Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/22/2019
Format: 03/22/2019
In Re: Cynthia P. Et Al.
E2018-01937-COA-R3-PT

In this parental termination case, the juvenile court found four statutory grounds for termination of a mother’s parental rights and that termination of parental rights was in her children’s best interest. We conclude that the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support all four grounds for termination of parental rights and that termination of parental rights is in the children’s best interest. So we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 03/22/19
Ernest Ray Laning et al. v. Johnny Lawrence et al.
E2017-02479-COA-R3-CV

This case arises out of a dispute involving conflicting claims to the charter of a local affiliate of a national veteran’s service organization, the ownership of real property held by the local affiliate, and the right to manage a clubroom being operated on the property. The appellants, plaintiffs in the trial court, seek review of an order setting aside the deed upon which their claim to ownership derives and dismissing their claim for damages. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 03/22/19
Larry Beckwith, Et Al. v. LBMC, P.C. Et Al.
M2017-00972-COA-R3-CV

A business retained a professional accounting firm to value its common stock and stock options. Almost four years after the requested valuation report was provided, the president of the business claimed that one of the firm’s accountants had disclosed confidential information about the valuation to a third party. The president and the accounting firm entered a tolling agreement for his individual claim. But after attempts to resolve the dispute failed, the president and the business filed a complaint against the accounting firm for breach of contract, accounting malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The accounting firm moved for summary judgment, claiming the suit was barred by the statute of limitations. Applying the one-year statute of limitations for accounting malpractice actions and concluding that the tolling agreement established a filing deadline for the president, the trial court ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims were untimely. Upon review, we conclude that the tolling agreement paused the running of the statute of limitations on the president’s confidentiality claim. So we vacate the dismissal of the president’s confidentiality claim. We affirm the judgment of the trial court in all other respects.   

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/21/19
Rebecca M. Little v. The City Of Chattanooga, Tennessee
E2018-00870-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff appeals the dismissal of her complaint, which ostensibly alleged declaratory judgment, inverse condemnation, and due process violations. We vacate the dismissal of Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim because that claim was not actually addressed in the trial court’s order of dismissal. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/21/19
Candance Gooch Spight v. Deangelo M. Spight
W2018-00666-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a final decree of divorce. Father/Appellant appeals the trial court’s ruling regarding retroactive child support. The appellate record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence for our review as required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. However, the trial court’s order contains an inconsistency regarding the amount of the retroactive child support award. Specifically, the amount of arrears ordered does not comport with the accrual date for arrears listed in the trial court’s order. Because there are no findings, to resolve the inconsistency, we vacate the trial court’s award of retroactive child support. The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed.

Madison County Court of Appeals 03/21/19
United Supreme Council AASR SJ, et al v. Fredrick McWilliams, et al
W2018-00116-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a derivative action brought on behalf of a non-profit corporation. Citing alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of funds by the directors, plaintiffs, members of the non-profit at the time of filing, brought a derivative action on behalf of the fraternal and charitable organization. After filing the derivative suit, plaintiffs established and became members of a competing organization. Pursuant to the original organization’s constitution, this caused the plaintiffs to surrender all their membership rights in the original organization. Defendants moved for summary judgment based on plaintiffs’ lack of standing to maintain the derivative action pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 23.06. The trial court granted the motion, dismissing all of plaintiffs’ claims against defendants, holding that plaintiffs could not fairly and adequately represent the interest of the organization’s remaining members because they themselves were no longer members and because of the conflict of interest inherent in their establishment of the competing organization. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/21/19
In Re: Conservatorship of Gloriadean S. Porter, et al
W2016-00693-COA-R3-CV

This action concerns the closing of two estates and a conservatorship. A beneficiary appeals the court’s award of attorney fees and expenses to the attorney of record and the subsequent denial of his motion to continue the settlement of the estates. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/21/19
Leah Keirsey v. K-VA-T Food Stores Inc.
E2018-01213-COA-R3-CV

This matter involves the grant of summary judgment to defendant, K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. (Food City), in a slip and fall case. Plaintiff, Leah Keirsey, filed an action alleging that, on a rainy day, defendant negligently maintained its premises and failed to warn her of hazardous conditions. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that it exercised reasonable care to prevent injury to its customers and warned them of potentially wet conditions; its motion was granted. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 03/20/19
Vic Davis Construction, Inc. v. Lauren Engineers & Constructors, Inc.
E2017-00844-COA-R3-CV

A subcontractor brought suit against the general contractor for breach of contract and violations of the Prompt Pay Act. The subcontractor sought both damages, including punitive damages, and reformation of the subcontract based on fraud or mutual mistake. The general contractor counterclaimed for breach of contract. Upon the parties’ agreement, the trial court reformed the subcontract based on mutual mistake. The trial court also granted the general contractor summary judgment on the subcontractor’s claims for fraud and punitive damages. Then, following a bench trial, the court awarded a judgment to the subcontractor on its breach of contract claim and dismissed the general contractor’s counterclaim. The court declined to award the subcontractor a statutory penalty or attorney’s fees under the Prompt Pay Act. We affirm the trial court.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/20/19
State of Tennessee v. James Lucas Green
M2018-00683-CCA-R3-CD

A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, James Lucas Green, for driving under the influence (“DUI”), fifth offense, violation of the implied consent law, and violation of a habitual motor vehicle offender restriction. The trial court imposed an effective four-year sentence to be served at thirty percent. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for DUI; (2) the trial court improperly overruled his Batson challenge; (3) the trial court erred when it ordered consecutive sentencing; and (4) cumulative error entitles him to relief. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/19
Estate of Ella Mae Haire Et Al. v. Shelby J. Webster, Et Al.
E2017-00066-SC-R11-CV

We granted this appeal to determine whether a person listed as a joint tenant with right of survivorship on checking and savings accounts sufficiently alleged claims for relief against a bank by asserting that the bank removed his name from the accounts without his consent and breached its duty to him as a co-owner of the account by accepting forged signature cards. We conclude that the allegations of the complaint are sufficient to survive the bank’s motion to dismiss because, under Tennessee law: (1) each joint tenant with right of survivorship of a multiple-party account is deemed an owner of the account; (2) all joint tenants have presumptively equal ownership of account funds; (3) a contractual relationship arises between a bank and joint tenants upon the creation of joint tenancy bank accounts; (4) contracts cannot be modified except upon consent of the parties; and (5) no statute affords banks protection from liability for removing a joint tenant’s name from an account without the joint tenant’s consent. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s judgment granting the bank’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Knox County Supreme Court 03/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Ellen Becker Goldberg
M2017-02215-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Ellen Becker Goldberg, of vandalism of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, misdemeanor assault, and stalking for offenses committed against her neighbor, who suffered from chronic illness and physical disability. The Defendant was sentenced to serve three years of supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove the value of the vandalized property, the mens rea for vandalism, or ownership of the property; that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for assault; that the evidence was insufficient to establish the elements of stalking, particularly in light of the statutory exclusion for constitutionally protected conduct; that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence regarding the value of the vandalized property; and that the Defendant was erroneously sentenced under the incorrect theft statute. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the savings statute in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-112 applies to the revisions to the theft statute in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(a). Accordingly, we remand for resentencing and for the correction of errors on the judgment forms. In all other respects, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/19
Jack V. DeLany, ET AL. v. Martin R. Kriger, ET AL.
W2018-01229-COA-R3-CV

Owners of a cat filed a wrongful death complaint against the cat’s veterinarian and animal hospital. The defendants admitted liability for wrongly placing a feeding tube into the cat’s trachea rather than her esophagus, causing the cat to aspirate and die when she was fed through the tube. The trial court found the defendants were not liable because the cat was so ill she likely would not have survived long anyway, and it dismissed the complaint. We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case for a determination of damages.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/20/19
Willie L. Pegues v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00830-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Willie L. Pegues, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition pursuant to the
Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act. The post-conviction court denied relief on the basis that, although the Petitioner requested various forms of scientific analysis, his claim was not cognizable because he had not requested DNA analysis. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the court erred in dismissing his petition because the scope of the forensic testing authorized by the statute is not limited to DNA analysis. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/19/19
Keith Lemont Farmer v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
W2018-01687-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Keith Lemont Farmer, appeals from the Lake County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2012 conviction for attempt to commit first degree murder and his twenty-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred by dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/19/19
Stacy Clark v. Charms, L.L.C.
W2017-02552-SC-R3-WC

Stacy Clark (“Employee”) alleged that she injured her back and left knee in the course and scope of her employment with Charms, L.L.C. (“Employer”). The trial court determined that Employee suffered a compensable injury to her left knee and awarded 21 percent permanent partial disability, temporary total disability, medical expenses, future medical expenses, discretionary costs, and attorneys’ fees. The court made no award for the injury to her back. Employer’s 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 trial court’s judgment.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 03/19/19
Stephen Teague Et Al. v. Shane Bruce
E2018-02104-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a final order granting the petition, filed by the appellees, Stephen Teague, M.D., Mark Rasnake, M.D., University Infectious Disease, Lori Staudenmaier, D.O., and UT Family Physicians LaFollette, which sought a permanent restraining order against the appellant, Shane Bruce. The final order denying the pro se appellant’s motion to set aside the judgment, which the Trial Court treated as a motion for new trial, was entered on January 22, 2018. The appellant did not file his Notice of Appeal until November 21, 2018, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The appellees filed a motion to dismiss this appeal arguing that the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed. We conclude that the appellees’ motion is well-taken and that we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 03/18/19
Tiffany "Whitaker" Kramer v. Phillip John Kramer
E2018-00736-COA-R3-CV

In this appeal, the wife challenges the trial court’s division of the marital assets and liabilities. We find no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 03/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Gerardo Juarez aka Gerardo Juarez-Ortega
W2018-01054-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Gerardo Juarez, of two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of eleven years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his aggravated assault and attempted voluntary manslaughter convictions. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand the case for corrected judgment forms in Counts one, four, and five.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/18/19
Fabian Claxton v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00618-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, Fabian Claxton, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Shelby County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists in his case. After our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Ramel Cole-Pugh
W2017-02402-CCA-R3-CD

A Madison County grand jury indicted the defendant, Brandon Ramel Cole-Pugh, with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000. Following trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of aggravated criminal trespass, a lesser-included offense of aggravated burglary, and theft of property over $1,000, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of eight years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his theft of property conviction and requests plain error review of the prosecutor’s closing argument. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we modify the defendant’s theft conviction from a Class D felony to a Class E felony based on the criminal savings statute and impose a sentence of four years’ confinement as a Range II offender. We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Desmond Simpson
M2017-01734-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Christopher Desmond Simpson, was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-210 (2018). The Defendant was sentenced to twenty-five years’ incarceration. On appeal, he contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement, (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (3) the trial court erred by denying his motion to sequester the jury, (4) the trial court erred by admitting autopsy photographs, (5) the trial court erred during jury instructions, and (6) the trial court erred during sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/18/19
Angela Charlene Iveson v. Jeffrey Wayne Iveson
M2018-01031-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a post-divorce effort to modify a residential parenting schedule. Angela Charlene Iveson (“Mother”) filed a petition against ex-husband Jeffrey Wayne Iveson (“Father”) in the Chancery Court for Sumner County (“the Trial Court”) seeking to modify the permanent parenting plan applicable to their minor daughter (“the Child”). The petition proceeded to a bench trial. Afterward, the Trial Court entered an order reducing and restricting Father’s parenting time as well as increasing his child support obligation. Father appeals to this Court, arguing, among other things, that the restrictions placed upon his parenting time are unwarranted and that the Trial Court erred by using his income for the most recent one year rather than a three year average of his income for child support purposes. We find that the Trial Court’s decisions with respect to these discretionary issues have a sufficient evidentiary basis and are consistent with applicable law. Thus, the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Thomas
E2017-02378-CCA-R3-CD

Aggrieved of his Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the defendant, Antonio Thomas appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and arguing that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence certain Facebook messages in the absence of sufficient proof of the authenticity and reliability of the messages. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/19
Charles Montague v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01500-CCA-R3-HC

The petitioner, Charles Montague, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged the judgments for his 1993 misdemeanor convictions of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/15/19