In 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty plea was entered involuntarily and that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed his petition on the grounds that the claims had been previously determined. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Taylor Sherrer Ex Rel Lilly S. Et Al. v. John B. Cleghorn Et Al.
M2018-00023-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

This is a wrongful death case. Decedent was operating his motor vehicle in the early morning when he struck a bull in the middle of the road. As a result of the collision, Decedent’s vehicle careened off the road and flipped upside down into a nearby creek, where Decedent drowned. Plaintiffs, Decedent’s surviving spouse and children, sued Defendant, alleging that he was negligent in his ownership and control of the bull. Defendant denied ownership, possession, or control of the bull and moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred at the summary judgment stage by weighing the evidence and making determinations as to the credibility of witnesses. We agree and reverse.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 09/20/18
Christopher Young v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01106-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

In 2008, the Petitioner, Christopher Young, pleaded guilty to possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with a six-year sentence to be served on Community Corrections. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court summarily dismissed as untimely filed. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that this matter should be remanded to the lower court to allow him to file an amended petition in light of recent case law. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Courtney P. Brunetz v. Neil A. Brunetz
E2017-01391-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

In this post-divorce action involving the father’s petition to modify the parties’ existing permanent parenting plan and the mother’s subsequent counter-petition, the trial court increased the father’s co-parenting time by ten days during the summer, for a total of 130 parenting days per year, and granted the mother sole decision-making authority with respect to the children’s education and extracurricular activities. The father has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s ruling in all respects.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Yasin Solomon Hawkins
M2017-02439-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Yasin Solomon Hawkins, for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement to the police, which the trial court denied. The Defendant asserts that he was intoxicated when he made the statement to the police, and was thus unable to knowingly and voluntarily waive his Fifth Amendment rights. Following a bench trial, the Defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced as a career offender to thirty years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We conclude that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Bobby Murray Et Al. v. Dennis Miracle Et Al.
E2018-01530-COA-T10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the Trial Court’s denial of a successive motion to recuse filed by the Plaintiff, Loretta Murray (“Plaintiff”), during post-judgment proceedings in this case involving a property dispute between the parties to the litigation below. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Plaintiff, and determining that the record provided with the petition is insufficient to support reversal, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Appeals 09/20/18
Yvonne Kimber v. City Of Knoxville, Tennessee
E2018-00940-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The Notice of Appeal in this case indicates on its face that the appellant is appealing from a decision entered on May 22, 2018. However, there is no final judgment in the proceedings below entered on May 22, 2018, or any other date. Because the case remains pending in the Chancery Court, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Marshall
E2017-01933-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Buddy D. Perry

A Bledsoe County jury convicted the Defendant, Matthew Marshall, of attempted rape and attempted aggravated statutory rape. The trial court imposed consecutive ten-year and four-year sentences, respectively, for a total effective sentence of fourteen years. At his motion for new trial, the trial court amended the judgments to run the sentences concurrently, for an effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court made numerous evidentiary errors when it admitted certain statements or testimony as evidence and when it allowed several witnesses to testify. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Laura Cowan Coffey v. David L. Coffey Et Al.
E2017-00988-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This case involves events that span a period of some twenty years following the death of Steven Lee Coffey in a plane crash on July 13, 1995. The deceased was a successful owner of a securities business. Plaintiff, Laura Cowan Coffey, is his widow. In the deceased’s will, David L. Coffey (David the senior), the deceased’s father, was designated executor of his son’s estate. Plaintiff alleges in her complaint for fraud, conversion, and breach of fiduciary duty, that David the senior breached his fiduciary duties and engaged in a fraudulent scheme to obtain for himself two highly-profitable assets of the estate, which ultimately sold for $45,000,000 in 2015 for the benefit of David the senior’s heirs. Plaintiff also sued David Michael Coffey (David the younger) - who is the son of David the senior - in the former’s capacity as trustee of the fortune resulting from the sale of the assets of the deceased. After a hearing on defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the court granted their motions, finding that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff appeals. We hold that plaintiff has set forth specific facts showing that there are genuine issues of material fact pertaining to fraudulent concealment of plaintiff’s cause of action against the defendants rendering summary judgment inappropriate. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgment granting the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. This matter is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. T

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/20/18
Alan C. Cartwright v. Alice Cartwright Garner, et al.
W2016-01424-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom, III

A trust beneficiary sued co-trustees for breach of their fiduciary duties and for procuring the creation of two trusts through undue influence. The trustees moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Following the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the trust beneficiary moved to amend his complaint. Prior to ruling on the motion to amend, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss based on the expiration of the statute of limitations and the grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Subsequently, the trial court denied the motion to amend. On appeal, the trust beneficiary asserts the trial court abused its discretion by not granting his post-hearing motion to amend. The trust beneficiary also argues that the court erred in dismissing his complaint. We conclude the court did not err in denying his motion to amend. We further conclude that the trial court properly dismissed the complaint on the ground of res judicata.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/19/18
Vicki Gandee v. Zurich North America Insurance Company
W2017-01523-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

Vicki Gandee (“Employee”) sustained a knee injury in 2004 during the course of her employment with Christ United Methodist Church (“Employer”). Employee returned to work after her injury; however, she left her job in April 2006 before reaching maximum medical improvement. Employee filed this claim against Employer’s worker’s compensation carrier (“Insurer”) maintaining she failed to make a meaningful return to work. Employee was seeking permanent partial disability benefits at six times the impairment rating. The parties disputed whether Employee was terminated for misconduct or resigned due to her injury. The trial court found the claim compensable but capped the award at two and one-half times the impairment rating having concluded Employee was terminated for misconduct. Employee appeals claiming the trial court erred in finding she was terminated for misconduct; in applying the lower cap; and in adopting Insurer’s expert’s impairment rating. 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 trial court’s decision to adopt the impairment rating assigned by Insurer’s expert; however, we reverse the trial court’s decision to cap the award based on misconduct and remand for modification of the award.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/18
Brian Allen Osborne v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00521-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The Petitioner, Brian Allen Osborne, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Demetric Johnson
M2017-01527-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The Defendant, Demetric Johnson, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the court should have imposed an alternative sentence rather than ordering him to serve the balance of his original sentence incarcerated, and therefore abused its discretion. After thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Richard Shawn O'Rourke
M2017-00375-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The Defendant, Richard Shawn O’Rourke, was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of rape, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-503 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to ten years, six months’ incarceration at 100% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Because the State engaged in multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
Village East Association, Inc. v. Daniel Lamb, Et Al.
E2017-02275-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgerty, Jr.

After the wildfires in Gatlinburg destroyed the Village East Condominiums, the unit owners decided unanimously not to rebuild. The Village East Association filed an interpleader petition in the Chancery Court for Sevier County, requesting that the court determine the appropriate distribution of the insurance proceeds among the unit owners. The trial court interpreted the Master Deed as requiring a proportionate distribution of the insurance proceeds based on the insurance coverage for each unit. The owners who desired equal distribution of the insurance proceeds appeal. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/19/18
In Re Nakayia S. Et Al.
M2017-01694-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tiffany Gipson

Father appeals the juvenile court’s judgment terminating his parental rights to two of his children. We conclude that DCS did not provide Father with a reasonable amount of time to comply with the permanency plan requirements and the record does not contain clear and convincing evidence to terminate his rights on this ground. Further, we conclude that the juvenile court’s order fails to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113(k)’s requirement that the court make specific factual findings, which precludes our review of the remaining grounds and the best-interests determination. Therefore, we vacate the judgment of the juvenile court and remand for entry of an order that complies with subsection 113(k).

Jackson County Court of Appeals 09/18/18
In Re Jaylan W.
M2018-00628-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his son on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and failure to support. Upon our review, we reverse the court’s holding of abandonment by failure to visit; in all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/18/18
Melinda Keeling v. Coffee County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2017-01809-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

After a jury awarded a terminated employee compensatory damages for a county’s violation of the Public Employee Political Freedom Act (“PEPFA”), the trial court awarded equitable damages. On appeal, the county argues that the trial court erred in excluding the findings of a neutral committee appointed by the mayor. We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to exclude the findings as hearsay. As to the county’s assertion that the trial court erred in awarding damages related to the employee’s termination because the verdict form did not ask the jury to make a finding that her termination resulted from the PEPFA violation, we conclude that the county waived this issue by failing to raise it before the jury returned its verdict. We reject the county’s challenges to the amount of back pay awarded to the employee. Furthermore, we find that the trial court did not err in awarding front pay, or in declining to include benefits in the front pay award. The employee asserts that the trial court erred in concluding that she failed to mitigate her damages, and we agree that the county failed to meet its burden of proof on the issue of mitigation of damages. On the sole issue of mitigation of damages, we reverse the trial court’s decision. 

Coffee County Court of Appeals 09/18/18
Charles Webster v. Steve L. Walker
E2018-00611-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

An easement owner filed a complaint against the dominant estate owner, arguing that the dominant estate owner’s installation of locked gates across the easement unreasonably interfered with his use of the right-of-way. The dominant estate owner moved for summary judgment, arguing that the easement owner was not entitled to an “open” right of- way, without impediments. The trial court granted the summary judgment motion and the easement owner appealed. Upon review of the record, we conclude there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the locked gates are necessary to the dominant estate owner’s use and enjoyment of his property and whether the gates unreasonably interfere with the easement owner’s use of his right-of-way. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/18/18