Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 06/18/2019
Format: 06/18/2019
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
Joe Logan Diffie v. Theresa Crump Diffie
M2018-00267-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce action, the husband contends the trial court erred in the division of marital property in awarding 60% of the marital estate to the wife and 40% to the husband, and in its decision to award the wife all four types of alimony. The wife takes issue with the amount of alimony awarded to her, and both parties seek attorney’s fees on appeal. We affirm the award of alimony in solido. As for the awards of alimony in futuro and transitional alimony, an award of alimony must be based on the factors known at the time of the hearing, Ford v. Ford, 952 S.W.2d 824, 829-30 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996); however, the trial court considered the husband’s “speculative income,” that being what he might earn in the future, in setting the amount of alimony in futuro and transitional alimony. Accordingly, we reverse the amounts awarded for in futuro and transitional alimony and remand to the trial court to make additional findings of fact and conclusions of law to determine the wife’s need for each category of alimony and the husband’s ability to pay based upon the relevant factors and facts known at the time of the divorce, and enter judgment accordingly. We vacate the award of rehabilitative alimony because it was not requested, and there is no competent evidence to support an award of rehabilitative alimony. Moreover, because we have affirmed the finding that the wife is entitled to receive transitional alimony, which should be awarded only when rehabilitation is not necessary, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 36–5–121(d)(4), she may not be awarded rehabilitative alimony. Additionally, we decline the husband’s request to recover his attorney’s fees on appeal but grant the wife’s request and remand this issue for the trial court to award the fees and expenses she incurred on appeal that were reasonable and necessary. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/23/19
Cordarius Maxwell v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00318-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Cordarius Maxwell, appeals the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief based upon the Petitioner’s failure to include a signed oath verifying his claims. We conclude that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition without first providing the Petitioner with an opportunity to correct the deficiency. Accordingly, we reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment and remand the case to allow the Petitioner the opportunity to correct the deficiency and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/19
Cordarius Maxwell v. State of Tennessee-Dissent
W2018-00318-CCA-R3-PC

I conclude that the post-conviction court properly dismissed the petition for failing to comply with the mandates of Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-30-104(d), (e) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 28 § 5(E)(2). Therefore, I respectfully dissent from the majority’s opinion reversing the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Detrick Turner
W2018-00726-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Detrick Turner, was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-two years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that his sentence is excessive. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/19
Tommy Gayden v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00787-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Tommy Gayden, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of second degree murder and resulting sentence of thirty years to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, he contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Lindsey S. Seymour
M2018-01008-CCA-R3-CD

Lindsey S. Seymour, Defendant, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated statutory rape, and her case was deferred pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313. After successfully completing the terms of judicial diversion, Defendant moved to be discharged from probation and to have the indictments against her dismissed. On May 1, 2017, the trial court entered an Agreed Order that “discharged and dismissed” all indictments in Case Number 9614 “with prejudice.” Section 4 of the Agreed Order provided that “Defendant shall be removed from the sexual offender registry” (“SOR”). Approximately two and a half months after the agreed order was entered, the trial court, in error, allowed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) to intervene, and the trial court vacated Section 4. At the time the motion to intervene was filed, the order dismissing all charges against Defendant with prejudice was final, and there was no pending action in which the TBI could intervene. Additionally, the trial court had neither subject matter jurisdiction over Defendant’s criminal case nor personal jurisdiction over Defendant at that time. Therefore, there is no criminal case for this court to review, and Defendant does not have an appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(b). We therefore dismiss the appeal.

Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/19
Frances Brooks v. Royce Bates
E2017-02011-COA-R3-CV

Royce Bates (“Defendant”) appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court for Hancock County (“the Trial Court”) awarding Francess Brooks (“Plaintiff”) a judgment against Defendant in a breach of contract action. Defendant raises issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in not dismissing the case because the amounts were owed to Hugh G. Brooks Industries, LLC and not to Plaintiff and whether the Trial Court erred in not dismissing the case based upon Plaintiff’s alleged lack of standing to sue for a debt owed to the now deceased Hugh G. Brooks. We find and hold that Defendant waived his issues by not presenting them to the Trial Court. We, therefore, affirm the Trial Court’s judgment.

Hancock County Court of Appeals 04/22/19
State of Tennessee v. Charles Montague
E2018-01549-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Charles Montague, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his motion to suspend the balance of his sentences. Because the trial court stated no basis for its denial of the motion, we review de novo. Nevertheless, Defendant’s motion is devoid of a basis for relief under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-306(c), and the motion was filed approximately twenty-four years too late for consideration under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/19
State of Tennessee v. Jamichael Dewayne Keith
E2018-00851-CCA-R3-CD

On December 4, 2017, the Defendant, Jamichael Dewayne Keith, pleaded guilty to possession of more than 0.5 grams of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with intent to sell, and attempted possession of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, with intent to sell. The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of eight years of incarceration for the methamphetamine charge and six years of incarceration for the heroin charge. The Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his request for probation. After thorough review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/19
Steven Williams v. Gateway Medical Center, Et Al.
M2018-00939-COA-R3-CV

In this health care liability action, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for failure to substantially comply with the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) upon determining that the plaintiff’s pre-suit notice failed to include a HIPAA-compliant medical records authorization. The trial court found that the medical records authorizations provided by the plaintiff failed to include a “[d]escription of information to be used or disclosed” and an expiration date. The trial court further determined that these deficiencies prejudiced the defendants from mounting a defense because they were unable to obtain the relevant medical records. As a result, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed without prejudice. The plaintiff timely appealed. We consider the plaintiff’s omission of an expiration date insignificant. The HIPAA form provided by the plaintiff failed to substantially comply with the statute because it did not include a description of the information to be used or disclosed, thereby causing prejudice to the defendants. We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 04/18/19
Steven Williams v. Gateway Medical Center, Et Al. - Concurring In Part and Dissenting In Part
M2018-00939-COA-R3-CV

I concur in the result of the majority’s opinion insofar as it affirms the dismissal of the action on the basis, set forth in Section V, that Dr. Johnson was not an employee of Gateway Medical Center and, consequently, did not have access to Ms. Williams’ medical record. I concur with the holding in Section IV A that the omission of an expiration date on the HIPPA authorization was insignificant and did not keep the form from being substantially compliant with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). I respectfully disagree with the holding in Section IV B that the failure of Mr. Williams to check the box to authorize access to specific medical records makes the authorization non-compliant. In my opinion, the purpose of the authorization form is to allow the recipient to receive the records pertinent to the case, thus serving as a bypass to the normal procedures for discovery governed by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Consistent with the letter and spirit of the discovery rules, any deficiency in the authorization forms that limit the recipient’s ability to obtain the pertinent records should be addressed in accordance with Rule 26.       

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 04/18/19