COURT OF APPEALS OPINIONS

Cherokee Fiber & Associates , Inc. v. David Gerregano, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue
M2023-00748-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

The Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted an audit of a business and assessed unpaid taxes against the business. After an informal review by the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, the business filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County to challenge the assessment. The trial court concluded that the complaint was not timely filed, thus preventing the court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint. Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor’s decision.

Davidson Court of Appeals

Stargate Auto Sales, LLC v. David Gerregano, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue
M2023-00496-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

The Tennessee Department of Revenue audited a car dealership and assessed unpaid taxes against the business. After an informal review by the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, the auto dealership filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County to challenge the assessment. The trial court found that the auto dealership’s complaint had been filed one day past the applicable filing period and dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson Court of Appeals

Michael Beinke, et al. v. Adam Roberson d/b/a 38 Construction, et al.
M2023-00637-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

This appeal involves the right to a nonsuit pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.01. Two plaintiffs (an individual and a limited liability company) filed this lawsuit against several defendants, asserting eight causes of action arising out of a construction contract. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss. At a hearing, the trial judge orally ruled that the motion to dismiss was denied as to all claims, with one exception. The trial judge took under advisement whether Count 2, asserting a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, was barred by the statute of limitations. Four days after the hearing, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice along with a proposed order to that effect. In response, the defendants filed a “motion in opposition” to the proposed order of voluntary dismissal, asking the trial court to delay entry of the order of voluntary dismissal until the trial court entered an order addressing the TCPA claim. The trial court ultimately ruled that the defendants had a “vested right” that prevented the plaintiffs from voluntarily dismissing the TCPA claim from the moment the trial court took the matter under advisement. The trial court then proceeded to analyze the TCPA claim. Although the issue taken under advisement related to the statute of limitations, the trial court sua sponte dismissed the TCPA claim asserted by the individual plaintiff because the court found that he did not meet the definition of a “consumer” pursuant to the TCPA. The trial court then considered the statute of limitations issue as it related to the TCPA claim asserted by the remaining plaintiff. The trial court found that the TCPA claim was not barred by the statute of limitations and denied the motion to dismiss on that basis. Having resolved the motion to dismiss as to the TCPA claim, the trial court ruled that the nonsuit then became “effective,” as of the date of the trial court’s order, resulting in voluntary dismissal of all claims except the individual plaintiff’s TCPA claim, which the trial court sua sponte dismissed with prejudice. The individual plaintiff appealed, asserting, among other things, that the trial court erred by concluding that the defendants had obtained a vested right and by delaying entry of the order of nonsuit so that the trial court could rule on the motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, we reverse the decision of the trial 06/12/2024 - 2 - court to the extent it dismissed the individual’s TCPA claim with prejudice and remand for entry of an order under Rule 41.01 dismissing all claims without prejudice.

Williamson Court of Appeals

In Re Jaylynn J.
M2023-01496-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal involves the termination of parental rights of a mother.  The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that five grounds for termination were proven and that termination was in the best interest of the child.  The mother appeals.  On appeal, DCS maintains that four grounds for termination were sufficiently proven against the mother.  We vacate one ground due to insufficient findings by the trial court.  We conclude that the three other remaining grounds for termination were sufficiently proven, but due to insufficient findings in the termination order, we vacate the court’s determination that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child and remand for the court to consider all of the relevant best interest factors and detail its findings.  Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson Court of Appeals

Matthew Ooten v. Jason Baril
E2022-01673-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher D. Heagerty

The plaintiff, a founding member of a law firm, filed this action against other members. The trial court found that the defendant members violated their duty of good faith and fair dealing, breached their contract with the plaintiff, violated their fiduciary duty toward the plaintiff, engaged in a conspiracy, and committed conversion. We affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Knox Court of Appeals

Robert R. Batson, Sr. Revocable Living Trust, by Sean Batson v. Diane Batson-Smith Et Al.
M2024-00739-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Matthew Joel Wallace

The Petitioners seek accelerated interlocutory review of an order denying their motion to
recuse. However, because the Petitioners’ filings fail to comply with Tennessee Supreme
Court Rule 10B, we dismiss the appeal.

Montgomery Court of Appeals

In Re Temperance A.
M2023-00641-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Matthew Joel Wallace

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.  The trial court found four statutory grounds for termination: abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to support, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody.  The trial court also concluded termination was in the child’s best interest.  Neither the guardian ad litem nor Mother received notice of the trial court’s Order.  Becoming aware of the trial court’s Order more than thirty days after the decision, Mother filed a motion asking the trial court to set aside and then re-enter its final order, seeking to ensure that she could still appeal.  The trial court granted Mother’s motion.  Mother appeals, arguing the trial court erred with regard to each ground of termination that it found and that its conclusion as to the best interest of the child was also in error.  On appeal, Petitioners, paternal grandparents seeking to terminate Mother’s parental rights, argue the trial court erred in setting aside and then re-entering its termination order and, consequently, that this court lacks jurisdiction over Mother’s appeal.  The Petitioners also defend the trial court’s termination decision on the merits.  We conclude this court has jurisdiction over Mother’s appeal, that the trial court did not err in finding that grounds were established for termination, and that the trial court did not err in finding that termination is in the best interest of the child.

Montgomery Court of Appeals

Magnolia Pointe Homeowners' Association v. Kathryn Mitchell
E2022-1581-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Christopher D. Heagerty, Jr.

A homeowner’s association sought to enforce a recorded declaration of restrictive
covenants against a property owner in a subdivision. The property owner moved to dismiss
on the basis that the declaration did not appear in her chain of title and did not expressly
apply to her property. The HOA contended that language in the property owner’s chain of
title was sufficient to make the property subject to the restrictive covenants. And if not,
the restrictive covenants were enforceable as equitable servitudes. Without notice to the
parties, the trial court dismissed the action on an unasserted basis. We reverse.

Knox Court of Appeals

In Re Miguel P., et al.
W2023-01261-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge W. Ray Glasgow

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate a mother’s parental rights to two of her children. The trial court found that two grounds had been proven and that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests. Based on these findings, the court terminated the mother’s parental rights. The mother appeals. We reverse the trial court’s finding that the ground of persistence of conditions has been proven but affirm the trial court’s finding that another ground for termination has been proven and that termination of the mother’s parental rights is in the children’s best interests. Thus, we affirm the termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Mary McCabe Peirce v. Lee Wesson Hope
W2023-00621-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This is a grandparent visitation case brought by the maternal grandmother of the child at issue. When the trial court dismissed the grandmother’s petition following a trial, it held, among other things, that there was no danger of substantial harm to the child in the absence of visitation. Although the trial court ruled in favor of the child’s father on the merits of the underlying case, it ultimately rejected the father’s request to recover attorney’s fees for his defense of the lawsuit. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the grandmother’s petition and also affirm the trial court’s denial of attorney’s fees to the father.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Abigail Lynn Sevigny v. Warren Maxwell Sevigny
M2023-00325-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

This is the second post-divorce contempt case between the parties. While Mother’s petition
for contempt was pending in the trial court, Father filed a petition alleging that Mother was
guilty of 29 counts of criminal contempt for various violations of the parties’ permanent
parenting plan and the mandatory “Parental Bill of Rights” incorporated into the plan. The
trial court: (1) found Mother guilty of seven counts of contempt; (2) sentenced Mother to
29 days in jail; and (3) awarded Father a portion of his attorney’s fees and costs. Mother
appeals. Because Father failed to meet his burden to show, beyond a reasonable doubt,
that Mother was in criminal contempt of the parenting plan, we reverse the trial court’s
order.

Court of Appeals

Teonnia Sykes v. Bristol Park at Riverchase
M2024-00706-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The plaintiff appeals the dismissal of her complaint against her former landlord. Because
the plaintiff did not file her notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the dismissal
order as required by Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson Court of Appeals

In Re Estate of Jerry A. Dunn
W2023-00686-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Townsend

This is a probate matter which concerns whether a decedent devised his widow a parcel of real estate in fee simple absolute or whether the real property at issue was to be placed in trust for the benefit of decedent’s children. The probate court rendered a declaratory judgment determining that decedent devised his widow the parcel in fee simple absolute. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Hidden Lake Resorts Homeowners Association, Inc v. Charles Z. Moore, Et AL
M2022-01323-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor David D. Wolfe

This appeal arises out of a dispute between the homeowners’ association for a planned
development and the successor owner of the development over the obligations of the
successor owner. We agree with the trial court’s ruling that the successor owner assumed
all of the previous owner’s rights and responsibilities as the declarant under the
development’s recorded restrictive covenants. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all
respects.

Cheatham Court of Appeals

Cedric Crutcher v. Johnny B. Ellis, Et Al.
M2023-00283-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lynne T. Ingram

This appeal concerns the denial of a motion to set aside default judgment and the award of
damages in a premises liability action. After sustaining injuries from a shooting in a
Nashville nightclub, Cedric Crutcher (“Plaintiff”), filed a premises liability action against
various co-defendants, including the owner and operator of the nightclub, Paul Eichel
(“Defendant”), and the owners of the building where the nightclub was located (“the
Ellises”). The Ellises filed an answer to Plaintiff’s complaint and a cross-claim against
Defendant. When Defendant failed to respond to Plaintiff’s complaint, Plaintiff filed a
motion for default judgment, which the trial court granted. When Defendant failed to
respond to the Ellises cross-claim, the Ellises also filed a motion for default judgment,
which the court granted. Thereafter, the only remaining issues were the amount of damages
that the Ellises and Plaintiff were entitled to recover from Defendant. Following a hearing
on damages, the court awarded Plaintiff $300,000 against Defendant for his pain and
suffering, and awarded the Ellises $31,745.76 against Defendant for the attorney’s fees
they incurred in defending the action as authorized under their lease agreement. Defendant
filed a motion to set aside the default judgment pertaining to Plaintiff’s premises liability
claim, which the court denied. Defendant then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment
relating to Plaintiff’s damages, which the court granted. Following a second evidentiary
hearing on Plaintiff’s damages, the court awarded Plaintiff a judgment against Defendant
in the amount of $15,014.19 for medical expenses and $300,000 in noneconomic damages.
Defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to set aside default judgment in
favor of Plaintiff, as well as the award of damages to Plaintiff. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson Court of Appeals

Jackie L. Jones v. Unrefined Oil Company, Inc. Et Al.
E2023-00272-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom McFarland

Upon competing motions for declaratory judgment in this action involving an oil and gas lease, the trial court granted declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiff, who owned the mineral rights to the real property on which the oil well was located. The court found that although the oil well had been in production as required by the lease, the defendant corporation had failed to comply with the lease’s requirement that it make at least one oil sale within a one-year period. The court thereby found that the lease had terminated pursuant to its own terms. The defendant has appealed, and the plaintiff has raised an issue regarding the trial court’s finding that the well was in production as required by the lease. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Morgan Court of Appeals

John Milton Arledge v. Darl Smith, Et Al.
M2022-01471-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

John Milton Arledge (“Arledge”) filed a complaint seeking to quiet title to property he purported to own and the ejection of Darl Smith (“Smith”) from the disputed property. Smith filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Warren County Circuit Court (“the Trial Court”) granted. Arledge appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Warren Court of Appeals

In Re Azay C., et al.
W2022-01156-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

In this case, Mother appeals the trial court’s severe abuse finding, after one of her children was killed in a car accident while she was driving. The trial court found that Mother failed to protect her children when she failed to ensure that the children were properly restrained in the automobile. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby Court of Appeals

Edward Jones Trust Company, as personal representative of the Estate of Charles S. Woods, Jr. v. Kathy Marie Woods
M2023-00172-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

A widow received pension benefits that were payable only to her as a surviving spouse. A
trust company representing the decedent’s estate filed suit against the widow arguing that
she breached the antenuptial agreement between her and the decedent that required her to
disclaim any right she had in the decedent’s separate property. The trial court granted
summary judgment to the widow after concluding that the antenuptial agreement contained
an exception that allowed the widow to retain pension benefits that were payable only to
her as surviving spouse. The trust company appealed. Because the antenuptial agreement
is ambiguous, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Wilson Court of Appeals

In Re Treylynn T., et al.
W2023-00752-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Steven W. Maroney

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. Amanda L. W. (“Foster Mother”) and Brian L. W. (“Foster Father”) (“Foster Parents,” collectively) filed a petition in the Chancery Court for Madison County (“the Trial Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Angel T. (“Mother”) and Fortrell C. (“Father”) to their minor children Treylynn T. and Amelia C. (“the Children,” collectively). The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), the Children’s legal custodian, supported the petition. This matter arose after Amelia received a suspicious head injury while in Father’s care. Mother never accepted that Father was responsible despite Father’s ensuing nolo contendere plea to attempted aggravated child abuse. After a hearing, the Trial Court terminated Mother’s parental rights on three grounds. The Trial Court found further that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals, arguing only that the Trial Court erred in its best interest determination. We find, as did the Trial Court, that the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody were proven against Mother by clear and convincing evidence. We further find by clear and convincing evidence, as did the Trial Court, that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. We affirm.

Madison Court of Appeals

In Re Estate of Peggy Jean Semanek
M2023-01644-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

This appeal concerns the trial court’s determination that Tennessee law does not require a testator to sign their will prior to an attesting witness subscribing their signature as a witness to the will. Upon review of the relevant statutory language and associated case law, we conclude that Tennessee law requires that a testator sign their will prior to an attesting witness subscribing their own signature, and therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Giles Court of Appeals

George E. Gamble, III v. Patricia D. Morris
E2024-00683-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

Because the order from which the appellant has filed an appeal does not constitute a final appealable judgment,
this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Bradley Court of Appeals

Aloha Pools & Spas of Jackson, LLC v. Khaled Eleiwa a/k/a Kevin Eleiwa
W2023-00941-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph T. Howell

This appeal arises from a dispute over the construction of a swimming pool. The defendant entered into a written contract with the plaintiff for the construction of a pool at the defendant’s home. The plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging that the defendant failed to pay the amount due under the contract. The defendant filed a counter-complaint and alleged breach of contract, fraud and/or misrepresentation, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. After a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for relief from the judgment, which the trial court denied. The defendant appeals. We affirm the trial court’s decision and remand for determination of appellate attorney’s fees.

Madison Court of Appeals

Vincent Stormes v. FF Property Holdings, LLC
E2023-01430-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James H. Ripley

This is a breach of contract action involving the sale of real property in which the plaintiff seller alleged that the defendant buyer withdrew from the sale in violation of the terms of the contract. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. We affirm.

Sevier Court of Appeals

In Re Isaiah M.
E2024-00616-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Cook

Because no final order has been entered in the underlying trial court proceedings, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Washington Court of Appeals