Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/18/2020
Format: 09/18/2020
In Re: Katrina S.
E2019-02015-COA-R3-PT

Trista S. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights on the grounds of (1) persistence of conditions; (2) failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody of the child; and (3) mental incompetence. Mother also appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Because the record contains clear and convincing evidence supporting the grounds for termination and the best interests determination, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 09/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Janice A. Campbell
M2019-01730-CCA-R3-CD

As part of a guilty plea to driving under the influence (“DUI”), Defendant, Janice A. Campbell, reserved a certified question for appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). She asks this Court to determine whether her arrest for DUI in a private home without a warrant violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-7-103 when Defendant was arrested without being seen by an officer operating the vehicle in question and no vehicle accident was involved. After a review, we determine that the certified question is not dispositive. Consequently, the appeal is dismissed.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
Christopher M. Ferrell v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00726-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Christopher M. Ferrell, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2015 conviction for second degree murder. Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal. Following our review of the record, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
State of Tennessee v. David Charles Gambrell
M2019-00773-CCA-R3-CD

David Charles Gambrell, Defendant, was indicted for five counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure based on allegations made by his fifteen-year-old stepdaughter. Defendant pled guilty to amended charges of four counts of aggravated statutory rape with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. The remaining counts were nolle prossed. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s request for judicial diversion, ordering him to serve four years in incarceration for each conviction, with the sentences to be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of sixteen years. Defendant appeals his sentences. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
State of Tennessee ex Rel. James R. Wilson v. Howard Gentry, Et Al.
M2019-02201-COA-R3-CV

The petitioner sought a writ of mandamus to compel the production of the audio recordings from his post-conviction proceeding pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act. The trial court dismissed the petition, finding that the recordings were exempt from disclosure. The petitioner appeals. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/02/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TOMMY C. SIMPSON, JR.
M2019-01222-CCA-R3-CD

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Tommy Charles Simpson, Jr., Defendant, pled guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor reserving a certified question for appeal in which he asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Defendant argues that a state-licensed private security guard’s seizure of Defendant’s cell phone constituted “state action,” violating his Fourth Amendment rights. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Quantorius Rankins
M2019-00687-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Quantorius Rankins, entered a best interest plea pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997) to statutory rape. The agreement provided that the trial court would conduct a sentencing hearing to determine if Defendant would be granted judicial diversion and to determine if Defendant would be required to register as a sex offender. Following the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion, ordered Defendant to register as a sex offender, and imposed an out-of-range sentence of six years’ probation pursuant to the plea agreement. Defendant appeals the trial court’s decision. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Robert Thomas
W2019-01697-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Robert Thomas, entered guilty pleas to facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. The Defendant requested probation and judicial diversion. The trial court held a hearing and sentenced the Defendant to concurrent sentences of six years of probation for the facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction and “one year and time served” for the drug conviction. The trial court denied judicial diversion, and the Defendant appeals. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying diversion, and we affirm the judgments and remand for correction of the various judgment forms.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Andre Cabrere
W2019-02093-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Andre Cabrere, appeals the trial court’s entry of corrected judgment forms removing pretrial jail credits from two of the defendant’s consecutive sentences without providing the defendant notice prior to doing the same. The defendant claims the pretrial credits were part of his negotiated plea agreement. However, based on our review of the record and the briefs of the parties, it is unclear whether the awarding of pretrial credits was part of the defendant’s negotiated plea or a clerical error such that the trial court had the authority to amend the judgments under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case to allow the defendant the opportunity to respond and present proof of his claim.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Edward Walsh
M2019-00989-CCA-R3-CD

In October of 2015, Defendant, Edward Walsh, was indicted by the Clay County Grand Jury for first degree murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and theft of property. The theft of property charge was severed, and the tampering with evidence charge was nolled before trial. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse. The trial court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and a concurrent two-year sentence for the abuse of a corpse conviction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in not severing the offenses of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay, that the trial court was not impartial, that the State’s closing argument was based on inferences from facts not in evidence, and that evidence was insufficient to prove first degree murder. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/20
William Chase Knipper v. Erin Elizabeth Enfinger
W2019-02130-COA-R3-JV

Mother appeals the trial court’s rulings changing the surname of the child, denying awards of retroactive child support and uncovered medical expenses, and allowing Father to seek modification of the residential schedule without showing a material change in circumstances. We vacate the trial court’s award of a deviation of child support because the trial court did not make the required findings under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-2-311 and the Child Support Guidelines. As to the remaining issues, we reverse.

Chester County Court of Appeals 08/31/20
Ronallen Hardy v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02100-CCA-R3-ECN

In this consolidated appeal, Petitioner, Ronallen Hardy, appeals the summary dismissal of his petitions for post-conviction and error coram nobis relief after being convicted of first degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and resulting sentence of life without parole. See State v. Ronallen Hardy, M2008-00381-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 2733821, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 31, 2009), no perm. app. filed. The trial court merged the murder convictions and this Court merged the conspiracy convictions on direct appeal. Id. After a review of the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Cortez Lebron Sims
E2018-01268-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Cortez Lebron Sims, was convicted by a Hamilton County jury of one count of first degree premeditated murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court imposed a sentence of life for the first degree murder conviction as well as concurrent sentences of twenty-five years for each attempted first degree murder conviction and a consecutive sentence of six years for the employing a firearm conviction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying the Defendant’s motion for a change of venue; (2) admitting evidence related to a photographic lineup and an unavailable witness’s prior identification of the Defendant; (3) admitting a gang validation form showing the Defendant’s gang membership; (4) admitting a jail phone call between the Defendant and a third party; (5) admitting evidence of a gun and shell casings that were later determined to be unrelated to this case; (6) admitting a bloody onesie worn by the infant victim in this case; and (7) admitting evidence related to gang violence and an on-going gang feud. Upon our review of the record, we determine that the trial court did not commit reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/20
Volodymyr Helyukh, Et Al. v. Buddy Head Livestock & Trucking, Inc.
M2019-02301-COA-R9-CV

The dispositive issue in this personal injury action is whether the claims against the defendant trucking company for the tortious acts of its employee/truck driver are time-barred under Abshure v. Methodist Healthcare-Memphis Hospitals, 325 S.W.3d 98 (Tenn. 2010) or saved by the commencement of a new action under Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-105, Tennessee’s “savings statute.” After the plaintiffs commenced the new action, the company filed a motion to summarily dismiss the complaint, asserting the plaintiffs’ claims against the employee were procedurally barred before the new action was commenced. The trial court denied the motion because the first action was instituted before the plaintiffs’ right of action against the employee became extinguished by operation of law, and the second complaint was timely filed pursuant to the savings statute. For the same reason, we affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Deborah D. Bartley Et Al. v. Tiny Nunley, Individually And As Administratrix Of The Estate Of Anthony Gene Nunley
E2019-01694-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arose from a dispute between relatives concerning the ownership of improved real property. The property at issue was conveyed in 2000 via warranty deed to a married couple, William and Jewel Nunley, and their adult son, Anthony Gene Nunley, each as tenants in common. Following William Nunley’s death in 2007, Anthony Nunley purchased his mother’s interest in the property, executing a promissory note in the amount of $112,509.00 and a deed of trust secured by title to the property. In 2015, Jewel Nunley and Anthony Nunley executed a document stating that the remaining balance on the note was $37,509.00. Anthony Nunley (“Decedent”) died intestate in June 2016. Decedent’s surviving spouse, Tiny Nunley, filed a petition in the probate division of the Carter County Chancery Court (“probate court”) and was granted letters of administration to act as the personal representative (“Personal Representative”) of Decedent’s estate (“the Estate”). Jewel Nunley filed a claim against the Estate for the balance owed on the promissory note, which was later settled and released by agreement. Personal Representative filed an action in the probate court to reform the deed and quiet title to the subject real property. Two of Decedent’s three adult sisters objected and filed an action in the Carter County Chancery Court (“trial court”) to partition the property. The probate court transferred the reformation action to the trial court, treating Personal Representative’s petition to reform the deed and quiet title as a compulsory counterclaim to the partition action. The plaintiffs asserted that via the 2000 deed, the property was conveyed in part to William Nunley as a tenant in common with his one-third interest in the property then passing to his wife, Jewel Nunley, and their four children, including Decedent, through intestate succession.

Carter County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Marvin Duane Julian v. Debra Ann Julian
M2019-01573-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce case, Husband/Appellant appeals the trial’s courts award of $200,000.00 to Wife/Appellee under the parties’ prenuptial agreement. This award was based on the trial court’s finding that Husband’s net worth is at least $400,000.00. In their agreement, the parties waived alimony; nonetheless, Husband sought an award of alimony in the trial court. The trial court held that Husband did not meet his burden to show that he was a public charge so as to overcome his waiver of alimony. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm. 

Warren County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
In Re Trinity H.
M2020-00440-COA-R3-PT

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Macon County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of James H. (“Father”) to his minor daughter Trinity H. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights on the grounds of wanton disregard, severe child abuse, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. The Juvenile Court found also that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. With respect to wanton disregard, the Juvenile Court found only that Father committed criminal acts resulting in his incarceration, which by itself is insufficient to establish the ground. We, therefore, vacate the ground of wanton disregard. However, we find that the other two grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence and, by the same standard, that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. We vacate, in part, and affirm, as modified.  

Macon County Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Steven Kampmeyer, Et Al. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01196-COA-R3-CV

Appellants, Husband and Wife, filed a complaint for damages, including Wife’s loss of consortium claim, with the Tennessee Claims Commission.  The State filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss Wife’s loss of consortium claim because she did not file notice of her claim with the Division of Claims Administration within the applicable statute of limitations.  The Claims Commission dismissed Wife’s claim for failure to comply with the notice requirement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-402(b).  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 08/28/20
Amelia Johnson, et al. v. Millington Municipal Schools
W2019-01547-COA-R3-CV

Appellants filed suit against Appellee under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, alleging that Appellee breached its duty to protect Appellant/student, who was injured in a fight on school grounds. The trial court held that Appellants failed to meet their burden to show negligence and denied relief. The appellate record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence for our review as required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Accordingly, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings. Affirmed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/27/20
Richard Alan Ellis v. Donica Ann Woods Ellis
W2019-01869-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal in this divorce case. In Ellis v. Ellis, No. W2017-02287-COA-R3-CV, 2019 WL 410704 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2019), we vacated the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro to Wife and its award of alimony in solido for Wife’s attorney’s fees. Contrary to our mandate, on remand, the trial court failed to consider Wife’s relative earning capacity in relation to the award of alimony in futuro. Although the trial court affirmed its previous award of alimony in solido, it failed to consider payments Wife made from pendente lite support she received from Husband. Accordingly, we modify the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro to reflect Wife’s earning capacity, and we modify the award of alimony in solido to reflect payments made from pendente lite support.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/27/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JESSE L. DABBS
M2019-01732-CCA-R3-CD

The pro se petitioner, Jesse L. Dabbs, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Otis Lamar Taylor
W2019-01256-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Otis Taylor, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original three-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/20
C & C Tenn. Properties, LLC v. Reeves & Reeves Properties, LLC
E2018-01488-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a legal dispute between a landlord and a commercial tenant. The trial court found that the landlord, a recent purchaser of the commercial property, had breached the pre-existing lease. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/26/20
Scott Trent Et Al. v. Mountain Commerce Bank Et Al.
E2018-01874-SC-R11-CV

The issue presented is whether a quitclaim deed should be equitably reformed when reformation would benefit parties with constructive notice of a title defect and harm the rights of creditors with recorded judgment liens. A husband and wife quitclaimed parcels of real property to limited partnerships. The wife was omitted as a grantor on one of the quitclaim deeds even though she and her husband owned the property as tenants by the entirety. Two banks obtained judgments against the husband and wife and recorded the judgments. The property was later sold, and the purchasers and their lender discovered that the property was subject to the wife’s retained ownership interest and the banks’ recorded judgment liens. To remedy the error, the husband and wife signed a quitclaim deed of correction, referencing the wife’s omission as a grantor on the previous quitclaim deed. The purchasers and their lender then filed this declaratory judgment action asking the trial court to hold, based on mutual mistake, that the corrected quitclaim deed reformed the original quitclaim deed, vested ownership in the limited partnership, divested the wife’s interest, and removed the banks’ judgment liens. The trial court denied reformation, finding that there was no mutual mistake by the husband and the limited partnership who signed the original quitclaim deed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After considering the equities of the parties, we decline to grant reformation of the quitclaim deed because doing so would deprive the banks of their recorded judgment liens and benefit the purchasers and their lender who acquired the property with constructive notice of the wife’s remaining interest in the property and the banks’ recorded judgment liens. Thus, we need not decide whether reformation is an available remedy to correct a quitclaim deed by adding an omitted grantor. We affirm the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, based on different reasoning. 

Hamblen County Supreme Court 08/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Fallon Jenkins Moore
E2019-01270-CCA-R3-CD

A Sullivan County General Session Court found the defendant, Fallon Jenkins Moore, guilty of driving under the influence in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55- 10-401. The defendant appealed the judgment to the Criminal Court for Sullivan County and filed a suppression motion, arguing the police did not have reasonable suspicion to justify her initial seizure. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the State appealed, asserting the defendant’s seizure was supported by reasonable suspicion. Upon our review of the record, arguments of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we agree with the State and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/20