Court Opinions

Format: 08/19/2017
Format: 08/19/2017
State of Tennessee v. Antwain Deshun Coleman, AKA Antwain Mackey
M2016-02334-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Defendant, Antwain Deshun Coleman, also known as Antwain Mackey, was indicted for aggravated robbery. He later entered a negotiated guilty plea to facilitation of aggravated robbery in exchange for a sentence of six years as a Range I, standard offender. The trial court determined that Defendant should serve the sentence in confinement. Defendant appeals his sentence, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by denying an alternative sentence. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/17
Jennifer L. Al-Athari, et al. v. Luis A. Gamboa, et al.
M2016-01310-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers
Following two appeals, this negligence action was resolved in a jury trial. The jury returned a verdict finding for Defendant; Plaintiffs appealed and, discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Charles Edward Day
E2016-00632-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The defendant, Charles Edward Day, appeals his Anderson County Circuit Court jury conviction of reckless aggravated assault, claiming that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence at trial, that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the sentence imposed was excessive, and that the cumulative effect of these errors prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/17
William Cook, II v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01914-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Hamilton, III

The claimant initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Tennessee Claims Commission to recover damages for personal injuries from the State of Tennessee resulting from an attack by another inmate at West Tennessee State Penitentiary. Following discovery, the State filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that the undisputed material facts established the assault was not reasonably foreseeable; therefore, the claimant could not prove proximate cause, which is an essential element of a negligence claim. The trial court agreed and summarily dismissed the complaint. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 07/27/17
Town & Country Jewelers, Inc., et al. v. Jessica Lynn Trotter aka Jessica Lynn Trotter-Lawson
W2016-02055-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Judgment creditors appeal the denial of their motion to extend a judgment pursuant to Rule 69.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Although we reverse the trial court’s ruling that it lacked jurisdiction over judgment creditors’ motion, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion where it was not filed “[w]ithin ten years from the entry of [the underlying] judgment[,]” as required by Rule 69.04.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/27/17
Charles D. Sprunger v. Cumberland County, TN Sheriff's Office
E2016-02572-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ronald Thurman

A homeowner was charged with knowingly possessing child pornography, and a forfeiture warrant was obtained to seize his house pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17- 1008. The homeowner was ultimately convicted and sentenced to prison, and his mortgage lender foreclosed upon his house. The State filed a complaint for judicial forfeiture in an effort to enjoin the mortgage lender from disbursing any excess proceeds from the foreclosure sale to the former homeowner. The trial court granted the State the relief it requested. On appeal, the Supreme Court vacated the forfeiture of the excess proceeds because the seizing officer had failed to follow several procedural requirements in seizing the house, including giving the homeowner notice about how to contest the seizure. The former homeowner filed a complaint against the sheriff’s office of Cumberland County alleging bad faith seizure and seeking damages as provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-33-215. The trial court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment because the record contained no evidence of any intentional misconduct by the seizing officer, and the former homeowner appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 07/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Cyrus Randy Whitson
M2016-01420-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Cyrus Randy Whitson, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his motion for arrest of judgment. On appeal, Defendant argues that because the judgment form for his murder conviction is lacking the “file-stamp” date, his motion is timely and should have been granted. Because Defendant does not have a right to appeal the trial court’s dismissal pursuant to Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Erick Tenaz
M2016-02442-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The defendant, Erick Tenaz, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of conspiracy to commit second degree murder, claiming only that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve his entire nine-year sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/17
Larrystine Bates v. Michael J. Greene, et al.
W2016-01868-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

This appeal involves the appropriate statute of limitations applicable to a claim against an insurance company for uninsured motorist coverage. The plaintiff-driver filed this lawsuit against the defendant-driver but was unable to serve him with the civil warrant despite repeated attempts. Over a year after the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiff had an additional alias civil warrant issued adding her insurer as the uninsured motorist carrier, and she served the amended civil warrant on the insurer. The insurer moved for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. The trial court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim against the insurer in accordance with her uninsured motorist coverage arose out of the alleged negligence of the uninsured motorist, and therefore, it was governed by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury claims. Accordingly, the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurer based on the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. Finding the one-year statute of limitations inapplicable, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/27/17
In Re Wyatt B.
E2016-02116-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This appeal concerns a change of child custody. Jonathan B. (“Father”) filed a petition against Tabitha O. (“Mother”) in the Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to become the primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child, Wyatt B. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court found a material change in circumstance sufficient to modify custody and that changing the Child’s primary residential parent from Mother to Father was in the Child’s best interest. Mother appeals. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/26/17
Marquis D. Hendricks v. State of Tennessee
E2016-02123-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, Marquis D. Hendricks, was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and simple possession of marijuana. The Petitioner received an effective sentence of life in prison for the convictions. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to argue and request jury instructions on the statutory defenses of duress and necessity. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court found that there was no deficient performance by trial counsel because the facts did not support either statutory defense and denied the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/17
Stanley Abernathy James v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01909-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Stanley Abernathy James (“the Petitioner”) was found guilty of second degree murder by a Knox County jury, for which the Petitioner received a sentence of twenty-five years. This court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence, and our supreme court denied further review. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because trial counsel: (1) failed to fully pursue a defense theory of voluntary manslaughter instead of self-defense; (2) requested a jury instruction that misstated Tennessee law; (3) failed to fully research and investigate potential witnesses; and (4) failed to fully research and investigate the Petitioner’s medical history. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/17
Memphis Publishing Company d/b/a The Commercial Appeal, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2016-01680-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This appeal arises out of an action brought by a newspaper seeking access to application materials in the possession of a nonprofit professional association that was assisting the City of Memphis in recruiting candidates for its Director of Police. The trial court concluded that the records held by the association were subject to disclosure under the Tennessee Public Records Act because the association acted as the functional equivalent of the City and because the position of police director was the same as a chief public administrative officer, a position for which the Act mandates that all employment application materials be made available. The association and the City appeal. We reverse the determination that the records are subject to disclosure; we affirm the denial of an award of attorney’s fees to the newspaper.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/26/17
In Re: Conner F.
E2015-02502-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This appeal concerns issues of custody and support of a minor child born in Colorado, but now residing in Tennessee. After determining that jurisdiction was proper in Tennessee, the trial court designated the mother, a resident of Tennessee, the primary residential parent and adopted her proposed parenting plan. Child support for the father, a resident of Colorado, was set at $1,017 per month. An arrearage balance of $23,428.38 was ordered paid at the rate of $200 per month until paid in full. The father appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/26/17
In Re Mya H.
W2016-01285-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Presumptive Legal Father appeals the trial court’s finding that the presumption of parentage had been rebutted without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing and his resulting dismissal from this termination of parental rights proceeding. Because the statute relied upon to dismiss Presumptive Legal Father from this proceeding is inapplicable to the case-at-bar, we reverse the trial court’s decision to dismiss Presumptive Legal Father. We also vacate the trial court’s finding that the presumption of parentage had been rebutted and remand for an evidentiary hearing.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/26/17
Pamela Moses v. Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham, et al.
W2016-01171-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Appellant appeals the dismissal of her action based on the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations and non-compliance with Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Appellant also appeals the trial court’s denial of a motion to recuse. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/25/17
Betty J. Grizzle v. Parkwest Medical Center
E2016-01068-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

The plaintiff initiated this health care liability action on January 25, 2016. The defendant medical provider filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the plaintiff had failed to attach the documentation required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(b) to demonstrate that proper pre-suit notice had been transmitted. The defendant also asserted that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed for failure to substantially comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) regarding a medical authorization compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). While noting that the plaintiff had substantially complied with Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(4) and (b), the trial court found that the medical authorization forwarded by the plaintiff was incomplete and failed to comply with HIPAA’s release requirements. The trial court therefore dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff has timely appealed. We affirm the trial court’s determination that the plaintiff substantially complied with Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(4) and (b). We reverse, however, the trial court’s determination that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed for failure to substantially comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26- 121(a)(2)(E)

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/25/17
Michael Goodrum v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00684-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The petitioner, Michael Goodrum, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Maury County Circuit Court jury convictions of possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a park and possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, for which he received a sentence of 15 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that the cumulative effect of his counsel’s errors prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/17
In Re: Estate Of Wanda Joyce Watkins
E2016-02388-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex A. Dale

This appeal involves the interpretation and enforcement of a will executed by Wanda Joyce Watkins (“the Decedent”).1 Specifically at issue is a provision bequeathing the residue and remainder of the Decedent’s estate to her prior husband, Mr. John Vance (“Mr. Vance”). Although Mr. Vance’s children (“the Vance children”) claimed entitlement to the residuary estate by virtue of the anti-lapse statute codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 32-3-105, the executrix of the estate contended that such a disposition was inconsistent with the Decedent’s intent. The trial court agreed with the position of the executrix and rejected the Vance children’s claim to receive under the will. The trial court also held that portions of the respective parties’ attorney’s fees should be paid by the estate. Although we reverse the trial court’s decision regarding the application of the anti-lapse statute, we affirm its order as it pertains to the assessment of attorney’s fees.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 07/25/17
David Delgado Echeveria v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01247-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

Petitioner, David Delgado Echeveria, pled guilty to the possession of 300 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver. Over five years later, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting that his attorney had failed to advise him of the potential immigration consequences of his plea. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition for failure to file within the statutory limitations period, and Petitioner appeals. We conclude that the petition was filed outside the limitations period and that Petitioner has not shown he is entitled to due process tolling. The judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/17
In Re: Estate of Vida Mae McCartt
E2016-02497-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

Appellant brought this action challenging the settlement agreement reached by the contestants in a will contest. Appellant, the legitimated child of Decedent’s deceased son, filed suit to set aside the settlement agreement based on allegations that the will contestants, including Appellant’s half-siblings, i.e., Appellees, engaged in fraud and misrepresentation in an effort to exclude Appellant from her share of Decedent’s estate. Because Appellant had knowledge of the will contest, chose not to participate in the will contest, and there is no evidence that the Appellees acted in bad faith or fraudulently, we conclude that the trial court did not err in refusing to order a share of the Decedent’s estate to be distributed to Appellant. Affirmed and remanded.

Morgan County Court of Appeals 07/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Pleas Watts
M2016-02551-CA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Juge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Thomas Pleas Watts, pleaded guilty in the Rutherford County Circuit Court to possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-418 (2010) (amended 2014, 2016) (misdemeanor possession of marijuana), 39-17-425 (2014) (misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court granted the Defendant judicial diversion for eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the Defendant presents certified questions of law regarding the trial court’s denying his motion to suppress. We dismiss the appeal.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/17
In Re Jonathan S. Jr.,
M2016-01365-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal involves a father’s efforts to modify a permanent parenting plan. The father filed a petition in which he requested to be named the primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child. At the close of the father’s proof, the mother moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that the father failed to carry his burden of proving a material change in circumstance. The trial court agreed, found that the father’s evidence was insufficient to establish a material change in circumstances, and dismissed his petition. The father appealed. On appeal, we conclude that the evidence in the record preponderates against the trial court’s findings. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/24/17
In Re Catherine J.
W2017-00491-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the parental rights of the father, Clyde J. (“Father”) to his minor child, Catherine J. (“the Child”). On August 4, 2016, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights.The matter was heard on January 26, 2017, and the trial court entered a final judgment on February 13, 2017, terminating Father’s parental rights to the Child. Father timely filed a notice of appeal. However, Father failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d) (Supp. 2016) in that he failed to sign the notice of appeal. At the direction of this Court, Father filed an amended notice of appeal that contained his signature on April 7, 2017, more than thirty days from entry of the trial court’s final judgment. Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, we dismiss Father’s appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/24/17
Seth Elliott v. City of Manchester, Tennessee
M2015-01798-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

An inmate of the Coffee County jail was injured when he fell off a truck being driven by another inmate while working on a detail for the City of Manchester.  The inmate filed suit against the city and the county pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act to recover for alleged negligence on the part of the city and county.  The inmate settled his claim against the county.  The city moved to dismiss the suit on the ground that it was immune from suit because the inmate’s recovery was limited to medical treatment for the injury he received; the court agreed and dismissed the suit.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment.    

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/24/17