Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/17/2019
Format: 07/17/2019
Venture Holdings, LLC v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, by and through Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals
M2018-01838-COA-R3-CV

This case involves an appeal to the Davidson County Chancery Court (“trial court”) of an administrative zoning decision denying an application for a special exception permit. In January 2018, the petitioner, Venture Holdings, LLC (“Venture”), filed an application with the respondent, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, acting by and through the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals (“the Board”), for a special exception permit to build a waste transfer station at a particular location. Following an administrative hearing, the Board denied Venture’s application upon finding that Venture had failed to meet the applicable requirements set forth by the Zoning Code for Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro Code”). Venture, through a petition for writ of certiorari, appealed the Board’s decision to the trial court, alleging that the Board’s decision was not supported by substantial or material evidence and was illegal, arbitrary, and capricious. Following a hearing, the trial court found substantial and material evidence to support the Board’s decision and affirmed the Board’s denial of Venture’s application. Venture timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.       

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/29/19
In Re Laura F.
M2017-01767-COA-R3-PT

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child. The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence three statutory grounds for termination of parental rights: abandonment by willful failure to support and by willful failure to visit and persistence of conditions. The court also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Upon our review of the record, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 04/29/19
James Kirby v. Memphis Light Gas & Water
W2017-02390-COA-R3-CV

The driver of a delivery truck was injured when the delivery truck collided with a utility truck. The trial court determined that the utility company was 70% at fault and the delivery driver was 30% at fault. The court awarded the delivery driver $105,000 in damages. On appeal, the utility company argues that the trial court erred in including future medical expenses in its calculation of damages and that the delivery driver failed to mitigate his damages. We find no error in the trial court’s award of damages and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Derek Cunningham
W2018-02075-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Derek Cunningham, appeals from the denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because Defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Bumpus
W2018-01034-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Patrick Bumpus, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary. The State concedes that the trial court erred by summarily denying the motion. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/19
U.S. Bank National Association, et al. v. Marce Harvey Ingram, et al.
W2018-01689-COA-R3-CV

This a declaratory judgment action in which the plaintiff sought to reform a deed that included an incorrect description of the property at issue. The plaintiff alleged that a mutual mistake had occurred and that the parties to the transaction intended to encumber a 2-acre tract of land, not a 0.7-acre tract of land as described in the deed. The plaintiff claimed that the land had also been improperly released. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendants appeal. We affirm.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 04/26/19
In Re: O.M. Et Al.
E2018-01463-COA-R3-PT

Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of father, J.M., with respect to his children, O.M. and K.M. The court held clear and convincing evidence exists to terminate father’s parent rights on the ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1), and for failure to manifest an ability to parent, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(14). By the same quantum of proof, the court held that termination is in the children’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 04/26/19
Joseph Mark Whitmore v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01526-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Joseph Mark Whitmore, appeals from the Putnam County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in failing to find that trial counsel was ineffective in advising him that he could withdraw his guilty plea within thirty days of his sentencing hearing and in failing to adequately represent him at sentencing. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Shannon James Keener
M2018-00730-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Shannon James Keener, pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to rape and received a ten-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant claims that his sentence is excessive and that the trial court erred by refusing to grant his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/19
In Re Antoine J., et al.
W2017-02456-COA-R3-JV

The mother of a three-year-old child appeals the trial court’s ruling that she committed severe child abuse under Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-102(b)(27). The Department of Children’s Services (the “Department”) received a referral from a Memphis hospital after determining that the child had suffered a fractured femur along with other injuries that were not usually caused by normal childhood play. Following its initial investigation, the Department determined that the injuries were the result of abuse by the mother’s boyfriend. Subsequently, the Department filed a petition against the mother and her boyfriend to declare her children dependent and neglected and the victims of severe child abuse. A juvenile court magistrate and the juvenile court judge each found the children dependent and neglected and that the mother committed severe child abuse by failing to protect the child from her boyfriend’s abuse and failing to timely seek medical attention for the child. Following an appeal, the circuit court made the same findings. The mother appeals the determination that she committed severe child abuse. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/26/19
James C. Gekas v. HCA Health Services Of Tennessee, Inc., Et Al.
M2019-00535-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from an order granting the defendants’ Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Because the plaintiff did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the order as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/25/19
Margaret Winebrenner v. Johnnie Mackalyn Godwin, Et Al.
M2017-00270-COA-R3-CV

This appeal illustrates the, not uncommon, choice of law problems that can arise when an unmarried couple begins cohabitation in one state and then moves to another state and one of the cohabitants dies. After meeting and living together in California, the cohabitants moved to Tennessee, where they lived together for a number of additional years. When one of the cohabitants died, the other sought a declaratory judgment against the decedent’s children and the trustee of a trust created by the decedent that, among other things, the cohabitants’ relationship entitled the surviving cohabitant to support in the form of “palimony” as allowed by California law. The children and the trustee moved for summary judgment, which was granted. On appeal, the surviving cohabitant argues that the trial court erred in not applying California law to an agreement for support that was made in California. We conclude that, under our choice of law rules, Tennessee law applies.  

Maury County Court of Appeals 04/25/19
Comcast Holdings Corporation, Et Al. v. Tennessee Department of Revenue, Et Al.
M2017-02250-COA-R3-CV

This action involves a multistate taxpayer suit concerning an assessment against four Comcast entities doing business in Tennessee for the payment of additional franchise and excise tax liabilities for cable television and internet receipts from Tennessee subscribers. Comcast filed suit against the Tennessee Department of Revenue, alleging that the assessments improperly attributed the cost of performance of various earnings producing activities to Tennessee. Following a hearing, the trial court determined that Comcast failed to correctly identify its earnings producing activity, thereby requiring judgment for the Department. The court alternatively ruled that the activities underlying the licensing costs for video content took place in Tennessee, supporting the assessment for cable television receipts. The court entered judgment against Comcast. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/25/19
John O. Threadgill v. Board of Professional Responsibility Of The Supreme Court Of Tennessee
E2018-01211-SC-R3-BP

After attorney John O. Threadgill was convicted of tax evasion, this Court ordered that the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Board”) initiate proceedings to determine his final discipline. A hearing panel (“Panel”) imposed a final discipline of disbarment. Mr. Threadgill sought review of the Panel’s judgment in the Knox County Chancery Court, and the chancery court affirmed Mr. Threadgill’s disbarment. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 1.3, Mr. Threadgill has appealed the chancery court’s judgment to this Court. In this appeal, he argues: (1) that the Panel and the trial court lacked jurisdiction to impose disbarment; (2) that the judgment was unsupported by substantial and material evidence; and (3) that the judgment is contrary to the intent of the American Bar Association guidelines. Following a thorough review of the record and the applicable legal authorities, we affirm the judgment of the Knox County Chancery Court. 

Knox County Supreme Court 04/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Eugene Blaylock
M2017-02136-CCA-R3-CD

Following a trial, a jury convicted Defendant, Bobby Eugene Blaylock, of kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, attempted rape, robbery, and theft valued at more than $1,000 but less than $2,500, for which the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of forty-four years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred by failing to find that the mitigating factor found in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-304(b)(2) applied to Defendant’s case. The State cross-appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by finding that the State’s “Notice of Defendant’s Status as a Repeat Violent Offender” (the “State’s Notice”) was deficient and by failing to sentence Defendant as a repeat violent offender. Following a thorough review, we modify Defendant’s sentence for aggravated kidnapping to life without possibility of parole. We remand for the entry of an amended judgment sentencing Defendant, as a repeat violent offender, to life without possibility of parole in Count 2 and for the trial court to impose a sentence on the merged conviction of kidnapping in Count 1. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Calvera
E2018-00982-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Christopher Calvera, was indicted for retaliation for past action, a Class E felony; and assault, a Class A misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-101, -16-510. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of the retaliation for past action charge and acquitted of the assault charge. The trial court later imposed a four-year sentence for the retaliation conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (2) the trial court committed plain error in denying his motion for a mistrial alleging that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Wayne Johnson
M2017-01672-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Timothy Wayne Johnson, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his motion filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, in which Defendant alleged that his split confinement sentence was illegal because the judgment form designated his confinement in the Tennessee Department of Correction, rather than the local jail or workhouse. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Bryan Keith Thomas
E2017-02247-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Ryan Kevin Thomas, was indicted for first degree premeditated murder; first degree felony murder; and theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000; a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -14-103, -14-105 (2010). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and of the charged offenses of first degree felony murder and theft. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-210 (2010). The trial court later merged the second degree murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction and imposed a total effective sentence of life. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions for first degree felony murder and second degree murder; (2) the trial court erred in admitting an autopsy photograph; (3) the trial court erred in excluding hearsay testimony from a proposed witness for the defense; and (4) the trial court erred in approving the jury’s verdict as the thirteenth juror.1 Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/19
Phillip Harris v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01091-CCA-R3-PC

Phillip Harris, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of attempted second degree murder, five counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, and one count of unlawful employment of a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, for which he received a total effective sentence of fourteen years and six months to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, but the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing.  On appeal, Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to discuss trial strategy with Petitioner and inform Petitioner of the proof to be presented by the defense at trial. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Raffael Fansano
E2018-00664-CCA-R9-CD

The Defendant, Raffael Fansano, was indicted for aggravated rape. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress his confession, arguing, among other things, that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights due to his intellectual disability. The trial court granted the Defendant’s motion to suppress, and the State sought and was granted an interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the State contends that the Defendant was not in custody when he made the statement at the police department and, alternatively, that the trial court erred when it determined that the Defendant did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/19
Larry Mark Mangum v. Laney Celeste Mangum
E2018-00024-COA-R3-CV

In this appeal, the wife challenges the trial court’s designation of the husband as the primary residential parent of the minor children, the crafting of the parenting plan, and the marital property determinations. The trial court neglected to make findings under the appropriate statutory provisions. We vacate the judgment except as to the divorce and remand with instructions to make findings of fact and conclusions of law that consider all the relevant and applicable statutory factors.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 04/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Chimayne Lorreizn Talley
M2018-00304-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Chimayne Lorreizn Talley, pled guilty to theft of property over $2,500, vandalism under $1,000, and possession of a theft tool. The trial court imposed a sentence of seven years for theft, and eleven months, twenty-nine days each for vandalism and possession of a theft tool. The vandalism and possession of a theft tool convictions were ordered to be served concurrently with each other and consecutively to the theft conviction for an effective sentence of seven years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in setting the length of the sentences, by ordering his sentences to run consecutively, and by ordering his sentences to be served in confinement. Having reviewed the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Amber Nicole Ray
E2018-00900-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Amber Nicole Ray, appeals from her Carter County jury convictions of rape of a child and incest, for which she received an effective sentence of twenty-five years’ confinement. In this direct appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in ruling the minor victim’s out-of-court recorded statement was admissible hearsay at trial pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to cross-examine the Defendant regarding the conditions of her home; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. Upon our review, we affirm.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Cholly Demarcus Harris
E2018-00534-CCA-R3-CD

The Knox County Criminal Court revoked the probationary sentences of the Appellant, Cholly Demarcus Harris, and ordered that he serve the balance of his effective elevenyear sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). On appeal, the Appellant acknowledges that he violated his probation but contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering that he serve his sentences in confinement. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/19
David B. Starkey v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
M2018-00049-COA-R3-CV

After receiving notice of foreclosure proceedings, a homeowner filed suit against the bank challenging the bank’s authority to foreclose, demanding verification of the debt, and asserting multiple causes of action against the bank. The bank counterclaimed for slander of title, breach of contract, and declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. In response to the bank’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court determined that the bank was the holder in due course of the promissory note and the deed of trust and granted the bank summary judgment on all claims asserted by the homeowner and on the bank’s claims for breach of contract and for declaratory and injunctive relief. The bank subsequently moved forward with a foreclosure sale and purchased the homeowner’s property. The trial court then held two hearings on damages and awarded the bank a total of $194,554.23 in damages, which consists of the balance due on the loan, rent due after the foreclosure, and attorney fees and litigation expenses. On appeal, the homeowner raises numerous issues regarding the damages awarded to the bank. Finding no merit in the issues raised by the homeowner, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/23/19