Court Opinions

Format: 12/16/2018
Format: 12/16/2018
State of Tennessee v. Edward Dewayne Shelton, Jr.
M2018-00319-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Appellant, Edward Dewayne Shelton, Jr., appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his “motion to dismiss the indictment and motion to withdraw guilty plea and motion to correct illegal sentence.” The Appellant contends (1) that his motion to withdraw his guilty plea was timely filed because there was no file stamp date on the judgment form; (2) that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered due to the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel; (3) that the charging indictment was void because it “was only signed by the foreman of the grand jury”; and (4) that his sentence was illegal because he was classified as a Range II, multiple offender rather than a Range I, standard offender. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/18
State of Tennessee v. Tracy Douglass
W2017-01512-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Tracy Douglass, of first degree premeditated murder, for which he received a life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it failed to declare a mistrial following the State’s improper statements during closing argument. He also asserts that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/18
Jacob Davis v. Tennessee Department of Correction , Et al.
M2017-02301-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

Having pursued relief under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, Jacob Davis filed a petition for a declaratory order with the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC” or “the Department”) to challenge the Department’s interpretation of the statutes regarding release after a sentence of life, and the constitutionality of Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501(i). Upon receiving an unsatisfactory response, Davis then filed a declaratory judgment action in the Davidson County Chancery Court against the TDOC and the Tennessee Attorney General (collectively, “the State”) about the calculation of his sentence, including his eligibility for release and the constitutionality of Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501. The chancery court ruled against him and he appealed. The Court of Appeals finds, based on rules of statutory interpretation, Vaughn v. State, 202 S.W.3d 106 (Tenn. 2006), and a number of cases from the Court of Criminal Appeals, that Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501(i) establishes the legal release date for someone sentenced to life. The court also finds that the statute is constitutional. The chancery court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/30/18
Cindy Brumfield Et Al. v. City of Murfreesboro, Et Al.
M2016-01569-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mitchell Keith Siskin

Homeowners filed a declaratory judgment action related to the operation of a group home in their neighborhood. Among other things, homeowners claimed that the use of the property for a group home violated the local zoning ordinance. On motions for summary judgment, the court concluded that the operation of the group home did not violate the zoning ordinance because the group home’s residents constituted a “family” as defined in the ordinance. The court further concluded that the use was protected under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (Supp. 2017). We affirm the grant of summary judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/30/18
Dale Samuel Waggoner v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02251-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Dale Samuel Waggoner, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/18
State of Tennessee v. H.C. Brown, Jr.
M2017-02155-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County grand jury indicted the defendant, H.C. Brown, Jr., with attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault by strangulation, false imprisonment, and violation of an order of protection. Following trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of aggravated assault by strangulation and violation of an order of protection, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of fifteen years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his aggravated assault conviction. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/18
Deaundra Donnell Smith v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00088-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Petitioner, Deaundra Donnell Smith, sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel after his convictions for felony murder and especially aggravated robbery were affirmed on direct appeal. The post-conviction court denied relief, finding that Petitioner failed to prove his allegations by clear and convincing evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/18
Christine Song Et Al. v Jane C. Chung Et Al.
E2018-00114-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgerty, Jr.

This case involves a claim of unjust enrichment following the execution and partial performance of a contract for the sale of a laundry and dry cleaning business. On December 21, 2012, the parties executed a contract, selling the business in exchange for $100,000.00. The buyers tendered $50,000.00 at the time of the contract’s execution and simultaneously tendered a promissory note to the seller for the remaining $50,000.00 with a pre-arranged payment plan. The contract contained a provision stating that it was conditioned on the buyers’ ability to obtain a satisfactory commercial lease from the owner of the building where the business was located. The buyers took possession of the business and began making payments pursuant to the promissory note. However, the buyers were unable to enter into a written or long-term lease with the building owner. The buyers ceased making payments on the promissory note after nine months. In November 2013, the buyers began contacting the seller, requesting a return of the down payment and money paid on the promissory note in exchange for the business. In June 2014, the buyers filed a complaint seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the contract of sale was void due to an unsatisfied condition. The seller filed an answer and countercomplaint requesting enforcement of the contract and promissory note, including the enforcement of a vendor’s lien held on the business equipment. On December 19, 2017, the trial court entered an order dismissing the buyers’ complaint and granting the seller’s requested relief pursuant to the contract and promissory note. The buyers have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 10/30/18
Robin Lynn Bolt v. Michael David Bolt
E2017-02357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the wife. Prior to the onset of the litigation, the parties had been married for eighteen years with one minor child born during the marriage. On November 2, 2017, the trial court granted the divorce; divided the marital property according to the wife’s proposed property distribution; awarded to the wife alimony in futuro in the amount of $1,100 per month; awarded to the wife half of her attorney’s fees as alimony in solido; and adopted the husband’s proposed permanent parenting plan. Although the husband’s permanent parenting plan contained a child support calculation based on monthly income estimates, the court ordered the child support payments to be calculated using the average of the parties’ respective incomes from the previous three years. The husband has appealed. Because it is unclear whether the trial court classified the real property upon which the marital home is located as marital property or the wife’s separate property prior to awarding her its value and because we determine that the order appealed from contains an internal inconsistency with respect to the amount of child support awarded, we vacate the trial court’s distribution of marital property and its awards of alimony and child support. We remand for the trial court to clarify its property classification and resolve the inconsistency concerning child support prior to rendering judgment regarding an award of alimony. The trial court’s judgment granting the divorce is otherwise affirmed.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 10/30/18
In Re: Gary's Bonding Company
M2018-00459-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

A final forfeiture was entered against the appellant, Gary’s Bonding Company, in the Marion County Circuit Court ordering the complete forfeiture of the bail bond in the case of the criminal defendant, Johnny Cook. On appeal, the appellant contends the trial court erred in ordering a final forfeiture. Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed in this matter, we are without jurisdiction to determine whether the trial court erred. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/18
Courtney Partin v. Tennessee Department of Correction
W2018-00933-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

Following adverse disciplinary proceedings against him while in prison, Appellant filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari in Chancery Court. The Chancery Court later dismissed the case upon determining that the petition for certiorari was not timely filed. Because Appellant was released from prison during the pendency of this appeal, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand the case for the entry of an order dismissing the petition due to mootness.

Lake County Court of Appeals 10/30/18
Alcoa, Inc. v. Georgette McCroskey, Individually and as surviving spouse of Marcus McCroskey
E2018-00087-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Georgette McCroskey alleged her deceased husband, Marcus McCroskey (“Employee”), died from pancreatic cancer on June 15, 2012, as the result of work-related exposure to coal tar pitch while employed by Alcoa, Inc. (“Employer”). Following the trial, the trial court held Mrs. McCroskey had not carried her burden of proof on the issue of whether or not Employee’s pancreatic cancer was caused by his work-related exposure to coal tar pitch. Mrs. McCroskey appeals the decision, arguing the preponderance of evidence supports the conclusion Employee’s work-related exposure was a substantial contributing factor in his development of pancreatic cancer and death. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/18
Ivan Michael Kanski v. Kelly Jean Kanski
M2017-01913-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

This case involves a contentious divorce between parties who share one minor child. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court granted the wife a divorce on the ground of inappropriate marital conduct. The husband appealed raising numerous issues related to property classification, valuation, and division. He also challenges the alimony awards and child support determination. After our review of the record, we determine that the trial court erroneously set the husband’s income for the purpose of child support, and we therefore remand the case for a new determination of the husband’s income and calculation of his child support obligation. We affirm the trial court’s decision in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/29/18
In Re Colton B.
M2018-01053-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon o. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Diana F. Monroe

This is a parental termination case. The trial court terminated the parental rights of a mother based on the statutory grounds of severe child abuse, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility of the child. The mother appeals. We reverse in part, with respect to one ground for termination, but otherwise affirm the trial court’s order terminating parental rights and remand for further proceedings.

Overton County Court of Appeals 10/29/18
Grady Cunningham, Et Al. v. Bedford County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2017-00519-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

A landowner filed a declaratory judgment action alleging that the Bedford County Board of Commissioners’ denial of his request to rezone his property was arbitrary and capricious, violated his due process rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, constituted a regulatory taking, and that the Commission violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act when it met with its counsel prior to taking the vote. The landowner requested compensatory damages for the manner in which his application to rezone his property was handled and compensation for the taking of his property. After a bench trial, the trial court held that the Commission’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and violated the landowner’s due process rights; the court ordered the property rezoned from residential to commercial and awarded the landowner damages. The court held that there had been no regulatory taking and no violation of the Open Meetings Act. Both parties appeal. Upon review, we have determined that the court erred in holding that the Commission’s decision to deny the application for rezoning was arbitrary and capricious and in ordering the property rezoned; in holding that the landowner’s due process rights were violated and in awarding damages and attorney fees to the landowner; we affirm the decision in all other respects.  

Bedford County Court of Appeals 10/29/18
Patricia Frias v. Felipe Frias, Et Al.
M2017-02391-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Ex-husband appeals the entry in a Tennessee Chancery Court of an order authenticating a judgment entered against him in his California divorce proceeding; the judgment also imposed a constructive trust on real property he purchased in Tennessee in violation of orders of the California court. We discern no error in the judgment of the Chancery Court and accordingly, affirm.

White County Court of Appeals 10/29/18
Charles Edward Poole v. Dealers Warehouse Corporation, Et Al.
E2017-02051-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

This appeal concerns punitive damages. Skyco Staffing Services, Inc. (“Skyco”) provided Derrick Gilbert (“Gilbert”) to Dealers Warehouse Corporation (“Dealers”) for temporary work. On February 14, 2014, Gilbert was driving a Dealers truck when he collided with a truck driven by Charles Edward Poole (“Poole”). Poole1 sued Gilbert, Dealers, and later Skyco for damages in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”).2 Dealers filed a third-party claim against one-time Skyco affiliate People 2.0 Global, LLC (“People 2.0”), as well. Skyco and People 2.0 filed motions for summary judgment, which were granted. The jury returned a verdict for Poole against Dealers and Gilbert for compensatory damages of $431,508.71. In a second phase, the Trial Court directed a verdict in favor of Dealers regarding punitive damages. Finally, the jury returned a verdict for Poole against Gilbert in the amount of $250,000 in punitive damages. Poole appeals, arguing he is entitled to joint and several judgment against Dealers for the punitive damages assessed against Gilbert. Dealers, for its part, argues both that the Trial Court was correct and that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether it exercised supervision of Gilbert. We hold, inter alia, that Dealers is not jointly and severally liable for punitive damages assessed separately against Gilbert. We hold further that Dealers’ exclusive supervisory responsibility for Gilbert was laid out in unambiguous contractual terms. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Sedrick Darion Mitchell
M2017-00825-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Sedrick Darion Mitchell, was convicted of the sale and delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and simple possession of cocaine. Defendant was sentenced as a career offender to an effective 60-year sentence of imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant claims that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; that his simple possession conviction should be reversed because he was questioned without an attorney present; and he challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-420(h), (i), and (j). Following our review, we affirm Defendant’s convictions.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/18
Angie Renee Larsen v. George Giannakoulias
M2017-00428-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This is a divorce case. Husband/Appellant appeals the trial court’s decision regarding: (1) the parenting plan for the minor children; (2) the enforcement of the parties’ prenuptial agreement in its denial of Husband’s request for alimony and a portion of Wife’s retirement accounts; and (3) the designation and division of property. Under the doctrine of lex loci contractus, we vacate the trial court’s order enforcing the waiver of spousal support provision of the parties’ prenuptial agreement. The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed, and the case is remanded for determination of whether alimony is warranted in this case and, if so, the amount thereof.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/26/18
Marcella Ann Brecker v. Steven Charles Brecker
M2018-00120-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Husband appeals the trial court’s award of alimony to Wife, as well as the trial court’s division of the parties’ 2017 tax refund. The trial court determined that Wife’s need was in the range of $17,500.00 per month and awarded Wife $15,000.00 per month in alimony in futuro, as well as $3,500.00 per month in rehabilitative alimony. We affirm the trial court’s finding that Wife’s need is in the range of $17,500.00 per month. We also affirm the trial court’s award of $15,000.00 per month in alimony in futuro. We vacate, however, the award of rehabilitative alimony and the division of the parties’ 2017 tax refund and remand for reconsideration in accordance with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/26/18
In Re: Jonathan M.
E2018-00484-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights to one child. The juvenile court found three statutory grounds for termination: (1) abandonment for failure to visit by an incarcerated parent; (2) abandonment by wanton disregard for the welfare of a child by an incarcerated parent; and (3) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume legal and physical custody or financial responsibility for the child. The court also found that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. We affirm the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/26/18
Tracy Langston Ford-Lincoln-Mer v. Corey Lea
M2018-01006-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This is a parental termination case. The juvenile court declined to terminate father’s parental rights, but it found that clear and convincing evidence existed to terminate mother’s on the grounds of abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, persistence of conditions, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and abandonment by willful failure to support. The juvenile court further found that termination was in the best interests of the children. We reverse as to the former two grounds, but affirm as to the latter two and further find that termination of mother’s parental rights is in the best interests of the children.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 10/25/18
Richard Dickerson v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01572-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Richard Dickerson, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel coerced him into testifying and failed to discover a mistake in his presentence report. After thorough review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/25/18
In Re Francis R. Et Al.
M2018-00613-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This is a parental termination case. The juvenile court declined to terminate father’s parental rights, but it found that clear and convincing evidence existed to terminate mother’s on the grounds of abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, persistence of conditions, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and abandonment by willful failure to support. The juvenile court further found that termination was in the best interests of the children. We reverse as to the former two grounds, but affirm as to the latter two and further find that termination of mother’s parental rights is in the best interests of the children.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 10/25/18
State of Tennessee v. German Calles
M2017-01552-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

A Rutherford County jury convicted the defendant, German Calles, of one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter, four counts of aggravated assault while acting in concert with others, two counts of attempted especially aggravated robbery, one count of especially aggravated burglary, two counts of employment of a weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony, two counts of conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, and one count of conspiracy to commit especially aggravated burglary, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-six years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court erred when setting the length of his sentences and ordering partial consecutive sentences. Following our review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/25/18