Court Opinions

Format: 04/27/2018
Format: 04/27/2018
Charles Michael Vance, II v. Angela Michelle Taylor Vance
M2017-00622-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson `

The issues on appeal involve the proper number of days upon which to base the calculation of child support, the propriety of the award of extraordinary educational expenses under the parties’ permanent parenting plan, and attorney’s fees. Having determined that the trial court erred in its determination of child support and extraordinary educational expenses, we affirm in part, and vacate and remand in part.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/16/18
Allen Craft v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02340-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The Petitioner, Allen Craft, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that trial counsel was ineffective (1) for not filing a motion to sever his case from his codefendant; and (2) for failing “to introduce expert testimony which would tend to negate the requisite mental state required for the offense.” Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Damarko D. Clay
W2017-00185-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Damarko D. Clay, appeals as of right from his convictions for possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Timothy R. Maness
W2017-01221-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Defendant, Timothy R. Maness, appeals his convictions for one count of rape, one count of misdemeanor assault, one count of incest, and two counts of sexual battery, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. The Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal, and the interest of justice does not support waiver of the timely filing requirement. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Deandrey Peterson
W2016-01878-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Deandrey Peterson, appeals his convictions for aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and his effective thirty-year sentence. The Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) in admitting evidence of other offenses. We affirm the Defendant’s convictions but remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing for the firearm conviction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Deandrey Peterson
W2017-00307-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Deandrey Peterson, appeals his convictions for aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony for which he received an effective thirty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) in allowing the State to present evidence of offenses committed against other victims. We conclude that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of other criminal offenses. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
Matthew Epps v. Mary Sonjia Thompson, et al.
M2017-01818-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

A landowner hired an individual she supervised at work to paint her house outside of work. The landowner provided the painter with material and ladders for the job. While he was using the folding ladder and painting one of the house’s eaves, the painter fell to the ground and injured his wrist. The painter sued the landowner for damages, asserting the landowner was negligent for providing him with old ladders that were unsafe. The landowner moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted after finding the painter was unable to prove cause in fact or proximate cause. The painter appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/15/18
Sammie L. Brookins, et al. v. Owen B. Tabor, Jr., et al.
W2017-00576-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

A plaintiff filed a health care liability complaint in 2015 against several physicians and entities that he later non-suited in order to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a). The plaintiff then filed a second complaint against the same defendants, relying on the saving statutes of Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1- 105 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c) to extend his statute of limitations. The plaintiff’s wife joined him as a plaintiff in the second complaint. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, alleging non-compliance with the pre-suit notice requirements and the statute of limitations. The trial court granted all of the defendants’ motions and dismissed the complaint. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against the physicians. Interpreting the complaint liberally and presuming the truth of plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the HIPAA authorizations, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against two of the physicians and affirm the dismissal of the complaint against one of the physicians on statute of limitations grounds. We affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the wife’s claims against all of the defendants.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/15/18
Jefferson County Schools v. Tennessee Risk Management Trust, et al.
E2017-01346-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper, II

In this appeal concerning insurance coverage, Jefferson County Schools (“Plaintiff”) sued its insurers, Tennessee Risk Management Trust and Travelers Indemnity Company (“Defendants”), in the Chancery Court for Jefferson County (“the Trial Court”). Building 8 at Jefferson County High School collapsed during a rainstorm. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office ordered Plaintiff to implement repairs to prevent a future collapse of both the damaged and undamaged portions. Plaintiff asserted that, pursuant to an “ordinance or law” provision in its insurance policy, Defendants were responsible for coverage for additional work in undamaged portions of Building 8 in order to comply with the Fire Marshal’s directive. Defendants argue in response that the additional work was discretionary and went beyond what the insurance policy covered. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff appeals. We hold that the Fire Marshal’s directive, issued under that office’s authority, qualified as an “ordinance or law.” Defendants were, therefore, required to cover the additional work. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court and remand for determination and entry of a monetary judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 03/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Charles Keese
E2016-02020-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

In this appeal, the State challenges the trial court’s decision to apply the amended version of Code section 39-14-105, which provides the grading of theft offenses, when calculating the defendant’s sentence. The defendant asserts that the State has no right to appeal the ruling of the trial court and, in the alternative, that the trial court correctly applied the amended statute in this case. The defendant also appeals the judgment of the trial court, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the State failed to adequately establish the value of the stolen property. We agree with the defendant that no appeal of right lies for the State pursuant to either Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 or Code section 40-35-402. Because we have concluded that the trial court exceeded its authority by the application of the amended version of Code section 39-14-105 before the effective date, we could treat the improperly-filed Rule 3 appeal as a common law petition for writ of certiorari. We need not do so, however, because, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 13, this court acquired jurisdiction of the State’s claim when the defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. Following our review of the issues presented, we hold that sufficient evidence supports the defendant’s conviction but that the trial court erred by applying the amended version of Code section 39-14-105. Accordingly, we affirm the defendant’s conviction but vacate the six-year sentence imposed by the trial court and remand the case for the entry of a modified judgment reflecting a 12-year sentence for a Class D felony conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
Christopher L. Williams v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01854-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Christopher L. Williams, filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The coram nobis court summarily denied his petition on the grounds that it was untimely filed. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the petition was timely filed and that the coram nobis court erred in denying relief without a hearing. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Mario Antoine Leggs
M2017-01963-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Mario Antoine Leggs, the Defendant, filed a motion requesting an ex parte injunction and hearing, arguing that the judgments in his case were invalid because they did not have a file stamp date. The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion because the judgments were signed by the trial court and entered on November 29, 2001. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying relief. The State contends that the Defendant does not have an appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 from the denial of a motion requesting injunctive relief. Additionally, the State argues that the lack of a file stamp date does not invalidate the Defendant’s judgments. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we dismiss the Defendant’s appeal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
Joseph Ellison v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00673-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Joseph Ellison, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because “there was no factual basis for” them. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/18
Joe W. Brown, et al. v. AmSouth Bank, et al.
W2016-02596-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint with prejudice based upon collateral estoppel and res judicata. The record before us reveals that as many as ten other actions have been commenced by the same parties in state and federal courts in which Plaintiffs have repeatedly challenged the validity of Defendants’ efforts to foreclose on property in Eads, Tennessee. To commence this action, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint to Set Aside Foreclosure and Declare Foreclosure a Nullity, for Damages, and for Legal and Equitable Relief. Defendants challenged the complaint by filing a Motion to Dismiss Complaint, contending that Plaintiffs waived their right to contest the foreclosure pursuant to a settlement agreement they entered into following mediation in one of the federal court proceedings. Defendants also contend that the same issues that are raised in this action were litigated in the federal courts, and that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held the settlement agreement was valid and enforceable. The chancellor granted Defendants’ motion and dismissed this action based on collateral estoppel and res judicata. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/14/18
In Re: Estate Of Ernest Lester Salmons
E2017-00389-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nicole Cantrell

This appeal presents the issue of whether a trial court may properly transfer a probate proceeding that was allegedly filed in the wrong county to the county where the decedent was residing when he passed away. The administratrix of the probate estate was appointed by the Campbell County Chancery Court upon the filing of a verified petition alleging that the decedent died in Lake City, Tennessee. A defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, subsequently filed by the administratrix regarding the death of the decedent, filed a motion in the Campbell County Chancery Court, seeking to have the previously issued letters of administration revoked because the decedent was residing in a nursing facility in Anderson County at the time of his death. Rather than revoking the letters of administration, the Campbell County Chancery Court transferred the probate matter to Anderson County. Subsequently, the Anderson County Chancery Court denied a similar motion, stating that it had no jurisdiction to revoke letters of administration issued by the Campbell County Chancery Court. The movant has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm the Campbell County Court’s order transferring the probate action to Anderson County.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 03/14/18
Doris Annette Christenberry v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, Et Al.
E2017-01026-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Doris Annette Christenberry (“Plaintiff”), pro se, appeals the April 19, 2017 judgment of the Circuit Court for Blount County (“the Trial Court”) granting summary judgment to Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., among other things. Plaintiff’s brief on appeal fails to comply in any meaningful way with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We, therefore, find that Plaintiff has waived her issues on appeal.

Blount County Court of Appeals 03/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Hugh Everret Burt
M2017-00547-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

After a bench trial, the trial court found the Defendant, Hugh Everret Burt, guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor for knowingly possessing less than fifty sexual images of minors. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two years and six months, with six months to be served in jail and the remaining served through Community Corrections. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence against him is insufficient and that the trial court erred when it ordered him to serve a portion of the sentence in jail. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Steven W. Davis
M2017-00596-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Bedford County jury convicted the Defendant, Steven W. Davis, of attempted rape and attempted incest. The trial court imposed an effective six-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him by misapplying an enhancement factor and by denying his request for alternative sentencing. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Melissa L. Lopez
E2016-02410-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

An Anderson Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Melissa L. Lopez, of aggravated child neglect, and the trial court sentenced her as a Range I, standard offender to twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction, arguing that the State failed to prove her neglect resulted in the victim’s injuries. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/13/18
Buster Chandler v. Maria M. Salas
M2017-01233-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, jr.

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Kentucky State Reformatory, who brought an action against the Clerk and Master of the Davidson County, Tennessee, Chancery Court, appeals the dismissal of his suit for failure to comply with statutory provisions applicable to suits brought in Tennessee by inmates incarcerated in Tennessee facilities and for failing to pay the filing fee. Plaintiff contends that the trial court abused its discretion in not ordering that the filing fee be paid from his inmate trust account. Upon a review of the record, we determine that neither the statutes relied upon by the court in dismissing the suit nor those relied upon by the plaintiff in contesting the dismissal apply to the case at bar; we have further determined that the dismissal was proper for Plaintiff’s failure to pay the fees required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-21-401 or secure such relief from the requirement as may be available to him. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of this action.      

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/13/18
Valenen Collins v. Sams East, Inc.
W2017-00711-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

Appellant appeals the dismissal of this action on the ground of res judicata. We hold that an essential element of res judicata—that the underlying judgment was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction—is not met in this case. Here, the court that rendered the judgment relied upon lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to the doctrine of prior suit pending. The trial court’s judgment of dismissal is therefore reversed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/13/18
Patrick Durkin v. MTown Construction, LLC
W2017-01269-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This appeal involves a homeowner’s lawsuit against a construction company for breach of contract and negligence. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment for the homeowner for $135,383.93 and denied a counterclaim filed by the construction company for the balance of the contract price. The construction company appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in its calculation of damages and in denying the counterclaim. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/13/18
State of Tennessee v. Alex Parrish
W2016-00645-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Appellant, Alex Parrish, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/12/18
In Re: Riley W.
E2017-01853-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

Lindsey W. (“Mother”) appeals the September 25, 2017 order of the Juvenile Court for Hamilton County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating her parental rights to the minor child Riley W. (“the Child”) upon the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2) and persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3). We find and hold that grounds for terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Child pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1- 113(g)(2) and (g)(3) were proven by clear and convincing evidence and that it was proven by clear and convincing evidence that the termianation was in the Child’s best interests. We, therefore, affirm the September 25, 2017 order of the Juvenile Court terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Child.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/12/18
In Re Homer D., Et Al.
M2017-00298-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court terminated Appellant’s parental rights on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to support; (2) persistence of the conditions that led to the children’s removal; and (3) substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plans. The trial court also found that termination of Appellant’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. On appeal, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services concedes that the persistence of conditions ground is not applicable to Appellant. We agree and accordingly reverse the trial court’s reliance on that ground for termination. Although we also reverse the trial court’s finding of abandonment, because it is only necessary that one ground for termination be established, the trial court’s termination order is otherwise affirmed. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/09/18