Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/07/2020
Format: 07/07/2020
Penny Wilson v. Weigel Stores, Inc.
E2019-00605-COA-R3-CV

This is a premises liability action in which the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant convenience store for personal injuries resulting from her slip and fall near the gasoline pump. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant caused or created or should have discovered with reasonable diligence the condition that caused her fall. The plaintiff appeals. We reverse the trial court’s decision. We remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/19/20
SHAWN GRAY, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ANGELA G. GRAY, DECEASED v. JEREMY G. BAIRD ET AL.
M2019-01056-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal of the trial court’s decision to summarily dismiss a claim of vicarious liability against the owner of the vehicle that was involved in a fatal vehicular accident. The driver of the vehicle was the son and employee of the vehicle owner, and it is alleged that the driver was acting in the course and scope of his employment with the vehicle owner at the time of the collision. The owner of the vehicle filed for summary judgment, and the trial court found the affidavits and deposition testimony of the owner and his son refuted the prima facie evidence of vicarious liability created by Tenn. Code. Ann. §§ 50-10-311 and -312 that the son was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision. The plaintiff appeals contending that summary judgment was not proper because the owner and his son were interested witnesses and their credibility was at issue. We agree. It is undisputed that the son’s employment necessitated his travel on the road where the collision occurred, and whether the son had deviated from the defendant’s business prior to the collision is a material fact that is in dispute. For this reason, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Rutherford County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 05/19/20
ARACELI CORDOVA EX REL. ALFREDO C. ET AL. v. NASHVILLE READY MIX, INC. ET AL.
M2018-02002-COA-R3-CV

This wrongful-death action arises out of the death of a Lemay Concrete employee who was struck and killed by a third party’s cement-mixer truck while acting in the course and scope of his employment. The issues in this appeal are post-settlement disputes concerning an attorney’s fee lien filed by the plaintiffs’ first attorney, a subrogation lien filed by the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, and the assessment of postsettlement discretionary costs against the carrier. The employee’s family instituted this action after agreeing to pay their first attorney 33% of the gross recovery or “a reasonable attorney’s fee” if they discharged him before recovering. While the action was pending, the insurance carrier paid workers’ compensation benefits to the family and, after declining a settlement offer of $400,000, the plaintiffs discharged their attorney. The plaintiffs then retained substitute counsel. Months later, the wrongful-death claim was settled for $1,350,000. The plaintiffs then sought to void their first attorney’s fee agreement and requested the trial court deduct a portion of their substitute counsel’s fees from the carrier’s subrogation lien. The trial court referred all issues to a special master. The special master found the fee agreement was valid and recommended a fee of $133,333—or 33% of $400,000, the amount of the last “firm offer” secured during the first attorney’s representation. The special master’s report contained no findings and identified no factors relied upon in determining that $133,333 was a “reasonable fee,” other than finding the amount would be one-third of the last “firm offer” obtained by the first attorney. The special master also found the carrier’s own counsel protected its subrogation lien and, thus, recommended that the carrier not be liable for any portion of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The trial court adopted verbatim the special master’s findings and recommendations. Additionally, the court assessed post-settlement discretionary costs against the carrier in lieu of a deduction for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. This appeal followed. We have determined that the fee awarded to the plaintiffs’ first attorney was not based on the relevant legal principles or applicable facts because the trial court’s ruling was based entirely on the special master’s recommendation—which addressed only one of the guidelines in Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(a) 05/19/2020 - 2 - for determining what a reasonable fee is. Therefore, we vacate the fee awarded to the plaintiffs’ first attorney and remand this issue to the trial court to award “a reasonable fee” that is based on the relevant facts and factors. We also reverse the trial court’s ruling that the workers’ compensation carrier was not liable for any portion of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and remand this issue for apportionment of the fees incurred by the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Accordingly, we also reverse the assessment of discretionary costs against the workers’ compensation carrier and remand this issue for reconsideration.

Cheatham County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 05/19/20
Wali Muhammad v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01198-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Wali Muhammad, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2017 Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery. In this appeal, the petitioner claims, as he did below, that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because his guilty pleas were not knowingly, voluntarily, or intelligently entered. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Derrick Darnell Moore and Demichael Tyrone Moore
M2018-01764-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendants, Derrick Darnell Moore and Demichael Tyrone Moore, were convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2018) (first degree murder); 39-13-403 (2018) (especially aggravated robbery). Defendant Derrick Moore was also convicted of criminally negligent homicide, which the trial court merged into the felony murder conviction. See id. § 39-13-212 (2018) (criminally negligent homicide). Defendant Demichael Moore was also convicted of second degree murder, which the trial court likewise merged into the felony murder conviction. See id. § 39-13-210 (2018) (second degree murder). The trial court sentenced Defendant Derrick Moore to concurrent terms of life imprisonment for felony murder and twenty years for especially aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced Defendant Demichael Moore to consecutive terms of life imprisonment for felony murder and thirty-two years for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Defendants contend that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support their convictions, (2) the trial court violated the rules of evidence and their confrontation rights by admitting as substantive evidence a recording of a conversation in which the Defendants were implicated in the offenses, and (3) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during its rebuttal closing argument. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Johnny James Parrish
E2019-00664-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Johnny James Parrish, was convicted by a Greene County Criminal Court Jury of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, for which he is serving an effective fifteen-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 102(a)(1) (2014) (subsequently amended). On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the State made an inadequate election of offenses, (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial based upon the victim’s not having been sequestered before he testified, (4) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) regarding a prior bad act of the Defendant toward the victim, and (5) he is entitled to a new trial due to cumulative errors. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Kurt Douglas Brown
E2019-01068-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Kurt Douglas Brown, was convicted by a Campbell County Criminal Court jury of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-1307 (2014) (subsequently amended). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender to eight years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred (1) by admitting as evidence the 9-1-1 recording and his previous voluntary manslaughter conviction and (2) by determining that his previous aggravated assault conviction was a crime of violence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
Robert G. Thornton, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01259-CCA-R3-PC

In 2014, a Hickman County jury convicted the Petitioner, Robert G. Thornton, Jr., of two counts of rape, and the trial court merged his convictions and sentenced him to twelve years of incarceration. The Petitioner appealed his convictions to this court, and we affirmed the judgments. State v. Robert G. Thornton, Jr., No. M2015-01895-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 2704123 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, June 22, 2017), no perm. app. filed. The Petitioner then filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
Courtney R. Logan v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01215-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner appeals the summary denial of his third petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he challenged his extradition to Mississippi. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
Richard Hatchel v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00098-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Richard Hatchel, appeals as of right from the Tipton County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to file a motion to suppress his two police statements. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Jocquez Parham
W2019-00868-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Jocquez Parham, of second-degree murder (Count 1), seven counts of attempted second-degree murder (Counts 2-8), and possession of a firearm during the commission of attempted second-degree murder (Count 9), for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of eighty-eight years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and argues the trial court erred in failing to designate Antonio Tibbs as an accomplice and in failing to charge the jury accordingly. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Antony Olivo
W2019-00530-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Anthony Olivo, was convicted, after a jury trial, of first degree murder during the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a theft, first degree murder during the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a robbery, attempted especially aggravated robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, and felon in possession of a handgun. The trial court merged the two first degree murder convictions and sentenced Defendant to life in prison. The trial court sentenced Defendant to twelve-years for the attempted especially aggravated robbery, eight-years for the felon in possession of a firearm conviction, and to four-years for the felon in possession of a handgun conviction. The two possession convictions were merged. The trial court ordered that the sentences be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of life in prison plus twenty years. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial which was subsequently denied. Defendant appeals the judgment of the trial court by arguing that the trial court erred in denying the motion in limine regarding prejudicial statements made by Mario Brodnax, that the trial court erred in denying the motion to bifurcate the felon in possession of a handgun charge, and that the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/20
Deborah Christine Moore v. Larry Gene Moore
E2019-00503-COA-R3-CV

The parties entered into a mediated agreement, which was incorporated into their divorce judgment. Following the entry of the judgment, Husband filed a timely motion to alter or amend the parties’ agreement, alleging a mutual mistake. The trial court granted the motion and reformed the agreement to impose additional obligations on Wife. Following our review, we reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Jay Aaron Jackson
M2019-01128-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jay Aaron Jackson, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of one count of coercion of a witness, two counts of domestic assault, and one count of domestic assault by extremely offensive or provocative physical contact. The trial court sentenced Defendant, as a Range II multiple offender, to an effective sentence of seven years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment based on a violation of Rule 16 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure and Brady v. Maryland; (2) the trial court erred by permitting the State to elicit impermissible and prejudicial evidence in violation of Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s convictions for coercion of a witness and one count of domestic assault; (4) the trial court erred in sentencing Defendant as a Range II multiple offender; and (5) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on flight. Following a thorough review, we affirm the convictions for coercion of a witness (Count 1), domestic assault (Count 3), and domestic assault by extremely offensive or provocative physical contact (Count 4) and reverse the conviction for domestic assault (Count 2). Because the sentence in Count 2 was ordered to be served concurrently with Count 1, we affirm the effective sentence of seven years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days’ incarceration.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Gerald Sluder
E2019-01321-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Gerald Sluder, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the parties agreed to a five-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve one year in confinement and the remainder on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in imposing a sentence of split confinement. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Wayman
E2019-01357-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Michael Wayman, pleaded guilty to sale of a Schedule II controlled substance (Count 1) and delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance (Count 2). The trial court merged the two counts and imposed a sentence of nine years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erroneously denied his request for alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgements of the trial court.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Wayne Keith Wallen
E2019-01218-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Wayne Keith Wallen, appeals the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion. Though conceding the challenged sentence has expired, the defendant, relying on Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251 (Tenn. 2007), argues the trial court erred in dismissing his petition. The trial court, relying on State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200 (Tenn. 2015), found that the defendant’s sentence had expired and that the defendant’s claim required relitigating the case in order to determine whether the sentence was illegal which is not proper under Rule 36.1. Thus, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion. Upon our review of the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
Rudolph Munn v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02240-CCA-R3-ECN

In 1999, a jury convicted the Petitioner, Rudolph Munn, of killing his college roommate, Andrew Poklemba. State v. Munn, 56 S.W.3d 486, 489 (Tenn. 2001). This court affirmed his conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, see State v. Rudolph Munn, No. 01C01-9801-CCA-00007, 1999 WL 177341, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 1, 1999); however, a dissenting judge would have remanded the matter for a new sentencing hearing. Id. (Tipton, dissenting). The Tennessee Supreme Court agreed that a new sentencing hearing was necessary and held, inter alia, that the Petitioner had a lawful expectation of privacy, and thus, police secret videotaping of the Petitioner’s communications with his parents constituted an illegal seizure under the federal and state constitutions, as well as under the federal and state wiretapping statutes. Munn, 56 S.W.3d 486. Upon remand in 2002, the Petitioner received a sentence of life without parole. Sixteen years later, on November 13, 2018, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, arguing that one of his trial counsel was “slightly biased” based upon his “unequivocal ties” to the university attended by the Petitioner and the victim at the time of the offense. The Petitioner further alleged that he was entitled to due process tolling of the statute of limitations because he became aware of these ties on or about November 17, 2017. Two days after the petition was filed, it was summarily dismissed by the coram nobis court as untimely and unsupported by due process considerations to toll the statute of limitations. The Petitioner now appeals, and upon our review, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
William E. Eakes, III v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00050-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, William E. Eakes, III, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Davidson County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists in his case. After our review, we conclude the petition is untimely and does not present a cognizable claim for coram nobis relief. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Glen Allen Donaldson
E2019-00543-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Glen Allen Donaldson, appeals his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury conviction of second degree murder, arguing that the trial court erred by excluding certain evidence, admitting into evidence a life photograph of the victim, and denying the defendant’s requested jury instructions on self-defense and provocation; that he was prejudiced by the cumulative effect of trial errors; that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and that his sentence was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Bruce D. Mendenhall
M2018-02089-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder and abuse of a corpse, for which he received sentences of life and two years, respectively. His sentences were ordered to be served consecutively to one another, as well as to two prior consecutive sentences from Davidson County of life imprisonment for murder and thirty years for three counts of solicitation to commit murder. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the following: (1) the trial court’s reliance on the doctrine of collateral estoppel to deny his various motions to suppress certain evidence, wherein he raised threshold constitutional issues; (2) the trial court’s denial of his motion to exclude 404(b) evidence and the failure to redact his police statement accordingly; (3) the trial court’s denial of his motion to continue based upon the State’s late disclosure of surveillance footage from the truck stop; (4) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions; and (5) the imposition of consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/20
Alysia Reese McCracken Hancock v. BJR Enterprises, LLC, Et Al.
E2019-01158-COA-R3-CV

This is a healthcare liability action. In her medical authorizations, the plaintiff left blank lines as to who was authorized to receive the patient’s records from the medical providers and others receiving notice. The defendants claimed that the authorizations were not HIPAA1-compliant, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26- 121(a)(2)(E). The plaintiff responded that by construing the pre-suit notice packet materials as one cohesive document, all of the elements required by the statute are present and that the defendants had at their disposal all of the information necessary to obtain the patient’s medical records. The plaintiff further asserted that the failure of the defendants to attempt to obtain the records precludes any demonstration of prejudice to them. The trial court determined that the plaintiff’s statutory notice failed to substantially comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/14/20
Alysia Reese McCracken Hancock v. BJR Enterprises, LLC, Et Al. - Concurring
E2019-01158-COA-R3-CV

I concur in the majority’s decision to affirm the Trial Court. I agree the authorization form was so insufficient as not to allow the medical providers to obtain medical records from the other providers. I, however, continue to adhere to the position as stated in my dissent in Parks v. Walker, 585 S.W.3d 895, 900 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2018) that if a medical authorization form along with other information provided to the healthcare providers is sufficient to enable them to obtain a plaintiff’s records simply by asking, then there is substantial compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E).

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/14/20
Tinin Contracting Company, Inc., et al v. Enviroworks, Inc.
M2019-00763-COA-R3-CV

This is a case involving the breach of an oral contract to provide excavation work and materials for an airport construction project in Bolivar, Tennessee. The trial court awarded $128,058.09 in favor of the subcontractor against the project’s general contractor. On appeal, the general contractor argued that the oral contract existing between the parties included the subcontractor sharing in certain surveying and testing costs incurred on its scope of work on the project, that it was entitled to a credit for these costs, and that, ultimately, the trial court miscalculated its award of damages. We affirm the trial court’s finding that there was no agreement existing between the parties for the subcontractor to incur any surveying or testing costs and that, as a result, the general contractor was not entitled to a credit for these expenses against the balance of the moneys it owed the subcontractor. However, because the order contains insufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as to why the trial court included an additional $5,593.40 in the final judgment beyond the damages sought in the complaint, we vacate that portion of the final judgment and remand the case to the trial court with instructions to reduce the judgment against the general contractor from $128,058.09 to $122,464.69.

Wayne County Court of Appeals 05/14/20
Sandra Ann Pippin v. Christina Michelle Pippin
M2018-00376-COA-R3-CV

The non-biological parent of a child born by artificial insemination to a woman with whom the non-biological parent had maintained a long term relationship and who had lived with the child, holding herself out as one of the child’s parents, filed a petition to establish her parentage of the child and to set a parenting schedule; the petition was dismissed on the basis that she lacked standing; the trial court also awarded the petitioner visitation with the child. Upon our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition and vacate the order setting visitation.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 05/14/20