Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/25/2021
Format: 01/25/2021
Colonial Pipeline Company v. TN State Board Of Equalization
M2020-00247-COA-R12-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Tennessee State Board of Equalization Executive Director

An interstate pipeline company filed this direct appeal from a decision of the Tennessee Board of Equalization rejecting the company’s claims for equalization relief. Having considered the company’s arguments that Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-501(10)(B)(iii) has been inconsistently applied, we affirm the Board’s decision.  

Court of Appeals 01/25/21
Antonio Maurice Wiggins v. Carol Ann Wiggins
M2019-02006-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ted A. Crozier

This appeal arises out of a divorce action in which the wife requested alimony. Following a trial, the trial court awarded the wife alimony in futuro and alimony in solido to assist her in paying for health insurance premiums and attorney’s fees, respectively. On appeal, the husband claims the wife had no need for such support; rather, the trial court used the alimony awards as a means to punish the husband for his infidelity. We find that, while the trial court considered the husband’s fault in making its decision, it did so in conjunction with other relevant factors in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121(i), including the wife’s financial need, her relative earning potential, her contributions to the marriage, and the parties’ standard of living. Having determined that the trial court applied the correct legal principles, made factual findings supported by the evidence in the record, and reached a decision within the range of acceptable dispositions, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/22/21
In Re Conservatorship of Mary Ann Tapp
W2020-00216-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

This appeal stems from a petition to remove a co-conservator for a person with a disability. Several years ago, the ward’s brother and her personal attorney were appointed as coconservators of the ward’s person and estate. Subsequently, the ward’s remaining siblings filed this action to remove the brother as a co-conservator, alleging that the brother had failed to act in the best interest of the ward. After a hearing on the petition, the trial court dismissed the petition to remove the brother as a co-conservator and awarded the coconservators attorney’s fees. Some of the siblings appealed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees. We reverse the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and remand.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 01/22/21
Darla Jo Adams Audirsch v. Griffin Lynn Audirsch
M2020-00279-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

The Appellant, who is the former spouse of the Appellee, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for “Rule 60” relief seeking residential time with the Appellee’s child. There is no dispute that the Appellant has been excluded as the father of the child based upon DNA testing he requested. Discerning no error on the part of the trial court, we affirm its judgment.

Moore County Court of Appeals 01/22/21
In Re Investigation Of Law Solutions Chicago, LLC
M2020-00411-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

The trial court granted the Tennessee Attorney General’s petition seeking to compel the respondent corporation, Law Solutions Chicago LLC d/b/a UpRight Law (“UpRight”), to provide information regarding the identities of consumers who had paid for but allegedly not received UpRight’s services. In so ruling, the trial court determined that the attorney general had established that UpRight’s practices, if proven, would likely constitute violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court also determined that the information sought was not protected by the attorney-client privilege. UpRight has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s ruling.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/22/21
Samuel Lee Bachelor, Jr. v. Aja Michelle Bachelor n/k/a Aja Michelle Burrell
W2020-00516-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This case involves a divorce that was granted in January, 2019. As a part of their divorce, the parties entered into a marital dissolution agreement which was thereafter incorporated into the final decree of divorce. Subsequently, the Appellant filed a petition for contempt, alleging that the Appellee was in noncompliance with his obligations under the marital dissolution agreement and requested, among other relief, attorney’s fees for having to file the petition. The trial court found that while the Appellee had been noncompliant with the marital dissolution agreement, the noncompliance was not willful and therefore concluded that the Appellant was not entitled to attorney’s fees. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the trial court’s decision to not award the Appellant her attorney’s fees and additionally award the Appellant her attorney’s fees on appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/21/21
In Re Crystal W. Et Al.
E2020-00617-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

In this dependency and neglect action, the mother appealed the determination made by the Knox County Juvenile Court (“juvenile court”) that the two minor children at issue were dependent and neglected to the Knox County Circuit Court (“trial court”). The father of the children had initiated the action by filing a petition for dependency and neglect against the mother in the juvenile court, alleging, inter alia, the mother’s inability to properly care for the children due to ongoing mental health issues. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) had intervened in the juvenile court proceedings, and following entry of an adjudicatory order, the juvenile court had awarded legal and physical custody of the children to the father. In a separate proceeding not at issue in this appeal, the juvenile court subsequently awarded temporary custody of the children to the paternal grandfather and step-grandmother. Following a de novo bench trial on the mother’s appeal, the trial court determined that the children were dependent and neglected as to the mother and maintained custody of the children with the paternal grandfather and step-grandmother. The mother has appealed to this Court.1 Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/21/21
Donald R. Wright v. Carol Sieglitz, Et Al.
E2020-00867-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

This is an appeal of a case seeking judicial determination of child support. Because the appellant, Donald R. Wright (“Appellant”) attempted to raise an issue regarding a separate case, which was not timely appealed, and all issues with regard to the instant case were waived, we dismiss this appeal

Washington County Court of Appeals 01/21/21
Dennis Williamson v. Regional One Health, et al.
W2019-02213-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

In this healthcare liability action, Appellant/patient appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee/hospital. The trial court granted summary judgment based, inter alia, on its conclusion that Appellant failed to provide evidence that Appellee’s immunity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act is waived due to some action/inaction of its employee. Affirmed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/15/21
Crystal Spearman, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of Kenji Lewis, a Minor v. Shelby County Board of Education, et al.
W2019-02050-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Yolanda R. Kight

This suit involves an injury sustained by a minor at a track and field tryout at the middle school he attended. The minor’s mother brought suit individually and on behalf of her minor child against the county school system and the school board for the minor’s injuries and subsequent medical expenses. After a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages. The defendants appealed. We affirm the trial court’s decisions and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/15/21
Jabari Issa Mandela a/k/a John Wooden v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
W2019-01171-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

This appeal arises from a petition for writ of certiorari filed by a prisoner, Jabari Issa Mandela a/k/a John Wooden (“Petitioner”), seeking relief pursuant not only to a writ of certiorari but also including in his petition an action seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 due to an alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Following the respondents’ motion to dismiss pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(1) and (6) and Petitioner’s response thereto, the Trial Court dismissed Petitioners’ original civil rights cause of action, filed pursuant to section 1983, due to its impermissible joinder with an appellate cause of action. The Trial Court further granted the motion to dismiss as to the writ of certiorari, in part, because Petitioner had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Because Petitioner has failed to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 by not presenting an argument concerning whether he had exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing his petition for writ of certiorari, he has waived this issue on appeal. As such, the Trial Court’s dismissal of the petition is affirmed. Petitioner also raises an issue concerning the amount of filing fees he was required to pay by the Trial Court to initiate the current action. On remand, the Trial Court shall revisit its order regarding the amount of filing fees to determine compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-21-401.

Lake County Court of Appeals 01/15/21
In Re Scarlet W., et al.
W2020-00999-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Chancery Court for Henderson County terminated the parental rights of a mother to two minor children based upon two statutory grounds: persistence of conditions and a ten-year prison sentence while the children were under the age of eight years old. We reverse the trial court’s finding that the ground of persistence of conditions was satisfied by clear and convincing evidence. We affirm, however, the trial court’s finding that clear and convincing evidence supports termination of the mother’s parental rights based upon her current prison sentence. We also affirm the trial court’s conclusion that termination is in the best interests of both children.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 01/15/21
Anthony Justice v. Craftique Construction, Inc., Et Al.
E2019-00884-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

A homeowner in a subdivision sued the construction company that developed the subdivision and the president of the company for damages, claiming that the subdivision was a “failed development” because only five out of thirty-one lots were developed before construction ceased and promised amenities, including a club house and swimming pool, were never built. The homeowner obtained default judgments for liability and money damages against the company and a default judgment for liability against the company president. During the trial to determine damages against the company president, the homeowner orally stated his intent to nonsuit his claim for damages while retaining the default judgment for liability. The trial court entered an order nonsuiting the homeowner’s entire claim against the company president. The homeowner appeals, claiming the right to a partial nonsuit. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 01/15/21
IN RE ELLA H.
M2020-00639-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

In this termination of parental rights case, Appellants Mother and Stepfather appeal the trial court’s finding that termination of Father’s parental rights was not in the Child’s best interest. Appellee Father appeals the trial court’s finding that he abandoned the Child by willful failure to visit and willful failure to support. Upon review, we conclude that Father abandoned the Child by willful failure to visit and support. Because the record supports the conclusion that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest, we reverse the trial court as to this issue, and we remand for entry of an order terminating Father’s parental rights.

DeKalb County Court of Appeals 01/13/21
Katrina Walker d/b/a Rainbow Kidz Child Care Center v. Tennessee Department of Human Services
W2019-01829-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

In this Opinion, we are tasked with reviewing two separate cases concerning the State’s oversight of a child care center in Memphis. Somewhat uniquely, these cases were adjudicated under a single docket number in the Shelby County Chancery Court and were appealed to this Court in that posture. One of the cases, which concerns a petition for a writ of mandamus, was originally filed in the Davidson County Chancery Court and was subsequently transferred to the Shelby County Chancery Court. The second case involves judicial review under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. As to the mandamus case at issue, we conclude that venue lies only in Davidson County and, therefore, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter relief. Accordingly, that judgment is vacated, and we direct that the case be transferred back to the Davidson County Chancery Court. As to the case for judicial review, we conclude that the decision of the hearing officer was supported by substantial and material evidence and therefore reverse the trial court and remand for the entry of an order reinstating the hearing officer’s decision.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/13/21
Fatma Adel Sekik v. Nehad Abdelnabi et al.
E2019-01302-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

In this divorce appeal, Husband challenges the court’s failure to grant a continuance, the child support and alimony obligation imposed, and certain provisions of the parenting plan prohibiting contact with his children and revoking the parental rights set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-101(a)(3)(B). This proceeding also involved allegations of a conspiracy to defraud Wife of funds resulting from a sale of marital property in Gaza during the pendency of the divorce by Husband, his brother, and his brother’s wife; those nonspousal parties challenge the court’s jurisdiction over them and over the property in Gaza, as well as the court’s valuation of that property. They also challenge the court’s rulings that they engaged in a civil conspiracy and whether the judgment imposed against them is supported by the pleadings and the evidence. Upon our review of the issues raised, we discern no reversible error in the rulings of the court and accordingly affirm it in all respects.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/13/21
In Re Katelynn S. Et Al.
M2020-00606-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate a mother’s parental rights based on abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; substantial noncompliance with permanency plans; failure to remedy persistent conditions; and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the child. The trial court granted the petition, finding that the Department proved all alleged grounds by clear and convincing evidence and that terminating the mother’s parental rights was in the best interests of the child. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/08/21
Kevin Arnold, Et Al. v. Beatrice Fowler
M2020-00608-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Melissa T. Blevins-Willis

This is an action to set aside a quitclaim deed. The sole issue on appeal is whether the grantor delivered the deed to the grantee with the intention that it be an effective conveyance. After the grantor signed a quitclaim deed transferring title to a 42-acre tract to the grantee, the grantor’s mother, the grantee took possession of the deed. Later that day, the deed was placed in a lockbox maintained for the grantee’s benefit but co-owned by the grantor and her sister. Approximately three years later, while the deed remained in the lockbox, the grantor died. Shortly thereafter, the mother instructed the surviving daughter to bring the deed to her, which she did, and the mother recorded the deed. Upon learning of the recording of the deed, the grantor’s husband and children commenced this action to set aside the deed for failure of delivery arguing the deed remained in the grantor’s possession and control from the time she executed it until her death. Following a bench trial, the court found that the grantor delivered the deed to her mother with the intention that it be an effective conveyance and held that the conveyance was valid. We affirm. 

Franklin County Court of Appeals 01/08/21
Corey Clark v. Monica Clark, Et Al.
M2020-01519-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

This is an appeal from an order entered on September 21, 2020, dismissing the husband’s petition seeking to set aside a 2014 judgment. Because the husband did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the order appealed, we dismiss the appeal.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 01/07/21
William L. Kellerman, ET Al. v. Gerald S. Gabriel, Et Al.
M2019-01893-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Darrell L. Scarlett

This appeal arises out of a boundary dispute. Following a bench trial, the court determined that the plaintiffs established the boundary line based on an oral boundary agreement between the parties’ predecessors in interest. On appeal, the defendant takes issue with the trial court’s finding that the parties to the oral boundary agreement were uncertain of the location of the original boundary at the time they entered into the agreement. The defendant also takes issue with the trial court’s determination that the plaintiffs’ deed was not void for champerty based on the court’s conclusion that the remnants of the fence the defendant relied on to establish the property line met none of the requirements of adverse possession. After reviewing the evidence presented at the trial, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Cannon County Court of Appeals 01/06/21
St. Paul Community Limited Partnership, Et Al. v. St. Paul Community Church
M2020-00272-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal

This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of attorney’s fees upon remand from this court.  The defendant church requested attorney’s fees, to which the plaintiff lessee asserted that such fees were not warranted given the nature of the action.  The trial court denied the request for fees, holding that an award of attorney’s fees was conditioned upon the need to hire counsel for the enforcement of the lease agreement and that the action at issue was one for declaratory judgment.  We reverse and hold that attorney’s fees are warranted pursuant to the terms of the lease agreement.  We remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/05/21
In Re John A.
E2020-00449-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael A. Davis

Petitioner Angela Y. brought this action to terminate the parental rights of Melissa V. (“Mother”) to her child John A. (“Child”). Petitioner is the sister of Child’s father. Petitioner has had custody and taken care of the Child since April 25, 2017, when the Child was a little over one year old. The trial court terminated Mother’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and abandonment by failure to support Child. We reverse the trial court’s finding that Mother abandoned Child by willfully failing to visit. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Morgan County Court of Appeals 01/04/21
Camille Black v. Maryam H. Mula Khel
W2020-00228-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This appeal involves a personal injury action stemming from an automobile accident. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the plaintiff’s filing fell outside of the applicable statute of limitations. In granting dismissal, the trial court found that the plaintiff was not entitled to relief under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 15.03. For the same reasons, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend. The plaintiff appealed. We affirm the trial court’s decisions and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/30/20
In Re Treymarion S., et al.
W2019-01330-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vicki S. Snyder

In this matter involving the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her two minor children, who were eight and seven years of age, respectively, at the time of trial, the trial court determined that there were three statutory grounds supporting termination: (1) abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, (2) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and (3) persistence of the conditions leading to the Children’s removal. The trial court further found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Henry County Court of Appeals 12/30/20
Kirby Parkway Professional Condominium Association, Inc. v. Cindy-Jarvis Limited, L.P., et al.
W2019-02280-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is an appeal from a case between a nonprofit development management association and a condominium unit owner regarding the unit owner’s failure to pay monthly fees as well as a special assessment approved by the Board of the association. The trial court held in favor of the association, finding that it was well within its authority to assess both the monthly fees as well as the special assessment against the unit owner. The unit owner now appeals. For the reasons contained herein, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/30/20