Court Opinions

Format: 11/22/2017
Format: 11/22/2017
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Arthur Vincent
M2016-02530-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham
The defendant, Douglas Arthur Vincent, appeals his Sequatchie County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of rape, claiming only that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum available sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Sequatchie County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Daniel T. Maupin
M2016-01483-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe
The Defendant, Daniel T. Maupin, was convicted by a Dickson County Circuit Court jury of criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony, and driving under the influence (“DUI”), a Class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of two years for the criminally negligent homicide conviction and eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended after service of six months, for the DUI. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred: (1) by not declaring a mistrial after a prospective juror made a statement about drug impairment; (2) by not having the jurors put their questions in writing during the deliberations and not reducing supplemental jury instructions to writing; and (3) by denying judicial diversion. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we notice that the judgment in Count 2 and the transcript from the sentencing hearing indicate that restitution was reserved. Therefore, we remand for a restitution hearing or entry of a corrected judgment in Count 2 indicating the agreed-upon restitution.
 
Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Clarence Eric Norris
M2016-02111-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn
The Defendant, Clarence Eric Norris, appeals the trial court’s ordering him to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence in confinement after finding that he violated the terms of his community corrections sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
Nancy Youngblood Ex Rel. Estate of Daniel Vaughn v. River Park Hospital, LLC
M2016-02311-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

On July 11, 2015, Daniel Vaughn, an 86-year-old patient, was recovering from surgery in the intensive care unit of the defendant River Park Hospital. A nurse brought Mr. Vaughn some coffee, after which she left the room. He spilled the coffee on himself, suffering burns to his body. Nancy Youngblood, the executor of Mr. Vaughn’s estate, brought this action alleging that, given his condition, he “should not have been left alone to manage an extremely hot beverage.” River Park, arguing that her claim is a health care liability action subject to the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 et seq. (2012 & Supp. 2017), moved to dismiss based on plaintiff’s failure to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith as required by the THCLA. Plaintiff argued that her claim does not fall within the definition of a “health care liability action.” The trial court disagreed and dismissed her action. We hold that the trial court correctly held her claim to be a health care liability complaint. Accordingly, we affirm. 

Warren County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
Annie Davis, et al. v. Grange Mutual Casualty Group, et al.
M2016-02239-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This case involves the interplay between the statute of limitations, Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, and Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1206(d), allowing direct actions against uninsured motorist insurance carriers. The trial court granted the defendant uninsured motorist insurance carrier’s motion to dismiss. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
Heather Kailoni Lawson (Stewart) v. Michael Sherman Stewart
M2016-02213-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This is a post-divorce proceeding commenced by Mother to modify an existing permanent parenting plan. The trial court entered a default judgment, and then, without conducting an evidentiary hearing, adopted the parenting plan attached to Mother’s petition, decreased Father’s visitation time, and increased his monthly child support obligation. Father filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, which the trial court treated as a motion to alter or amend the judgment, and denied the motion. Father timely appealed. Because the trial court’s order does not contain sufficient findings regarding the modification, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion. 

White County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
In Re Hailey C., et al.
M2016-00818-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This is an appeal of the termination of a father’s parental rights to his two minor daughters. The father is currently serving a thirty-four year prison sentence for criminal acts committed against his daughters. The children’s mother filed a petition to terminate the father’s rights to the children. Following a bench trial, the court below held that statutory grounds existed to terminate the father’s parental rights and that it was in the children’s best interest to do so. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
In Re Estate of Ruby C. Roggli, et al.
M2016-02562-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Decedent’s nephews by marriage filed a petition seeking to recognize and establish a copy of a lost will as Decedent’s last will and testament. The trial court determined that the will was still in existence at the time Decedent lost testamentary capacity, and that Decedent did not have exclusive access and control of her will. Appellants appeal the trial court’s order establishing the lost will. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
Fredrick Sledge v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
M2016-01664-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Appellant, an inmate in the custody of Appellee Tennessee Department of Correction, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his petition for declaratory judgment. Specifically, Appellant challenges the Tennessee Department of Correction’s calculation of his jail credit on his criminal sentence. We conclude that the calculation of Appellant’s jail credit comports with the judgment of the criminal court. Affirmed and remanded.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher King Knight
W2016-00673-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Hardin County jury convicted the Defendant, Christopher Knight, of second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-two years in confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court failed to excuse a juror for cause when the juror had extrajudicial information about the Defendant; (2) the trial court failed to perform its role as the thirteenth juror; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
Curtis Wren v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00500-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Curtis Wren, filed a petition for post-conviction relief and a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the pleading, finding that the petition for post-conviction relief was untimely, that the petition failed to allege a sufficient factual basis for a motion to reopen prior post-conviction proceedings, and that the petition failed to state a colorable claim of an illegal sentence. On appeal, Petitioner only challenges the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. Upon our review of the record, we determine that this is Petitioner’s second such petition and that dismissal was proper on that ground. Thus, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
In Re L.M.H., et al.
E2017-00604-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

In this termination of parental rights case, the Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of J.M.F. (father) with respect to L.M.H. and K.K.F. (the children). DCS alleged the following grounds for termination: (1) persistence of conditions; and (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. DCS also sought to terminate father’s rights with respect to L.M.H. on the ground of severe child abuse. The trial court entered an order finding clear and convincing evidence supporting each ground for termination. By the same quantum of proof, the trial court found that termination of father’s rights is in the best interest of the children. Father appeals. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
Shayla Nicole Purifoy v. Devine Mafa
W2015-00102-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donna M. Fields

After a lengthy hearing, the trial court granted an order of protection to the appellee based upon its finding that the appellant was stalking and harassing her. The trial court denied the appellant’s counter-petition for an order of protection. The appellant raises ten issues on appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/28/17
In Re Grace N.
M2016-00453-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal stems from a juvenile court proceeding in Davidson County. Mother challenges the entered parenting schedule and raises a number of issues pertaining to the trial court’s child support calculations. For the reasons expressed herein, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/27/17
In Re Estate of James Keith Owen
M2017-00656-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tolbert Gilley

In this case challenging the trial court’s interpretation of the notice requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-306(d), we find the notice issue moot because the trial court found that the petitioner’s claim was without merit.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/27/17
In Re Preston L.
M2016-02338-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

Mother and stepfather filed a parental termination action against the father of a minor child, and the trial court terminated the father’s parental rights on the following grounds: (1) incarceration under a sentence of ten years or more and the child was under the age of eight when the sentence was entered; (2) willful failure to support during the four months prior to incarceration; and (3) wanton disregard. We reverse the trial court’s determination that the petitioners presented clear and convincing evidence to support grounds of willful failure to support and wanton disregard. We affirm as to the ground of incarceration under a sentence of ten years or more and as to the trial court’s best interest determination.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 09/27/17
In Re Billy T.W. et al.
E2016-02298-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

In this parental termination action, we conclude that the trial court properly found clear and convincing evidence to terminate the rights of the mother and father on the grounds of failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, and persistence of conditions. We conclude that the trial court erred in terminating the father’s rights on the ground of willful failure to visit. Clear and convincing evidence supports the trial court’s determination that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
Claudale Renaldo Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02539-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin Lee Russell
The Petitioner, Claudale Renaldo Armstrong, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, his conviction for the sale of less than 0.5 grams of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, and his effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge after the Petitioner filed a federal lawsuit and complaints with the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Board of Judicial Conduct against the judge. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.
 
Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
Ronald Christopher Hayes v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01094-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane
In 2010, the Petitioner entered a “best interest” plea to second degree murder and was sentenced to a term of twenty-five years. On April 5, 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that newly discovered evidence exists. On May 5, 2016, the trial court issued an order denying the petition as time-barred. The Petitioner appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to toll the statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 
Jackson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
Angela Evans v. Alliance Healthcare Services
W2016-00653-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge James R. Newsom

Angela Evans (“Employee”) was employed by Alliance Healthcare Services (“Employer”) as a bus driver. On December 16, 2009, she witnessed the shooting of a coworker by a patient. She received mental health care through workers’ compensation. She did not return to work for Employer or any other entity. After exhausting the Benefit Review process, she filed this action in the Chancery Court for Shelby County, alleging that she was permanently and totally disabled by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) caused by witnessing the shooting. Employer acknowledged the incident but asserted that Employee’s continuing mental health problems were caused by other events and stressors. Employer further asserted that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled. The trial court held that Employee was permanently and totally disabled and that the December 16, 2009 incident was the cause of her disability. Benefits were awarded accordingly. Employer has timely appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel (“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.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Christian Devon McDuffie
M2017-00103-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers and Judge John H. Gasaway, III
The Defendant, Christian Devon McDuffie, was found guilty by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of three counts of aggravated child abuse, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. §39-15-402 (2014) (amended 2016). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of fifteen years for each conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Donald Spray
M2016-00879-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.
Following a bench trial, the Defendant, Michael Donald Spray, a former dispatcher for the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department, was convicted in the Bedford County Circuit Court of eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor involving over 100 images, a Class B felony, and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor involving over 50 images, a Class C felony, and was sentenced to an effective term of sixteen years in the Department of Correction. The sole issue the Defendant raises on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the images on the basis they were discovered as a result of an illegal, warrantless search by a fellow employee of the sheriff’s department. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. William "Bill" Douglas Farr, Sr.
M2016-01216-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, William “Bill” Douglas Farr, Sr., was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument by vouching for the credibility of a witness and repeatedly referring to the Defendant as a “monster”; (2) the trial court erred in failing to give specific unanimity and election of offenses jury instructions; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (4) the trial court applied the incorrect law in determining his sentence. After review, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction but modify his sentence to twenty-five years and remand for entry of an amended judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
Billy Dean Sizemore v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson
The Petitioner, Billy Dean Sizemore, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The State concedes that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for an evidentiary hearing.
 
Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Barry Wayne Gossage
M2016-02264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley
The Defendant, Barry Wayne Gossage, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his original sentence in confinement. On appeal, he argues that he should have been sentenced to a new term of community corrections or probation. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17