Court Opinions

Format: 07/21/2018
Format: 07/21/2018
In Re: Dakota M. Et Al.
E2017-01855-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

Father’s rights to his son were terminated based upon his stipulation that the Department of Children’s Services could prove that grounds to terminate existed and upon the Court’s conclusion that termination was in the child’s best interest. Father appeals. Upon our review, we conclude that Father’s stipulation that the evidence satisfied the statutory grounds for termination was a nullity. We also conclude that the trial court’s order does not contain adequate factual findings with respect to the grounds for termination to provide for a meaningful review. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the court and remand the case.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 06/18/18
In Re: D.T.
E2017-02098-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel R. Swafford

In this termination of parental rights case, the Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the rights of R.T. with respect to his child, D.T.1 At trial, DCS alleged a single ground for termination: persistence of conditions. The court found clear and convincing evidence. By the same quantum of proof, the court also found that termination is in the child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/18/18
Desiree Daniels Disterdick v. John Disterdick
E2017-00743-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

In this divorce action presenting issues concerning the classification and distribution of the parties’ assets, the trial court determined that an oil and gas investment purchased during the marriage was the wife’s separate property, as was her engagement ring. The trial court fashioned an equitable distribution of the parties’ marital property and debts and denied the wife’s claim for alimony. In doing so, the trial court excluded any consideration of assets formerly owned by the parties that were held by a trust at the time of trial. The husband has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/18/18
Rose Coleman v. Bryan Olson
M2015-00823-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

When a divorce complaint is filed and served, a statutory injunction goes into effect prohibiting both parties from changing the beneficiary on any life insurance policy that names either party as the beneficiary without the consent of the other party or a court order. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d)(2) (2010). Jessica Olson sued her husband, Bryan Olson, for divorce. A week later, Ms. Olson, while seriously ill, changed the beneficiary on her life insurance policy from her husband to her mother. Ms. Olson died a few days later. Her mother, Rose Coleman, collected the life insurance benefits. Ms. Coleman sued Mr. Olson for grandparent visitation under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-306 (2010). Mr. Olson responded that he did not oppose visitation, and therefore, Ms. Coleman was not entitled to court-ordered visitation. In addition, Mr. Olson countersued to recover the life insurance benefits. The trial court awarded the insurance benefits to the Olsons’ child, finding that Ms. Olson had intended to remove Mr. Olson and substitute their child as the insurance beneficiary. The trial court ordered Ms. Coleman to pay the remaining life insurance funds into the court registry, to account for her expenditures, and to pay a judgment for expenditures that did not benefit the child. The trial court also granted Ms. Coleman’s petition for grandparent visitation. The Court of Appeals reversed, awarding the life insurance benefits to Mr. Olson based on Ms. Olson’s violation of the statutory injunction and its consideration of Mr. Olson’s financial needs. In addition, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s award of visitation to Ms. Coleman. We hold that (1) Ms. Olson violated the statutory injunction under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-106(d)(2) when she removed Mr. Olson as her life insurance beneficiary; (2) the Olsons’ divorce action abated when Ms. Olson died and the statutory injunction became ineffective; (3) a trial court, after the abatement of a divorce action, may remedy a violation of the statutory injunction after considering the equities of the parties; (4) the trial court erred by awarding the life insurance benefits to the Olsons’ child based on the pleadings and the evidence; (5) the Court of Appeals erred by awarding the life insurance benefits to Mr. Olson without sufficient evidence of the equities of the parties; (6) the trial court, on remand, may remedy the violation of the statutory injunction by awarding all or a portion of the life insurance benefits to either or both parties after hearing additional evidence and considering the equities of the parties; and (7) Ms. Coleman was not entitled to court-ordered grandparent visitation absent Mr. Olson’s opposition to visitation. We affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals; we reverse and vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. 

Montgomery County Supreme Court 06/15/18
In Re K. O. Et Al.
M2017-01736-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Micheal Collins

The trial court terminated the parental rights of A.D.G. to her children, K.O. and K.G. Because the court did not “make[] specific findings of fact and conclusions of law,” Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k) (2017), we remand the case to the trial court for the entry of an appropriate order.

Smith County Court of Appeals 06/14/18
Kenneth E. Raymer v. Maintenance Insights, LLC, Et Al.
M2017-00986-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

Kenneth Raymer (“Employee”) sustained a compensable injury to his left shoulder on July 8, 2011, and a compensable injury to his neck on December 18, 2012. He filed separate civil actions seeking permanent disability benefits for his injuries. The actions were consolidated for trial. The trial court awarded 30% permanent partial disability for the shoulder injury and 50% permanent partial disability for the neck injury and commuted both awards to lump sums. Maintenance Insights, LLC and Logistics Insight Corporation (collectively “Employer”) have appealed, contending the disability awards are excessive and that Employee did not demonstrate that the awards should have been commuted. 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 of the trial court.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 06/14/18
Matthew Dixon v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00490-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The pro se Petitioner, Matthew Dixon, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus and post-conviction DNA analysis. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/14/18
Corey Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01818-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Corey Mitchell, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He raises two issues on appeal: (1) he was denied a full and fair hearing in the post-conviction proceedings, and (2) his guilty plea was not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made due to the ineffective assistance of counsel rendered by his trial counsel. After review of the arguments of the parties and the entire record, we conclude that Petitioner is entitled to relief on his first issue. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for a new hearing. Furthermore, the interests of justice require that under the circumstances of this case, and to insure the public perception of a fair and impartial hearing, the post-conviction proceedings must be heard by a different judge than the one who has previously heard the proceedings. In light of our conclusion and disposition of the first issue, issue two is pretermitted at this time.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/14/18
Alexander Alaka v. Short Cut Auto Sales & Repairs, Inc.
M2017-01577-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

The plaintiff appeals the circuit court’s judgment for damages sustained to his vehicle, a reduction from the amount awarded in general sessions court. We vacate the final order and remand for entry of an order that sets forth sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of the circuit court’s decision.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/13/18
Homeowners of Ash Grove Estates v. Carla Hurley, et al.
M2016-02008-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson

This appeal arises out of a suit to enforce restrictive covenants. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking an injunction to prevent their neighbors from operating a commercial horse facility. After a hearing, the court permanently enjoined Defendants from using or allowing their property to be used for a commercial horse operation and from constructing any additional buildings before they built a residence on the property. The trial court also ruled that Defendants did not have to remove or relocate the already-constructed “run-in shed” at this time, but that once a residence is built, the shed must be removed or moved to the rear of the residence. Defendants appeal. Upon our review, we reverse the judgment enjoining Defendants from conducting a commercial horse operation; in all other respects we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Sumner County Court of Appeals 06/13/18
In Re Emmalee O., et al.
E2017-01605-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal involves the issue of past child sexual abuse by a parent. After the original trial de novo, the father was found guilty of severe child abuse and was enjoined from contact with the child and another daughter. A prior appeal resulted in an affirmance of the trial court’s finding. In re Emmalee O., 464 S.W.3d 311 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015). After permission to appeal was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, the father filed a motion to vacate or modify the 2014 ruling of the trial court. After the trial court denied the relief requested, the father again appealed. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/13/18
Town & Country Jewelers, Inc., et al. v. Andrew Timothy Sheriff, et al.
W2017-01375-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Over ten years after entry of a judgment, the judgment creditors filed a motion for scire facias to revive the judgment. The trial court denied the motion based on a determination that expiration of the statute of limitations deprived the court of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the judgment creditors argue that their motion was timely because the debtor revived the debt by agreeing that the debt was nondischargeable in bankruptcy. We conclude that the trial court possessed subject matter jurisdiction but that revival does not apply. So we affirm as modified.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/13/18
Clayton Pickens v. John R. Underwood, et al.
E2017-02120-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This appeal arises from a dispute over a construction contract between Clayton Pickens (“Pickens”), a general contractor, and John R. Underwood (“Underwood”) and his wife Suzanne Curtin (“the Underwoods,” collectively). Pickens sued Underwood initially in Chancery Court but later transferred to the Circuit Court for Blount County (“the Trial Court”) for allegedly failing to pay him under a contract to build the Underwoods’ home. Underwood filed counterclaims against Pickens alleging, among other things, fraud, cost overruns, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and entering into a construction contract in excess of the monetary limit on Pickens’ contractor’s license. This case was tried before a jury. The jury found the Underwoods breached the construction contract and awarded Pickens $147,340.25. The jury also found that Pickens breached the contract through certain errors in construction and awarded the Underwoods $10,740.00. The Trial Court entered its final judgment affirming the jury’s verdict and awards of damages. The Underwoods appeal, arguing in part that Pickens should have been limited to his actual documented expenses because he entered the construction contract in excess of his contractor’s license limit. We hold, inter alia, that under the law in effect at the time of the execution of the contract, Pickens was not limited in damages to his actual documented expenses. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 06/12/18
Johnson Real Estate Limited Partnership v. Vacation Development Corp., et al.
E2017-01774-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

This action involves a long-term ground lease in which the defendant lessee paid for and maintained an insurance policy on the property for its benefit. The defendant surrendered the premises after the motel facility constructed on the land was destroyed by a wildfire before the expiration of the lease. The plaintiff lessor filed suit, seeking an equitable lien on the policy and its proceeds, a constructive trust against the insurance rights and recovery, a claim on the policy as a third-party beneficiary, and injunctive relief. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 06/12/18
David Michael Blevins v. State of Tennessee
E2016-02304-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Petitioner, David Michael Blevins, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court improperly found: (1) that he had waived his independent claim regarding a speedy trial violation and (2) that trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to raise the speedy trial issue. Having reviewed the record before us, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/12/18
Nathaniel Walker v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00923-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Petitioner, Nathaniel Walker, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were unknowingly and involuntarily entered. Following our review, we affirm the summary denial of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/11/18
Regions Mortgage, et al. v. Joseph Willie Brown, et al.
W2017-00605-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This appeal arises from a marathon of litigation, as many as eleven separate civil actions, all of which pertain to the defendants’ former property in Eads, Tennessee that Regions Mortgage, Inc. (“Regions”) purchased at a foreclosure sale in 2013. See Brown v. AmSouth Bank, No. W2016-02596-COA-R3-CV, 2018 WL 1319169, at *1-2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 14, 2018). At issue here is the grant of a writ of possession to Regions by the General Sessions Court of Shelby County in a forcible entry and detainer action, which decision the defendants appealed to the circuit court. When the circuit court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the defendants appealed to this court. Due to profound deficiencies with the defendants’ brief, specifically the failure to comply with Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/11/18
Cornell Poe v. City of Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist, et al.
W2017-00465-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

A passenger on a Jackson Transit Authority bus was arrested as a result of an altercation with the driver; the arrest led to the passenger’s parole being revoked and his resulting incarceration. The passenger brought suit, asserting claims for slander and libel under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act and Tennessee Public Protection Act against the Transit Authority and certain of its employees, and the Mayor and various employees of the City of Jackson. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and this appeal followed. Upon our review, we have determined that the complaint fails to allege causes of action under the Governmental Tort Liability Act and the Public Protection Act, and that the causes of action asserted against the individual defendants are barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing the case.

Madison County Court of Appeals 06/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Marquel Stewart
W2017-00299-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Marquel Stewart, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery, see T.C.A. § 39-13-402, for which he received a sentence of eight years. In this appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in (1) conditioning his motion to continue the trial upon revocation of his bond, (2) admitting a shirt and bandana into evidence without proper authentication or chain of custody, and (3) admitting the Defendant’s jail phone calls into evidence. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Bobby McKinley
W2017-01017-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The pro se Defendant, Bobby McKinley, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to vacate his judgments for aggravated robbery, arguing that the uniform judgment forms were not properly entered because the “file-stamp” was not on the face of the judgments and the judgments contained other clerical errors. Following our review, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Donaven Brown
W2017-02532-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Defendant, Donaven Brown, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/18
Sisouphahn Thysavathdy v. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Et Al
M2017-01575-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Audrey A. Headrick

Sisouphahn Thysavathdy (“Employee”) alleged that he sustained a compensable injury to his left shoulder on July 15, 2014. He was referred to a physician by his employer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (“Employer”). That doctor opined that Employee’s shoulder condition was not work-related, and Employer denied the claim. After a compensation hearing, the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims denied Employee’s claim. Employee appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, which affirmed the trial court’s decision. Employee has appealed that ruling. 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 of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/08/18
Earl Vantrease, Jr. v. Tennessee Board of Parole, Et Al.
M2016-01384-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

This is an appeal from an order dismissing one of several defendants. Because the order does not dispose of the plaintiff’s claims against all of the defendants and because the trial court has not yet ruled on the plaintiff’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 motion to alter or amend, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Wesley Lynn Hatmaker
E2017-01370-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

Wesley Lynn Hatmaker (“the Defendant”) pled guilty to two counts of theft of property valued between $10,000 and $60,000 (Counts 1 and 6) and four counts of theft of property valued between $60,000 and $250,000 (Counts 2, 3, 4, and 5). The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of three years and six months for Counts 1 and 6, and concurrent sentences of ten years and six months for Counts 2, 3, 4, and 5, with Counts 1 and 2 to be served consecutively and all others concurrently, for an effective sentence of fourteen years in the Department of Correction with a release eligibility of thirty percent. The Defendant asserts that the trial court improperly applied sentencing factors, improperly imposed consecutive sentences, and improperly denied alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/18
Athlon Sports Communications, Inc. v. Stephen C. Duggan, et al
M2015-02222-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

We granted permission to appeal in this case to address the methods by which a trial court may determine the “fair value” of the shares of a dissenting shareholder under Tennessee’s dissenters’ rights statutes, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 48-23-101, et seq. In doing so, we overrule Blasingame v. American Materials, Inc., 654 S.W.2d 659 (Tenn. 1983), to the extent that Blasingame implicitly mandates use of the Delaware Block method for determining the fair value of a dissenting shareholder’s stock. We adopt the more open approach espoused in Weinberger v. UOP, Inc., 457 A.2d 701, 712-13 (Del. 1983), in which the Delaware Supreme Court departed from the Delaware Block method and permitted trial courts to determine fair value by using any technique or method that is generally acceptable in the financial community and admissible in court. This approach allows trial courts to utilize valuation methods that incorporate projections of future value, so long as they are susceptible of proof as of the date of the corporate action and not the product of speculation. In this dissenters’ rights case, the defendant minority shareholders were forced out of the corporation as a result of a merger, and the corporation petitioned the trial court to determine the fair value of the minority shareholders’ stock. Both parties presented expert testimony regarding the valuation of the dissenting shareholders’ stock, and both experts assumed that Blasingame required use of the Delaware Block method to value the stock. However, both experts also valued the dissenting shareholders’ stock under more modern approaches, such as the discounted cash flow method. After a bench trial, the trial court discredited the testimony of the dissenting shareholders’ expert and credited the testimony of the corporation’s expert. The trial court’s order indicates that it may have based its decision on the premise that Blasingame compelled use of the Delaware Block method to determine stock value. Consequently, we remand to the trial court to reconsider its determination on valuation in light of our decision to partially overrule Blasingame

Davidson County Supreme Court 06/08/18