Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 11/16/2018
Format: 11/16/2018
Edna Green v. St. George's Episcopal Church
M2017-00413-COA-R3-CV


This appeal arises from a jury verdict in a personal injury action. The defendant alleged the comparative fault of a nonparty who was potentially immune from liability under Tennessee’s agritourism statute. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 43-39-101 to -103 (Supp. 2018). Before trial, the defendant asked the court to exclude all evidence and argument before the jury regarding statutory immunity as irrelevant and prejudicial. The court excluded argument and evidence of immunity but allowed the parties to present evidence on whether the nonparty had complied with the statute. At the conclusion of the trial, the court permitted the jury to apportion a percentage of fault to the nonparty without considering the nonparty’s compliance with the agritourism statute. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in allowing the jury to allocate fault to the nonparty because the agritourism statute provided immunity from fault as well as liability. We conclude that nothing in the agritourism statute precludes the allocation of fault to a nonparty agritourism professional in a negligence action. So we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/16/18
Catherine Caton v. Kyle Austin Caton
M2015-01829-COA-R3-CV

About a year after the parties’ divorce, the mother, who had been named primary residential parent, decided to move to Murfreesboro.  Alleging that her move constituted a material change in circumstance, she filed a petition in the divorce court requesting a change in the residential parenting schedule.  Because she planned to move less than fifty miles, the mother asserted that the parental relocation statute did not apply.  But, in case the court disagreed, the mother also asked the court to approve the move.  In response, the father filed a counter-petition seeking to change either the primary residential parent designation or the parenting schedule.  After a hearing, the trial court denied both modification petitions.  And although the court agreed that the parental relocation statute did not apply, the court ordered the mother to remain in Sumner County, Tennessee.  The mother has appealed the court’s restriction on her ability to move.  Upon review, we conclude that the trial court had no legal basis for prohibiting the mother from moving.  So we reverse that part of the court’s order.   

Sumner County Court of Appeals 11/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Rebecca Doles
W2018-00528-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Rebecca Doles, appeals from the revocation of supervised probation by the Hardeman County Circuit Court. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking the Defendant’s probation and ordering her to serve the balance of her sentence in confinement. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Terry Craighead and Sinead St.Omer
M2017-01085-CCA-R3-CD

The State appeals the trial court’s order dismissing the charges against the Defendants, Terry Craighead and Sinead St. Omer, for two counts of felony murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect. The trial court found that the State failed to collect and preserve certain evidence in accordance with the mandates of State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999). We conclude that the State’s failure to collect evidence did not result in a Ferguson violation and that the trial court erred in dismissing the charges. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, reinstate the indictment, and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Angela Buchanan
M2018-00190-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Angela Buchanan, was indicted by the Rutherford County Grand Jury for felony murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect in December of 2014. A superseding indictment, issued in August of 2016, eliminated the charge of aggravated child abuse from the indictment. Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide as a lesser-included offense of felony murder and aggravated child neglect. Defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-two years for the convictions. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant presents the following issues to this Court on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred by refusing to grant a mistrial after a comment made by the prosecutor prior to jury selection; (2) whether the trial court erred by refusing to grant a mistrial after informing the jury that Defendant was charged with aggravated child abuse; (3) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; and (4) whether the trial court properly sentenced Defendant. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/18
State of Tennessee v. John Orise Adams, III
M2017-02169-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, John Orise Adams III, was convicted by a jury of one count of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-402. The trial court then imposed an eight-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction; (2) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s drug use; (3) that the trial court erred in allowing a witness to testify that the Defendant was “aware” of certain events prior to the robbery because the witness could not have had personal knowledge of what the Defendant was “aware” of; and (4) that the cumulative effect of these errors denied the Defendant a fair trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Jarvis Gray aka Prophet Gray
W2017-01731-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Jarvis Gray, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to fifty-two years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: did not allow his expert witness to testify; limited his cross-examination of the victim; and admitted into evidence statements from a rape crisis report. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/18
State of Tennessee v. Eddie Harris
W2017-01706-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Eddie Harris, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of first degree premeditated murder (counts 1 and 2), first degree murder in perpetration of robbery (counts 3 and 4), and felon in possession of a handgun (count 5), for which he received an effective sentence of life plus twelve years. See T.C.A. §39-13-202 and §39-17-1307 (2014). In this direct appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions of first degree premeditated murder and first degree felony murder and (2) the trial court erred in allowing inadmissible hearsay. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/18
In Re Corbin W.
W2018-00608-COA-R3-JV

This appeal arises from Father’s Petition for Custody and/or Visitation with the parties’ only child. The juvenile court granted the petition following an evidentiary hearing and established a parenting plan and parenting schedule. Mother appeals contending, inter alia, the evidence does not support the court’s findings and ultimate rulings. We have determined that both parties’ briefs are profoundly deficient. Moreover, because Mother failed to provide a transcript of the evidence or a statement of the evidence, there is a conclusive presumption that there was sufficient evidence before the juvenile court to support its judgment. Accordingly, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/15/18
In Re S.D. Et Al.
M2015-01932-COA-R3-PT

L.D. (mother) appeals the trial court’s judgment terminating her parental rights to her children S.D., S.B.D., and M.D. Both mother and father were convicted of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and statutory rape. On September 28, 2007, the criminal court ordered them to serve an effective twelve-year sentence. After serving less than one year, mother was granted probation and subsequently regained custody of her two older children. Later, mother gave birth to M.D. Still later, mother violated probation and returned to jail in July of 2011. Petitioners filed a petition to terminate parental rights, and for adoption of the children. The trial court terminated mother’s rights to S.D. and S.B.D. on the ground that she was incarcerated under a sentence of ten or more years, and the subject children were under eight years old at the time of the sentence. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(6) (2017). The court further held that mother had abandoned all three children by failing to visit and support them during the four months immediately preceding her re-incarceration following her probation violation. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1); 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv). We affirm the trial court’s judgment regarding S.D. and S.B.D. pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(6). We reverse the trial court’s judgment terminating mother’s rights with respect to M.D. on the ground of abandonment, because the proof at trial fails to demonstrate abandonment for the entirety of the pertinent four-month period.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 11/15/18
Joe King v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00572-COA-R3-CV

The petitioner was convicted of rape in 1988, served a six month sentence of incarceration, and successfully completed five and a half years of probation; in 2016 he was advised that he was required to register as a sex offender. After registering, he filed a petition for declaratory judgment, challenging the constitutionality of the Tennessee Sex Offender Registration and Monitoring Act of 2004, as written and as applied to him, and requested that he not be required to register as a sex offender. The court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim, and the petitioner appeals. Upon our de novo review, we reverse the dismissal of his as-applied challenge to the Act and remand the case for further proceedings; in all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Grundy County Court of Appeals 11/15/18
Mark Pintaure Et Al. v. Andrew Farmer Et Al.
E2017-01940-COA-R3-CV

Mark Pintaure and Patricia Pintaure (plaintiffs) sued Andrew Farmer and Mariah Farmer (defendants) for breach of a lease agreement. Plaintiffs, the landlords, leased a residence to defendants under a six-month lease agreement. Defendants counterclaimed for alleged breach of contract, violation of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, and fraud. Following a bench trial, the court awarded plaintiffs $2,256 in damages and dismissed the counterclaim. Because the lease provides for an award of attorney’s fees, the trial court initially awarded plaintiffs a fee of $694. Plaintiffs objected, arguing that the attorney’s fee they had paid was significantly higher. After plaintiff’s counsel submitted an affidavit and documentation of time spent on the case, the trial court awarded plaintiffs an additional $500 in attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs appeal, arguing that the trial court’s award was unreasonably low. Because the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees was unsupported by a finding of reasonableness or analysis of the required factors provided in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8, RPC 1.5, we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 11/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Shannon Haney
E2018-00085-CCA-R3-CD
Shannon Haney, Defendant, was convicted of sexual battery. The trial court sentenced him, as a career offender, to six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction with release eligibility after service of sixty percent of the sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of sexual battery beyond a reasonable doubt. He also asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion to strike an exhibit from the record that was not moved into evidence by the State. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.
 
Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Edwards
E2017-02329-CCA-R3-CD
Defendant, Matthew Edwards, was convicted of two counts of cruelty to animals against a pony and a dog. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence was
insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of two counts of cruelty to animals beyond a reasonable doubt, and (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to admit evidence of Defendant’s prior statutory rape conviction. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Martez Dante Smith
E2017-02045-CCA-R3-CD
Martez Dante Smith, Defendant, pled guilty to two counts of robbery in case 109738 and to one count each of aggravated robbery, robbery, and possession of a weapon after being convicted of a felony drug offense in case 109776. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range II multiple offender to consecutive terms of eight years in case 109738 and fourteen years in case 109776. On appeal, Defendant claims that the trial court erred in finding that he had no hesitation in committing a crime when the risk to human life was high, erred in finding him to be a dangerous offender, and erred by ordering the sentences to be served consecutively. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Jameel Davis
W2017-02092-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Jameel Davis, pled guilty in the Dyer County Circuit Court to conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, a Class C felony, and received an eight-year sentence. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he was released from jail and placed on supervised probation for seven years, three months. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by revoking his probation and ordering that he serve his sentence in confinement. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
Tamaine Works v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02276-CCA-R3-ECN

Petitioner, Tamaine Works, appeals summary dismissal of his petition for relief under the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act, his motion under Rule 60.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, and his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Lisa M. Chibbaro
W2017-01973-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Lisa M. Chibbaro, appeals from the entry of an order denying her motion for modification of sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Following guilty pleas on May 8, 2017, Defendant was convicted of aggravated vehicular assault, two counts of aggravated assault, and driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”). Following a sentencing hearing conducted immediately after the entry of Defendant’s guilty pleas, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In denying Defendant’s motion, the trial court found that there had not been a substantial and/or material change in circumstances since Defendant’s guilty pleas that would allow a change of the sentence as previously imposed. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/18
FDA Properties, LLC v. David Doyle Miller
M2018-00818-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns the potential dissolution of an LLC under the Tennessee Limited Liability Company Act due to the bankruptcy of one of its members. The trial court held that the LLC was not dissolved under the Act because neither section 48-245-101(a)(5)(G) nor 48-245-101(b) of the Tennessee Code applied to the LLC. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/13/18
State of Tennessee v. Cody Darand Marks
M2018-00020-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Cody Darand Marks, was convicted of one count of .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school zone and was sentenced as a Range II offender to fifteen years of incarceration with mandatory minimum service of twelve years at 100%. On appeal, Defendant argues the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the amount of cocaine that was exchanged within the drug free zone as opposed to the amount that was exchanged earlier at a separate location. Based on his same argument regarding the weight of the cocaine, Defendant additionally argues that the trial court erred by failing to grant his motion for judgment of acquittal, erred by failing to overturn the verdict as thirteenth juror, and erred by failing to provide an enhanced unanimity instruction to the jury. Upon our review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/18
Riverland, LLC v. City of Jackson, Tennessee
W2017-01464-COA-R3-CV

Appellant sued the City of Jackson, Tennessee, after Appellant’s commercial building was damaged by flooding. Appellant stated claims, under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, for temporary and permanent nuisance, trespass, negligence, and gross negligence. Appellant also sought relief for inverse condemnation and equitable relief under a theory of nuisance. On a grant of summary judgment, the trial court dismissed the GTLA claims, finding that the City’s immunity to suit was not removed. The trial court also granted summary judgment to the City on the inverse condemnation and nuisance claims. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 11/09/18
In Re: Ruger N.
E2017-01379-COA-R3-PT

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to support and to visit. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm

Polk County Court of Appeals 11/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Mardoche Olivier
M2017-02114-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Mardoche Olivier, was convicted by a jury of driving on a suspended license in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-50-104. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six months of incarceration to be served concurrently with a pre-existing sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Kristen L. Van De Gejuchte
M2017-01173-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Kristen L. Van De Gejuchte, appeals her conviction for driving under the influence. In her appeal, she contends that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction and that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support her conviction and that the trial court did not err. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of a corrected judgment document for Count One reflecting its merger with Count Two.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/09/18
Scott A. Padgett v. Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, Et Al.
M2017-01751-COA-R3-CV

A teacher dismissed from his teaching position filed suit against the school system and the chief human resources officer for libel and breach of contract. The trial court denied the teacher’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint and granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment as to both claims. Finding no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court in all respects.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/09/18