Court Opinions

Format: 11/22/2017
Format: 11/22/2017
In Re Elizabeth Beck Hoisington Living Trust
W2016-02527-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

Appellant appeals the trial court’s determination that settlor’s holographic notations on her trust agreement did not operate to modify the original trust. Specifically, the trial court held that settlor neither satisfied the requirements for modification of the trust as set out in the trust agreement, nor manifested a clear intent to amend the trust under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 35-15-602(c)(2)(B). Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/19/17
Mark T. Thomas v. Richard J. Myers, et al.
W2016-02581-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

This is a legal malpractice case. Appellees, who are licensed attorneys, represented Appellant in a trademark infringement and consumer protection lawsuit in federal court that resulted in a judgment against Appellant. On October 21, 2015, more than a year after the federal court judgment, Appellant filed a complaint for misrepresentation and negligence against Appellees. The trial court interpreted Appellant’s claims against Appellees as a legal malpractice action and granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that the one-year statute of limitations had expired prior to commencement of the action. Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(c)(1). We affirm the trial court’s judgment and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/19/17
Corey M. Searcy, et al. v. Walter Axley, et al.
W2017-00374-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

Parents filed suit against dog owners following their son’s injury from a dog bite that occurred at the owners’ home. The trial court granted the dog owners’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that parents failed to show that owners knew or should have known of their dog’s dangerous propensities as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 44-8-413. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Benton County Court of Appeals 10/19/17
Tray Simmons v. John Cheadle, Et Al.
M2017-00494-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mitchell Keith Siskin

This appeal involves a dispute between a judgment debtor and the attorneys for the judgment creditor. In an effort to collect on a final judgment, attorneys for the judgment creditor served the judgment debtor with a notice of deposition. After some discussion, it became clear that the debtor failed to bring the requested documents with him to the deposition, and the attorneys for the creditor refused to go forward with the deposition that day. The debtor then filed this separate lawsuit, pro se, against the creditor’s attorneys alleging that they had taken an “unlawful deposition” of him. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the attorneys for the judgment creditor. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Eric Milon
W2016-01707-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Eric Milon, of being a felon in possession of a firearm and of being a felon in possession of a handgun. The trial court merged the two convictions and sentenced the Defendant to five years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence seized during a stop and search of the Defendant and when it admitted inadmissible hearsay. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/17
Dianne Elizabeth Lutzak, Trustee Of The Dianne Elizabeth Lutzak Family Revocable Trust v. Phoenix American Development Partners, L. P. Et Al.
M2015-02117-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin, III

The owner of undeveloped property sought a declaratory judgment that restrictive covenants governing an adjacent subdivision did not apply to its property. The developer of the subdivision and the homeowners’ association of the subdivision filed counterclaims seeking a declaratory judgment that the restrictive covenants applied to the undeveloped property and attorney’s fees and costs. On cross-motions for summary declaratory judgment, the trial court granted summary declaratory judgment to the owner of the undeveloped property. On appeal, the defendants argue that the trial court erred in finding no express restrictive covenants applicable to the undeveloped property and in refusing to enforce negative reciprocal easements by implication from an alleged common development plan. We conclude that the restrictive covenants, by their express terms, do not apply to the undeveloped property. We further conclude that the trial court properly declined to impose negative reciprocal easements on the undeveloped property. Thus, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/18/17
State of Tennessee v. James William Mabe
M2016-02096-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley
The Defendant, James William Mabe, was found guilty by a Warren County Circuit Court jury of three counts of attempted rape of a child, a Class B felony, and three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-522 (2014) (child rape); 39-12-101 (2014) (attempt); 39-13-504 (2014) (aggravated sexual battery). The trial court merged the attempted child rape convictions with the aggravated sexual battery convictions and imposed eleven-year sentences for each conviction. The court ordered partial consecutive sentences, for an effective twenty-two-year sentence at 100% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the trial court erred by failing to require the State to make an election of the offenses, (3) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of child rape; and (4) his sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Lamantez Desha Robinson
M2016-02335-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.
Lamantez Desha Robinson (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a Davidson County jury of attempted second degree murder and sentenced to twelve years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence a Facebook photograph of the Defendant posing with two handguns and that the evidence submitted at trial was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/17
George Metz, Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, TN, Et Al.
M2016-02031-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

This appeal concerns a determination by the Planning Commission (“the Commission”) of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) that the Forest View Park planned unit development was “active.” Certain Forest View neighbors (“Petitioners”) filed a petition for writ of certiorari against respondents Metro and The Ridge at Antioch, Limited Partnership (“Respondents,” collectively) in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) challenging the Commission’s decision. Metro filed a motion to dismiss. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered an order dismissing the petition for writ of certiorari for lack of jurisdiction. The Trial Court found fatal defects in the petition for writ of certiorari, including that it was not supported by oath as required. Petitioners appeal to this Court. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/17/17
James Davis d/b/a Davis Auto Repair v. Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil, & Gas
W2016-00870-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

After Appellant failed to comply with the terms of a storm water permit issued to him, he was fined $5,000.00 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The fine was upheld by an administrative law judge and, upon judicial review, by the Shelby County Chancery Court. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/16/17
Carroll Crews v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00578-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Petitioner, Carroll Crews, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Dyer County Circuit Court. In this appeal, she argues that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Alan Terry Stein
M2016-01345-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

A Davidson County Criminal Court jury convicted the Defendant, Alan Terry Stein, of driving under the influence (DUI) and driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more (DUI per se), and he received a sentence of  eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to supervised probation.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury and improperly denied his motions for special jury instructions.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  However, we remand the case for entry of a judgment form as to count one reflecting that the Defendant’s DUI conviction was merged with count two.   

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/17
Regions Bank v. Thomas D. Thomas, Et Al.
W2015-00798-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

We granted this appeal to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly applied the statutory “rebuttable presumption rule” under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, as codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-9-626, in reversing the trial court and concluding that the Plaintiff, Regions Bank, was not entitled to recover a deficiency from the Defendants, Thomas D. Thomas, Helen L. Thomas, and The Thomas Family Living Trust. We conclude that both the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in their respective applications of the “rebuttable presumption rule.” Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, the judgment of the trial court is vacated, and this matter is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings as set forth herein.

Shelby County Supreme Court 10/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Billy Joe Nelson
M2016-00010-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

Following a trial, a Coffee County jury found the Defendant, Billy Joe Nelson, guilty of aggravated rape, carjacking, robbery, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of thirty years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant challenges whether the State sufficiently proved his identity as the perpetrator of the offenses.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/17
Belinda Butler Pandey v. Aneel Madhukar Pandey
M2016-01919-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This action presents issues regarding the interpretation and application of a postnuptial agreement previously executed by parties who later filed for divorce. The trial court determined that the parties’ agreement was valid and enforced its terms, including a provision allowing for an award of attorney’s fees to a prevailing party who was attempting to defend the agreement. The trial court granted the wife an award of attorney’s fees pursuant to this provision. In addition, the husband filed two motions seeking the trial judge’s recusal, which the trial court denied. The husband timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment. We further determine that the wife is not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Vincent D. Clark
M2016-02101-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R.Goodman III

In this appeal as of right, the State challenges the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s dismissal of a probation revocation warrant as untimely.  Because the probationary period of the defendant, Vincent D. Clark, had not expired at the time of the filing of the revocation warrant, the trial court erred in its dismissal.  Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for a new hearing.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Stephen Alexander Lyczkowski
M2016-02273-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

The Defendant, Stephen Alexander Lyczkowski, entered a guilty plea in the Maury County Circuit Court to domestic aggravated assault with the length of the sentence to be determined by the trial court.  Following a hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of ten years.  On appeal, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the trial court imposed an excessive sentence.  The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Miller
M2016-02302-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson
The Defendant, Dennis Gregory Miller, entered a guilty plea to reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, with the punishment to be determined by the trial court. The Defendant requested judicial diversion and a sentence to be served on probation. After a hearing, the trial court denied diversion and imposed a two-year sentence, with sixty days to be served incarcerated and the remainder on probation. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court abused its discretion. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
White County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Kandi Sue Gaines
M2016-02515-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

The Defendant, Kandi Sue Gaines, was convicted at a Lawrence County Circuit Court bench trial of shoplifting property valued at $500 or less, a Class A misdemeanor, for which she is serving an eleven-month, twenty-nine-day sentence on probation.  See T.C.A. § 39-14-146 (2014) (amended 2017) (theft of property involving merchandise).  On appeal, she contends that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/13/17
Randy A. Rice v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02592-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Petitioner, Randy A. Rice, appeals the denial of his petition seeking post-conviction relief from his convictions for felony murder and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Ricardo McDonald, III
M2015-02004-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

Following a bench trial, the Defendant, Gregory Ricardo McDonald III, was convicted of one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor; two counts of forgery of $500 or less, a Class E felony; and one count of identity theft, a Class D felony.  See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-105, -14-114, -14-150, -16-301 (2012).  The trial court subsequently imposed a total effective sentence of twelve years.  In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and (2) that his statement to police should have been excluded because “there was not an adequate waiver executed in acknowledgement of his” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), warnings.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/12/17
In Re: Estate of Donald Carl Battle
M2017-00227-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy
This is a partition case. Appellants petitioned the trial court to order a partition sale of property they own as tenants in common with Appellee. The court ordered the property to be appraised and, upon receipt of the appraisal, held that the Appellee could buy out Appellants’ interest in the property for their portion of the appraised value. Appellants appeal the trial court’s failure to order a sale of the Property in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-27-201. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
Raymond Cass Ballard v. Gertrude Cayabas
W2016-01913-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

Father filed a petition to change primary residential parent and for civil and criminal contempt. Because there was no material change of circumstance that affected the wellbeing of the child, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of Father’s petition. We also affirm the trial court’s decision not to find Mother in civil contempt.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
In Re Lyric A.
M2015-02468-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights with respect to her minor child. Father and Grandmother jointly filed a “Petition for Termination and Adoption” to terminate Mother’s parental rights and to allow Grandmother to adopt the child without terminating Father’s parental rights. The trial court granted the petition and Mother appeals. We have determined that petitioners do not have standing to petition the court to terminate Mother’s parental rights in order to allow Grandmother to adopt the child without terminating Father’s parental rights. Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions to dismiss the petition for lack of standing. 

Warren County Court of Appeals 10/12/17
In Re Brennen T.
M2016-01639-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal involves the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their minor child.  Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of each parent’s parental rights on the statutory groundof abandonment for failure to remit child support.  The court further found that termination of each parent’s rights was in the best interest of the child.  The parents appeal.  We affirm. 

Robertson County Court of Appeals 10/12/17