Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 06/28/2016
Format: 06/28/2016
Paul M. Martin v. Perma-Chink Systems, Inc.

This appeal arises from an age discrimination lawsuit brought under the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"). Paul M. Martin ("Martin") sued his former employer Perma-Chink Systems, Inc. ("Perma-Chink") in the Circuit Court for Knox County ("the Trial Court"). Martin alleged that he had been fired as a sales representative for Perma-Chink because of his age, then 60. The matter was tried before a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Martin. Perma-Chink filed an appeal to this Court, and Martin raises his own issues on appeal. Perma-Chink argues, among other things, that the Trial Court erred in admitting a chart ("the Chart") containing raw data of employee ages at their date of termination, and that Martin failed to prove a prima facie case of age discrimination. We, inter alia, affirm the age discrimination judgment for Martin.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Richard Wayne Ferguson

Defendant, Richard Wayne Ferguson, pled guilty to twenty-seven felonies and three misdemeanors for property-related crimes committed in November and December of 2014. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-seven years as a Range I, standard offender. Defendant appeals his convictions, arguing that the sentences imposed by the trial court are excessive. After a review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-seven years.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/16
Charlotte Pickel Wilson v. Jeremiah Pickel

This case involves a purportedly forged deed. Appellant appeals the trial court’s decision to set aside a quit claim deed that was allegedly executed in favor of Appellant by his now deceased grandfather. The trial court found the signature on the deed was forged and not that of the grandfather. In so ruling, the trial court applied the preponderance of evidence standard. Because the correct standard is clear and convincing evidence, we vacate and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/27/16
John Richardson, et al. v. Trenton Special School District

This is a negligence case involving the alleged sexual assault of a six-year-old boy by another six-year-old boy in the bathroom of an elementary school. The trial court determined that the Appellee school district was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because the assault was not foreseeable. We conclude that there are disputes of material fact, which preclude the grant of summary judgment. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 06/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Smith

A jury convicted Michael Smith (“the Defendant”) of aggravated assault, committed by violating a protective order, and evading arrest. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of ten years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days’ incarceration. The Defendant appealed his convictions and sentences, which the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. State v. Smith, No. W2013-01190-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 3954062, at *21 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 13, 2014). The Defendant then requested permission to appeal to this Court, alleging the following errors: (1) the trial court’s failure to require the State to make an election of offenses; (2) the insufficiency of the indictment; (3) the trial court’s refusal to allow the Defendant to sit at counsel table; (4) the trial court’s ruling that, should he elect to testify, the Defendant could be impeached with prior convictions; (5) the trial court’s denial of a mistrial after allowing a witness to testify about a different criminal proceeding against the Defendant; (6) the admission of the victim’s testimony about the Defendant’s prior bad acts; and (7) the trial court’s failure to confine the flight instruction to the aggravated assault charge. We granted the Defendant’s request for permission to appeal. Upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we hold that the State’s failure to elect an offense as to the aggravated assault charge resulted in plain error. Accordingly, we reverse the Defendant’s conviction for aggravated assault and remand the matter to the trial court for a new trial on that charge. We affirm the Defendant’s conviction for evading arrest.  

Shelby County Supreme Court 06/24/16
In re Aiden R., et al.

This case arises from the dismissal after trial of a petition to terminate the parental rights of a mother and father. The juvenile court concluded that, although the Department of Children's Services had proven grounds for terminating the parents' rights, termination was not in the best interest of the children. On appeal, we find the Department of Children's Services did not prove by clear and convincing evidence statutory grounds for termination of the father's rights. We further find clear and convincing evidence supports only two statutory grounds for terminating the mother's rights. Because clear and convincing evidence does not support a finding that termination would be in the children's best interest, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court to dismiss the petition to terminate parental rights.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
In re M.B.R.

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of B.L.R. (Father) with respect to his child, M.B.R. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination. The court also found, by the same quantum of proof, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Tramel aka Jessica Trotter-Lawson

The appellant, Jessica Tramel, pled guilty in the Washington County Criminal Court to theft of property valued $60,000 or more and received an eight-year sentence to be served in confinement. The trial court also determined that she owed $193,314.64 restitution. On appeal, the appellant claims that the trial court erred by denying her request for alternative sentencing and by applying only one-half of an insurance company's payment to the victim to the amount of restitution. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/16
The Estate of Carlene C. Elrod v. Michael S. Petty et al.

Plaintiff appeals the summary dismissal of this action based on the statute of frauds and judicial estoppel, the award of expenses and attorney’s fees as a discovery sanction, and the award of discretionary costs. In April 2005, Carlene Elrod, now deceased, signed four quitclaim deeds conveying real property in fee simple to her grandson, Michael Petty. In April 2011, Mrs. Elrod filed a verified complaint to set aside the conveyances on tort grounds including mistake, fraud, and deceit, claiming she was under the influence of prescription medications at the time of the conveyances, which deprived her of the mental capacity to contract. Mrs. Elrod died while the action was pending and her estate was substituted as plaintiff. The estate filed an amended complaint in which it dropped all tort claims and asserted a breach of contract claim. Specifically, the estate alleged that the conveyances were based on an oral contract pursuant to which Mr. Petty agreed to pay all rental income from the properties to Mrs. Elrod until her death, and that Mr. Petty honored this agreement for five years but breached the agreement by retaining all rental income thereafter. Following discovery, the defendants, Mr. Petty and his wife, filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court summarily dismissed the complaint finding: (1) the claims were barred by the Tennessee Statute of Frauds because they were based on a purported oral contract pertaining to the transfer of real property, and (2) the claims were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel given the factual inconsistencies between the initial verified complaint and the amended complaint. The court also assessed expenses and attorney’s fees against the plaintiff as a sanction for failing to comply with discovery, and discretionary costs. We affirm the grant of summary judgment based on the statute of frauds. We also affirm the award of expenses and attorney’s fees pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 37.01 and discretionary costs pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.04.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
Patricia Sue Kuhlo v. Ernest Charles Kuhlo

In this divorce action, Husband contends the trial court erred by denying his request for “assistance of an attorney,” in valuing his minority partnership interest in a real estate venture, in the division of the marital estate, by ordering the sale of real estate without assuring the sale would be for fair market value, by awarding Wife transitional alimony, and by awarding Wife her attorney’s fees. We affirm. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
Brentwood Chase Community Association v. Triet Truong, et al.

Suit to enforce restrictive covenants in a residential subdivision. The homeowners association filed suit alleging that a resident was conducting commercial activity in violation of the restrictive covenants. The trial court granted the association’s motion for summary judgment in part, enjoining the resident from conducting the activity and awarding the association attorneys fees. On appeal, the resident seeks a reversal of the determination that the activity in which she was engaged violated the covenant; the association appeals the denial of summary judgment on the additional ground on which the motion was based. Finding no error, we affirm the trial court in all respects.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
Larry Williams v. City of Jamestown, Tennessee

This appeal involves a visitor to a county courthouse who slipped and fell on ice in the parking area. Because the portion of the parking area where the visitor fell was owned by the city, the visitor filed suit against the city under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act. Following a bench trial, the trial court dismissed the suit, finding that the city did not breach a duty of care to the visitor. The trial court also found that, even if there had been a breach of duty, the visitor was more than fifty percent at fault for his injuries. The visitor appeals, claiming that the trial court’s written order does not accurately reflect its oral ruling, that the city breached a duty of care by creating a dangerous condition that it did not remedy in a reasonable manner and time, and that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s factual finding that he was more than fifty percent at fault. We affirm.  

Fentress County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
Andrea Renea Hopwood v. Corey Daniel Hopwood

This appeal concerns several issues relative to a divorce. We agree with the trial court that Mother is a candidate for rehabilitative alimony. We reverse the trial court as to the duration of the award, however, reducing the award to eight years. We also vacate the trial court’s ruling with regard to the amount of the alimony award and remand to the trial court for reconsideration of Father’s ability to pay alimony consistent with his other obligations. Finally, we reverse the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees anticipated to be incurred on appeal and vacate the trial court’s award of all of Mother’s requested attorney’s fees, instead remanding to the trial court for a determination of only those fees attributable to child custody and child support. All other issues are affirmed. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
Michael G. McConnell v. Armed Services Mutual Benefit Association

Employee brought action against former Employer alleging wrongful termination under the Tennessee Disability Act (“TDA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-103; the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-101–102; impermissible disclosure of medical information in violation of the TDA; breach of contract; and misrepresentation in violation of the Tennessee Employment Security Law, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-7-711. The trial court granted the Employer’s motion to dismiss all claims, and the Employee appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Santelli

Defendant, Thomas Santelli, was convicted of one count of driving under the influence (DUI), one count of DUI second offense, and one count of violating the implied consent law. Defendant received a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days suspended to probation with all but 100 days to be served in periodic confinement pursuant to court order. Defendant raises the following arguments on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in excluding evidence of a prior traffic stop; (2) the trial court erred in allowing lay opinion testimony of Defendant's impairment; (3) the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; (4) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (5) there was a constructive amendment to the indictment and a fatal variance between the indictment and the evidence presented at trial. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for reconsideration of the manner of service of Defendant's sentence.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Terrell Burgess

The Appellant, Terrell Burgess, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court's summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that his motion stated a colorable claim for relief; therefore, the trial court erred in summarily denying the motion. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Andrew Mansfield

The Defendant-Appellant, Joshua Andrew Mansfield, entered a guilty plea to possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver in exchange for a sentence of one year of incarceration at thirty percent release eligibility and a $2,000 fine. As a condition of his plea, Mansfield reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress, which alleged that he was unconstitutionally seized and detained. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Quadarius Deshun Martin

The Defendant, Quadarius Deshun Martin, was convicted by a Madison County jury of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-102. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court misapplied the statutory enhancement and mitigation factors and improperly denied him an alternative sentence. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Scronce

The Defendant, Jessica Scronce, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued between $10,000 and $60,000. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to six years as a Range I, standard offender. The sentence was suspended after 120 days to be served on weekends. A violation of probation warrant was subsequently issued, and, after a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant's probation and ordered service of the balance of the sentence in confinement. The Defendant appeals the trial court's order that she serve her sentence in confinement. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
Demarcus Ant-Juan Nelson v. State of Tennessee

DeMarcus Ant-Juan Nelson (“the Petitioner”) filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief which included a request for permission to file a delayed application to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 11 and other post-conviction relief claims. The post-conviction court entered a single order that granted the delayed appeal and dismissed the remaining claims. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred when the court did not stay his remaining post-conviction claims pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 28 until after the final disposition of the delayed appeal. After a review of the record and applicable law, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed in part, and this case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/16
Commercial Painting Company, Inc. v. The Weitz Company, LLC, et al.

A subcontractor and general contractor executed a subcontract for a continuing care retirement community. The subcontractor filed a complaint against the general contractor and asserted claims for breach of contract and misrepresentation. The contractor filed a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to the claims for misrepresentation, which the trial court granted. The breach of contract claims were tried and the trial court awarded the subcontractor some damages, but less than the subcontractor sought. The subcontractor appealed the trial court‘s judgment granting the contractor‘s motion for partial summary judgment. We conclude the subcontractor stated claims for intentional or negligent misrepresentation and that the trial court erred in dismissing these claims. We reverse the trial court‘s judgment granting the contractor‘s motion for partial summary judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/20/16
Damon Hawks v. Lisa Christian, et al.

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee sustained an injury in the course of his employment when he fell off a roof. His employer denied the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-110 because the employee failed to use a required safety appliance. The trial court found that the employee provided a valid excuse for failing to wear the required equipment and awarded benefits. The employer has appealed. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, 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. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/16
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. v. Phillip W. Vandergriff et al.

The plaintiff lender filed this action to quiet title to certain real property and regain possession of said property from its current occupants, one of whom owed a debt to the lender that originated in 1996. At the time of the making of the indebtedness, the debtor executed a deed of trust regarding the subject property to secure the debt. The property was subsequently sold at a delinquent tax sale in 2008. The tax sale purchaser later conveyed title to the property back to the debtor in 2012. Upon the debtor’s failure to make timely payments to the lender in 2013, the lender foreclosed on the subject property pursuant to the 1996 deed of trust.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 06/17/16
Cash America International, Inc. v. Geico General Insurance Co.

Insurance company filed garnishment action in general sessions court against employer garnishee. The sheriff served an hourly employee at one of the employer garnishee’s retail locations. Employer garnishee did not appear in the garnishment action, and the general sessions court entered judgment. Employer garnishee filed this action in the chancery court collaterally attacking the general sessions judgment based on improper service. The chancery court granted summary judgment in favor of employer garnishee. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/17/16
In re Anicia B.

The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights based on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistent conditions and based on the trial court's finding that it was in the child's best interest to terminate Mother's parental rights. Mother appealed. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 06/16/16