Court Opinions

Format: 08/17/2019
Format: 08/17/2019
In Re Charlie-Lynn P., Et Al.
M2018-02285-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her children. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Matia P. (“Mother”) to her minor children Charlie-Lynn P. and Pharaoh P. (“the Children”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of failure to establish a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistent conditions. The Juvenile Court also found that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals, arguing only that termination of her parental rights is not in the Children’s best interest because she has taken certain steps to address her mental health and domestic violence issues. We find and hold that the Juvenile Court did not err in finding that clear and convincing evidence was shown as to all three grounds. We find and hold further that, notwithstanding Mother’s purported improvements, the Juvenile Court did not err in finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 06/27/19
Simmons Bank v. Vastland Development Partnership
M2018-00347-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal arises from a commercial lease dispute. The trial court summarily ruled that Simmons Bank, which acquired the tenant originally named in the lease in a merger, had the right to exercise a renewal option. The appellant landlord contends this was error because “(1) the plain language of the lease expressly indicated the option could only be exercised by the tenant originally named in the lease and (2) two events of default occurred [as a result of the merger] which precluded the exercise of the option under the plain terms of the lease.” The alleged events of default were that (1) the original tenant failed to “maintain its legal existence,” and (2) the original tenant transferred its interest to Simmons Bank by operation of law. We have determined that regardless of whether the lease was transferred to Simmons Bank by merger pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 48-21-108(a)(2) “without reversion or impairment,” the parties agreed to restrict any transfer of the right to renew the lease to one entity, First State Bank, “the Tenant originally named” in the lease. Accordingly, and relying on the legal principle that a statute shall not be applied to construe a contract when the parties to the contract express a contrary intention, the agreed-upon renewal restriction in the lease controls. As a consequence, Simmons Bank does not have the right to exercise the renewal option. Therefore, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to Simmons Bank and remand this case to the trial court with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of the landlord.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/27/19
Steven Douglas Fish v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01545-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

Petitioner, Steven Douglas Fish, appeals the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. We conclude that Petitioner is not entitled to habeas corpus relief because Petitioner’s judgment is not void and that Petitioner is not entitled to post-conviction relief because his petition was filed outside of the statute of limitations period. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Mario Walls
W2018-00527-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Mario Walls, of attempted second degree murder, and the trial court imposed a sentence of thirty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction, contending that the proof did not show he was aware his conduct was reasonably certain to result in the victim’s death. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/19
Sharon Kay Middendorf v. Byron Scott Middendorf
M2018-00409-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

In this appeal, the parties were declared divorced in February 2013 when the trial court approved their marital dissolution agreement and entered a final decree of divorce; at the same time, the parties entered into a separate agreement which was to govern the transfer of the wife’s marital interest in four businesses operated by the husband. In July 2014, the husband filed a motion pursuant to Rule 60.02(5) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure to have the decree set aside. The court granted the motion and vacated the decree, reinstating the marital relationship; the court also rescinded the agreement transferring the wife’s interest in the businesses on the ground of mutual mistake. Following a trial, the court entered a final decree of divorce in 2017. Both parties appeal. Wife asserts that the trial court erred in vacating the 2013 decree, in rescinding the parties’ agreement, and in failing to award her all of the attorney’s fees she incurred at the trial court level. Husband appeals the division of the marital estate in the 2017 decree, and contends that the trial court erred when it failed to order the return of payments he made to wife pursuant to the agreement that was rescinded and alimony payments he made pursuant to the 2013 decree that was vacated. Both parties seek their attorney’s fees on appeal. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court in all respects and decline to award fees on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Damarcus C. Nelson
W2018-00951-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Moore

The Defendant, Damarcus C. Nelson, appeals as of right from the Dyer County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of the remainder of his four-year sentence for solicitation of aggravated assault. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion because the State failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he violated the law or participated in gang-related activity, and he maintains that the remaining “technical” violations did not warrant incarceration. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Derrick Williamson
W2018-01441-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendant, Derrick Williamson, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of alternative sentencing for his jury conviction of child abuse. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/26/19
David G. Andrews v. Jonathan Lebo, Warden
W2018-01965-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, David G. Andrews, appeals the Lauderdale County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief from his 2017 conviction for robbery and his ten-year sentence. He contends that the judgment is void. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/26/19
Fiona Eischeid Flodin v. Tan Scott Flodin
E2018-01499-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

This appeal arises from a divorce. Fiona Eischeid Flodin (“Wife”) filed for divorce from Tan Scott Flodin (“Husband”) in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). Husband, in the latter years of the marriage, was unemployed by his choice. Husband asserted that he contributed by helping Wife with her real estate business. Wife asserted that Husband’s contributions were minimal and that he refused to work despite her urging him to get a job. After a trial, the Trial Court entered an order finding, inter alia, that Husband lived a life of leisure while Wife did the vast majority of the work both for pay and at home. The Trial Court found all the witnesses credible except Husband. The Trial Court proceeded to award Husband around 38% of the marital estate as well as six months of transitional alimony at the rate of $2,000 per month. Husband appealed. Husband argues on appeal that the Trial Court erred in its valuation of certain marital assets, in its division of the marital estate, and in not awarding him more alimony than it did. We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s factual findings. The values adopted by the Trial Court as to marital assets were within the range of evidence presented. In addition, the Trial Court appropriately considered the relevant factors in its decisions regarding alimony and the marital estate. We discern no abuse of discretion or other error by the Trial Court. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Katelyn Bateman
M2018-01933-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

The Defendant, Katelyn Bateman, appeals as of right from the Cheatham County Circuit Court’s order revoking her community corrections sentence and ordering the Defendant to serve the remainder of her sentence in confinement. The Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the sentence served in confinement rather than permitting a furlough to the drug court program. Following our review, we affirm the order of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/26/19
In Re Aliyah C.
E2019-00038-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma D. McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her daughter. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination were proven and that it was in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights. Mother appeals but only challenges whether the judgment is valid if the guardian ad litem was not present for the termination hearing. After careful review, we conclude that the presence of the guardian ad litem could not be waived by the other parties at the trial on the merits. Therefore, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Daversea A. Fitts
M2018-00750-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

A Sumner County jury convicted the Defendant, Daversea A. Fitts, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the State failed to sufficiently corroborate accomplice testimony presented at trial. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/26/19
G.G. Ex Rel Jackie Johnson Et Al. v. Boyd-Buchanan School Et Al. - Dissenting
E2018-01912-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

John W. McClarty, J., dissenting. The majority holds that the trial court abused its discretion by entering an order that would allow the plaintiffs to discover information that is irrelevant to their breach of contract claim.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/26/19
G.G. Ex Rel. Jackie Johnson Et Al. v. Boyd-Buchanan School Et Al.
E2018-01912-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

This interlocutory appeal involves a discovery dispute. G.G., an eighth-grade student, was expelled from Boyd-Buchanan School after he sent sexually explicit messages to a female student on a social media platform. G.G. and his mother, Jackie Johnson, filed a complaint against Boyd-Buchanan School and other school officials. The trial court dismissed most of plaintiffs’ claims. The only remaining claim is plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim against the school. During discovery, plaintiffs requested the employment files of various school administrators and extensive information relating to the disciplinary records of non-party students. The school filed a motion for a protective order. The court granted the school’s motion in part and denied it in part. The school then requested permission to file an interlocutory appeal. The trial court granted permission to appeal, as did this Court. In this opinion, we clarify the appropriate legal standard for analyzing discovery disputes. We also hold that the trial court abused its discretion by entering an order that would allow plaintiffs to discover information that is irrelevant to their breach of contract claim. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for the entry of an order granting Boyd-Buchanan School’s motion for a protective order in its entirety.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/26/19
Jeffrey Mason v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01922-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The petitioner, Jeffrey Mason, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2017
guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
Asata D. Lowe v. Mike Parris Et Al.
E2018-01753-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Golden
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This case involves a prisoner’s appeal from the trial court’s dismissal of his complaint, wherein he raised numerous claims relating back to his seizure, arrest, prosecution, and conviction, all of which occurred from 1998 to 2000. The trial court dismissed all of the prisoner’s claims on numerous grounds, including that they were time-barred by various statutes of limitations and that many of the defendants were entitled to sovereign immunity. Concluding that because certain defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity and that all of the prisoner’s claims are either time-barred or do not comply with the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 06/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Mario Marquette McAdoo
M2018-01113-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Mario Marquette McAdoo, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s revocation of his probation for his convictions for four counts of felony theft, misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor resisting arrest and its order that he serve the remainder of his effective ten-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at the revocation hearing and that, as a result, he is entitled to a new revocation hearing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
Clarence D. Schreane v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01658-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Petitioner, Clarence D. Schreane, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery convictions, for which he received an effective sentence of life plus sixty years. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
Paul Brent Baxter v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00592-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

In 2014, the Petitioner, Paul Brent Baxter, was convicted of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping, and the trial court sentenced him to serve thirty-five years. The Defendant appealed his convictions to this court, and we affirmed the judgments. State v. Paul Brent Baxter, No. M2015-00939-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 2928266 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, May 16, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 23, 2016). Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
Milburn Levon Edwards v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01300-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

In this, his sixth petition for habeas corpus relief, the Petitioner, Milburn Levon Edwards, contends that his burglary, rape and assault convictions are illegal because his sentences were ordered to be served at forty percent instead of thirty-five percent. The trial court summarily dismissed his petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it denied his habeas corpus petition and then it erred when it denied his subsequently filed motion to correct clerical errors pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 because his judgments were not file-stamped. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Early Reynolds
M2018-00988-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, Early Reynolds, of unlawful possession of a firearm after a prior felony conviction involving use, or attempted use, of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to serve fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress statements made to the police after he invoked his right to remain silent; (2) the trial court improperly admitted a photograph of the Defendant holding a gun; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/25/19
David William Lowery v. State of Tennessee
E2018-02537-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

Petitioner, David William Lowery, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for three counts of aggravated child abuse. On appeal he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner also appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis based upon newly discovered evidence. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/19
Matthew Marble v. Jaimee Underwood
M2017-02040-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

This appeal concerns a legal malpractice action filed by the father of a minor child for his attorney’s alleged negligence in her representation of him. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the attorney. We affirm.

Macon County Court of Appeals 06/24/19
Kristin Marie Miclaus v. Andrei Miclaus
E2018-02134-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny W. Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

Appellant appeals the trial court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion, which sought relief from the final decree of divorce entered against him on the ground that he did not receive notice of the trial setting. Because Appellant did not receive proper notice, relief under Rule 60.02(1) should have been granted by the trial court. As such, we vacate the final decree of divorce and remand the case for further proceedings.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 06/24/19
Jeanette Currie v. Farmers Insurance Company
M2018-01818-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Due to the deficiencies in Appellant’s brief, we conclude that she waived consideration of any issues on appeal and hereby dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/24/19