Court Opinions

Format: 02/17/2018
Format: 02/17/2018
Rachel Anderson, Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville & Davidson County, TN
M2017-00190-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This case involves various issues related to an ordinance the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County enacted to address short-term rental properties. Among other things, the enacted ordinance provided that no more than 3% of
non-owner-occupied single-family or two-family residential units would be granted short-term rental permits in each census tract. The plaintiffs, who previously listed their home on Airbnb.com, filed suit against the Metropolitan Government challenging the enforceability of the ordinance on several fronts. In addition to asserting that the enacted ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, the plaintiffs contended that the 3% cap on certain short-term rentals was an unlawful monopoly. After competing motions for summary judgment were filed, the trial court held that the definition of a “short-term rental property” was unconstitutionally vague as-applied to the plaintiffs, but it also held that the 3% cap did not constitute a monopoly. Given the plaintiffs’ success on their constitutional “vagueness” claim, the trial court found them to be prevailing parties under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and awarded them certain attorney’s fees. On appeal, both sides raise issues asserting error. Because several definitions contained within the governmental ordinance have been amended since the filing of this appeal, we conclude that the plaintiffs’ constitutional “vagueness” claim is now moot. Concerning the propriety of the 3% cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, we have determined that the cap is constitutionally permissible even assuming that it constitutes a monopoly. For reasons discussed herein, we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand the issue for reconsideration.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/23/18
In Re Noah S., Et Al.
M2017-01228-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jere M. Ledsinger

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Appellant Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support; and (2) failure to substantially comply with the reasonable requirements of the permanency plan. Because Appellees did not meet their burden to show that Mother willfully failed to provide support for the children, we reverse the trial court’s order as to the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support. The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 01/23/18
Benjamin Runyon v. Lisa Zacharias
W2016-02141-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This is an action against an attorney who previously served as a Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 40A court appointed guardian ad litem for the benefit of the plaintiff and his two younger siblings in their parents’ divorce. Plaintiff alleges that he had an attorney-client relationship with the guardian ad litem, and the guardian ad litem violated the attorney-client relationship by disclosing confidential information to the divorce court after he was 18 years old. The guardian ad litem denies any liability or actionable conduct, insisting that all of her actions were pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 40A and the Order Appointing Guardian Ad Litem in the divorce action. The trial court dismissed the complaint pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) upon a finding that the complaint failed to state a claim because the guardian ad litem’s duties in the divorce action did not terminate when the oldest child turned 18 due to the fact that the custody proceeding concerning his two younger siblings was still ongoing, and the order of appointment authorized the guardian ad litem to disclose to the court confidential information that may affect the best interests of the children. Finding no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/23/18
Brian Metzger v. Stephanie Diane Metzger
E2018-00035-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion to recuse the Trial Court Judge filed by Stephanie Diane Metzger (“Mother”) during the final hearing in the parties’ divorce proceedings below. Having reviewed the Petition for Recusal Appeal filed by Mother, and discerning no reversible error in Trial Court’s denial of the motion, we affirm

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 01/23/18
John B. Evans v. Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc.
M2017-00123-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

John B. Evans (“Plaintiff”) appeals the December 13, 2016 order of the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc. (“Piedmont”) after finding and holding that there was no evidence that Piedmont or its agent had committed any intentional, reckless, or malicious act which caused the damages claimed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff additionally raises an issue regarding the Trial Court’s grant of discretionary costs to Piedmont, which included costs taxed to Piedmont by this Court in a previous appeal. We find and hold that Piedmont made a properly supported motion for summary judgment and that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate specific facts in the record showing that Piedmont or its agent had committed any intentional, reckless, or malicious act. We, therefore, affirm the grant of summary judgment. We further find and hold that costs taxed to Piedmont by this Court in the previous appeal are not properly included in an award of discretionary costs pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.04. We, therefore, modify the award of discretionary costs by reducing the discretionary costs from $1,133.00 to $643.00.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/22/18
Earl D. Crawford v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01336-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

The petitioner, Earl D. Crawford, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his 2016 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 1986 convictions of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and armed robbery. Because the petition was filed nearly three decades beyond the applicable statute of limitations, because this is the petitioner’s second petition for post-conviction relief, because the petitioner failed to either allege or prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations for filing a petition for post-conviction relief, and because there is no merit to the petitioner’s claim of sentence illegality, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/18
C.D. Et Al. v. Keystone Continuum, LLC dba Mountain Youth Academy
E2016-02528-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

The plaintiff, C.D., a minor, was a resident of Mountain Youth Academy, a traumafocused residential treatment facility, when he got into a physical altercation with an employee of the defendant Keystone Continuum, LLC doing business as Mountain Youth Academy. The employee, Jacob Spencer, is described by the defendant as a “mental health associate.” The plaintiffs describe him as a “third shift night guard.” The minor’s mother filed this action, proceeding both individually and on behalf of her son. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Spencer pulled the minor plaintiff to the ground and stomped on his foot, causing him injury. Defendant moved to dismiss and/or for summary judgment, arguing that the complaint in this case alleges health care liability claims. Defendant argued that because of plaintiffs’ (1) failure to provide pre-suit notice under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (the THCLA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26- 121 (Supp. 2017), and (2) their failure to file a certificate of good faith with the complaint, id. § 29-26-122, the lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court held that plaintiffs’ claims sounded in health care liability. It dismissed the mother’s action with prejudice. The court also dismissed the minor’s action, but did so without prejudice. Defendant appeals, arguing that the minor’s action should have been dismissed with prejudice. The plaintiffs also present issues. They argue that the trial court erred in ruling that their claims are based upon health care liability. Additionally and alternatively, plaintiffs argue that their claims fall within the “common knowledge” exception to the general requirement of expert testimony in a health care liability action. We hold that plaintiffs’ claims for assault and battery are unrelated to the provision of, or failure to provide, health care services. As a consequence of this, we hold that the plaintiffs’ assault and battery claims do not fall within the ambit of a “health care liability action” as defined by the statute. We further hold that plaintiffs’ direct claims against the defendant, for negligent supervision and/or training of its employees, are health care liability claims but ones involving matters that ordinary laypersons will be able to assess by their common knowledge. Hence, expert medical testimony is not required. The trial court’s judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims for assault and battery is vacated. We further hold that mother’s failure to provide the defendant with pre-suit notice mandates a dismissal of her claim for negligent supervision and/or training, but that dismissal should have been without prejudice rather than with prejudice. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment on this part of mother’s claim is modified to reflect that the dismissal is without prejudice. We affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the minor’s claim of negligent supervision and/or training and further affirm the trial court’s judgment that this dismissal is without prejudice.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 01/22/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jones
E2016-00769-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

Defendant, Christopher Jones, appeals the trial court’s order requiring him to serve in confinement his effective two-year sentence resulting from his guilty pleas to reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), simple possession of buprenophine (a Schedule III drug), and simple possession of marijuana (a Schedule VI drug). Upon reviewing the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Zackary James Childress
M2017-00753-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Zackary James Childress, entered an open guilty plea to two counts of simple possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, one count of simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court held a sentencing hearing and sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days at seventy-five percent release eligibility on each count. On appeal, the Defendant argues that his sentences are excessive and that the trial court erred in denying alternative sentencing. After a review of the record, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
Walter Stokely, Et Al. v. James Stokely, Et Al.
E2017-00433-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This appeal arises from a family dispute over a life estate. Charles Eason, Thomas Eason, Marsha Grayer, and Walter Stokely (“Petitioners”) filed suit against their siblings Anna Eason, James Stokely, and Mark Stokely (“Respondents”) in the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) seeking partition of their late mother’s home and property which they all had inherited but to which they had executed a quitclaim deed to sister Anna Eason to hold as life tenant. Respondents filed an answer asserting that Anna Eason was the life tenant and the land was not subject to partition. Respondents asserted the statute of limitations as a defense, as well. After a trial, the Trial Court dismissed Petitioners’ lawsuit. Petitioners’ appeal, arguing that Respondents waived the statute of limitations as a defense through abandonment and also that the Trial Court erred in not reforming the deed when the parties did not understand it would create a life estate for Anna Eason. We hold, inter alia, that Respondents properly pled the statute of limitations and could rely upon it. We hold further that Petitioners’ lack of knowledge regarding all the implications of a life estate is not, in itself, a basis for reforming the deed. We affirm the Trial Court.

Greene County Court of Appeals 01/19/18
State of Tennessee v. William Lamont Green
M2017-00734-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Appellant, William Lamont Green, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.          

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Jaquan Gathing and Prince Parker
W2016-02076-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendants, Jaquan Gathing and Prince Parker, were convicted of various offenses in connection with the robbery and assault of three victims committed with firearms and a hatchet. Mr. Gathing was convicted of attempted especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, facilitation of aggravated assault, facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated robbery, and he received an effective sentence of forty-seven years. Mr. Parker was convicted of facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery, facilitation of aggravated assault, facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, and he received an effective sentence of twenty-six years. On appeal, Mr. Gathing relies on his brief and oral argument and challenges: (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress; (2) improper comments made by the State during voir dire; (3) the insufficient chain of custody for DNA evidence; (4) improper comments made to the jury regarding the merger of offenses; and (5) the State’s failure to preserve the record for appeal. On appeal, Mr. Parker relies on his brief and challenges: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions; (2) the admission of a photograph of an alleged victim’s injuries; (3) the trial court’s application of enhancement factors to his sentences; and (4) the trial court’s decision to run his sentences consecutively. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of corrected judgments of Prince Parker to reflect facilitation of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, rather than with serious bodily injury, and to reflect the proper classification of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery as a Class B felony, rather than a Class C felony.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
State of Tennessee v. David Wayne Phillips
W2016-02087-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Defendant, David Wayne Phillips, was convicted by a Tipton County jury of initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine and was sentenced by the trial court to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress statements made to an officer after the Defendant consented to a search of his bedroom. The Defendant also argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
Andre Benson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02346-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, Andre Benson, was convicted of aggravated robbery after a jury trial and was sentenced to serve fifteen years in prison. The Petitioner filed a timely postconviction petition, and the post-conviction court denied the petition without a hearing for failure to state a colorable claim. The Petitioner then filed a second petition, raising a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the second petition, which it proceeded to deny. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of his counsel at trial and that, as a result, he is entitled to post-conviction relief. The State counters that the post-conviction court lacked jurisdiction to hear a second post-conviction petition when a prior petition was decided on the merits. Alternatively, the State argues that the petition was without merit and that the denial should be affirmed. We conclude that the post-conviction court was required by statute to dismiss the second or subsequent petition, and we affirm the denial of postconviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/18
Deborah Goodman v. Schwarz Paper Company ET AL.
W2016-02594-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amber E. Luttrell

Deborah Goodman (“Employee”) sustained a back injury in the course of her work for Schwarz Paper Company (“Employer”). It is undisputed that the injury was compensable. All medical expenses were paid by Employer. Employee continued to work after her injury. The sole issue presented to the trial court was whether Employee successfully rebutted the presumption of correctness attached to the authorized treating physician’s impairment rating. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(k)(7) (2014 & Supp. 2017). After a compensation hearing, the trial court ruled that Employee had not overcome the presumption. Benefits were awarded based on the treating physician’s impairment rating. Employee has appealed. 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 judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 01/18/18
In Re Aaralyn O., et al.
W2017-01411-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge:

The trial court terminated Father’s parental rights on the grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (2) abandonment by demonstrating a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare; (3) substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans; and (4) persistent conditions. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 01/18/18
Christopher Alan Walls v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2017-00296-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Christopher Alan Walls, the Petitioner, filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, stating as his ground for relief that he was “presently restrained of his liberty by virtue of an illegal, void, and/or expired criminal conviction/sentence[.]” The Petitioner claimed that he was entitled to receive the pretrial jail credit for the time he was incarcerated in Loudon County after a hold was placed on him by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department on October 25, 2010. Therefore his sentence, after applying sentence reduction credits, expired on or about December 29, 2016. The habeas corpus court found that “the petition demonstrates no right to relief” and summarily dismissed the petition. We affirm the dismissal of the petition but remand the cause to the habeas corpus court for transfer to the Circuit Court for Jefferson County for correction of the judgments to provide the pretrial jail credit to which the Petitioner is entitled.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Howard Hinson, III
W2016-02161-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Hardin County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Joseph Howard Hinson, III, of selling .5 grams or more of methamphetamine within a drug-free zone, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced the Appellant as a Range II, multiple offender to sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
Jeffrey Bryan Duggan v. Michelle Denise Duggan
W2016-02496-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

Wife challenges the trial court’s correction of the final divorce decree pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.01 by correcting the type of alimony awarded and adding an end date for the payment of alimony. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 01/17/18
In Re Addison E., Et Al.
M2017-00481-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl Colson

This is a termination of parental rights action involving two minor children. In June 2015, temporary custody of the children was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the children were placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the father on May 12, 2016, following the mother’s surrender of her parental rights. The trial court conducted a bench trial on January 18, 2017. On February 1, 2017, the court entered an order granting the petition upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the ground of abandonment by the father’s engagement in conduct exhibiting a wanton disregard for the welfare of the children prior to his incarceration. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jerald Crowley
M2016-02263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Christopher Jerald Crowley, was convicted by a jury of premeditated first degree murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of expert witnesses about the Defendant’s mental health that the Defendant sought to present to establish that the killing was a voluntary manslaughter; (2) that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from a witness about a statement the Defendant made several months before the killing; and (4) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Christopher Scott
M2016-02362-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Brandon Christopher Scott, was sentenced to an effective twenty-five-year sentence for his guilty-pleaded convictions to attempted first degree murder and reckless endangerment. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court failed to provide adequate analysis in support of its decision to enhance his sentence to the maximum within the range for a Class A felony, failed to assign enough weight to the one mitigating factor it found applicable, and failed to apply two additional mitigating factors. Additionally, the Defendant submits that his enhanced sentence does not comport with the purposes and principles of our Sentencing Act. Following our review, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s sentencing decision.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. James Mario Starnes
M2016-02274-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Appellant, James Mario Starnes, appeals as of right from the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
Thomas Ernest Young v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02333-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The Petitioner, Thomas Ernest Young, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief, alleging that his guilty-pleaded conviction for Class C felony possession of cocaine is void because the cocaine was obtained following his unlawful arrest, because he was the victim of vindictive prosecution, because he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and because his plea resulted from coercion. Alternatively, he submits that we should treat his petition as one seeking post-conviction relief and that the one-year statute of limitations should be tolled due to his mental incompetence. Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief and, furthermore, that tolling of the one-year limitations period for filing a post-conviction petition is not required. Therefore, we affirm summary dismissal of his petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Beauregard
W2017-00536-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The defendant, Douglas Beauregard, appeals his Madison County Criminal Court jury conviction of vandalism of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, alleging an insufficiency of evidence and error in the sentencing and restitution decisions of the trial court. Because the record does not support either the denial of all forms of alternative sentencing or the amount of restitution ordered in this case, we reverse the imposition of a fully incarcerative sentence, vacate the restitution order, and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18