Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/18/2020
Format: 09/18/2020
Benjamin McCurry v. Agness McCurry
E2020-01085-COA-R3-CV

The Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant, Agness McCurry, stated that the appellant was appealing the judgment entered on August 17, 2020. As the August 17, 2020 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Washington County Court of Appeals 09/15/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. SCOTT A. BROWN
M2019-00988-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Scott A. Brown, pled guilty to one count of statutory rape, a Class E felony, and one count of possession of more than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to sell, a Class B felony, in exchange for an effective sentence of eight years in the Department of Correction. Following a hearing to determine whether the Defendant should be placed on the sex offender registry, the trial court ordered that the Defendant be placed on the registry, which decision the Defendant now appeals. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Kimberly Reed
E2019-01483-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Kimberly Reed, pled guilty to forgery, a Class E felony; identity theft, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $2,500, a Class E felony; theft of property valued at less than $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor; attempted misdemeanor theft, a Class B misdemeanor; fraudulent use of a credit card, a Class A misdemeanor; criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor; and criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -14-103, -14-114, -14-118, - 14-150, -14-405, -16-301. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
In Re Brayla T.
M2019-02265-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights action, the father has appealed the trial court’s final order terminating his parental rights to the minor child, Brayla T. (“the Child”) based on several statutory grounds. The mother and the stepfather filed a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights and to allow the stepfather to adopt the Child after the juvenile court adjudicated the Child dependent and neglected as to the father. The trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the father’s parental rights upon its determination by clear and convincing evidence that the father had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to visit the Child and had failed to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody of or financial responsibility for the Child. The trial court also found clear and convincing evidence of two statutory grounds applicable solely to putative fathers. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest to terminate the father’s parental rights. The father has appealed. Having determined that the evidence presented at trial did not support a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the father was a putative father, we reverse as to those two statutory grounds applicable only to putative fathers. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 09/14/20
Stephen Boesch v. Jay R. Holeman Et Al.
E2019-02288-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a disassociated partner’s buyout. Stephen Boesch (“Boesch”), Jay Holeman (“Holeman”), and Richard Fraser (“Fraser”) formed a partnership to start a flavored-moonshine and whiskey business, Tennessee Legend. Boesch contributed technical know-how and labor. Early on, Boesch was disassociated from the partnership. Boesch sued Holeman and Fraser (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Chancery Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) alleging, among other things, misappropriation of trade secrets. Later, Crystal Falls Spirits, LLC, an entity created by Holeman, intervened to sue Boesch. At trial, the parties put on competing proof as to the value of Boesch’s interest. Ultimately, the Trial Court adopted Defendants’ value and rejected Boesch’s trade secrets claim. Boesch appeals. Because the experts failed to contend with Tenn. Code Ann. § 61- 1-701, which governs the determination of a disassociated partner’s buyout price when a partnership is not dissolved, we reverse and remand for a new determination in keeping with the statute’s requirements. Otherwise, we affirm the Trial Court’s judgment. We, therefore, affirm in part, and reverse, in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/14/20
Generation 4 Recycling Group, LLC v. Triumph Aerostructures, LLC - Vought Aircraft Division
M2019-01668-COA-R3-CV

This is an action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment that arises from an alleged breach of confidentiality during a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) process. The RFP contained a confidentiality provision stating that the defendant would “maintain strict confidentiality of all information provided in response to this RFP.” The plaintiff submitted the lowest bid, but after two requests for revised proposals, which the plaintiff declined to provide, the defendant awarded the contract to another business. In its complaint, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant revealed information about the plaintiff’s proposal to the other bidders in violation of the confidentiality provision to encourage them to lower their bids and, as a consequence, the plaintiff sustained damages. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged the defendant disclosed to the other bidders that they were not the lowest bidder and the percentage by which their bids exceeded the average bid. Following discovery, the trial court summarily dismissed all claims. This appeal followed. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the unjust enrichment claim on the ground that there was a valid contract. We also affirm the dismissal of the breach of contract claim on the ground that there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s contention that the defendant breached the agreement or that the alleged breach caused the plaintiff to sustain damages.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/11/20
David Von Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02181-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, David Von Brown, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony by a person having a prior felony conviction, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the effective seventeen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/11/20
In Re A.V.N.
E2020-00161-COA-R3-PT

This case involves a petition to terminate the parental rights of a mother and father. The petitioners alleged four grounds for termination against both parents: (1) abandonment by failure to visit; (2) abandonment by failure to support; (3) persistence of conditions; and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent. The trial court found all four grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court also found that it was in the best interest of the child to terminate both of the parents’ rights. The mother and father appealed separately. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/10/20
In Re Paisley H. Et Al.
E2020-00174-COA-R3-JV

Father appeals the trial court’s decision to allow grandparent visitation. We vacate and remand the trial court’s order because the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact for us to review its decision regarding its subject matter jurisdiction.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 09/10/20
In Re Treylynn T., et al.
W2019-01585-COA-R3-JV

This is a dependency and neglect case. Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received a referral of possible child abuse. Following Appellee’s investigation, the children were placed in foster care. Both parents were arrested on child abuse charges. Thereafter, Appellee initiated a dependency and neglect action in the juvenile court. In her criminal case, Appellant/Mother entered a best interest/Alford plea to the charge of child endangerment. Subsequently, the juvenile court found the children dependent and neglected. On de novo review, the trial court found that: (1) Mother’s Alford plea was dispositive of her guilt on the child endangerment charge; (2) Mother committed severe child abuse under Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-102 (b)(27)(C); and (3) the children were dependent and neglected. Mother appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
In Re Treylynn T., et al. - Dissent
W2019-01585-COA-R3-JV

In this case, the trial court ruled, and the majority affirms, that Mother’s conviction for child endangerment is preclusive evidence that she committed severe abuse in this dependency and neglect action. Because I believe that the majority opinion fails to consider the effect of the diversion that Mother received, I must respectfully dissent.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
William Rolandus Keel v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00612-CCA-R3-PC

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, William Rolandus Keel, of two counts of rape of a child, and the trial court ordered consecutive thirty-year sentences for each conviction, for an effective sentence of sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments. State v. William Rolandus Keel, No. M2016-00354-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 111312 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Jan. 11, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. April 13, 2017). The Petitioner timely filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through appointed counsel. After hearings on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court failed to provide him a full and fair post-conviction hearing. He further maintains that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court on the Petitioner’s various motions, but conclude that the post-conviction court improperly limited the Petitioner’s right to testify at the third part of the post-conviction hearing. Accordingly, we remand the case for a hearing to allow the Petitioner the opportunity to provide testimony concerning the allegations in his petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/20
Staci L. Hensley v. Stokely Hospitality Properties, Inc.
E2019-02146-COA-R3-CV

In this premises liability case, the plaintiff appeals the trial court’s dismissal of her claims against a hotel based on her failure to satisfy the notice requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 15.03 for amending her complaint to add a new party. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
Craftique Construction, Inc. v. Anthony G. Justice, Et Al.
E2018-02096-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal of a case involving a contract dispute. Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 09/09/20
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Lee Smith
E2019-02085-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Anthony Lee Smith, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the 10-year sentence imposed for his theft conviction in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
In Re Ky'Auri M.
E2019-02276-COA-R3-JV

A review of the record on appeal reveals that the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment. As such, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/08/20
Micah Ross Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00491-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Micah Ross Johnson, challenges the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he attacked his jury convictions for first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner raises numerous grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel; in addition, he raises an allegation of cumulative error based upon counsel’s ineffectiveness. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we are constrained to agree with the Petitioner that the post-conviction court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to enable appellate review of all his claims. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr.
E2019-00830-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr., pled guilty to attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance with the intent to sell. The Appellant was given a total effective sentence of fourteen years as a Range I offender. The Appellant subsequently filed a pro se motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. Upon being appointed counsel, the Appellant filed an amended motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the charges and to advise the Appellant as to a viable defense, resulting in an unknowing, involuntary plea. The trial court denied relief, and the Appellant appeals. Following our review, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
In Re Kash F.
E2019-02123-COA-R3-PT

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to establish the following statutory grounds of termination: (1) wanton disregard for the child’s welfare; (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan; (3) severe child abuse; and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent. The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the trial court.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
In Re Estate of Johnny Baxter Vaughn, Jr.
M2019-01611-COA-R3-CV

In her proposed final accounting, the administrator of an intestate estate sought court approval for, inter alia, the decedent’s funeral expenses and routine administrative expenses, including her attorney’s fees. She also sought to recover the costs she incurred to repair and sell the decedent’s house pursuant to an agreed order. The administrator is the decedent’s widow, and the remaining heirs, who are the decedent’s children from a prior marriage, opposed her request for reimbursement. The court denied her claims for post-death expenses finding “they were not timely filed because any request for reimbursement was required to be filed pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307.” The court also denied the administrator’s request to recover her attorney’s fees upon the finding that the legal services did not benefit the estate. We affirm the denial of the administrator’s request to recover her attorney’s fees. However, we have determined that the other “claims” for reimbursement of post-death expenses are not subject to the limitation provisions in Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307. This is because the statute pertains to debts and liabilities incurred by or on behalf of the decedent prior to his death. All of the expenses at issue were incurred after the decedent’s death; therefore, we reverse the trial court’s ruling that the administrator’s post-death “claims” were time-barred pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307. Because the court has supervisory authority to determine the reasonableness and necessity of expenses incurred for the benefit of and in the administration of the decedent’s estate, we remand with instructions for the trial court to determine whether each post-death expense was reasonable and necessary in light of all the relevant circumstances and to enter judgment accordingly.

Maury County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
James Warlick Ex Rel. Jo Ann Warlick v. Linda Kirkland
M2019-01576-COA-R3-CV

This is an action to set aside a quitclaim deed. In the Complaint for a Declaratory Judgment, the attorney-in-fact for the plaintiff alleges that the plaintiff was not competent to execute the quitclaim deed, that she did not intend to convey title to the property, and she did not receive consideration for the conveyance. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case-in-chief and upon the motion of the defendant, the court directed a verdict in favor of the defendant. The court found, inter alia, there was no competent evidence to support the allegations that the plaintiff was not competent to execute the quitclaim deed, that fraud occurred, or that a fiduciary duty owed to the plaintiff was breached, and there was no proof presented that the parties lacked a meeting of the minds. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 09/04/20
Patrick Bumpus v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01082-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Patrick Bumpus, appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and his petition for post-conviction relief. He asserts various allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, challenges the knowing and voluntary nature of his pleas, and alleges that the State “breached the contract of [his] involuntary plea[s.]” After review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Steven King
W2019-01796-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Steven King, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion because his sentence of life plus twenty-five years was illegal pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), which held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile defendant violates the Eighth Amendment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Tareaun Griffin
M2019-02102-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Tareaun Griffin, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Terry William Smith
E2019-01572-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Terry William Smith, appeals his 2019 Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convictions of speeding, failure to obey a traffic control signal, reckless endangerment, evading arrest, violating the open container law, and driving under the influence, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support some of his convictions and that the trial court erred by ordering a sentence of split confinement. We affirm the defendant’s convictions, the imposition of a two-year effective sentence, and the trial court’s decision to order split confinement. Because the confinement term of the split confinement sentence exceeds that allowed under the terms of Code section 40-35-501(a)(3), we modify the term of confinement and remand the case for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting the modified sentence and the proper place of confinement.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/20