Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/13/2019
Format: 12/13/2019
State of Tennessee v. James Floyd Brewer, Jr.
M2018-00566-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, James Floyd Brewer, Jr., was convicted of two counts of possession of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to sell or deliver and one count of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court merged the methamphetamine convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective twelve years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of the Defendant’s car. Because we conclude that the search was valid as a search incident to an arrest and an inventory search, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Addair
E2018-00799-CCA-R3-CD

Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant, Jonathan Addair, of child abuse and domestic assault. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction into the child abuse conviction and sentenced the Defendant to serve three years and six months in confinement. On appeal the Defendant asserts the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for child abuse, and the trial court’s sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher A. Kemp
E2018-00536-CCA-R3-PC

The Appellant, Christopher A. Kemp, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, contending that his counsel was ineffective at the probation revocation hearing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Marquis Jeffries
M2018-00625-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Joseph Marquis Jeffries, of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless endangerment, domestic assault, interference with emergency communications, trafficking for a commercial sex act, and promotion of prostitution. The trial court merged various offenses and imposed an aggregate sentence of twenty-five years. The Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in not severing the sexual offenses from the assaultive offenses and that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of prior bad acts. We conclude that the offenses were properly joined and that there was no error in the admission of evidence, and we accordingly affirm the judgments.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
Stephen Richard Mayes v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01459-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, acting pro se, appeals from the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Upon our review, we affirm.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
Kenneth A. Weber, Et Al. v. Harold W. Kroeger, ET Al.
M2019-00406-COA-R3-CV

Two adjoining property owners disputed their shared boundary line. The contractor who renovated the houses on each of the parcels owned both properties before selling them to the parties, and he erected a privacy fence where he thought the property line was located. A survey conducted years after the parties had purchased the properties placed the boundary line in a somewhat different location than the location of the privacy fence. When one of the property owners began dismantling the fence in an effort to utilize the property that the survey showed belonged to them, the neighboring owners obtained a temporary restraining order to maintain the status quo and filed a declaratory judgment complaint to determine the boundary line. The trial court entered a judgment declaring that the privacy fence was the boundary line and that the parties jointly owned the fence. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s ruling declaring the location of the boundary line, but we reverse the ruling that the fence is jointly owned.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/10/19
In Re Omari T.
M2018-02227-COA-R3-JV

This appeal results from a custody action. A Missouri court issued an initial custody decision providing Cherita L. (“Mother”) with primary custody of Omari T. (“the Child”). Both parents and the Child later moved out of that state. Both Mother and the Child relocated to Tennessee. The father, Otis T. (“Father”), resided in Tennessee for a time but more recently had been living and working in Germany. In response to a petition to domesticate the foreign decree and modify custody, the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County (“Juvenile Court”) subsequently entered in July 2017 an “agreed order” reflecting that the parties resided in Tennessee and approving an agreed parenting plan designating Father as the primary residential parent of the child. The agreed order was signed only by the Juvenile Court Judge and Father’s counsel. Mother’s signature was not included on the agreed order nor was a certificate of service included showing that the order was provided to Mother. Approximately a year later, Father filed a contempt petition when Mother refused to return the Child to Father’s custody. In response, Mother filed a motion to set aside the agreed order modifying custody, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02(3), (4), and (5). The Juvenile Court denied Mother’s Rule 60.02 motion and determined that Mother had violated the Juvenile Court’s July 2017 order and held Mother in contempt. We hold that the Juvenile Court’s July 2017 order had no effective entry date pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58, and Mother, therefore, could not have been in contempt of that order. We affirm the Juvenile Court’s order transferring venue to Shelby County, and we vacate the July 2017 order and all other subsequent orders by the Juvenile Court concerning Father’s contempt petition.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 10/10/19
In Re Estate of Philip Roseman, Et Al.
M2019-00218-COA-R3-CV

This appeal originated from three related cases filed in the Probate Court for Davidson County. The issue on appeal relates to attorney’s fees and expenses. Finding no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/10/19
James Mulloy, Et Al. v. Eugene G. Mulloy, Jr. Et Al.
M2017-01949-COA-R3-CV

Two brothers formed a limited liability company to own and lease a commercial property. When the tenant sought to expand, both brothers sought to find a suitable space for the tenant to lease. The younger of the two brothers found a property that would ideally suit the tenant’s needs, a fact that was communicated to his brother. The older brother purchased the property through a newly created limited liability company without his younger sibling’s involvement. The older brother’s new limited liability company then leased the new property to the tenant. The younger brother brought a derivative suit against his brother and the newly formed limited liability company, claiming usurpation of a corporate opportunity belonging to the limited liability company that the brothers had formed together and tortious interference with business relationships. The younger brother also claimed unjust enrichment. Following a trial, the chancery court found in favor of the older brother and his newly formed limited liability company and dismissed the complaint. After our review of the record, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/10/19
Harold Wayne Nichols v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00626-CCA-R3-PD

Petitioner, Harold Wayne Nichols, pled guilty to first degree murder in 1990. A jury imposed the death penalty. In June of 2016, Petitioner moved to reopen his postconviction petition on the basis that the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), announced a new rule of constitutional law requiring retroactive application. The post-conviction court granted the motion to reopen, but after Petitioner amended his petition and asserted additional claims, the postconviction court denied relief without a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner argues (1) that the sole aggravating circumstance supporting his death sentence is unconstitutionally vague under Johnson; (2) that a judge, rather than a jury, determined facts in imposing the death penalty in violation of Hurst v. Florida, __ U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), a new rule of constitutional law requiring retroactive application; (3) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct at Petitioner’s sentencing hearing, along with a related ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim; (4) that the post-conviction court erred in canceling the scheduled evidentiary hearing without notice and a fair opportunity to be heard; (5) that the post-conviction court erred in denying the parties’ proposed settlement agreement to vacate the death sentence and enter a judgment of life imprisonment; and (6) that Petitioner’s death sentence is invalid due to the cumulative effect of the asserted errors. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
In Re Justine J. Et Al.
E2019-00306-COA-R3-PT

This termination of parental rights case involves two children. Father/Appellant appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support and willful failure to visit. Because Father did not receive sufficient notice of the grounds for termination of his parental rights, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 10/10/19
Dontell Sawyer v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00187-CCA-R3-HC

On July 7, 2017, the Petitioner entered a guilty plea, pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997), to possession with intent to sell a Schedule I controlled substance. In exchange for his plea, the Petitioner received a 10-year sentence to be served as a multiple offender in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The judgment of conviction shows that this 10-year sentence is to be served consecutively to one case from 2012 and two cases from 2013. Handwritten in the pre-trial jail credit section is, “NO J/C.” On October 9, 2018, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he did not receive 406 days of pre-trial jail credit. Based on the Petitioner’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements for habeas corpus relief and his failure to state a cognizable claim for relief, the State moved to dismiss the petition, and the habeas corpus court agreed. In this appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred in dismissing his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
Denita McMahan v. City of Cleveland, Tennessee
E2018-01719-COA-R3-CV

In this action brought under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, the plaintiff sought damages from the City of Cleveland for injuries received when she fell after tripping on a raised, cracked and uneven section of a public sidewalk. In pertinent part, the plaintiff alleged that the city’s immunity under the Act should be removed based on constructive notice because the city created the dangerous condition by planting trees along the sidewalk in the 1990s and roots from those trees caused the unsafe condition. Alternatively, the plaintiff asserted that immunity should be removed under the common occurrence theory of constructive notice because the tree roots caused numerous and similar defects in other sections of the city’s sidewalks. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that the city did not have actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect in the sidewalk and held that the city was immune from liability under Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-20-203(b). This appeal followed. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial judge’s finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the city had actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect in the sidewalk where she tripped and fell, we hold that immunity under the GTLA was not removed and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Yodelkis Contreras
M2017-02210-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Yodelkis Contreras, appeals from the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his 2005 Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of aggravated robbery, claiming that, because the original sentence of probation was illegal, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his probation and that the delay between the issuance of the original probation violation warrant and the probation revocation hearing violated his constitutional right to a speedy disposition of the violation. We conclude that although the originally-imposed sentence of 10 years’ probation was illegal, see T.C.A. § 40-35-303(a), the defendant’s current sentence of 10 years’ confinement is not. Thus, regardless OF whether the trial court possessed jurisdiction to revoke the defendant’s probation due to the sentencing illegality, the trial court retained jurisdiction to correct the illegal sentence and impose a sentence of 10 years’ confinement. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
In Re Brendan G.
M2019-00081-COA-R3-PT

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of (1) failure to establish or exercise paternity; (2) severe child abuse; and (3) sentence of imprisonment for severe child abuse. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm the trial court.

Warren County Court of Appeals 10/09/19
Gabriel C. Torres v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01629-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Gabriel C. Torres, appeals from the Robertson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his rape of a child conviction, for which he is serving a twenty-five-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the
post-conviction court erred in denying his claim that trial counsel provided ineffective relative to the communication of guilty plea offers. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
Kondaur Capital Corporation v. Keith T. Finley
W2019-00143-COA-R3-CV

The mortgage holder on property in Cordova, Tennessee initiated foreclosure proceedings against the mortgagor in general sessions court and obtained a judgment. The mortgagor appealed to circuit court, the mortgage holder moved for summary judgment, and the circuit court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the mortgage holder. The circuit court denied the mortgagor’s motion for relief pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02, and this Court dismissed the mortgagor’s appeal.

In the case at issue in the present appeal, the mortgagor filed another motion for relief pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 in the circuit court, and the circuit court again denied the motion. We conclude that the mortgagor has failed to comply with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and has waived all issues stated in his brief. Consequently, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Frank Deangelo Taylor
W2019-00328-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Frank D. Taylor, appeals from the dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because Defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
Kayla Nicole (White) Blakney v. Justin Taylor White
W2018-00640-COA-R3-CV

This is a consolidated appeal concerning a post-divorce action that involves the father’s petition to modify the parties’ existing permanent parenting plan. The trial court named the father as primary residential parent of the parties’ child, increased the father’s
co-parenting time to 271 days per year, reduced the mother’s co-parenting time to 94 days annually, and required that the mother’s co-parenting time be supervised. The court further granted the father sole decision-making authority with respect to the child’s education, non-emergency health care, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular activities. The mother has appealed. Having determined that the trial court failed to settle the differences between the parties’ competing statements of the evidence, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand this matter for the trial court to make the necessary findings required by Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 24(e) and transmit a proper supplemental record to this Court.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 10/08/19
Yolanda Carter v. Maurice Butler
W2019-00175-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a dispute related to the interpretation of a lease purchase agreement. However, because the trial court did not make sufficient findings of facts and conclusions of law, we are unable to conduct a meaningful appellate review. Accordingly, we vacate the order and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/08/19
Antonio L. Fuller v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00340-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Antonio L. Fuller, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Logan Lawson
E2018-01566-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Curtis Logan Lawson, appeals from his Knox County convictions for burglary, theft of merchandise, and criminal trespass. Defendant argues that his burglary conviction should be dismissed because the burglary statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-402(a)(3), does not apply to buildings that are open to the public. Defendant also argues that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on principles of statutory construction and on the defense of ignorance or mistake of fact, that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for burglary, and that the trial court erred in denying his request for a community corrections sentence. Based upon our review of the record, briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Logan Lawson - concurring in part, dissenting in part
E2018-01566-CCA-R3-CD

For the reasons stated in State v. Welch, No. E2018-00240-CCA-R3-CD, 2019 WL 323826, at *5 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 23, 2019)(J. McMullen, dissenting), appeal granted (May 17, 2019), I dissent from Part I of the majority conclusion in this case. In all other respects, I concur.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
Karen Abrams Malkin v. Reed Lynn Malkin
W2018-01197-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a former husband’s fourth petition to reduce or terminate his alimony in futuro obligation since the parties were divorced. When considering the appeal of husband’s third attempt, in Malkin v. Malkin, 475 S.W.3d 252 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015), this Court reversed the trial court’s reduction of the award and reinstated the prior alimony obligation. We found that the husband’s retirement was objectively reasonable and constituted a substantial and material change in circumstances, but we concluded that the husband failed to prove that the change in circumstances significantly diminished his financial ability to pay alimony or his former wife’s need for it. Just months after the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the husband’s application for permission to appeal, he filed his fourth petition to reduce or terminate his obligation. The wife filed a counter-petition to increase the award. The trial court granted the husband’s petition, again, and reduced the award to less than half of its previous amount. The wife appeals. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/07/19
Teresa M. Daffron, As Daughter, Next of Kin To And As The Administrator Of The Estate Of Wiley E. Daffron v. Memorial Health Care System, Inc.
E2018-02199-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a wrongful death action based on health care liability. Wiley E. Daffron (“Decedent”) received medical treatment from Memorial Health Care System, Inc. (“Memorial”) in 2013. During his stay at Memorial, Decedent developed a pressure ulcer. Decedent died a few months after he was discharged from Memorial. Teresa M. Daffron (“Ms. Daffron”), Decedent’s adult daughter, obtained Decedent’s medical records from Memorial. Some 13 months later, Ms. Daffron sent pre-suit notice of her intent to sue Memorial. A few months after that, Ms. Daffron filed suit against Memorial in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). Memorial filed a motion for summary judgment asserting the statute of limitations, which the Trial Court granted. The Trial Court held that Ms. Daffron knew or should have known of Decedent’s injury and its possible cause more than one year before the pre-suit notice was sent and, therefore, her complaint was filed outside the statute of limitations. On appeal, Ms. Daffron argues that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until an expert informed her that Decedent’s injury was caused by Memorial. We hold that, pursuant to the discovery rule, and, as evidenced by, among other things, her seeking through counsel Decedent’s medical records, Ms. Daffron had constructive knowledge of Decedent’s claim more than one year before she sent pre-suit notice and, therefore, the complaint was not timely filed. Ms. Daffron’s claim brought on behalf of her father is barred by the statute of limitations. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/07/19