Court Opinions

Format: 01/19/2017
Format: 01/19/2017
Bryan R. Hanley v. Turney Center Disciplinary Board, et al.
M2016-01223-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

An inmate was found guilty of possession of a deadly weapon when two knives were found in the door of his cell. After exhausting his administrative remedies, the inmate petitioned for a common law writ of certiorari asserting several issues relating to violations of due process and the Uniform Disciplinary Procedures. The trial court granted his petition, denied his discovery request, and dismissed the writ of certiorari. The inmate now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Gregory L. Allen a/k/a Michael Taylor
W2016-00495-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The defendant, Gregory L. Allen a.k.a. Michael Taylor, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The defendant contends that the trial court erred in concluding that Rule 36.1 relief was not available because the alleged illegal sentence expired prior to the filing of the motion. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s Rule 36.1 motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
Lamont Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00090-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Lamont Johnson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
In re Jude D. - DISSENT
E2016-00097-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

I fully concur in the majority's affirmance on the ground of severe abuse as to Jude D. Because I cannot agree that Foster Parents have shown clear and convincing evidence sufficient to forever sever the parent-child relationship at issue in this case, however, I must respectfully dissent from the majority's decision to reverse the trial court and grant Foster Parents' petition to terminate Mother's parental rights.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
In re Jude D.
E2016-00097-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams
This is a termination of parental rights case involving Jude D., who was age five at the time of trial. The mother, Carla D. ("Mother"), and the father, Julius D. ("Father"), have three children currently involved in termination actions: Chance D., Gabriella D., and Jude D. (collectively, the Children). Mother and Father have an extensive history with child welfare agencies and the courts in both Tennessee and Georgia.1 In March 2012, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court ("juvenile court") granted temporary legal custody of the Children to the Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS"). Upon their placement in DCS custody, the Children were placed in the home of Karen P. and Thomas S. (collectively, "Foster Parents").2 DCS did not seek a finding of severe child abuse against Mother in the dependency and neglect action in juvenile court. Foster Parents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and to adopt Jude D. ("Jude") in the Hamilton County Circuit Court ("trial court") on July 31, 2013. Foster Parents concomitantly filed separate termination of parental rights actions involving Jude‘s two siblings, Gabriella D. ("Gabriella") and Chance D. ("Chance"). Following a bench trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had committed severe child abuse against Chance while he was in her custody. The trial court recognized that the determination of severe child abuse against Chance was a ground for termination of Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. The trial court also found, however, that Foster Parents had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions leading to the removal of the Children persisted or that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in Jude‘s best interest.3 The trial court thereby denied the petition to terminate Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. Foster Parents have appealed. We affirm the trial court‘s finding that the statutory ground of severe child abuse was proven by clear and convincing evidence. However, having determined that Foster Parents also proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in the best interest of Jude, we reverse the trial court‘s denial of the termination petition. We therefore grant Foster Parents‘ petition for termination of Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. We remand this matter to the trial court for an adjudication regarding Foster Parents‘ petition for adoption.
 
Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
in re Chance D. - DISSENT
E2016-00101-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

I fully concur in the majority's affirmance on the ground of severe abuse as to Chance D. Because I cannot agree that Foster Parents have shown clear and convincing evidence sufficient to forever sever the parent-child relationship at issue in this case, however, I must respectfully dissent from the majority's decision to reverse the trial court and grant Foster Parents' petition to terminate Mother's parental rights

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
In re Chance D.
E2016-00101-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams
This is a termination of parental rights case involving Chance D., who was age four at the time of trial. The mother, Carla D. ("Mother"), and the father, Julius D. ("Father"), have three children currently involved in termination actions: Chance D., Gabriella D., and Jude D. (collectively, "the Children"). Mother and Father have an extensive history with child welfare agencies and the courts in both Tennessee and Georgia.1 In March 2012, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court ("juvenile court") granted temporary legal custody of the Children to the Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS"). Upon their placement in DCS custody, the Children were placed in the home of Karen P. and Thomas S. (collectively, "Foster Parents").2 DCS did not seek a finding of severe child abuse against Mother in the dependency and neglect action in juvenile court. Foster Parents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and to adopt Chance D. ("Chance") in the Hamilton County Circuit Court ("trial court") on July 31, 2013. Foster Parents concomitantly filed separate termination of parental rights actions involving Chance‘s two siblings, Gabriella D. ("Gabriella") and Jude D. ("Jude"). Following a bench trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had committed severe child abuse against Chance while he was in her custody. The trial court also found, however, that Foster Parents had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions leading to the removal of the Children persisted or that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in Chance‘s best interest.3 The trial court thereby denied the petition to terminate Mother‘s parental rights to Chance. Foster Parents have appealed. We affirm the trial court‘s finding that the statutory ground of severe child abuse was proven by clear and convincing evidence. However, having determined that Foster Parents also proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in the best interest of Chance, we reverse the trial court‘s denial of the termination petition. We therefore grant Foster Parents‘ petition for termination of Mother‘s parental rights to Chance. We remand this matter to the trial court for an adjudication regarding Foster Parents‘ petition for adoption.
 
Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Mario Cruz Estrada
M2016-00056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Mario Cruz Estrada, was convicted of attempted second degree murder for which he received a sentence of twelve years in confinement.  The defendant appeals his conviction challenging the trial court’s denial of his request for a jury instruction on the defenses of self-defense and defense of another and the admission of certain evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. April Lamb
M2016-00461-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Bragg

The defendant, April Lamb, appeals her Rutherford County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated assault, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction and that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
Alvin Waller, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00265-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Alvin “A.J.” Waller, Jr., appeals the denial of post-conviction relief for his convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. On appeal, he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
In re Cannon B.
E2016-01826-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge
This is an appeal by the appellant, Abigail T., from an order terminating her parental rights to her minor child. The order terminating the appellant’s parental rights was entered on July 19, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until August 19, 2016, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The Attorney General, on behalf of the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the record confirms that the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.
 
Loudon County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
In re M.E.T.
W2016-00682-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

The Department of Children's Services filed a petition in July 2015 to terminate the parental rights of M.G.H. (Father) with respect to his child, M.E.T. (the child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of grounds supporting termination for Father due to abandonment by an incarcerated parent and persistence of conditions. The court also found, by the same standard of proof, that termination is in the best interest of the child. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court's holding as modified.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
In re Estate of David Larry Letsinger
E2016-00144-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex A. Dale

After her husband passed away in 2013, Rose Letsinger filed a petition in the trial court seeking letters of administration for his estate. First Choice Community Credit Union filed a claim against the estate for an unpaid credit card balance. Letsinger1 excepted to the claim and filed a motion to dismiss the claim, asserting that the Credit Union had failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307 (Supp. 2012) by failing to attach an itemized statement of its claim. The trial court agreed. It held that the Credit Union had failed to include an itemized statement. Accordingly, it dismissed the claim. The Credit Union filed a motion to alter or amend, arguing that it had filed with its claim what appears to be the deceased's last monthly statement. It contended that its filing satisfied the itemized statement requirement. The trial court denied the motion. The Credit Union appealed. Later, it filed a motion to dismiss its appeal. We granted the motion. Following this, Letsinger filed a motion seeking to compel the Credit Union to disburse to the estate the funds in the deceased's account with the Credit Union. The trial court granted the motion. The Credit Union appeals. We affirm.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
Tim Grace v. Jeanna Grace d/b/a Grace Trucking
W2016-00650-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

The plaintiff in a breach of contract action filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement allegedly agreed to by the defendant. The defendant argued that there was no acceptance of the plaintiff's settlement offer; rather, the defendant contended that she responded to the plaintiff's offer with a counter-offer, which she revoked prior to its acceptance. The trial court found that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement agreement but denied the plaintiff‟s request for attorney's fees. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Decatur County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
Dorothy Holmes v. Christ Community Health Services, Inc., et al.
W2016-00207-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

The plaintiff filed this action alleging medical malpractice against a physician who examined the plaintiff five days after injury to her shoulder, as well as the facility wherein the physician practiced. The plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the defendant physician failed to properly diagnose a fracture dislocation in her shoulder, causing a delay in appropriate treatment. The plaintiff‘s subsequent treating physician opined in his deposition and via affidavit that if the plaintiff‘s injury had been diagnosed earlier, the plaintiff would likely have avoided an extensive surgical procedure, resultant infection stemming from such surgery, and residual impairment to her shoulder. The trial court excluded this testimony as speculative, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant physician and hospital. The plaintiff has appealed. We determine that the trial court erred in excluding the causation evidence as speculative. We therefore vacate the court‘s grant of summary judgment in favor of the co-defendants.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Nicole Pamblanco
M2015-01870-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Nicole Pamblanco, was convicted of aggravated child neglect and criminally negligent homicide.  She now appeals as of right, challenging (1) the sufficiency of the evidence by claiming that the State failed to establish the requisite mental state of knowing for her aggravated child neglect conviction and (2) the trial court’s erroneous instruction to the jury during voir dire that, if she were found guilty on both counts, those counts would merge.  Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support her aggravated child neglect conviction and that the jury instruction error was harmless.  Therefore, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
Paul Housewright, et al. v. Dr. Ronald K. McCormack, et al.
E2016-00272-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This appeal concerns the validity of a warranty deed in which the decedents conveyed a parcel of property for the benefit of a church. The deed contained a reversionary clause requiring the property to revert back if no longer used for the benefit of the church. The same parcel was included in another deed that did not contain a reversionary clause but was recorded before the original deed. The church listed the property for sale approximately 67 years later. The decedents' heirs filed suit. The defendants sought summary judgment, claiming that ownership of the property was established through the deed recorded first. The court granted summary judgment. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
Stanley Creekmore, Administrator For The Estate of Alma B. Long v. Jason S. Hackler, et al.
E2016-00405-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Elizabeth C. Asbury

This is the second appeal of this property dispute concerning a mother's reservation of a life estate in property conveyed to her son pursuant to a warranty deed. The mother initially brought suit against the son to enforce her right to possession. She later sought to amend her complaint in an attempt to attack the validity of the deed. Before ruling upon the motion to amend, the trial court granted summary judgment based upon the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations for ejectment actions. This court reversed in Long v. Creekmore, No. E2012-01453-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 1320515 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2013). Upon remand, the trial court denied the motion to amend the complaint and dismissed the action following the death of the mother and son. The administrator of the mother's estate appeals. We affirm the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 11/29/16
Darien B. Clay v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02107-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Petitioner, Darien B. Clay, appeals from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty plea convictions for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, two counts of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, aggravated burglary, burglary of a business, and statutory rape, for which he received an effective thirteen-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim and that the court erred in determining that the Petitioner’s guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily entered. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr. v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2016-00440-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his habeas corpus petition in which he challenged the legality of his convictions for first degree murder and robbery and his sentences of life for the murder conviction and eleven years for the robbery conviction, to be served consecutively. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the petition was properly dismissed, and we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Willie Lee Hughes, Jr.
M2015-01207-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff and Judge Michael Binkley

The defendant, Willie Lee Hughes, Jr., appeals both his Williamson County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery and his guilty-pleaded conviction of failure to appear, claiming that the trial court erred by failing to exclude his statements to law enforcement officers on the basis that the statements were made during the course of plea negotiations and that the trial court erred by classifying him as a persistent offender.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
Mark Henderson v. City Of Mount Pleasant, Tennessee et al.
M2016-00639-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

Petitioner, the interim city manager for the City of Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the votes of two commissioners to terminate his employment were void due to a conflict of interest. He contends their votes were void because ethics complaints filed by Petitioner against the two commissioners were pending at the time of the vote. The trial court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), upon the finding that the petition failed to allege facts which would show that the commissioners had a personal financial interest in the outcome of the vote on Petitioner’s employment. Petitioner appealed; we affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 11/28/16
Security Equipment Supply, Inc. v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner Of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2016-00423-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

At issue is whether a taxpayer’s sales are properly classified as “retail sales” or “wholesale sales” under the Business Tax Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 67-4-701 to -730, and Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1320-04-05-.47. Following an audit, the Tennessee Department of Revenue determined that the taxpayer misclassified its sales as “wholesale sales,” when they should have been classified as “retail sales,” and assessed the taxpayer with $74,088.10 in tax liability. After paying the assessment, the taxpayer filed suit seeking a refund. The chancery court held that the sales in question were “retail sales” within the context of the statute and denied the request for a refund. We conclude that the business activities were properly classified as retail sales; therefore, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/28/16
Christopher Dylan Thompson v. Best Buy Stores, L.P.
E2015-02304-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

Plaintiff Christopher Dylan Thompson ingested several doses of a liquid form of a drug, which he says was estazolam, before reporting to work for his employer, defendant Best Buy Stores, L.P. At work, he appeared tired and slow, and a manager told him to clock out and end his shift early. On his way home, plaintiff was involved in a car accident. He brought this negligent entrustment action, alleging that defendant breached a duty by not stopping him from leaving his place of employment in his own vehicle. The trial court granted defendant summary judgment, holding defendant “had no duty to prevent [plaintiff] from leaving the premises driving his own vehicle,” and relying on Lett v. Collis Foods, Inc., 60 S.W.3d 95 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001), a factually similar case decided by this Court. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/28/16
Richard Michelhaugh, et al v. Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC
E2016-01075-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

This appeal arises from a dispute over vacation benefits. Richard Michelhaugh and John Williams (“Plaintiffs”), employees of Y-12 in Oak Ridge, filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”) against the contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (“CNS”), running their work site. Plaintiffs alleged that CNS deprived them of earned vacation time by changing the vacation policy mid work-year. CNS filed a Rule 12 motion to dismiss, which the Trial Court granted. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court. We find and hold that Plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that they were deprived of earned vacation time, that Plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to withstand CNS’s motion to dismiss, and that, therefore, the Trial Court erred in granting CNS’s motion to dismiss. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court and remand this case for further proceedings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/28/16