Court Opinions

Format: 06/23/2017
Format: 06/23/2017
Walter Jr. Shegog v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00034-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Appellant, Walter Jr. Shegog, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his petition seeking habeas corpus relief.  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
In Re: Hailey K., Et Al.
E2017-00397-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights appeal. The Trial Court Judge announced a ruling from the bench at the conclusion of the final hearing below and then subsequently entered a written order vacating the oral ruling. The order vacating the oral ruling contemplates further proceedings in the Trial Court. Because there is no final written order terminating the parental rights of the appellant, Shanna K., to her children, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Rawney Jean Taylor
M2015-02142-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Rawney Jean Taylor, of initiating a false report, a Class D felony; criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony; and reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced her to three years, two years, and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively.  The court ordered that she serve the three- and two-year sentences consecutively for a total effective sentence of five years.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that her three- and two-year sentences are excessive, that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing, that the trial court erred by denying her request for judicial diversion, and that the trial court erred by denying her request for probation.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Rennee Pinegar
M2015-02403-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The defendant, Vanessa Rennee Pinegar, appealed her convictions of one count of facilitation of delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone and two counts of attempted delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, challenging the denial of her motion to sever the trial of the defendants, certain evidentiary rulings, the jury instructions, the sufficiency of the evidence, and her effective nine-year sentence.  This Court affirmed the convictions and sentence.  The defendant filed an application for permission to appeal to our Supreme Court.  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application and remanded the case to this Court for reconsideration of sentencing in light of State  v. Gibson, 506 S.W.3d 450 (Tenn. 2016).  Upon reconsideration, we vacate the defendant’s enhanced sentences under the Drug-Free School Zone Act and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Russell Chambers
E2016-01324-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Patrick Russell Chambers, pleaded guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court in case number C-24053 to possession of contraband inside a penal institution, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-16-301 (2014). The Defendant also stipulated that his conduct in case number C-20453 violated the conditions of his community corrections sentence relative to a reckless homicide conviction in case number C-20398. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to ten years’ confinement for the contraband conviction and to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence for the reckless homicide conviction after finding that the Defendant had violated the conditions of his release. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Lee Collins, Jr.
M2015-01030-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The Defendant, Tommy Lee Collins, Jr., was convicted by a Bedford County Circuit Court jury of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony, evading arrest, a Class D felony, and reckless endangerment, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, Class E felonies. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-1324 (2014) (employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony), 39-16-603 (2014) (amended 2016) (evading arrest), 39-13-103 (Supp. 2012) (amended 2013) (reckless endangerment), 39-17-417(a)(4) (Supp. 2012) (amended 2014) (possession of a controlled substance). The trial court merged the possession of marijuana convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective eight years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his drug and firearm convictions, (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop and subsequent search of the car he was driving, (3) the prosecutor improperly challenged a juror on the basis of race, (4) the trial court erred by declining to order the prosecutor to disclose the identity of a confidential informant, and (5) the Defendant’s dual convictions for reckless endangerment and evading arrest violated double jeopardy principles. Because we conclude a juror was improperly challenged, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Mitchell Nathaniel Scott v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02241-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The pro se petitioner, Mitchell Nathaniel Scott, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Davidson County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists in his case. The petitioner also calls on this Court to apply the doctrine of stare decisis and ignore the Tennessee Supreme Court holding of Frazier v. State, 495 S.W.3d 246 (Tenn. 2016). After our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. William Charles Burgess
E2015-02213-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, William Charles Burgess, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of one count of preventing or obstructing an arrest and two counts of obstructing or preventing service of process, Class B misdemeanors. See T.C.A. § 39-16- 602 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six months, with all but ten days suspended to supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Because the Defendant’s conduct did not constitute a criminal offense, we reverse the judgments of the trial court, vacate the Defendant’s convictions, and dismiss the charges.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Individual Healthcare Specialists, Inc. v. BlueCross BlueShield Of Tennessee, Inc.
M2015-02524-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This is a breach of contract action in which the issues hinge on the meaning of several provisions in the agreement. In 1999 and again in 2009, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Inc. (“BlueCross”) and Individual Healthcare Specialists, Inc. (“IHS”) entered into a general agency agreement that authorized IHS to solicit applications for individual insurance policies through IHS’s in-house agents and outside “subagents.” The commission rates to be paid were stated in a schedule, which was subject to modification by BlueCross. During the first eleven years, BlueCross modified the commission schedule several times and each modification was prospective only. In 2011, BlueCross modified the commission schedule and, for the first time, applied the commission schedule retrospectively. At the same time, IHS determined that BlueCross had been underpaying commissions since 1999. As a consequence, it commenced this action asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and damages, while also claiming it was entitled to recover its attorney’s fees based on the contract’s indemnification provision. BlueCross denied any breach of contract. It also asserted the statute of limitations defense as a bar to recovering any commissions that accrued more than six years earlier, and asserted that IHS was not entitled to recover its attorney’s fees because the indemnification provision did not apply to disputes between the contracting parties. Shortly thereafter, BlueCross terminated the general agency agreement and began paying renewal commissions directly to IHS’s subagents instead of paying them to IHS as it had done since 1999. IHS then amended its complaint to assert a claim that BlueCross also breached the agreement by failing to pay commissions directly to IHS. Following a bench trial, the court denied BlueCross’s statute of limitations defense on the ground that IHS’s claims were “inherently undiscoverable.” The court also determined that BlueCross breached the contract by underpaying commissions, by applying the 2011 commission rates for renewals to existing policies, and by failing to pay all renewal commissions to IHS after termination of the general agency agreement. As for damages, the court awarded IHS some of the damages it claimed but denied others on the ground the evidence was speculative. As for IHS’s attorney’s fees, the trial court considered parol evidence to ascertain the intent of the parties and held that the indemnification provision authorized the recovery of attorney’s fees in a dispute between the contracting parties. Accordingly, it held that IHS, as the prevailing party, was entitled to recover its attorney’s fees. Both parties appeal. We affirm the trial court in all respects but one, that being the award of attorney’s fees. We have determined the trial court erred by considering parol evidence to determine the meaning of the indemnification provision. We also find that the indemnification provision does not apply to contractual disputes between the parties. Accordingly, IHS is not entitled to recover its attorney’s fees in this action.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Blake Austin Weaver
E2016-01774-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The Defendant, Blake Austin Weaver, appeals the revocation of his community corrections sentence. Pursuant to a guilty plea, he was convicted of one count of theft of property valued more than $60,000 and eleven counts of forgery of a check in an amount greater than $1,000 and less than $10,000. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of fifteen years to be served on community corrections. The trial court revoked the Defendant’s community corrections sentence after finding that the Defendant failed a drug screen, failed to pay restitution, and did not comply with orders to attend intensive outpatient therapy and enter a halfway house. After revocation, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. He argues that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his community corrections sentence, contending that the trial court erroneously failed to consider his ability to pay restitution, relied on grounds outside the notice of violation, and acted too harshly in requiring him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment revoking the Defendant’s community corrections sentence.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Walter Lee Hicks v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01050-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Petitioner, Walter Lee Hicks, was indicted for aggravated assault, evading arrest, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, driving on a revoked driver’s license, speeding, and making a false report. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the lesserincluded offense of assault, evading arrest, reckless endangerment, driving on a revoked driver’s license, speeding, and making a false report. The trial court imposed a 17-year sentence. A panel of this court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions and sentence on direct appeal, but the panel remanded the case for entry of corrected judgments to reflect that the conviction for misdemeanor assault merged into the conviction for felony reckless endangerment. State v. Walter Lee Hicks, Jr., No. M2013-01410-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2902277, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., June 26, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Oct. 22, 2014). Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief. Following a hearing on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel omitted portions of a state trooper’s dash camera video when presenting that evidence at trial. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Robert E. Lequire, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01950-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Petitioner, Robert E. Lequire, Jr., appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, in which he alleged that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Felton Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00490-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The Petitioner, Felton Jackson, filed a petition in the Wilson County Criminal Court, seeking post-conviction relief from his conviction of especially aggravated robbery.  The Petitioner alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to call alibi witnesses, coercing the Petitioner not to testify, and failing to investigate or present proof regarding the Petitioner’s “social, medical and mental health.”  The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appealed.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Teresa Kocher, et al. v. Laua Bearden, et al.
W2016-02088-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal involves a third-party’s attempt to intervene in this case in order to gain access to documents in the record, as the entire record was previously sealed by the trial court pursuant to an agreed order between the original parties. The trial court denied the third-party’s motion to intervene and also denied its motion to modify the order sealing the record. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion to intervene, vacate its denial of the motion to modify the protective order sealing the record, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Larsheika Hill
M2016-00526-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Appellant, Larsheika Hill, appeals the Marshall County Circuit Court’s revocation of her community corrections sentence for selling or delivering cocaine and order that she serve ten years in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Mario D. Frederick
M2016-00737-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Mario Frederick, was convicted of two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class E felony, two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor less than thirteen years of age, a Class C felony, and three counts of indecent exposure, a Class B misdemeanor. He received an effective sentence of five years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to sever the counts of the indictment and his motion for arrest of judgment. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company-Partial Dissent
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Although I agree with the majority Opinion’s discussion of the improper jury instructions given by the trial court in this case, I cannot agree with the majority’s analysis with regard to the duty owed by Ford. Because Ford’s duty is a threshold issue that must be determined prior to any consideration of the jury instructions given by the trial court, I therefore file this partial dissent.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company-Concur
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

I concur fully in the majority Opinion. I also agree with the dissent that this Court “has no authority to overrule or modify Supreme Court’s opinions.” Bloodworth v. Stuart, 428 S.W.2d 786, 789 (Tenn. 1968). I, however, disagree with the dissent regarding duty of care as the Trial Court was in fact cognizant of and adhered to our Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Satterfield v. Breeding Insulation Co., 266 S.W.3d 347 (Tenn. 2008).

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Joyce Stockton, et al. v. Ford Motor Company
W2016-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is a jury case. Automobile mechanic and his wife, Appellees, filed suit against Appellant Ford Motor Company for negligence in relation to wife’s diagnosis of mesothelioma. Appellees allege that Ford’s brake products, which contained asbestos, were unreasonably dangerous or defective such that Ford owed a duty to warn Mr. Stockton so that he, in turn, could protect his wife from exposure to air-borne asbestos fibers. The jury returned a verdict against Ford for $3.4 million. Ford appeals. Because the jury verdict form is defective, in that it omits two necessary questions in products liability cases, i.e., that the product at issue was unreasonably dangerous or defective and that the plaintiff’s injuries were reasonably foreseeable, we vacate the judgment and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
Wondimu Borena v. Jason Jacocks, et al.
M2016-00449-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a mechanic’s lien case. Appellee/auto repair shop agreed to repair Appellant’s vehicle for $5,267.30. Appellant paid this amount, but Appellee raised the estimate to $9,489.30. Appellant did not pay the additional costs. Under a purported mechanic’s lien, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 66-19-103, Appellee sold Appellant’s vehicle for $4,500.00. Appellant filed a complaint, seeking damages for conversion and for violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claim. Concerning the conversion claim, the trial court held that Appellee did not have a valid mechanic’s lien and had converted the property. The trial court awarded $10,000.00 in damages to Appellant. Appellant appeals, arguing that the damage award is insufficient. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Kalandra Lacy
W2016-00837-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The defendant, Kalandra Lacy, appeals her Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of abuse of a corpse, arguing that the trial court erred by denying her bid for judicial diversion. Following a de novo review occasioned by the trial court’s failure to consider on the record all the factors relevant to the denial of judicial diversion as well as the trial court’s consideration of irrelevant factors, we conclude that the defendant is entitled to judicial diversion. We remand the case for entry of an order placing the defendant on judicial diversion under the same terms and conditions of her previously imposed sentence of probation.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
J. Alexander's Holdings, LLC v. Republic Services, Inc.
M2016-01526-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A Tennessee company brought an action in the Davidson County General Sessions Court against an Arizona company for breach of contract and negligence, seeking recovery for damage to plaintiff’s restaurant, which was located in Michigan. The case was dismissed on the ground of improper venue. Plaintiff appealed to the circuit court, which granted summary judgment to defendants on the basis of improper venue, lack of personal jurisdiction, and forum non conveniens. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the holdings that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant and that venue was improper; we affirm the dismissal on the ground of forum non conveniens and vacate the denial of the motion to amend the complaint.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Shawn P. Bradley
W2015-02228-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Defendant, Shawn P. Bradley, appeals from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s order declaring him to be a Motor Vehicle Habitual Offender (MVHO). On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in declaring him to be a MVHO because the judgment forms for the qualifying offenses were facially invalid. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
State of Tennessee v. William Langston
W2015-02359-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camile R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, William Langston, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of the second degree murder of his wife and received a twenty-year sentence. On appeal, Langston argues: (1) the trial court erred by denying his request to enter a guilty plea to a pending indictment charging him with voluntary manslaughter; (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it accepted a police officer as an expert in the field of blood spatter analysis at trial; (3) the instructions in his case precluded the jury from considering the offense of voluntary manslaughter; (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (5) his sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting the date that the second degree murder conviction was entered following sentencing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/17
In Re Sydney B.
M2016-01236-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

In this termination of parental rights case, prospective adoptive parents appeal the trial court’s dismissal of their petition after finding that father did not willfully fail to pay support for the child. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 05/12/17