Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/28/2015
Format: 01/28/2015
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Daniel Pettie
M2014-00113-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Bobby Daniel Pettie, was found guilty by a Bedford County Circuit Court jury of initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class D felony, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony, and possession of methamphetamine, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-435 (2014), 39-17-433 (2014), 39-17-1324 (2014), 39-17-418 (2014).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to sixteen years for initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine, six years for promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, six years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and eleven months, twenty-nine days for possession of methamphetamine.  The court ordered the initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine and the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture sentences be served concurrently with each other and consecutively to the possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and to the possession of methamphetamine sentences, for an effective sentence of twenty-two years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress, and (3) his sentence is excessive.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Roy Bozza
M2013-02537-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Timothy Roy Bozza, was convicted of first degree murder by a Davidson County Criminal Court Jury.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2014). He was sentenced to life in prison.  On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in denying him counsel of his choice.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Richard Barefoot
M2014-01028-CCA-R3-CD

In 2014 the Defendant, Richard Barefoot, pleaded guilty to identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, and theft of property.  The trial court sentenced him to fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  The Defendant reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) about whether the trial court improperly denied his motion to dismiss by holding that the time limitation for prisoner transfer as proscribed by the Interstate Compact on Detainers was not applicable.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/15
Dale Wayne Wilbanks v. State of Tennessee
E2013-00229-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Dale Wayne Wilbanks, entered a best interest plea with an agreed upon sentence of twenty years for second degree murder and a concurrent twenty-five years for attempted first degree murder. The Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and a petition seeking post-conviction relief. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner relief. The Petitioner now appeals, maintaining that his guilty plea was involuntary and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the postconviction court’s judgments.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Richard Alan Hatchel
W2014-00486-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Richard Alan Hatchel, was indicted by the Tipton County Grand Jury for first degree premeditated murder and felony reckless endangerment under T.C.A. § 39-13- 103(b)(3). Defendant was convicted as charged by a jury. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment for his first degree murder conviction and three years for his reckless endangerment conviction, with the sentences to be served concurrently. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts and the State concedes that the evidence is insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for reckless endangerment because the proof at trial showed that Defendant was inside the house, and an element of the offense for which Defendant was charged is that he discharged a firearm from outside of the house. Defendant also asserts that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for first degree premeditated murder. After a careful review of the record before us, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder, but the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for felony reckless endangerment as charged. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction for first degree murder is affirmed. The judgment of conviction for felony reckless endangerment is reversed and the charge of felony reckless endangerment is dismissed with prejudice.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Lepard aka Benjamine Lepard
W2014-00170-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Benjamin Lepard, a/k/a Benjamine Lepard, appeals from the trial court’s order revoking his probation as to all four convictions he received in 2010 as a result of negotiated guilty pleas entered on July 27, 2010. He received sentences of three years in each of three of the convictions and a sentence of eight years in the fourth conviction. The three-year sentences were ordered to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the eight-year sentence, for an effective sentence of eleven years. The order of probation reflects that Defendant would stay in custody for an additional eight months and be released to probation “for a period of 11 years.” Defendant was also ordered to “go to inpatient rehab on release” on March 25, 2011. A violation of probation warrant was filed on November 15, 2013. After a hearing, the trial court revoked probation on all convictions and ordered Defendant to serve the entire effective sentence of eleven years by incarceration. After a thorough review of the appellate record and the arguments of the parties, we affirm the trial court’s judgment insofar as it rules that Defendant violated a condition of probation and that the suspended sentence should be revoked. However, under the particular circumstances of this case, we reverse the trial court’s judgment insofar as it ordered the entire effective sentence of eleven years to be served. Under rather peculiar and disturbing circumstances, the judgments were altered without the trial court’s direction, and we are unable to conclude whether the effective three-year sentence was to be served prior to the eight-year sentence. Accordingly, we remand for the trial court to enter amended judgments setting forth the details of the manner of service of the effective eleven-year sentence, specifically whether the three-year sentence was to be served prior to the eight-year sentence.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Don Arturo Hyler
M2014-00221-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Don Arturo Hyler, was convicted of the sale of 26 grams or more of cocaine and possession of 300 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell in a drug-free school zone and received a total effective sentence of fifteen years at 100%.  On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; that the court should have instructed the jury as to the lesser-included offense of facilitation; that the State made an improper reference in the opening statement regarding prior bad acts of the defendant; and for failing to grant a severance of charges for trial.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
Cathy C. Phipps v. William Phipps
E2014-00922-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce appeal, the husband seeks reversal of the trial court’s classification of a certificate of deposit as marital property and the grant of alimony. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 01/27/15
David Lee Leggs v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00866-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, David Lee Leggs, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during trial and on appeal. After thorough review, we affirm the decision of the post-conviction court.

 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
Samuel E. Foster, et al v. Walter William Chiles, III, M.D.
E2012-01780-SC-R11-CV

This appeal presents two issues for review: 1) whether a person asserting a health  care  liability claim must  give  written  notice  of  the claim to  all  potential  health  care defendants before re-filing a complaint, or whether notice given before filing the first complaint is  sufficient  notice for  a  subsequently filed  complaint against the same defendants; and 2) if pre-suit notice is required for each complaint, whether the sanction for noncompliance is a dismissal with or without prejudice.  The plaintiffs, before filing their health care liability complaint, gave the defendants written notice under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1).  Thereafter, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their complaint.   The plaintiffs  re-filed their complaint but  did  not provide  the  defendants  with  notice before the re-filing.  The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to comply with the notice requirement of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1).  The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the plaintiffs had to give pre-suit notice only once and that  pre-suit notice for the first complaint was sufficient for any subsequently filed complaints asserting the same claims against the same defendants. We hold that Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1) requires that plaintiffs notify prospective defendants of a forthcoming health care liability lawsuit before the filing of each complaint.  The sanction for failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1) is a dismissal without prejudice. 

Knox County Supreme Court 01/27/15
Samuel E. Foster, et al v. Walter William Chiles, III, M.D. - Dissent
E2012-01780-SC-R11-CV

Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(1)provides thatanyperson who has a potential claim for health care liability must serve written notice on each defendant at least sixty days before filing a complaint.  In this case, the Court of Appeals held that Samuel E. Foster and his wife, Mary Foster (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”), complied with the plain language of this statute by sending notices of their potential claims well over sixty days prior to filing their complaint. Because I believe that the Court of Appeals properly interpreted the statute, I respectfully disagree with the conclusion reached by my colleagues and would remand this action for a trial on the merits rather than dismiss without prejudice to the filing of a third complaint.

Knox County Supreme Court 01/27/15
In Re: Emmalee O., et al.
E2014-00261-COA-R3-JV

This appeal concerns an allegation of child sexual abuse against a parent. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Knox County (“the Juvenile Court”) against Alan O. (“Father”) alleging that he had sexually abused his then three year old daughter Emmalee O. (“the Child”). The Child had disclosed that Father had “poked” and “rubbed” her vagina. For his part, Father asserted that he touched the Child’s vaginal area only as part of his normal parenting duties, and that he never touched her in an inappropriate manner. After a trial, the Juvenile Court found that the Child was a victim of severe child abuse by Father. The case was appealed to the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”). After a new trial, the Trial Court found that the Child was a victim of severe child abuse by Father. Father appeals to this Court. We hold, inter alia, that the evidence rises to the level of clear and convincing sufficient to establish severe child abuse. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court in its entirety.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Marquez Williams
W2013-02764-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Marquez Williams, was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 11 years in the Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as it relates to his identification as the perpetrator of the offense. The Defendant also challenges the length of his sentence. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable authority, we affirm the judgment of trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
BancorpSouth Bank v. 51 Concrete LLC, et al.
W2013-01753-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal of this conversion case. Appellant bank holds a perfected security interest in three pieces of equipment used as collateral for a loan made to its debtor, John Chorley. Appellees acquired this equipment from Mr. Chorley before he defaulted on his loan with Appellant bank. Appellees did not perform a UCC check, instead relying on Mr. Chorley’s representation that there were no liens on the equipment. Appellees subsequently sold the equipment to parties not involved in this case. After Mr. Chorley defaulted on his loan, Appellant bank sued Appellees for conversion, seeking compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages. The trial court awarded judgments against both Appellees, but denied attorney’s fees and punitive damages. All parties assert error on appeal. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/27/15
In Re: Tyler P., et al.
W2014-00542-COA-R3-JV

This appeal arises from a petition in juvenile court to modify custody. In December 2006, the juvenile court issued an order granting Mother primary residential custody of the parties’ two children and granting Father visitation. In May 2013, Father petitioned the court for custody of the children. A hearing was conducted in October 2013. The court found that Father met his burden of showing a material change of circumstances but determined that the children’s best interests would not be served by granting Father custody. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/27/15
Erica Wade, et al. v. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, et al.
W2014-01103-COA-R3-CV

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant medical providers on the basis that the plaintiffs’ health care liability complaint was filed after the expiration of the Governmental Tort Liability Act statute of limitations. Because we conclude that, under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-26-121(c), plaintiffs were entitled to a 120-day extension on the applicable statute of limitations, we reverse and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 01/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Baker aka Michael Simmons
W2013-02184-CCA-R3-CD

Michael Baker a/k/a Michael Simmons (“the Defendant”) was charged with first degree murder in the attempt to commit robbery, criminal attempt: especially aggravated robbery, and criminal attempt: aggravated robbery. The jury convicted the Defendant as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to life plus ten years. On appeal, the Defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Kieth Phillips
M2013-02705-CCA-R3-CD

A Rutherford County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, Nicholas Keith Phillips, of two counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and two counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective forty-year sentence to be served at 100%.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that his dual convictions for the offenses violate principles of double jeopardy.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the appellant’s convictions of aggravated sexual battery but conclude that his dual convictions of rape of a child violate double jeopardy principles and must be merged. Moreover, because the trial court improperly sentenced the appellant, the case is remanded to the trial court for resentencing.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/15
Valerie Bridgeforth v. Dale Jones, et al
M2013-01500-COA-R3-CV

This is an action by a prospective member of a start-up limited liability company for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, and breach of fiduciary duty and fair dealing against the company and its managing member. Plaintiff claims to have an enforceable agreement to acquire a five percent interest in the limited liability company in consideration for her intangible capital contributions, that being her sweat equity rendered during the formative phase of the company. Defendants deny all claims and insist that Plaintiff knew she would have to contribute $30,000 in cash as her capital contribution in exchange for the agreed upon membership interest in the company.The trial court summarily dismissed all claims upon the conclusion that Plaintiff could not prove a prima facie case for any of her claims as she could not show any contract or enforceable promise existed, that she was compensated as an employee, and that the remaining claims failed as a matter of law. We affirm the dismissal of the claims of promissory estoppel and breach of fiduciary duty; however, we have determined that material facts are disputed concerning the existence of a contract which precludes summary dismissal of the claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/26/15
Companion Property And Casualty Insurance Company, et al. v. State of Tennessee, et al
M2014-00527-COA-R3-CV

Two South Carolina insurance companies challenged their Tennessee retaliatory tax assessments. The Tennessee Claims Commission held that the Departmentof Commerce and Insurance did not calculate the South Carolina tax burden correctly because it did not include reimbursements received by the insurance companies from South Carolina’s Second Injury Fund. The Commission also denied the Department’s motion to strike portions of an affidavit. The Department appealed. We find that the Department’s calculation of the South Carolina tax burden was correct and reverse that decision of the Claims Commission. We affirm the Commission’s denial of the Department’s motion to strike.

Court of Appeals 01/26/15
Vaness Hobbs v. Auto-Owners Mutual Insurance Company
M2014-00532-SC-WCM-WC

The sole issue presented in this workers’ compensation appeal is whether the trial court correctly found that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work. The employee, a Head Start teacher, sustained a compensable back injury.  She continued to work for about a year but then was not rehired because she had failed to meet a federal education mandate.  The trial court found that she had not made a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and one half times the an atomic alimpairment. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-6-241(d). The 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 in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse the trial court’s finding and remand for entry of a judgment based on one and one-half times the anatomical impairment.

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/15
Leslie A. Muse v. Robert L. Jolley, Jr.
E2014-02462-COA-T10B-CV

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the trial court’s denial of a motion to recuse in a divorce proceeding. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Wife, Leslie A. Muse (“Wife”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, along with the motion to dismiss this appeal filed by Husband, Robert L. Jolley, Jr. (“Husband”), we conclude that the petition was not timely filed. Accordingly, we grant the motion, and dismiss this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Bradley County v. #'s Inc. et al.
E2014-00121-COA-R3-CV

This appeal stems from an action filed by the State of Tennessee ex rel. Bradley County regarding delinquent real property taxes. The property at issue was sold during a tax sale in 2006. The owners of the property at the time of the tax sale subsequently filed an action to set aside the tax sale, alleging that they were not afforded due process and were never notified of the delinquent tax action. The trial court granted summary judgment to the owners and voided the tax sale due to lack of proper notice. The party who purchased the subject property at the tax sale has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 01/23/15
Brenda Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises, LP et al
M2013-00270-SC-R11-CV

We granted permission to appeal to clarify the analysis that should be used to determine the applicable statute of limitations when a complaint alleges more than one claim. We hold that a court must identify the gravamen of each claim alleged to determine the applicable statute of limitations. Identifying the gravamen of a claim requires a court to consider both the legal basis of the claim and the injuryfor which damages are sought. Here, the plaintiff contracted to sell the defendants real property in Rutherford County. The contract provided that the plaintiff would retain ownership of a sixty-foot wide strip of property along Interstate 24 to provide access to her remaining property. The contract also provided that its covenants would survive the closing. The warranty deed failed to include the sixty-foot reservation required by the contract. The plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging claims of breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. The defendants raised several defenses, including the statute of limitations. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s intentionaland negligent misrepresentation claims butruled forthe plaintiff on the breach of contract claim and awarded her $650,000 in damages for the diminution in value of her remaining property due to the lack of the contractually guaranteed access route.  The defendants appealed, raising six issues, including an assertion that the plaintiff’s claim is barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals, focusing almost exclusively on the type of damages awarded, concluded that the gravamen of the plaintiff’s prevailing claim is injury to real property, and as a result, held that the claim is barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to “[a]ctions for injuries to personal or real property.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-105(1) (2000 & Supp. 2014). We disagree with the Court of Appeals’ conclusions and hold that the gravamen of the plaintiff’s prevailing claim is breach of contract, to which the six-year statute of limitations for “[a]ctions on contracts not otherwise expressly provided for” applies. Id. § 28-3-109(a)(3) (2000). Because the plaintiff’s claim is not barred by the statute of limitations, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this matter to the intermediate appellate court for resolution of the other issues the defendants raised on appeal.

Rutherford County Supreme Court 01/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Shanice L. Dycus
M2012-02297-SC-R11-CD

We granted review in this case to determine whether the mandatory minimum service requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-432(c) (2010) (the “Drug-Free School Zone Act”) renders offenses under that act ineligible for judicial diversion. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we hold that the mandatory minimum service requirement of the Drug-Free School Zone Act does not render offenses under that act ineligible for judicial diversion. Although the trial court failed to adequately address the appropriate factors on the record, based on our own de novo review, we hold that the record demonstrates that the trial court properly denied the Defendant’s request to be placed on judicial diversion. Accordingly, we reinstate the trial court’s judgments.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 01/23/15