Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/30/2022
Format: 09/30/2022
Danny Ray Franks, et al. v. Roger Bilbrey, et al.
M2021-00766-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This appeal concerns an alleged breach of contract.  Danny Ray Franks (“Mr. Franks”) and his spouse Angela May Franks (“Ms. Franks”) (“Plaintiffs,” collectively) hired Roger Bilbrey (“Mr. Bilbrey”) and Bilbrey’s Construction, Inc. (“Defendants,” collectively) to build a “barndominium,” a metal building that looks like a barn with a stained-concrete floor, garage, and living quarters.  The parties’ contract (“the Agreement”), which was drafted by Mr. Bilbrey, provided that work would start immediately and be completed by Thanksgiving of 2018.  However, the project was not completed by that date.  Some five months later, the project still was unfinished.  Plaintiffs then fired Defendants.  Plaintiffs sued Defendants in the Chancery Court for Overton County (“the Trial Court”) for breach of contract.  The Trial Court ruled in Plaintiffs’ favor.  Defendants appeal.  We hold that time was of the essence under the Agreement.  We further find that Defendants committed a material breach of the Agreement by failing to timely complete Plaintiffs’ barndominium.  We affirm. 

Overton County Court of Appeals 09/30/22
Mark Steven Meadows et al. v. Sharon Kay Story et al.
M2020-00886-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

The members of a limited liability company, a father and his son, sought the LLC’s judicial dissolution.  Disagreements had surfaced between them, primarily over the ownership of assets and the value of their capital accounts.  Father and son were also pitted against each other in a separate lawsuit involving other business entities.  In the proceeding to dissolve the LLC, the trial court appointed a receiver to determine ownership of the assets.  The court approved the receiver’s report.  And, after a bench trial, the court found that father’s capital account was less than his son’s account.  In doing so, the court excluded evidence offered by father related to the separate lawsuit based on relevancy.  The court also excluded the testimony of an attorney based on the attorney-client privilege.  Finding no reversable error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/29/22
Ford Motor Credit Comp, LLC d/b/a Lincoln Automotive Financial Services v. Marjori Malone et al.
M2022-01182-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The defendants have appealed from an order entered on July 25, 2022. Because the defendants did not file their notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the order as required by Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/28/22
Sypriss Smith v. All Nations Church of God, et al.
W2021-00846-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This case stems from a retaliatory discharge claim under the Tennessee Public Protection Act. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded her $3,000.00 in compensatory damages and $12,500.00 in punitive damages. The trial court then awarded the plaintiff $12,500.00 of the over $100,000.00 in attorney’s fees she requested. Following a remand from this Court, the trial court increased the attorney’s fees award to $32,000.00. Discerning no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s second attorney’s fees award, we affirm. We also award the plaintiff her reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting the first appeal.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/28/22
Bill Charles v. Donna McQueen
M2021-00878-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

This case involves a lawsuit alleging claims of defamation and false light arising from an online review.  In response to the lawsuit, the defendant filed a petition under the Tennessee Public Participation Act to dismiss the lawsuit.  The trial court ultimately granted the petition and dismissed the case.  For the reasons stated herein, we affirm in part and reverse in part.   

Williamson County Court of Appeals 09/28/22
In Re Aubree D.
M2021-01229-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

This is a dependency and neglect case.  The child was taken into protective custody by Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) after an investigation revealed that the then ten-week-old child suffered approximately 15 bone breaks.  The Juvenile Court for Davidson County conducted a hearing and adjudicated the child dependent and neglected on its finding that Appellant, the child’s mother, had committed severe child abuse. Mother appealed to the Circuit Court for Overton County (“trial court”).  Following a de novo trial, the trial court held that mother perpetrated severe child abuse on the child.  Consequently, the trial court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected, and found that it was in the child’s best interest to remain in the custody of Appellee Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). Mother appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 09/28/22
James D. Duncan v. CoreCivic, et al.
W2022-00333-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

Appellant, James D. Duncan, has appealed an order of the Hardeman County Chancery Court that was entered on December 15, 2021. We determine that the December 15, 2021 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The appeal is dismissed.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 09/27/22
Thomas Krajenta, et al. v. Volker Paul Westphal, et al.
W2021-00832-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Appellants, board members and members of Appellee homeowner’s association, filed a pro se lawsuit against the homeowner’s association and other board members, who are also Appellees. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss the amended petition on the ground that Appellants failed to bring a proper derivative action. Appellants filed voluntary nonsuits before the trial court heard the motion to dismiss. Despite the voluntary nonsuits, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss and denied the voluntary nonsuits. The trial court also awarded Appellees a portion of their attorney’s fees under Tennessee Code Annotated section 48-56-401(e), and, alternatively, under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-12-119(c). Because the trial court should have allowed Appellants’ nonsuits, we: (1) reverse the trial court’s denial of the nonsuits; (2) vacate the trial court’s order granting Appellees’ motion to dismiss; and (3) vacate the trial court’s order granting Appellees’ attorney’s fees. The trial court’s order dividing the special master fees equally between the parties is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/27/22
Joseph Cannistra v. William Charles (Billy) Brown
M2021-00833-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher V. Sockwell

This appeal involves a challenge to a circuit court’s award to a landlord for a deficiency in lease payments.  The landlord and tenant offered conflicting testimony regarding the terms of the parties’ agreement.  The circuit court judge found the landlord’s description of the agreement more convincing than the tenant’s and awarded the landlord a judgment in the amount of $9,800 as well as costs.  On appeal, the tenant insists the circuit court judge erred in his assessment of the conflicting testimony.  We find the trial court’s determination to be supported by the record and therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Giles County Court of Appeals 09/26/22
State of Tennessee v. Isaiah M.
W2021-01133-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

This appeal arises out of delinquency proceedings that originated in the Madison County Juvenile Court. The State filed an initial delinquency petition, but the petition was unverified. The defect in the petition remained undiscovered by the State until the first witness was sworn at the adjudicatory hearing. The juvenile court dismissed the petition and found that jeopardy attached. The State filed a second verified delinquency petition. However, the juvenile court dismissed the petition finding that it violated principles of double jeopardy. The State appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the petition finding that jeopardy attached on the initial petition. The State appeals. We reverse and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
Michael Halliburton v. Blake Ballin, et al.
W2022-01208-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal from the denial of motions for recusal of the trial judge. Having carefully reviewed the record provided by the appellant, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motions.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
Jabari Issa Mandela a/k/a John Wooden v. Tennessee Department of Correction
W2021-01219-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Appellant appeals the assessment of costs against him following the dismissal of his petition for a writ of certiorari. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Lake County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
In Re Hope G. Et Al.
E2021-01521-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

This appeal arises from the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor child, upon the statutory grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and financially support the child. The Greene County Circuit Court (“Trial Court”) denied the ground of failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of and financial responsibility for the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(14). The Trial Court further found that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. We reverse the statutory ground for the termination of the father’s parental rights of abandonment by failure to visit, determining that the father had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that his failure to visit was not willful. We affirm the remaining ground for the termination of the father’s parental rights, as well as the trial court’s determination that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

Greene County Court of Appeals 09/23/22
In Re Navaiya R. et al.
M2021-01387-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal involves a petition to terminate parental rights.  The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that two grounds for termination existed as to the father: (1) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody and (2) incarceration under a ten-year sentence.  The juvenile court also found that termination was in the best interests of the children.  The father appeals.  We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/22/22
Lisa Neely Artry v. Lester Ray Artry
W2020-00224-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

In this divorce case, we do not reach the substantive issues concerning the trial court’s division of the marital estate due to the fact that the trial court failed to designate all property as either marital or separate, failed to assign values to all property, and failed to consider the factors set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-4-121(c). As such, we vacate the trial court’s division of the marital estate and its denial of alimony. Because the trial court failed to resolve the parties’ dispute over the Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 24 statement of the evidence by providing this Court with one cohesive statement, we reverse the trial court’s order concerning the statement of the evidence.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/22/22
Derrick Lakeith Brown v. Marlinee C. Iverson
W2022-00045-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Appellant, Derrick Lakeith Brown, has appealed an order of the Shelby County Chancery Court that was entered on November 5, 2021. We determine that the November 5, 2021 order does not constitute a final appealable judgment. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The appeal is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/21/22
Sporting Club of Tennessee, Inc. v. Marshall County Tennessee Board of Zoning Appeals
M2021-01361-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J.B. Cox

This appeal concerns a zoning decision.  The Sporting Club of Tennessee, Inc. (“the Sporting Club”) filed an application with Marshall County, Tennessee for a special exception for a private park.  The club was to be situated on 285 acres of property and would feature a number of recreational activities like shooting.  It would have 150 members and corporate members along with their families and guests.  After a hearing, the Marshall County Board of Zoning Appeals (“the Board”) denied the Sporting Club’s application on grounds that the Sporting Club would not be low-impact, or passive, with respect to its surroundings.  The Sporting Club filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Marshall County (“the Trial Court”).  The Trial Court upheld the Board’s decision.  The Sporting Club appeals to this Court.  We conclude that the Board’s decision was supported by material evidence—namely, evidence concerning the Sporting Club’s 150 members and guests and the likely impact they would have on the property’s surroundings.  The Board’s decision neither was arbitrary, capricious, nor illegal.  We affirm.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 09/20/22
April Hawthorne v. Morgan & Morgan Nashville, PLLC, ET AL.
W2021-01011-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This is an appeal following the trial court’s dismissal of a legal malpractice complaint predicated upon actions allegedly taken by the Defendants in connection with a prior class action proceeding. In light of its dismissal of the Plaintiff’s complaint, the trial court ruled that a “derivative” third-party complaint asserted by the Defendants should also be dismissed. Whereas the Plaintiff challenges the dismissal of her complaint, the Defendants submit that, if the order dismissing the Plaintiff’s complaint is reversed, the order dismissing their third-party complaint should also be reversed. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse, in part, the dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims, reverse the dismissal of the third-party complaint, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/19/22
In Re Scarlett F.
W2021-01292-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

A mother appeals the trial court’s decision to terminate her parental rights based on the grounds of (1) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, (2) persistence of conditions, (3) severe child abuse, and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody or financial responsibility of the child. She further challenges the trial court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the child. We vacate the substantial noncompliance ground and reverse the persistence of conditions and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility grounds. Concluding that the record does not contain clear and convincing proof that termination is in the best interest of the child, we reverse the trial court’s order terminating the mother’s parental rights.

Madison County Court of Appeals 09/16/22
Quinton A. Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2022-01155-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Haltom

An inmate appeals the Claims Commission’s dismissal of his claim. Because the inmate did not file his notice of appeal within the time permitted by Rule 4 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.

Court of Appeals 09/16/22
Ashley J. Loveday v. Aaron KK.H. Colehamer
E2022-00361-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge:

Because the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/16/22
In Re Josie G.
E2021-01516-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

In this case involving termination of the mother’s parental rights to her child, the trial court determined that two statutory grounds for termination had been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court further determined that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest.1 The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/15/22
In Re Josie G.
E2021-01516-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

In this case involving termination of the mother’s parental rights to her child, the trial court determined that two statutory grounds for termination had been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court further determined that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest.1 The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/15/22
In Re Josie G.
E2021-01516-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

In this case involving termination of the mother’s parental rights to her child, the trial court determined that two statutory grounds for termination had been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court further determined that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest.1 The mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/15/22
Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union v. Greg Hill et al.
E2021-01341-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This case involves two creditors, each claiming a superior interest in the same motor vehicle, which was pledged as collateral for two separate loans by its owner. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the creditor that had perfected its title lien on the vehicle. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Appeals 09/15/22