Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 06/18/2019
Format: 06/18/2019
John Wesley Sullivan, Et Al. v. Brenda Kreiling
M2018-00885-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an unlawful detainer action initiated by the conservator of the owner of the property. After the general sessions court awarded the conservator possession of the property, the defendant appealed to circuit court. The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the conservator had exceeded the scope of the conservatorship in filing the unlawful detainer action, and that unlawful detainer was not the proper cause of action. The circuit court denied summary judgment, and the case proceeded to a bench trial. Following trial, the circuit court awarded possession of the house to the conservator, and the defendant now appeals. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 05/30/19
Samrat Mitra v. Suneetha Irigreddy
W2017-01423-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a contentious dispute over visitation and child support for the parties’ minor child. Having carefully reviewed the voluminous record before us, we hold that the evidence supports the parenting plan determination and other rulings made by the court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
River Plantation Homeowner's Association, Inc. v. R. Randall Capps, et al.
E2018-01084-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a lawsuit concerning the enforcement of restrictive covenants in a subdivision. River Plantation Homeowner’s Association, Inc. (“the Association”), later joined by certain individual property owners (“Plaintiffs” collectively), sued property owners R. Randall Capps and his wife Carolyn Brown Capps (“the Capps”) in the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) seeking enforcement of a restrictive covenant requiring homeowners to have a paved driveway. The Capps have a gravel driveway and wish to keep it. The Trial Court found in favor of Plaintiffs and ordered the Capps to install a concrete driveway. The Capps appeal, raising several issues, including one as to whether the Association lacks standing. We hold, inter alia, that the Association, although not specified in the restrictive covenants as a party capable of suing to enforce restrictions, has standing to do so. In light of the unambiguous driveway restriction and the fact that the Association never waived enforcement, we affirm the Trial Court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. However, we modify the Trial Court’s judgment to allow the Capps, if they so choose, to use asphalt instead of concrete, as the Association has no objection to it. In addition, we reverse the Trial Court’s decision to not award Plaintiffs their attorney’s fees incurred in successfully bringing this enforcement action where the restrictive covenants specifically provide for such attorney’s fees. We, therefore, remand for the determination and award to Plaintiffs of reasonable attorney’s fees. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Greene County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Kelly R. Harris v. Lonnie C. Harris
E2018-01445-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the wife. The husband and the wife appeared before the trial court and presented a settlement agreement for the trial court’s approval. Prior to entry of the court’s order approving the settlement agreement, the husband filed written notice that he no longer consented to the agreement. Following entry of the trial court’s order in June 2018, the husband filed a motion seeking to set aside such order pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. In his motion, the husband argued that the trial court had failed to supply him with a functioning voice amplification system that he had requested for use during the hearing and that he had misunderstood the terms of the parties’ agreement. The trial court denied the husband’s motion without hearing evidence regarding whether the husband had a disability for which accommodation during the proceedings was necessary or making a finding regarding whether he had properly requested the accommodation as asserted in his motion. Upon a thorough review of the record, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for an evidentiary hearing concerning the husband’s motion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Jed Emert v. Millennium Taxi Service, LLC, et al.
E2018-01450-COA-R3-CV

The trial court granted summary judgment to various of the defendants in a personal injury action. The Plaintiff appeals, contending that material facts are in dispute, precluding summary judgment. Finding that disputes of material fact exist, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Jed Emert v. Millennium Taxi Service, LLC, et al. - dissenting opinion
E2018-01450-COA-R3-CV

I would affirm the trial court’s holding that plaintiff failed to produce evidence sufficient to enable a reasonable trier of fact, without speculation, to find that the defendant driver caused the door to close on plaintiff as he exited the taxi.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Endeavor Metals Group, LLC v. Andrew McKevitz
E2018-01724-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an action in the circuit court to set aside a default judgment entered in the general sessions court as void on the grounds the general sessions court lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. After the judgment creditor filed his answer, the judgment debtor moved for summary judgment on these issues. Per the requirements of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03, the judgment debtor filed a statement of undisputed material facts supported by citation to the record that the individual upon whom service of process was effectuated was not a partner, managing agent, officer, or an agent authorized to accept service of process on its behalf. In his response to the motion, the judgment creditor agreed that some of the facts were undisputed but disputed others; however, in contravention of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03, he did not cite to the record in support of the facts to which he contended there was a dispute. Accordingly, the circuit court deemed all of the facts in the statement of undisputed material facts to be undisputed. Based on the undisputed facts, the circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the general sessions court lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Bradley James Cox v. Laura Nicole Lucas
E2017-02264-SC-R11-CV

We granted this appeal to consider whether a circuit court loses continuing, exclusive subject matter jurisdiction if a post-divorce petition seeking modification of a parenting plan adopted in a final divorce decree alleges facts that are tantamount to claims of dependency and neglect, over which juvenile courts have exclusive original jurisdiction pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-103. After we granted this appeal, the General Assembly amended section 37-1-103 to expressly provide that a circuit court retains subject matter jurisdiction in these circumstances until and unless a pleading is filed or relief is sought in juvenile court and the juvenile court’s exclusive original jurisdiction is invoked. Act of April 18, 2019, 2019 Tenn. Pub. Acts ch. 167. The General Assembly applied this amendment to all cases pending on its April 18, 2019 effective date, including this appeal. Id. § 2. Because no pleading was filed in juvenile court nor was the juvenile court’s exclusive jurisdiction invoked in any other manner in this case, the circuit court retained subject matter jurisdiction of the post-divorce petition. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the judgment of the circuit court is reinstated.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/29/19
Lewis Alvin Minyard v. Laura Nicole Lucas
E2017-02261-SC-R11-CV

We granted this appeal to consider whether a circuit court loses continuing, exclusive subject matter jurisdiction if a post-divorce petition seeking modification of a parenting plan adopted in a final divorce decree alleges facts that are tantamount to an unruly child claim, over which juvenile courts have exclusive original jurisdiction pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 37-1-103. After we granted this appeal, the General Assembly amended section 37-1-103 to expressly provide that a circuit court retains subject matter jurisdiction in these circumstances until and unless a pleading is filed or relief is sought in juvenile court and the juvenile court’s exclusive original jurisdiction is invoked. Act of April 18, 2019, 2019 Tenn. Pub. Acts ch. 167. The General Assembly applied this amendment to all cases pending on its April 18, 2019 effective date, including this appeal. Id. § 2. Because no pleading was filed in juvenile court nor was the juvenile court’s exclusive jurisdiction invoked in any other manner in this case, the circuit court retained subject matter jurisdiction of the post-divorce petition. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the judgment of the circuit court is reinstated.

Knox County Supreme Court 05/29/19
Joseph E. Suggs v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01147-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Joseph E. Suggs, acting pro se, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Davidson County Criminal Court, claiming his judgments of conviction for rape of a child are void because they lack the required
file-stamp. After review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/19
Eddie J. Smith, Jr. v. Theresa Y. Peoples
M2018-00910-COA-R3-CV

In this matter, mother relocated with the parties’ minor child from Tennessee to Florida. Father filed an “Amended Petition to Modify Parenting Plan and Objecting (sic) to Maternal Relocation and for Contempt.” Father’s motion for criminal contempt alleges that mother failed to adhere to the permanent parenting plan and blatantly violated Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108(a) when she moved to Florida without the consent of father. On April 25, 2018, after a hearing on the petition, the trial court entered an order modifying the permanent parenting plan. However, there is nothing in the court’s order resolving father’s petition for contempt. Because there is not a final order resolving all of the claims and issues in the proceedings below, we lack subject matter jurisdiction to consider this appeal.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/28/19
Charles M. Flagg, Jr. v. Hudson Construction Company Et Al.
E2017-01810-COA-R3-CV

A motorcyclist sustained severe injuries in an accident on a recently paved portion of a state maintained highway. Alleging that his accident was caused by loose gravel on the highway from the recent paving project, the motorcyclist filed separate actions against the state contractor who resurfaced the state highway and the State of Tennessee. The two actions were consolidated in the circuit court for discovery and trial. Both defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff could not prove that the gravel came from the paving project or that the defendants had notice of the gravel before the accident. The state contractor also argued that it was discharged from liability under the State Construction Projects Liability Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 12-4-503 (2011). The trial court initially denied the motions. But after the defendants filed motions to alter or amend based on new evidence, the court reversed its decision and granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims. The plaintiff appealed. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred in excluding lay witness opinion testimony and in ruling that expert proof was necessary to determine the source of the gravel. Taking the strongest legitimate view of the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, we conclude that the plaintiff demonstrated genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. So we reverse.

Polk County Court of Appeals 05/28/19
Susan Lynn Slagle v. Robert Wayne Slagle
E2018-01633-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff Susan Lynn Slagle (Wife) filed this divorce action in May of 2018. Defendant Robert Wayne Slagle (Husband) did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. Wife moved for a default judgment. A hearing was set for August 2, 2018. Husband appeared pro se at the hearing, still having filed nothing with the trial court. The trial court, without hearing any proof, granted Wife a default judgment on the ground of inappropriate marital conduct. Shortly thereafter, the trial court entered its final judgment dividing the marital property. Husband filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(1) motion for relief, asking the trial court to set aside the judgment. The trial court denied Husband’s motion. On appeal, we hold that Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-114 (2017) requires a trial court to hear proof of the facts alleged before granting a divorce on any ground other than irreconcilable differences, in the absence of a valid stipulation between the parties. Because the trial court did not in this case, we vacate the judgment and remand for a trial.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 05/24/19
Eric Lovett Et Al. v. Marshall Steven Cole, Jr. Et Al.
E2018-00719-COA-R3-CV

Eight owners of real property in the Daniels2 Estates Subdivision in Roane County, filed suit seeking equitable relief and money damages from defendants, Marshall Steven Cole, Jr. and his wife, Sarah Cole, after defendants allegedly blocked and/or otherwise made impassable a disputed drive known as “Kudzu Drive.” In a later-filed separate action, two additional owners of property in the subdivision filed suit seeking equitable relief and money damages from Mr. Cole individually. Collectively, plaintiffs claim Kudzu Drive is part of a “joint private permanent easement” dedicated to the use of all of the tract owners in the subdivision. Defendants, on the other hand, claim that the easement consists of a road known as “Daniel Road,” of which Kudzu Drive is not a part. Kudzu Drive, defendants allege, is an independent drive situated exclusively on their property. After a bench trial, the court held that Daniel Road and Kudzu Drive encompass one subdivision road dedicated to the use of all subdivision residents. It held that all right, title, and interest in the disputed drive is vested in the homeowner’s association by virtue of an after-the-fact quitclaim deed executed to it by the subdivision’s previous owner and developer, Mrs. Melvia Mae “Peggy” Daniel. The court enjoined defendants from preventing the homeowner’s association from improving or opening “Kudzu Drive.” The court ordered defendants to remove two gates, a berm, and any other obstructions preventing ingress and egress along Kudzu Drive. The court awarded “damages to all of the [p]laintiffs for [s]lander of [t]itle.” The court awarded $14,133.79 in attorney’s fees and expenses to each set of plaintiffs in the consolidated matters. The court awarded an additional $750 to plaintiffs in Eric Lovett et al. v. Marshall Steven Cole, Jr. et al. for attorney’s fees and expenses incurred in preparing the final order for the trial court’s signature. Defendants appeal. We reverse the trial court’s judgment in which the court decreed that the property referred to as Kudzu Drive is a part of the joint private permanent easement dedicated to the use of all of the tract owners. We hold, instead, that Kudzu Drive is an independent drive situated exclusively on the defendants’ property. In view of our decision, we also reverse all monetary awards of the trial court.

Roane County Court of Appeals 05/24/19
Ralph Salas Et Al. v. Marshall Steven Cole, Jr.
E2018-01082-COA-R3-CV

Eight owners of real property in the Daniels Estates Subdivision in Roane County, filed suit seeking equitable relief and money damages from defendants, Marshall Steven Cole, Jr. and his wife, Sarah Cole, after defendants allegedly blocked and/or otherwise made impassable a disputed drive known as “Kudzu Drive.” In a later-filed separate action, two additional owners of property in the subdivision filed suit seeking equitable relief and money damages from Mr. Cole individually. Collectively, plaintiffs claim Kudzu Drive is part of a “joint private permanent easement” dedicated to the use of all of the tract owners in the subdivision. Defendants, on the other hand, claim that the easement consists of a road known as “Daniel Road,” of which Kudzu Drive is not a part. Kudzu Drive, defendants allege, is an independent drive situated exclusively on their property. After a bench trial, the court held that Daniel Road and Kudzu Drive encompass one subdivision road dedicated to the use of all subdivision residents. It held that all right, title, and interest in the disputed drive is vested in the homeowner’s association by virtue of an 1 These two matters were consolidated at trial and for the purpose of oral argument before us. 2 The last name of the subdivision’s creator is “Daniel.” However, the subdivision’s designation took on the plural “Daniels.” 05/24/2019 -2- after-the-fact quitclaim deed executed to it by the subdivision’s previous owner and developer, Mrs. Melvia Mae “Peggy” Daniel. The court enjoined defendants from preventing the homeowner’s association from improving or opening “Kudzu Drive.” The court ordered defendants to remove two gates, a berm, and any other obstructions preventing ingress and egress along Kudzu Drive. The court awarded “damages to all of the [p]laintiffs for [s]lander of [t]itle.” The court awarded $14,133.79 in attorney’s fees and expenses to each set of plaintiffs in the consolidated matters. The court awarded an additional $750 to plaintiffs in Eric Lovett et al. v. Marshall Steven Cole, Jr. et al. for attorney’s fees and expenses incurred in preparing the final order for the trial court’s signature. Defendants appeal. We reverse the trial court’s judgment in which the court decreed that the property referred to as Kudzu Drive is a part of the joint private permanent easement dedicated to the use of all of the tract owners. We hold, instead, that Kudzu Drive is an independent drive situated exclusively on the defendants’ property. In view of our decision, we also reverse all monetary awards of the trial court.

Roane County Court of Appeals 05/24/19
Theophilus Ebulueme v. Fred E. Onoh
M2018-00742-COA-R3-CV

The Circuit Court for Montgomery County (“the Trial Court”) entered a default judgment in favor of Theophilus Ebulueme (“Plaintiff”) in this breach of contract action. Fred E. Onoh (“Defendant”) filed a motion pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60 to vacate the judgment asserting that Defendant was not properly served and never received notice of the suit. The Trial Court denied the Rule 60 motion. Defendant appealed to this Court. We find and hold that Plaintiff did not achieve personal service and that the service by publication that was attempted was improper. As such, Plaintiff failed to properly serve Defendant rendering the default judgment void. We, therefore, vacate the Trial Court’s August 7, 2017 order granting a default judgment and the Trial Court’s order denying Defendant’s Rule 60 motion.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/24/19
State of Tennessee vs. Michael Freeman
E2018-00778-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Michael Freeman, appeals his second degree murder conviction, alleging that (1) the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress his police statement because he made an unequivocal request for a lawyer; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and (3) that the trial court erred by issuing a flight instruction to the jury. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the Defendant’s issues do not entitle him to relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed. 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/19
Robert Johnson v. Memphis Guitar Spa, LLC
W2018-00665-COA-R3-CV

After losing in general sessions court, Plaintiff attempted to appeal the judgment to the circuit court. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and a counterclaim in the circuit court. Plaintiff’s appeal was thereafter dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it was not perfected in a timely manner. The circuit court then entered a default judgment against the Plaintiff based upon Plaintiff’s failure to respond to the counterclaim. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the circuit court lost subject matter jurisdiction over the counterclaim upon the dismissal of the appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/23/19
Stacy Renee Carter v. Antonio Elmore Carter
E2019-00655-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a final order in the parties’ divorce proceeding entered on April 18, 2017. The Notice of Appeal, filed with the Appellate Court Clerk on April 16, 2019, was accompanied by a motion seeking leave to file it late, presumably pursuant to certain provisions in Rule 4(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, and because there is no authority in Rule 4(a) for a waiver of the timely filing of a Notice of Appeal in a civil case, we do not have jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Blount County Court of Appeals 05/23/19
Rocky McElhaney Et Al. v. Hughes & Coleman PLLC Et Al.
M2019-00124-COA-R3-CV

The defendants have appealed from the trial court’s rulings granting the plaintiffs a partial summary judgment and directing the entry of a final judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. Because the order appealed was not properly entered under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58 and because the order is not appropriate for certification as final under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02, we dismiss the appeal

Wilson County Court of Appeals 05/23/19
In Re Lennon R.
M2018-00541-COA-R3-JV

This is an appeal from the trial court’s order that: (1) designated Father/Appellee as primary residential parent; (2) awarded him sole decision-making authority; and (3) set visitation. Mother/Appellant appeals: (1) the designation of Father as primary residential parent; (2) the award of sole decision-making authority to Father; and (3) her number of parenting days with the child. Because the trial court failed to make any findings regarding decision-making authority, we vacate the trial court’s award of sole decision-making authority to Father and remand for findings of facts and conclusions of law related to same. We also conclude that the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to maximize Mother’s parenting time with the child. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s visitation award and remand for a more equal award of parenting time. Finally, we reverse the trial court’s order concerning child support and remand for a recalculation of support consistent with the new parenting schedule entered on remand. The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Cameron Neil Brown
M2018-00943-CCA-R3-CD

The petitioner, Cameron Neil Brown, appeals the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/19
Karen Nisenbaum v. Michael Nisenbaum
M2017-02330-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce action, the trial court awarded Wife transitional alimony of $2,000 per month for 24 months and $1,000 per month for the next 24 months; the court denied her requests for alimony in futuro and for alimony in solido to cover the cost of future dental care. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Christian Padgett
E2018-00447-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Christopher Christian Padgett, was convicted for felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life in prison. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce indirect hearsay evidence regarding an eyewitness’s description of the suspect’s shoes in violation of the rules of evidence and the Confrontation Clause. Additionally, Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce a recording of Defendant’s conversation with his mother taken at the police service center because the statements were taken in violation of Defendant’s reasonable expectation of privacy protected by the Tennessee and United States Constitutions. After a review, we hold that the trial court committed harmless error by admitting the indirect hearsay description of the suspect and that Defendant is not entitled to plain error relief on the other issues raised. Thus, we affirm the judgment of the trial court, but we remand this case for entry of judgment documents in Counts Two and Four.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/19
Jack R. Owen Revocable Trust v. City of Germantown Tennessee, et al.
W2018-01662-COA-R3-CV

Appellee Germantown Planning Commission voted to change the zoning designation of property held by Appellant trust. In response, Appellant filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari seeking review of the Planning Commission’s decision. Appellees moved for dismissal of Appellant’s petition for writ of certiorari under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(1). Following a hearing on Appellant’s request for temporary injunction to halt Appellee City of Germantown from taking any action on the Planning Commission’s recommendation for rezoning, the trial court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss finding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Planning Commission’s recommendation did not constitute a final judgment for purposes of review under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 27-9-101. On appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court’s adjudication of the motion to dismiss was premature because Appellant had no opportunity to respond to the motion. Appellant also contends that the grant of the motion to dismiss was error because, under Tennessee Code Annotated sections 13-7-203(b) and 13-7-204, the Planning Commission’s decision was a final approval of the rezoning as opposed to a mere recommendation. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/23/19