Court Opinions

Format: 01/22/2018
Format: 01/22/2018
Brandon Leon Forbes v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00310-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Brandon Leon Forbes, was convicted of aggravated burglary, theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, and vandalism of property valued at $500 or less and was sentenced as a Range III, persistent offender to a total effective sentence of twenty-four years. Subsequently, his convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Brandon Leon Forbes, No. W2014-02073-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 5813434, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2015). He then filed a timely petition for postconviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief, and we affirm that order.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/17/17
In Re Estate of Lois Culp
M2016-02433-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This case deals with the issue of whether a personal representative of an estate can obtain additional attorney’s fees incurred in connection with an appeal−an appeal that occurred after the personal representative had disbursed all the estate funds other than those belonging to the estate beneficiary who pursued the appeal. That individual−Donnie Culp (Culp)−appealed the sale of his late mother’s real and personal property by Dianne Rich (the personal representative), executor of his late mother’s estate. Prior to Culp’s appeal, the personal representative obtained a court order closing the estate and awarding her $43,256.37 in attorney’s fees. These attorney’s fees included an estimated 40 hours for an appeal. After paying all estate debts, including her compensation and attorney’s fees, the personal representative disbursed all remaining estate funds, other than Culp’s share, to the other beneficiaries. The personal representative now seeks $17,500 in additional attorney’s fees for the over 70 hours that her attorney spent on the appeal. The trial court denied the personal representative’s request for additional attorney’s fees, holding that it would be inappropriate to award them to her out of Culp’s share of the estate. The court noted that the personal representative should have raised the issue before distributing the rest of the estate. We hold that the personal representative’s attorney was fully compensated by the initial award of attorney’s fees for her attorney’s services on appeal. We further hold that no estate funds remain from which the personal representative could obtain additional attorney’s fees because she distributed all funds other than Culp’s share. Additionally, we hold that Culp lacks standing to ask this Court to determine whether the personal representative should be individually liable for her attorney’s fees. The personal representative appeals. We affirm.  

Wayne County Court of Appeals 11/17/17
Jerretta Certain v. Judy Goodwin
M2016-00889-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Howard W. Wilson

On February 6, 2014, defendant Judy Goodwin, principal of Barfield Elementary School, received an anonymous telephone call. The caller said she was a nurse and the grandparent of a child that she had just picked up at the school. The caller reported that she had seen a teacher, as it turned out, plaintiff Jerretta Certain, who appeared to the caller to be in an altered state. The caller said Ms. Certain was putting children in danger. Principal Goodwin decided to investigate the caller’s claim. She asked Ms. Certain, school nurse Jessica Floyd, and Student Resource Officer Ward Bates, to come to Ms. Certain’s classroom. All three observed Ms. Certain. Generally speaking, each considered her to be in an altered state. They described her as appearing drowsy, slow, and walking with difficulty. They discovered in her bags seven bottles of medications, all prescribed for Ms. Certain, in properly-marked childproof containers. Ms. Certain alleges that Principal Goodwin stated, “I believe what we’re looking at is an addiction to prescription drugs.” The principal asked Nurse Floyd, “would you want your child in her classroom next year knowing that she’s addicted to prescriptions like this?” Ms. Certain brought this action against Principal Goodwin for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted Principal Goodwin summary judgment on all claims, holding as a matter of law that Ms. Certain could not establish the following essential elements: (1) actual malice; (2) that the alleged statements were defamatory; and (3) that the statements were published. Ms. Certain appeals. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 11/17/17
In Re Conservatorship of Waltraud E. Lemonte
M2016-02205-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal involves competing conservatorship petitions filed by the children of the Ward. Appellees, daughters of the Ward, filed a petition seeking to be named as co-conservators for the Ward and seeking to revoke powers of attorney executed by the Ward in favor of her son who is the Appellant. Appellant filed his answer and counter-petition to be appointed conservator. Appellees opposed Appellant’s counter-petition on the ground that he is a convicted felon and, therefore, ineligible to serve as the Ward’s conservator, under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-20-115. The trial court found that Appellant’s Nevada sentence for drug charges disqualified him from serving as the Ward’s agent or fiduciary. As such, the trial court revoked the Appellant’s powers of attorney and dismissed Appellant’s counter-petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/17/17
Jean Dedmon v. Debbie Steelman, Et Al.
W2015-01462-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayborn Peeples

We granted this appeal to address whether our holding in West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corp., 459 S.W.3d 33 (Tenn. 2014), applies in personal injury cases. We hold that it does not. West held that “reasonable charges” for medical services under Tennessee’s Hospital Lien Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-22-101 to –107 (2012), are the discounted amounts a hospital accepts as full payment from patients’ private insurers, not the full, undiscounted amounts billed to patients. West, 459 S.W.3d at 46. West defined “reasonable charges” in the context of interpreting the Hospital Lien Act, and its holding is limited to that Act. As an alternative argument, we are asked in this appeal to consider applying the principles in West to the determination of reasonable medical expenses in personal injury cases. Doing so involves the collateral source rule, which excludes evidence of benefits to the plaintiff from sources collateral to the tortfeasor and precludes the reduction of the plaintiff’s damage award by such collateral payments. The rule is based on the principles that tortfeasors should be responsible for all of the harm they cause and that payments from collateral sources intended to benefit an injured party should not be used to reduce the liability of the party who inflicted the injury. After a thorough review of court decisions in Tennessee and across the country on the collateral source rule, we decline to alter existing law in Tennessee. We hold that the collateral source rule applies in this personal injury case, in which the collateral benefit at issue is private insurance. Consequently, the plaintiffs may submit evidence of the injured party’s full, undiscounted medical bills as proof of reasonable medical expenses. Furthermore, the defendants are precluded from submitting evidence of discounted rates accepted by medical providers from the insurer to rebut the plaintiffs’ proof that the full, undiscounted charges are reasonable. The defendants remain free to submit any other competent evidence to rebut the plaintiffs’ proof on the reasonableness of the medical expenses, so long as that evidence does not contravene the collateral source rule. The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings

Crockett County Supreme Court 11/17/17
Douglas E. Shuler v. Eastman Chemical Company et al.
E2016-02292-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The plaintiff, Douglas E. Shuler, filed this action seeking workers’ compensation benefits in the Circuit Court for Sullivan County against his former employer, Eastman Chemical Company (“Eastman”), and the Second Injury Fund, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“Second Injury Fund”). Mr. Shuler alleged that he had developed cancer from exposure to harmful substances in Eastman’s workplace. Eastman and the Second Injury Fund each filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Shuler’s claim, asserting that the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim. The trial court granted the motions and dismissed Mr. Shuler’s claim. Mr. Shuler timely appealed. 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. Following our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We further determine that any facial constitutional challenges to Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 50-6-217, -237, and -238 have been waived.

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 11/17/17
Verrina M. Shields Bey v. Wilson & Associates, PLLC, et al.
W2016-01330-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This is an appeal challenging the trial court’s order denying a motion for interlocutory appeal. Due to the deficiencies in Appellant’s brief on appeal, we find that she waived consideration of any issues on appeal and hereby dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/17/17
Laronda F. Johnson v. Barry Dominick
M2016-01643-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This is an appeal from the trial court’s order concerning retroactive child support.  Because the trial court’s order lacks the findings of facts and conclusions of law required under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-2-311(a)(11), we vacate the order as to retroactive child support. The order is otherwise affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Deshan Sanders
W2016-02191-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Deshan Sanders, received a five-year suspended sentence pursuant to a plea agreement, but that sentence was later fully revoked after a hearing. The Defendant then filed a motion to reduce his sentence, asking the trial court to reconsider its revocation decision. The Defendant appeals the denial of his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the Henderson County Circuit Court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Eric Todd Whitaker, Jr.
M2017-00143-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Defendant, Eric Todd Whitaker, Jr., entered nolo contendere pleas to aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-403 (2014) (aggravated burglary), 39-14-103 (2014) (theft of property). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of four years and six months for aggravated burglary and four years for theft of property. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred during sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/16/17
R.B.E., PLLC et al. v. Emergency Coverage Corporation
E2016-02378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This case focuses on a service contract between R.B.E,PLLC (RBE) and Emergency Coverage Corporation pursuant to which Dr. Robert Bruce Evans and his company were to provide medical services in emergency rooms. The issue before us is whether the subject contract obligates Emergency Coverage to schedule Dr. Evans for a minimum number of hours. Dr. Evans and RBE filed a breach of contract action alleging that Emergency Coverage failed to pay the required minimum monthly amounts due under the contract. Emergency Coverage filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that the contract contains a minimum availability requirement for Dr. Evans but no obligation on the part of Emergency Coverage to use Dr. Evans for a guaranteed number of hours. The trial court granted the motion. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 11/16/17
State, ex rel., Schrita O. v. Robert T., Concur in part and Dissent in part
W2017-00073-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

I concur in the majority’s decision in all respects but one. I respectfully disagree with the majority’s decision to “vacate the trial court’s judgment as to the calculation of retroactive child support and remand so that child support may be calculated based on the actual number of days Father exercised parenting time.”

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/16/17
State, ex rel., Schrita O. v. Robert T.
W2017-00073-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

This is an appeal from the juvenile court’s order establishing paternity and retroactive child support, for a child who was born in 1996 and reached majority during the course of these proceedings. In 2014, with the assistance of a Tennessee Department of Human Services Title IV-D Staff Attorney, the child’s mother filed a UIFSA petition in the Juvenile Court of Shelby County to establish paternity and an initial child support order and to recover retroactive child support for her son. Genetic testing confirmed Father’s parentage, and the trial court ordered Father to pay retroactive child support in the amount of $127,530.00. Father timely appealed. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and vacate in part.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/16/17
Rutherford County, Tennessee v. Delinquent Taxpayers Of Rutherford County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2016-01254-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: J. Mark Rogers

A purchaser bought real property at a delinquent tax sale in Rutherford County, Tennessee. The delinquent taxpayer who owned the property at the time of the sale moved to redeem the property within one year of confirmation of the sale. After moving to redeem the property, the delinquent taxpayer conveyed it to a third party. The tax sale purchaser contested the redemption and, alternatively, requested reimbursement for expenses paid to preserve the value of the property during the redemption period. The trial court confirmed the redemption, divested title from the tax sale purchaser, vested title in the third party, and found that the tax sale purchaser was only entitled to reimbursement for property taxes paid on the property. The tax sale purchaser appealed. We affirm as modified.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 11/15/17
Priscilla Brooke Wilson v. Patrick Shane Phillips
M2017-00097-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The trial court denied mother’s petition to make her the primary residential parent of the parties’ three children. Based upon this court’s review of the facts, we have concluded that the trial court erred in assessing the best interest of the children and reverse the decision of the trial court.

Marion County Court of Appeals 11/15/17
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Gary H. Maxwell, Et Al.
M2017-00193-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Erie Insurance Exchange (“Erie”) commenced this declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that Erie has no duty to defend its insureds in a separate action because the policies of insurance issued to its insureds provided no coverage for the claims asserted in that action. The insureds are the defendants in a separate action in which the buyers of the insureds’ home allege that the insureds made negligent misrepresentations concerning the property’s propensity to flood. The buyers sought to recover damages they sustained from flooding that occurred after the sale. Following discovery, Erie filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that the “negligence” and “negligent misrepresentation” claims asserted against its insureds do not contain any allegations that constitute an “occurrence” as that term is defined in the policies; therefore, there is no coverage and no duty to defend the insureds. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. We have determined that the “negligence” and “negligent misrepresentation” claims asserted against Erie’s insureds do not arise from an “occurrence” as that term is defined in the insurance policies; therefore, there is no coverage, and Erie has no duty to defend the insureds in the other action. For these reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of Erie.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 11/15/17
Michael Joseph Crew Hensley v. Shellie Nicole Bouma Hensley
E2017-00354-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Sammons

In this post-divorce parenting dispute, the mother appeals the trial court’s judgment modifying the residential co-parenting schedule and reducing the number of co-parenting days allotted to the mother from that provided in the prior permanent parenting plan. Having determined that the order appealed fails to resolve the issue of a corresponding modification in child support, we conclude that it is not a final order. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 11/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Anthony Hatley
W2016-01802-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The Defendant, Tony Anthony Hatley, pled guilty to theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, in exchange for an effective sentence of eight years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of confinement, which the Defendant now challenges. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
Marcus A. Parram v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02477-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

In two separate cases, the Petitioner, Marcus A. Parram, pled guilty to domestic assault, stalking, harassment, and three counts of violation of an order of protection. He was sentenced to a total effective sentence of three years, suspended to probation. In his timely petition for post-conviction relief, he claims that trial counsel was ineffective for not obtaining recordings of his jailhouse telephone conversations with the victim and for not securing a certain police officer or a child of the victim to testify on his behalf. It appears that he also claims that his pleas of guilty were involuntary. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, and we affirm that denial.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
Jeffrey Henry v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02435-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Petitioner, Jeffrey Henry, pled guilty on January 12, 2015, to three counts of aggravated sexual battery and received an effective twenty-year sentence. Subsequently, on September 22, 2016, he filed an untimely petition for writ of error coram nobis, alleging as newly discovered evidence that the victim was taking medication for oppositional defiant disorder, which, he believed, raised questions as to whether her responses were true or, simply, impulsive responses. Not knowing the victim was taking this medication meant that the Petitioner’s pleas of guilty were unknowing and involuntary, according to his argument. Additionally, he asserts that the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in Frazier v. State, 495 S.W.3d 246 (Tenn. 2016), violates his right to due process, which, in his view, tolls the one-year statute of limitations for filing his claim. The coram nobis court dismissed the petition, finding that, pursuant to the holding in Frazier, the relief the Petitioner sought was not available because he had entered pleas of guilty. Further, the coram nobis court determined that the Petitioner had been aware that the victim was undergoing “some possible mental health treatment.” Accordingly, the coram nobis court denied relief, and we affirm that determination pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Julia Sanford
E2017-00236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Julia Sanford, was indicted for failure to maintain her lane, violation of the financial responsibility law, driving under the influence, and driving under the influence per se with a blood alcohol content of .20 or higher. The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence resulting from the traffic stop of her vehicle. The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion, and the Defendant pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the stop of the Defendant’s vehicle by law enforcement was lawful. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
Eric Demond McCathern v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02143-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Eric Demond McCathern, was convicted after a jury trial of possession of twenty-six or more grams of a substance containing cocaine within one thousand feet of a school with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, and aggravated burglary committed with the intent to commit possession of a substance containing cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver. After this court denied relief on direct appeal, the Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The Petitioner asserts that his trial counsel performed deficiently in advising him to plead guilty to aggravated burglary during trial because the plea essentially conceded elements of the contested drug charge. The Petitioner also asserts that trial counsel was deficient in failing to request a severance or move to suppress evidence. The post-conviction court denied relief. After a review of the record, we conclude that the Petitioner has not established prejudice, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
Mike Breen, Et Al v. Janice C. Sharp
M2016-02415-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor David D. Wolfe

This appeal arises from an action for partition of undeveloped real property located in Stewart County, Tennessee. The property consists of three non-contiguous tracts and is owned by three people ─ two brothers and their aunt. The brothers (“Plaintiffs”) seek partition of all of the property by sale. Their aunt (“Defendant”) seeks partition in kind. Pursuant to an agreed order of reference, the trial court referred the case to a special master to determine the ownership interests of the parties, whether the property could be partitioned in kind, and whether there were any encumbrances. Prior to the completion of the master’s report, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The court delayed ruling on the motion until after the master’s report was completed. Thereafter, the special master filed a report in which he found that Defendant owned a one-half undivided interest, and each Plaintiff owned an undivided one-fourth interest. The master also concluded that the overall value of the property would be reduced if the property was partitioned in kind among the three parties. Defendant filed eight exceptions to the report. After reviewing the report and evidence presented at the master’s hearing, the trial court concurred with all but one of the master’s findings. As for that one issue, the court ordered a partial partition in kind of one tract, awarded that parcel to Defendant, and ordered her to pay $195,948 to Plaintiffs for the value of that parcel. The remaining property was to be sold with the proceeds divided according to the parties’ respective interests. The court also denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Defendant appeals, contending the trial court erred by (1) delaying its ruling on her summary judgment motion; (2) determining that Plaintiffs each owned an undivided one-fourth interest; (3) ruling that the entire property could not be partitioned in kind; and (4) valuing the parcel awarded to her in kind based on incompetent evidence. We affirm the trial court on all issues except for the value assigned to the parcel awarded to Defendant, and modify the judgment in that respect only.

Stewart County Court of Appeals 11/14/17
Kenneth Krasovic v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02458-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

A jury convicted the Petitioner, Kenneth Krasovic, of reckless vehicular homicide and five counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon after he decided to pass a truck on a hill and collided with both the truck and an oncoming vehicle. The Petitioner appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney presented inadequate expert testimony and advised the Petitioner not to testify at trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/17
Sherry Lynn Dalrymple v. Shawn Patrick Dalrymple
M2016-01905-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In this post-divorce litigation, Father, who had been designated primary residential parent of the parties’ two children, filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, citing his military reassignment from Fort Campbell, Tennessee, to Huntsville, Alabama. Mother filed a counter petition, seeking to be named the primary residential parent. The parties reached agreement as to the parenting schedule but could not agree on which of them would be the primary residential parent. The trial court held a hearing and determined that it was in the children’s best interest for Mother to be named the primary residential parent. Father appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/14/17