Court Opinions

Format: 09/15/2019
Format: 09/15/2019
State of Tennessee v. Luis A. Meza Olivera
E2017-01871-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The Defendant, Luis A. Meza Olivera, was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; and three counts of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -304. The trial court merged the convictions into one count of aggravated assault and one count of aggravated kidnapping. The trial court then imposed a total effective sentence of twelve years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of three prior incidents of domestic violence involving the Defendant and the victim; (3) the trial court erred in allowing a child witness to testify by closed circuit television; (4) the trial court erred in excluding a video recording taken after the offenses were committed; (5) the trial court abused its discretion by imposing the maximum sentence for each conviction; and (6) a new trial is warranted due to cumulative error.1 Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/19
Felicitas Hayes v. Christopher Daniel Scoggin
W2019-00057-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Mother and father were divorced in 2013. They have four children together. Disputes regarding child custody have spanned four states and nearly six years. In this iteration, on June 9, 2017, mother filed a “Petition to Enroll Foreign Decree, For Immediate Injunctive Relief, for Sciare Facias, and Citation for Criminal and Civil Contempt, for Modification of Custody Order, and for Entry of Temporary Parenting Plan.” In his answer, father requested that, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-103(c), he be reimbursed for the attorney’s fees incurred as a result of defending against mother’s petition. After nine months of litigation, mother voluntarily dismissed her petition without prejudice. As a result of mother’s voluntary dismissal prior to trial, father’s claim for attorney’s fees was not resolved. Following mother’s dismissal, another dispute arose regarding summer custody. On April 20, 2018, father filed a petition to resolve the summer custody issue; it was resolved by a consent order. Following the consent order, father filed a petition to recover the attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending against mother’s voluntarily dismissed petition. Mother moved to dismiss father’s petition alleging that res judicata precluded father from seeking to recover his attorney’s fees in that matter, because he did not raise the issue in his summer custody petition. The trial court disagreed. Mother applied for an interlocutory appeal; this Court denied her application. The trial court subsequently awarded father $11,963.08 in attorney’s fees and costs. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/25/19
Melanie Robertson, et al. v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association
W2019-00015-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Based on its bylaws, Appellant Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association denied three students, Appellees herein, permission to play football at a local high school. Appellees filed a petition for restraining order and for temporary and permanent injunctions asking the trial court to prohibit the Association from denying the Students permission to play football. The trial court immediately granted temporary injunctions; later, the trial court granted permanent injunctions. Appellant appeals. Based on the allegations contained in Appellees’ petition, the trial court did not have authority to interfere in the internal affairs of TSSAA concerning the Students’ eligibility to play football for the 2018-2019 school year. Therefore, we reverse and remand the case with instructions to the trial court to dismiss the case and collect the costs.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/25/19
Dean Smith v. Tennessee Board of Paroles
M2018-01354-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal concerns an incarcerated inmate’s filing of a petition for writ of certiorari, claiming that the Tennessee Board of Paroles acted arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, and in excess of its authority in denying his request for parole. The trial court granted the petition but ultimately affirmed the denial of parole. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Darryl Rene Morgan - dissenting
E2018-00916-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s decision to affirm the trial court’s order of suppression of evidence. In particular, I would not have reviewed a theory of exigent circumstances in determining that the warrantless search of the defendant’s person was illegal. Rather, I believe that the search-incident-to-arrest rationale undergirds the search in this case and requires a reversal of the trial court’s ruling.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Darryl Rene Morgan
E2018-00916-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The State of Tennessee appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s order granting the Defendant’s motion to suppress, which resulted in the dismissal of the case. On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred because the warrantless search of the Defendant was conducted pursuant to probable cause and exigent circumstances. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/19
Patricia Randolph v. White County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2018-01496-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

A mother brought suit against White County and its Sheriff for negligent infliction of emotional distress arising out of a situation in which the Sheriff erroneously informed the mother that her son had been shot and killed by deputies. The trial court dismissed the suit, ruling that the Sheriff was immune from suit under the Governmental Tort Liability Act and White County was immune from suit by application of the public duty doctrine. Mother appeals, asserting that neither defendant is immune from suit. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

White County Court of Appeals 07/24/19
Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County Ex Rel. State of Tennessee v. Delinquent Taxpayers As Shown On The 2011 Real Property Tax Records Of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee
M2018-00357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This case involves a dispute regarding a trial court’s assessment of interest on a parcel of real property subject to a redemption action. The trial court required the redeeming party to pay interest to the tax sale purchasers for the time that elapsed during the redemption proceedings. The redeeming party appealed the trial court’s application of interest to any period after the redeeming party had filed its notice of redemption. Following our thorough review of this issue, we agree that assessment of interest beyond the date of the filing of redemption notice was improper. We therefore reverse the trial court’s assessment of interest and modify the trial court’s judgment accordingly.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/24/19
Morristown Heart Consultants, PLLC et al. v. Pragnesh Patel, M.D.
E2018-01590-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

We granted this Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9 interlocutory appeal to consider whether the Trial Court erred in ordering disclosure of the representation file maintained by attorney Troy L. Bowlin, II, during his representation of Morristown Heart Consultants, PLLC (“MHC”) to a member of MHC. We find and hold that the Trial Court did not err in determining that MHC had not properly authorized the hiring of Mr. Bowlin and that attorney-client privilege did not apply to prevent disclosure of Mr. Bowlin’s legal file to a member of MHC with fifty percent financial rights and thirty-three percent governing rights to the company. We, therefore, affirm the Trial Court’s order permitting the member to acquire Mr. Bowlin’s legal file concerning MHC and conduct relevant discovery concerning that representation.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 07/24/19
Wayne Jones, Jr. Et Al. v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02198-COA-AR3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett

This wrongful death action arises from the tragic death of a state university student-athlete during football practice. The student’s parents filed a claim against the State of Tennessee in the Tennessee Claims Commission. After a trial, the Commissioner found that the parents had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the head athletic trainer violated the applicable standard of care after the student’s collapse; (2) the trainer’s negligence was the cause in fact of the student’s death; and (3) the university was otherwise negligent in caring for the student after his collapse. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the Commissioner’s causation findings, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 07/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Derek Tweedy
W2018-01202-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Joshua Tweedy, was convicted by a Madison County Circuit Court jury of assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of a firearm by a convicted violent felon, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-101 (assault) (Supp. 2016) (subsequently amended), 39-17-1307(b)(1)(A) (Supp. 2017) (subsequently amended) (possession of a firearm by a convicted violent felon). On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred in imposing an effective eighteen-year sentence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/19
Donna M. Sabella F/K/A Donna Frazier F/K/A Donna Sabella Frazier v. Naomi Foreman, Et Al.
M2019-01067-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

This is an appeal from a final judgment entered on May 14, 2019. Because the defendants did not file their notice of appeal within thirty (30) days after entry of the final judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 07/23/19
Carolyn Coffman et al. v. Armstrong International, Inc. et al.
E2017-01985-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This consolidated appeal arises from a product liability action brought by Donald Coffman and his wife, Carolyn Coffman, after Mr. Coffman was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Plaintiffs asserted several claims against multiple defendants for their alleged involvement in Mr. Coffman’s exposure to asbestos at his workplace. The trial court dismissed their claims against some of the original defendants. The court granted summary judgment to the remaining defendants. Specifically, the court found that: (1) plaintiffs’ claims against one defendant were time-barred by the four-year construction statute of repose set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-202 (2017); (2) plaintiffs’ claims against three defendants were time-barred by the ten-year statute of repose set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-103 (2012); (3) ten defendants affirmatively negated their alleged duty to warn; and (4) plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence of causation with respect to seven defendants. The court denied plaintiffs’ motion to alter or amend certain summary judgment orders. Plaintiffs filed separate notices of appeal for each final judgment entered by the trial court. These cases were consolidated for the purpose of oral argument before the Court of Appeals. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we vacate all of the final judgments entered by the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/22/19
State of Tennessee v. A.B. Price, Jr. and Victor Sims
W2017-00677-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

In early January 2017, Defendant A. B. Price, Jr., attempted to plead nolo contendere to two counts of sexual battery, and Defendant Victor Sims attempted to plead guilty to three counts of aggravated assault. Both Defendants had reached plea bargains with the State, and each of the pleas included a term of probation. The trial court declined to accept the pleas and requested the parties to return for a later hearing to present proof and argument regarding the constitutionality of certain portions of the Public Safety Act of 2016 (“the PSA”), which has the practical effect of authorizing the Tennessee Department of Correction (“DOC”) to address at least some probation violations, a role up to this point reserved exclusively to trial courts. After the hearing, the trial court ruled portions of the PSA facially unconstitutional on grounds of separation of powers, due process, and equal protection. The trial court subsequently accepted the Defendants’ pleas and inserted in each judgment the following special condition: “The probated portion of the Defendant’s sentence is not subject to the Public Safety Act; rather, the Defendant shall be subject to the rules and regulations governing probation applicable through pre-existing law (law in effect prior to January 1, 2017).” The State appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgments. We granted the State’s application for permission to appeal. We hold that the constitutionality of the PSA provisions at issue was not ripe for consideration by the trial court. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. We remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

  

Supreme Court 07/22/19
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Claiborne County v. Delinquent Taxpayer, Albertano Alvarez Et Al.
E2018-01710-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Elizabeth C. Asbury

This appeal arises from the redemption of a parcel of real property purchased at a delinquent taxpayer sale. The appellants were lienholders on a parcel of real property sold to a third party purchaser at a delinquent tax sale. Within days after the tax sale, the lienholders filed a petition for redemption of the property. In response, the purchaser filed a motion to protest the validity of the lien or, alternatively, a claim to recover the expenses that had been incurred to preserve the value of the property by clearing debris and personalty from the property. The lienholders then filed a cross-claim alleging conversion and trespass to chattels. After the purchaser withdrew his objection to the validity of the lien, a bench trial was conducted, and the trial court granted the lienholders’ petition for redemption upon the following conditions relevant to this appeal: that they reimburse the purchaser in the amounts of $8,579.60 for expenses incurred in cleaning up the property and an additional $600.00 for the storage of personalty. The lienholders’ conversion and trespass to chattels claims were subsequently dismissed. Having determined that the expenses were incurred to prevent permissive waste on the property—and concluding that such expenses are recoverable despite having been incurred prior to the entry of the order confirming the sale—we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 07/22/19
William Henry Smith, Jr v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01302-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The petitioner, William Henry Smith, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2015 conviction of conspiracy to sell and deliver one-half grams or more of a Schedule II drug,1 alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/19
TWB Architects, Inc. v. The Braxton, LLC Et Al.
M2017-00423-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

We granted review to determine whether summary judgment was properly granted to an architect firm seeking to recover its design fees from a development company. The architect firm designed a condominium project for the development company. The development company ran short of funds and was not able to pay the architect firm under their design contract. As a result, the architect firm’s president agreed to accept a condominium in the project instead of the fee. But the development company did not fulfill that agreement because the development company had pledged the condominium as collateral for a construction loan. The architect firm filed a mechanic’s lien for its unpaid fee under the parties’ design contract, and then filed this suit to enforce the lien. The trial court granted summary judgment to the architect firm, holding that the firm was entitled to its fee under the design contract, and there was insufficient evidence that the parties intended a novation by substituting the agreement to convey a condominium for the design contract. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We find that disputed questions of material fact exist about whether the architect firm and the development company intended a novation when they entered into the agreement for the condominium. Thus, the trial court should not have granted summary judgment to the architect firm. We reverse and remand to the trial court. 

Cheatham County Supreme Court 07/22/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael D. Fykes
M2018-00703-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The defendant, Michael D. Fykes, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of especially aggravated burglary and aggravated assault, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) and imposing a sentence greater than necessary and that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. Because dual convictions of especially aggravated burglary and aggravated assault in this case are prohibited by statute, we modify the conviction of especially aggravated burglary to aggravated burglary and remand to the trial court for resentencing. We otherwise affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/19
Coy J. Cotham, Jr., AKA Cory J. Cotham v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02031-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, Coy J. Cotham, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective. Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying his pro se motion to relieve post-conviction counsel, or in the alternative, his motion to continue the post-conviction hearing; that his post-conviction counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately present his claims for post-conviction relief; and that the post-conviction court erred by denying his petition for
post-conviction relief. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/19
Paul Hayes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01555-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Paul Hayes, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis based on a victim recanting her identification of him as one of the perpetrators of a home invasion that took place over two decades ago. The petition was denied by the trial court both for having been untimely filed and because the new evidence was neither credible nor was likely to have changed the outcome of the trial. On appeal, we affirm the judgment of the trial court that the petition should be denied on the merits.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael Ray Howser
M2018-00603-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Defendant, Michael Ray Howser, pled guilty to aggravated assault, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon with an agreed effective sentence of ten years as a Range II multiple offender with the trial court to determine the manner of service. A sentencing hearing was held, and the trial court ordered Defendant’s ten-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying alternative sentencing. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Michael Ward
E2018-01781-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Joshua Michael Ward, entered a guilty plea to reckless homicide, a Class D felony, after the all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”) he was driving ran down an embankment, killing his passenger. The trial court denied the Defendant judicial diversion and sentenced him to three years, with ninety days to be served in confinement and the remainder on unsupervised probation. The Defendant appeals the denial of judicial diversion and the denial of full probation. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing, and we affirm the judgment.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/19
Save Our Fairgrounds Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee
M2019-00724-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Appellants filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County related to the city’s decision to allow a soccer stadium to be built at the fairgrounds. The complaint alleged that the action violated several provisions of the city’s charter intended to protect the fairgrounds for fair uses. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the city on the basis that the additional uses for the fairgrounds did not violate Metropolitan Charter section 11.602. Because the trial court’s order fails to adjudicate Appellants’ claims that the city’s action violated additional charter provisions, we dismiss this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/18/19
Noah Ryan Et Al. v. Laverna Soucie
E2018-01121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

This appeal arises from a dispute concerning the defendant’s conduct, which impeded the plaintiffs’ use of a state right of way for ingress to and egress from the plaintiffs’ commercial property. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs following its determination that the defendant had created a nuisance and had intentionally interfered with the plaintiffs’ business relationships. The defendant has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/18/19
Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, Et Al. v. Ted D. Rains
M2018-01097-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

Defendant in a debt collection case appeals the entry of judgment against him, contending that the court erred in setting the case for trial with only two days’ notice, in granting a motion in limine on the day of trial, and in its award of attorney’s fees to the Plaintiff. We modify the judgment to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees awarded; in all other respects, we affirm the judgment.  

Perry County Court of Appeals 07/18/19