Court Opinions

Format: 02/23/2017
Format: 02/23/2017
Tony Gray v. Vision Hospitality Group, Inc., et al
M2016-00116-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

Tony Gray (“Employee”) sustained a back injury on August 6, 2013 while working as a chief engineer at the Hyatt Place Hotel Airport in Nashville, Tennessee (“Employer”). Employee’s injury occurred while lifting and moving thirty rolls of carpet padding. After notifying Employer of his back injury, Employee was referred to Concentra Medical Clinic, where he was subsequently diagnosed with a back sprain and prescribed physical therapy. Employee experienced a slight improvement in his condition and was released in September 2013 to full-time work for a trial period in a light duty capacity. Upon his return to Employer, Employee was terminated for several issues relating to his job performance. Employee’s symptoms worsened, and he eventually required lower back surgery. He did not return to work for any employer thereafter. Based on Employee’s physical injuries, the trial court determined that Employee was permanently and totally disabled. Employer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in its determination of permanent and total disability. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Estelle Elliott
E2015-02263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton
A Campbell County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Lisa Estelle Elliott, on one count of second degree murder as the result of the shooting and death of her fiancé. Following trial, a jury convicted the defendant of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter, for which she received a four-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when denying her motion for mistrial due to a prejudicial narrative objection made by the State. The defendant further contends that due to her lack of a criminal history, strong educational background, and continuous work history, the trial court erred in denying her request for an alternative sentence. Based on our review of the record, submissions of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Tedrik Woods
W2016-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Tedrik Woods, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because the Petitioner’s three-year sentence for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony is illegal, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with Rule 36.1 and this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Steven Jeffrey Pike
E2015-02357-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Steven Jeffrey Pike, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). He received a life sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Pinnacle Towers Acquisition, LLC, et al. v. Boris Penchion, et al.
W2016-00390-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

A landowner granted a perpetual easement over a portion of her real property to a telecommunications tower company. According to the contracting parties’ agreement, the landowner agreed to have the property subject to the easement (“Easement Property”) separately assessed for real property taxes so that the tax obligations could be paid by the company. After the landowner’s real property was separately assessed as two tax parcels, the company timely paid all real property taxes due on the Easement Property, but the landowner failed to pay real property taxes on the remainder of the tract. As a result, the larger parcel was sold to the county at a tax sale and later transferred to a third-party purchaser. Said purchaser thereafter refused to allow the telecommunications company access to the Easement Property. The company filed the instant action, seeking to have its easement declared valid and requesting an injunction to prevent the third-party purchaser from interfering with the easement. The company subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, determining that the easement was valid but declaring the third-party purchaser to be the owner of the Easement Property. The third-party purchaser timely appealed. Determining the underlying tax sale to be invalid, we vacate the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the company and remand this matter for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/25/17
In re S.P. et al.
M2016-00708-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport

In this termination of parental rights case, the Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the rights of S.J.C.P. (Mother) with respect to her children, S.D.P. and C.D.P. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination. By the same quantum of proof, the trial court held that termination of Mother’s rights is in the best interest of the children. Mother appeals. We modify the trial court’s judgment. As modified, the judgment is affirmed.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Hatcher
W2016-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Defendant, Christopher Hatcher, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Janette Ebony Robinson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Janette Ebony Robinson, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary.  Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Bruce D. Mendenhall v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02091-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The petitioner, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted in 2007 of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, and his application for permission to appeal was denied.  Subsequently, he filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, which the court treated as a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that trial counsel had been ineffective.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court concluded that the petitioner’s claims were without merit.  The record on appeal supports this determination.  Accordingly, the order of the post-conviction court denying relief is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
In Re A. B., et al.
M2016-01286-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Father and stepmother petitioned to terminate the parental rights of mother to her two children. We have determined that the petitioners proved by clear and convincing evidence that mother’s actions prior to her incarceration exhibited wanton disregard for the welfare of the children and that it is in the best interest of the children for mother’s parental rights to be terminated.

Maury County Court of Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Curtis Beard
W2016-00223-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

A Gibson County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Andrew Curtis Beard, of selling less than one-half gram of cocaine, a Class C felony, and he was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
Eric Dates v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02230-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Eric Dates, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner argues, and the State concedes, that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition for lack of jurisdiction because his probation had expired. Upon our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. George Washington Matthews
W2015-02500-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The defendant, George Washington Matthews, was indicted for one count of possession of over one-half ounce of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver and two counts of attempting to introduce contraband into a penal facility. After trial, a jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. The defendant received a total effective sentence of twelve years. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; the trial court erred when it allowed testimony regarding the defendant's recent incarceration; and his indictment was defective. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
Rickey Allen Hickman v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00489-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

 Marshall County jury convicted the Petitioner, Rickey Allen Hickman, of one count of rape of a child and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.  The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to a total effective sentence of forty-seven years of incarceration.  On appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions.  State v. Rickey Allan Hickman, No M2013-02390-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 4557626 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 16, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 16, 2015).  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his trial counsel had been ineffective.  The post-conviction court held a hearing after which it denied the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present a defense asserting that the victim was raped by a person other than the Petitioner.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Montez Deontay Ridley
M2016-01607-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury found the Appellant, Montez Deontay Ridley, guilty of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony.  The trial court imposed a sentence of nine years.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction.  Specifically, the Appellant contends that he was not at the scene of the crime, that no forensic evidence placed him at the scene, and that it was illogical that anyone would perpetrate the crime in such close proximity to the police.  The Appellant also contends that the victims were unable to identify him from a photographic lineup.  Finally, the Appellant contends that his confession was the result of lies told by the police.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. David Alan Corbitt
W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Benton County jury convicted the Defendant of one count of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery as a lesser-included offense of a second count of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced him to thirty-five years, to be served at 100%, for the rape of a child conviction and to a concurrent sentence of ten years for the aggravated sexual battery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contended that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that aggravated sexual battery was a lesser-included offense of rape of a child; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we concluded that aggravated sexual battery was not a lesser-included offense of rape of a child. State v. David Alan Corbitt, No. W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3952017 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, July 19, 2016), Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application granted (Tenn. Oct. 20, 2016) . As such, we held that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury. We, therefore, vacated the Defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual battery but affirmed his conviction and sentence for rape of a child. On October 20, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted Defendant's application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court's recent opinion in State v. Howard, No. E2014-01510-SC-R11-CD, __ S.W.3d __, 2016 WL 5933430 (Tenn. Oct. 12, 2016). Upon reconsideration in light of Howard, we conclude that aggravated sexual battery is a lesser-included offense of rape of a child and that the trial court did not err when it so instructed the jury. Accordingly, we reinstate and affirm the Defendant's conviction and sentence for aggravated sexual battery.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
Deshawn Lamar Baker v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Deshawn Lamar Baker, appeals the lower court’s order denying post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and being a felon in possession of a handgun.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State withheld exculpatory evidence, violating his right to due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  Upon our review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Taliaferro
W2015-01840-CC-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Defendant, Brandon Taliaferro, was convicted of first degree murder in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery and attempted especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101; -13-202(a)(2); -13-403(a). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to enter into evidence the entire tape-recorded conversation between the Defendant and a State‘s witness, the mother of his child, and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that he was criminally responsible for the actions of the person(s) who killed the victim. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Miller
W2016-00402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The Defendant, Anthony Miller, was indicted for possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to sell one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; possession with intent to deliver one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-417, -1324(a). Prior to submission to the jury, the amount for the cocaine possession charges was reduced to less than 0.5 grams, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417(c)(2)(A). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted as charged of the marijuana and unlawful firearm possession charges and of the lesser-included offense of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor, with respect to the cocaine possession charges. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor cocaine possession offenses, two years for the felony marijuana possession offenses, and the mandatory minimum three years for the unlawful firearm possession offense. The trial court ordered all of the sentences to be served concurrently for a total effective sentence of three years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm; and (2) that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the applicable mental state for the unlawful possession of a firearm offense. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the Defendant's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. However, we also conclude that the trial court committed plain error in instructing the jury with respect to the unlawful firearm possession offense that the Defendant could be found guilty if he acted “either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” As such, we remand this case for a new trial on the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. Additionally, we hold that the trial court failed to merge the Defendant's convictions for simple possession of cocaine into one conviction and his convictions for felony possession of marijuana into one conviction. Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court for merger of those convictions and entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Krishon Harris
W2015-01917-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Krishon Harris, of three counts of criminally negligent homicide, one count of vehicular assault, one count of reckless aggravated assault, two counts of driving under the influence, one count of reckless driving, and one count of driving with a suspended license. The trial court merged the three homicide convictions, merged the aggravated assault conviction and the two driving while under the influence convictions into the conviction for vehicular assault, and then sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for criminally negligent homicide and vehicular assault. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Tracey McQuinn Taylor
W2015-02250-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury found the Defendant, Tracey McQuinn Taylor, guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of twelve years for each count of aggravated robbery to be served consecutively to a four year sentence for the felon in possession of a firearm conviction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that his sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Hubbard
W2016-01263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Pro se Petitioner, Christopher Hubbard, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court's dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
Concord Enterprises Of Knoxville, Inc. v. Commissioner Of Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development
M2016-00118-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This appeal arises from a determination by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“the Department”) that Concord Enterprises of Knoxville, Inc. (“Concord”), a pet grooming business, misclassified certain employees as independent contractors from 2006 through 2011 and, therefore, was liable for unpaid unemployment taxes from that period. Following a hearing, the Appeals Tribunal concluded that unemployment taxes were due, a decision affirmed by the Commissioner’s Designee. Concord petitioned for judicial review. The Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) affirmed the decision of the Commissioner’s Designee and dismissed Concord’s petition. Concord appeals to this Court. We find, inter alia, that the pet groomers at issue both performed their service at Concord’s place of business and performed pet grooming service that fell squarely within Concord’s course of usual business. Evidence both substantial and material supports the agency’s determination. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/20/17
Moore & Associates Memphis LLC v. Greystone Homeowners Association Inc.
W2016-00721-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This appeal involves the interpretation of a declaration of covenants for a homeowners’ association. Appellant, the homeowners’ association, filed liens on lots owned by Appellee for nonpayment of association fees. Appellee brought suit to quiet title and for damages for slander of title. The trial court dismissed the slander of title claim and interpreted the declaration of covenants to exempt Appellee from the payment of association fees. The trial court removed the liens filed against Appellee’s lots, but assessed no monetary damages against Appellant. Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/20/17
Roberta Piper, For Herself As Spouse And Widow Of Merle Piper, Deceased v. Cumberland Medical Center et al.
E2016-00532-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy Hollars

The plaintiff filed this health care liability action on behalf of herself and her deceased husband, alleging that his death was caused by the negligent care he received from the defendant hospital and physicians. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's claims because she failed to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(2)(D) and (E). The trial court granted the motions and dismissed the plaintiff's claims. The plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court's judgment of dismissal

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 01/20/17