Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/01/2020
Format: 12/01/2020

Defendant, Demarcus J. Love, was indicted by a Rutherford County Grand Jury for six counts of criminal simulation, one count of simple possession of marijuana, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license. Defendant filed a motion to suppress in which he argued that the officer did not have probable cause to stop him after he made a U-turn. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court granted Defendant’s motion. The State appeals the ruling of the trial court. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the officer had probable cause to stop Defendant. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Brodie Bowery

Brodie Bowery, Defendant, admitted that he violated the conditions of his probation, and the trial court fully revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/20

The Petitioner, Timothy L. Jefferson, appeals as of right from the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he contended that his conviction for second degree murder was void because the order transferring his case from juvenile court to criminal court was not file-stamped by the criminal court clerk’s office. The Petitioner argues that the petition stated a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/20
BOP, LLC, Et Al. v. Plastic Surgery Of Nashville, P.C., Et Al.

This appeal arises from a complaint for breach of a commercial lease agreement brought by the landlord to recover damages from the tenant and its guarantor. The tenant admitted breaching the lease but asserted that the landlord had been made whole prior to the commencement of this action and was not entitled to an award of damages. The tenant also asserted a counterclaim for attorney’s fees as authorized by the lease. The trial was bifurcated. A jury determined that the landlord was not entitled to recover any damages because the landlord recovered its damages in full in a previous proceeding in general sessions court, the landlord failed to mitigate its damages, and its claims were barred by res judicata. Following a bench trial on the parties’ competing claims to recover attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to the lease agreement, the court determined that the tenant and guarantor were entitled to recover their attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing parties. The landlord appeals. We affirm the court’s decision in all respects. Because the lease agreement states the prevailing party in any action, or appeal thereon, shall be entitled to its reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs and Defendants prevailed on all issues on appeal, we remand with instructions for the trial court to award Defendants the reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and costs they incurred in this appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/08/20

The Defendant, Dale Richard Bible, was convicted by a jury of criminally negligent homicide and child neglect, for which he received consecutive sentences of six and four years, respectively. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-212, -15-401. On appeal, the Defendant argues that his dual convictions violate double jeopardy. After our review, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for entry of corrected judgments reflecting the merger of the Defendant’s adjudications of guilt into a single conviction for criminally negligent homicide.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Edwin Eaker

The Defendant, Edwin Eaker, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of four counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-14-403 (2018). The trial court merged two convictions involving an April 13, 2018 home burglary and two convictions involving an April 10, 2018 home burglary, and the court sentenced the Defendant to serve fifteen years for each conviction as a career offender. The court imposed the sentences consecutively, for an effective sentence of thirty years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/20

The Defendant, Eddie Maddle, was convicted by a Putnam County jury of possession with the intent to sell or deliver .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Class C felony, and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range II multiple offender to fifteen years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant raises the following four issues on appeal: 1) whether the trial court erred by allowing evidence of crimes committed by the Defendant’s wife; 2) whether the State established a reliable chain of custody for the drugs admitted into evidence at trial; 3) whether the Defendant was entitled to a mistrial on the grounds that a Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) employee entered the courtroom and disrupted his trial; and 4) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/20
Richard Vaughn v. City of Murfreesboro And The Second Injury Fund

Employee injured his left shoulder during a training session. He was diagnosed with a torn shoulder ligament which required a surgical repair of the left shoulder. Nine months later, Employee’s treating physician performed a posterior capsular release of the left shoulder. When his symptoms failed to improve, Employer authorized follow up care with a different orthopedic surgeon, who performed another surgery to release the bicep tendon that had been previously repaired. Employer was provided with a letter from Employee’s treating physician that Employee’s restrictions had been lifted. Employee was required to take a return to duty test, which he ultimately failed. Subsequently, Employee developed intermittent violent movements of his head and was diagnosed with conversion disorder. At the request of Employee’s counsel, Employee underwent an independent medical examination by a psychiatrist, who concluded that the conversion disorder arose out of Employee’s work injury. However, because the psychiatrist noted issues regarding symptom magnification, he reduced Employee’s psychiatric impairment rating to ten percent. Following a trial, the court awarded benefits for injuries to Employee’s left shoulder and for the psychiatric injury; however, it found that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled. The trial court also declined to apply a multiplier to the impairment rating for the psychiatric injury and award temporary total disability related to that injury. The Employee appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 10/07/20

Defendant, Edward Parnell Porter, was convicted of aggravated assault, domestic assault, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction and its sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days into the aggravated assault conviction. The court imposed a sentence of eight years and six months as a Range II offender for aggravated assault and eleven months, twenty-nine days for reckless endangerment to be served concurrently with each other and consecutively to a “federal sentence and any unexpired sentence.” On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that his sentence is excessive. Having reviewed the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/06/20
Crouch Railway Consulting, LLC v. LS Energy Fabrication, LLC

The issue in this appeal is whether a Tennessee court may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a Texas corporate defendant involved in a contractual dispute with a Tennessee company it chose to perform specialized professional services. A Texas oil-drilling company elected to contract with a Tennessee civil engineering company for custom design and consulting services related to the potential construction of a railcar repair facility in Texas. The Tennessee company performed the services primarily out of its principal place of business in Tennessee. When the Texas company failed to pay in full, the Tennessee company filed a civil action in Tennessee for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The Texas company moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(2). The Williamson County Chancery Court granted the motion, finding (1) that the Texas company lacked the “minimum contacts” necessary for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction, and (2) that requiring the Texas company to litigate in Tennessee would be unreasonable and unfair. The Court of Appeals reversed, relying primarily on Nicholstone Book Bindery, Inc. v. Chelsea House Publishers, 621 S.W.2d 560 (Tenn. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 994 (1982). Although we find Nicholstone to be consistent with our opinion today, we base our review on contemporary jurisprudence in this area of the law. We hold that, consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Tennessee company established a prima facie case for the valid exercise of personal jurisdiction over the Texas company. Additionally, the exercise of jurisdiction would not be unfair or unreasonable. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Williamson County Supreme Court 10/06/20
In Re Layton W.

The trial court terminated a father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and abandonment by failure to support his child. The father stipulated to certain grounds for termination but appeals the trial court’s conclusion that terminating his parental rights is in the best interests of the child. Because the trial court’s findings as to the grounds for termination do not relate to the father’s conduct during the relevant time period prescribed by statute and the trial court’s final order fails to show that the trial court considered the best interests factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 10/06/20
Cored, LLC v. Steve Hatcher, Et Al.

This is an appeal from a company’s claim of a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act against the individual owners of a limited liability company serving as its contractor. In 2017, Cored, LLC entered into a construction contract with Astercor Group, LLC for the construction of two homes in Nashville. A dispute arose as to the specifics of the contract, and a complaint was filed against Cored, LLC, for breach of contract. In response to the complaint against it, Cored, LLC filed its own complaint against the individual owners of Astercor Group, LLC for violating the Contractor’s Licensing Act of 1994 and thus violating the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Although the respective lawsuits were eventually consolidated, this appeal concerns only Cored, LLC’s lawsuit against the individual owners of Astercor Group, LLC. The trial court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the statute of limitations had run due to the company’s failure to properly serve the individual owner defendants. Additionally, the trial court denied the individual owners’ request for attorney’s fees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-12-119(c). For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court in both respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/06/20
Marcus Vaughn v. State of Tennessee

The Petitioner, Marcus Vaughn, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted rape, and he received a five-year sentence on probation. The Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief, and the post-conviction court denied his petition on the ground that the statute of limitations barred its consideration of his claims. The Petitioner appeals. After review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Myron Jacques Fulton

The defendant, Myron Jacques Fulton, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original ten-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.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/06/20
In Re: Lijah D. Et Al

This appeal arises from the trial court’s finding that grounds exist for terminating a mother and father’s parental rights to four children, and its finding that termination is in the children’s best interest. In this appeal, the parents contest only the best-interest determination. They contend termination was not in the children’s best interests because, inter alia, the Department of Children’s Services failed to use “reasonable efforts” to help them make a lasting adjustment to their circumstances. We affirm the trial court’s determination that the grounds of severe abuse and persistent conditions were proven and that termination of the parents’ rights is in the children’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of both the mother and the father’s parental rights.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/05/20
State Of Tennessee v. Stephen R. Mayes

Stephen R. Mayes, Defendant, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After a review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/20

After entering guilty pleas to aggravated robbery and facilitation of aggravated robbery, the Petitioner, Brian Cameron Frelix, sought and was denied post-conviction relief. The Petitioner appeals, asserting that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel when she did not file a motion to suppress a statement he had made to authorities in Williamson County. He also contends that the State violated his right to counsel because the inmate who was housed with him was a State agent who interrogated him without an attorney. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the Petitioner’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance and that his Sixth Amendment claim has been previously determined. Accordingly, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/20
Teresa Grimes Kidd, Et Al. v. James Q. Dickerson, Et Al.

In this health care liability action, the surviving daughter of a woman who died as a result of a stroke brought suit as executrix of her mother’s estate and as her next-of-kin against two physicians and their practice group as well as a pharmacist who filled a prescription for her and the pharmacist’s employer. Plaintiff alleged that the death occurred due to a stroke her mother suffered as a result of taking the drug Pradaxa, which had been prescribed by the defendant doctors and filled by the defendant pharmacist and the defendant pharmacy (the “pharmacy defendants”).  The trial court granted summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants on all claims, holding that the proof submitted by Plaintiff was insufficient to establish the element of causation; the court granted summary judgment to the defendant doctors on Plaintiff’s claims that their negligence caused and hastened the decedent’s death, and the claim that the doctors did not have the decedent’s informed consent to administer Pradaxa; the court granted summary judgment to one doctor on all claims; and the court denied summary judgment to one doctor and the practice group on the remaining claims.  Plaintiff appeals the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants and the doctors; the remaining doctor and practice group appeal the denial of their motions for summary judgment on the remaining claims.  Upon ourde novo review, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to the pharmacy defendants; we affirm the grant of summary judgment to Dr. Thomas Farmer in toto; we affirm in part the grant of partial summary judgment to the doctors and their group and remand for further proceedings on whether the nurse practitioner’s actions caused Ms. Grimes’ injury and suffering during the period of October 20 until she was stabilized in the hospital, as well as whether the remaining doctor and practice group are liable for that negligence under a respondeat superior theory.

Maury County Court of Appeals 10/05/20
State of Tennessee v. James Edward Knight

The Defendant, James Edward Knight, pled guilty to aggravated assault, a Class C felony, in exchange for a sentence of nine years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the sentence be served in confinement, which the Defendant now challenges. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Johntel Billings

The defendant, Johntel Billings, was indicted for one count of aggravated assault (Count 1), one count of attempted aggravated robbery (Count 2), one count of simple assault (Count 3), and one count of vandalism (Count 4). A Madison County jury convicted the defendant of aggravated assault, simple assault, and vandalism. The trial court imposed a four-year sentence with the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support her aggravated assault conviction. The defendant also argues the trial court erred in sentencing her to four years of confinement, rather than probation. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/20
In Re: Estate Of Wawana Lynn Brakebill

Attorney Herbert Moncier (“Claimant”) brought this action for prejudgment and/or post-judgment interest on an award of $667,681.80 in attorney’s fees charged by Claimant for legal services rendered to W. Lynn Brakebill (“Decedent”). Claimant also sought an award of attorney’s fees against Decedent’s estate for his pro se legal work done in litigating the issues pertaining to his fees charged as an attorney. The trial court denied prejudgment and post-judgment interest and held that Claimant could not recover attorney’s fees for his time expended representing himself. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/02/20
Douglas Ralph Beier v. Board of Professional Responsibility of The Supreme Court of Tennessee
In this appeal from attorney disciplinary proceedings, the hearing panel of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility determined that the attorney’s conduct in two cases violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. In one case, the hearing panel found that the attorney signed the name of a witness on an affidavit, falsely notarized the signature, and did not disclose to the trial court or opposing counsel that he had signed the witness’s affidavit. In another case, the hearing panel found, the attorney persuaded a client in a probate matter to agree to an unreasonable contingency fee arrangement, took advantage of the client’s disability, misrepresented to the probate court that the client was the decedent’s sole heir, failed to disclose the existence of other heirs, and got the probate court to agree to close the estate without a detailed accounting in order to avoid judicial scrutiny of the unreasonable fee. The hearing panel suspended the law license of the appellant attorney for two years, with three months served as active suspension and the remainder on probation. The attorney and the Board both appealed the hearing panel’s decision to the chancery court. The chancery court affirmed the hearing panel’s findings as to rule violations and aggravating and mitigating factors, but it modified the sanction to two years active suspension. The attorney now appeals to this Court, arguing that his conduct was not dishonest, he did not take advantage of a vulnerable client, and his probate fee arrangement was not unreasonable. We affirm the hearing panel’s factual findings and its findings as to rule violations. In view of the seriousness of the violations, we affirm the chancery court’s modification of the sanction to two years active suspension.
Hamblen County Supreme Court 10/02/20
In Re Cortez P.

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court concluded that three grounds supported the termination of the father’s rights and also concluded that termination was in the child’s best interest. Although we reverse one ground for termination found by the trial court, we affirm the trial court as to the remaining grounds. Further, we conclude that the record supports the trial court’s holding that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 10/02/20
Oscar Smith v. State of Tennessee

Following a jury trial in 1990, Oscar Smith was sentenced to receive the death penalty in each of three first degree murder convictions in the Criminal Court of Davidson County. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of death in State v. Smith, 868 S.W.2d 561 (Tenn. 1993). Mr. Smith is scheduled to be executed February 4, 2021. This appeal by Mr. Smith is from the trial court’s summary dismissal of “Oscar Smith’s Omnibus Request for Relief on His Jury Claims,” (hereinafter “Omnibus Request”). After oral arguments and review of the briefs and the appellate record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court in part, and dismiss the appeal in part.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/20
The Petitioner-appellee, Marty Holland, pled guilty to attempted first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. As part of the plea, he agreed to serve a seventeen-year sentence. He also agreed to serve the sentence concurrently with a previously imposed federal sentence for an unrelated bank robbery charge and consecutive to a state sentence for an unrelated theft charge. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the postconviction court’s denial of the petition but remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing regarding one issue: whether the Petitioner was fully informed of the circumstances of agreeing to serve concurrent state and federal sentences. This issue was not raised by the Petitioner in his post-conviction petition or on appeal, was not argued by either party during the post-conviction hearing or on appeal, and was not decided by the post-conviction court. Based on our review of the law and the record before us on appeal, we hold that the Court of Criminal Appeals was without authority under the Post-Conviction Procedure Act of 1995 to remand this case for consideration of an issue that was not raised by either party. Therefore, we reverse the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals to remand this case, and we reinstate the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.
Hardeman County Supreme Court 10/02/20