Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/16/2019
Format: 07/16/2019
Bobbie Seals Stubblefield v. Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Association Et Al.
E2017-00994-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The claim at issue relates to the alleged negligent post-operative care of Bobbie Seals Stubblefield (“Plaintiff”) at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Association (“the Hospital”). On October 20, 2010, Plaintiff underwent a cardiac catheterization performed by Pragnesh Patel, M.D. at the Hospital. Plaintiff remained at the Hospital overnight for routine post-operative care and was attended to by Angela Adams, R.N., among others. Per Dr. Patel’s instruction, Nurse Adams administered nitroglycerin intravenously throughout the night. Plaintiff later complained that the nitroglycerin was causing “an unbearable headache and nausea.” Plaintiff claims that she “begged” Nurse Adams to stop administering nitroglycerin, while Nurse Adams claims that Plaintiff consented to further doses once she was advised of the medical necessity. It was later discovered that Plaintiff developed a hematoma and pseudoaneurysm in her groin at the catheterization site. The hematoma continued to grow, despite treatment provided by the nurses on staff. The nurses paged the cardiologist on-call, Sunil T. Ramaprasad, M.D. for assistance. He did not report to the Hospital. Instead, he ordered placement of a device to stop the bleeding and arranged for the intervention of a vascular surgeon, who reported to the hospital immediately and performed emergency surgery to repair the femoral artery in the early morning hours of October 21.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 06/11/19
Harris Building Group, Inc. v. Tennessee Electrical, Inc.
M2018-00499-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

When the defendant failed to answer a petition for declaratory judgment, the plaintiff sought and obtained a default judgment.  The defendant moved to set aside the default judgment, arguing that it never received the motion for default judgment nor notice of the hearing date on the motion.  The trial court denied the defendant the requested relief, finding that the defendant’s failure to answer the petition until months after entry of the default judgment was willful.  Discerning no abuse of discretion, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/10/19
Hydra Pools, Inc. v. Danny Mitchell Lingerfelt
E2018-01399-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

This appeal concerns whether a confidentiality agreement was assigned from one corporation to another. Danny M. Lingerfelt (“Lingerfelt”) was an employee for many years of P.I., Inc. (“P.I.”), a manufacturer. In 2015, Lingerfelt left P.I and a year later went to work for another company. In the meantime, Hydra Pools, the P.I. division in which Lingerfelt had worked, had become a separately chartered corporate entity, Hydra Pools, Inc. In 2016, Hydra Pools, Inc. filed a verified complaint against Lingerfelt in the Chancery Court for McMinn County (“the Trial Court”) alleging that he violated the terms of a non-competition and confidentiality agreement (“the Agreement”) he had entered into with P.I. Lingerfelt filed a motion for summary judgment asserting, among other things, that Hydra Pools, Inc. had no privity of contract with him because he had worked for P.I. and not its supposed successor. The Trial Court granted summary judgment to Lingerfelt on the basis that Hydra Pools, Inc. was not a party to or successor in interest to the rights or obligations of the Agreement. Hydra Pools, Inc. appeals. We hold that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Agreement was assigned by P.I. to Hydra Pools, Inc. We reverse the Trial Court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 06/10/19
Charles Ray Faubion Et Al. v. Charles Sigerseth Et Al.
E2018-01556-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

This appeal follows the trial court’s confirmation of an arbitration award. Insofar as this appeal relates to Dreamaker Properties, LLC, we must dismiss the appeal because the company is not represented by counsel and has therefore failed to validly participate and properly raise any issues for our review on appeal. With regard to the remaining appellant, who is proceeding pro se, we affirm the trial court’s judgment because his raised issue lacks merit. As we understand his argument, the appellant maintains that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the arbitration award because he was never a party to an agreement to arbitrate. As the record transmitted to us on appeal confirms, however, an “Agreed Order” was entered in this case directing that the case be ordered to arbitration. Moreover, the record reveals that, prior to the actual arbitration, the contesting appellant entered into an “Agreement to Arbitrate” regarding “any and all disputes.”

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/07/19
Shanera Jones v. Publix Supermarket, Inc. Et Al.
M2018-01672-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

This is a premises liability case. Appellant slipped and fell in a clear substance on the floor of Appellee Publix Supermarket and filed suit against the grocery chain. Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, finding that Appellant failed to show that Appellee had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/07/19
Richard Alan Pearson v. Christen Creighton Pearson
W2018-01188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This is a divorce case. Husband filed for divorce after 20 years of marriage. Following a three-day trial, the trial court determined Wife could not be rehabilitated and ordered Husband to pay $9,700 per month in alimony in futuro. We conclude that the trial court erred by failing to consider Wife’s earning capacity in setting Husband’s alimony obligation. Accordingly, we modify Husband’s alimony obligation by the amount of Wife’s earning capacity as determined by the trial court. Affirmed as modified.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/06/19
Precision Homes, Inc. v. The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County
M2018-01322-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

The owner of three lots located in a water quality buffer zone along the Cumberland River filed a request for a variance to allow the owner to build a small house on each lot. The Metropolitan Stormwater Management Committee denied the request for a variance, and the chancery court affirmed the committee’s denial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/06/19
In Re Conservatorship of John Martin Muldoon
E2018-02116-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

This is an appeal from a final order entered in a conservatorship proceeding. There was no court reporter present for the final hearing in the case. The Trial Court concluded, following a hearing on the parties’ competing Statements of the Evidence, that it could not resolve the parties’ differences regarding what transpired at the final hearing for purposes of appeal and, therefore, granted a new trial. As a result, there is no longer a final judgment in the proceedings below and this Court no longer has jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 06/06/19
In Re Makinna B.
M2018-00979-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma D. McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth R. Goble

This appeal involves a father’s petition to modify an existing parenting plan to change the designation of primary residential parent from the mother to the father. After a hearing, the trial court agreed with the parties’ stipulation that a material change in circumstances had occurred since the entry of the previous parenting plan due to various difficulties experienced by the parties and their lack of cooperation. The trial court concluded that it was in the best interest of the child to designate the father as primary residential parent. The trial court entered a modified parenting plan and child support worksheets. The mother appeals. We vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 06/05/19
In Re M.N.
E2018-01582-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

The trial court terminated the parental rights of T.N. (mother) with respect to her child M.N. The court also granted a petition for adoption by stepmother A.N. Because the court did not “make[] specific findings of fact and conclusions of law,” Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k) (Supp. 2018), we remand the case to the trial court for the entry of an appropriate order.

Roane County Court of Appeals 06/05/19
Billy Eugene Atkins Et Al v. Rick Allen Saunders Et Al.
E2017-01077-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This appeal arises from a dispute between owners of a purportedly landlocked parcel of real property and their neighbors. The landlocked owners sought condemnation of a right-of-way or easement in order to access a public road. After the trial court determined that the parcel of land had no access and a jury of view marked a road through the land of one of the neighbors, other neighbors granted a right-of-way through their properties to the landlocked parcel, which provided access to a public road. The grantors of the right-of-way then moved for summary judgment. Following a hearing at which proof was taken, the trial court determined that the granted right-of-way required revisions to be an adequate and convenient outlet. After the grantors agreed to the revisions and recorded an amended right-of-way agreement, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. We affirm.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 06/05/19
Cary Melton, et al. v. City of Lakeland, Tennessee, et al.
W2018-01237-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This appeal involves the dismissal of a case based on mootness. The City of Lakeland and its Industrial Development Board passed various resolutions for the purpose of funding the construction of a new high school. Plaintiffs—a group of citizens of Lakeland—sued, arguing that the city lacked the statutory authority for the financing transaction. After Congress enacted the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the financing transaction increased in cost, and Lakeland and the Industrial Development Board repealed the resolutions. Thereafter, upon Lakeland’s motion to dismiss, the trial court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims as moot. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/05/19
Sons Of Confederate Veterans, Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp #215 v. City of Memphis, ET Al.
M2018-01096-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This is an action for injunctive relief filed by a historical-preservation society against the City of Memphis and a nonprofit corporation. Prior to filing its complaint, the society filed a petition for declaratory relief with the Tennessee Historical Commission that sought a declaration on the applicability of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016 (“THPA”) to two parks and related monuments conveyed by the City to the nonprofit. In the present action, the historical-preservation society requested a temporary injunction under the THPA to preserve the parks and monuments pending the Commission’s final order. The trial court found the society could not prevail on the merits of its claim because the parks and monuments were no longer public property and, thus, were no longer subject to the THPA. Having determined that the historical-preservation society failed to assert a viable cause of action under the THPA, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/04/19
Acute Care Holdings, LLC v. Houston County, Tennessee
M2018-01534-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor David D. Wolfe

This appeal arises from an action filed by a healthcare management company against a county for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The dispute centered on a financially distressed hospital, which the county wanted to purchase and lease to the healthcare company to manage. Thus, the county, the hospital, and the healthcare management company entered into a Letter of Intent to accomplish this goal. The Letter of Intent provided that the healthcare management company would loan funds to the owner of the hospital to keep the hospital operating while the county negotiated the asset purchase agreement. If the purchase of the hospital closed by the agreed-upon deadline, the county agreed to repay the healthcare management company for the amount loaned; however, if the purchase of the hospital did not close by the deadline, the county was not obligated to repay the loans to the hospital. After the asset purchase agreement did not close by the deadline set in the Letter of Intent, the county purchased the hospital and awarded the contract to manage the hospital to a company owned by the county’s attorneys and refused to pay the healthcare management company the more than $1.2 million it loaned the hospital. Thereafter, the healthcare management company filed this action against the county for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. In its answer, the county denied breaching the contract because of the failure of the condition precedent, that the purchase of the hospital close by the agreed-upon deadline. Thereafter, the county filed a motion for summary judgment on the same ground and also moved to summarily dismiss the unjust enrichment claim because the Letter of Intent, which was an enforceable contract, precluded the claim. The healthcare management company responded by presenting evidence indicating that the county failed to act in good faith to close on the purchase of the hospital by the deadline in order to avoid its obligations to the healthcare management company. It also contended that its claim of unjust enrichment should not be dismissed unless the court determined that the Letter of Intent was an enforceable contract. The trial court summarily dismissed both claims on the finding the evidence was not sufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to either claim. Having determined that the evidence was sufficient, we reverse and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Houston County Court of Appeals 06/03/19
Laurie Elizabeth Lee v. Bryan Mitchell Lee
E2019-00538-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This accelerated interlocutory appeal follows the denial of a motion to recuse. The party seeking recusal claimed that an in-limine motion was granted after an ex parte communication between the chancellor and the counsel moving in limine. Additionally, the party claimed that the court showed partiality by not granting a continuance of the hearing on the in-limine motion when her counsel was unable to attend due to illness. We affirm the denial of the recusal request.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/31/19
In Re Estate of Gayle Franklin Cook
W2018-01766-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

This case involves an effort to admit a lost will to probate. In the proceedings below, the trial court held that the lost will should be accepted for probate. Having reviewed the record transmitted to us on appeal, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 05/31/19
John Patrick Konvalinka, Jr. v. Craig Fuller Et Al.
E2017-00493-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies, Senior Judge

In this retaliatory discharge action, the plaintiff filed suit against his former employer under both the common law and the Tennessee Public Protection Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304 (2014). The plaintiff claimed that he was terminated for voicing his concerns about, or refusing to participate in, illegal activities. The former employer moved for summary judgment arguing, in part, that the plaintiff could not identify a specific illegal activity or a violation of a clearly established public policy. The trial court granted the summary judgment motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/31/19
Todd Scot v. Erin Dawn Scot
M2018-00562-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This case involves competing petitions to modify a parenting plan and child support. The trial court denied the father’s request to be designated as the primary residential parent, granted the mother sole decision-making authority, and enjoined the father from certain activities. The trial court also refused to decrease the father’s child support obligation and awarded the mother $55,000 in attorney’s fees. With regard to the trial court’s modification of primary residential parent designation and the residential parenting schedule, we conclude that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and failed to conduct an appropriate best interest analysis. We also conclude that the trial court miscalculated the father’s child support obligation by allotting to him an incorrect number of parenting days and by relying on his anticipated income rather than his actual income in the child support worksheet. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/31/19
John Wesley Sullivan, Et Al. v. Brenda Kreiling
M2018-00885-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This appeal arises from an unlawful detainer action initiated by the conservator of the owner of the property. After the general sessions court awarded the conservator possession of the property, the defendant appealed to circuit court. The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the conservator had exceeded the scope of the conservatorship in filing the unlawful detainer action, and that unlawful detainer was not the proper cause of action. The circuit court denied summary judgment, and the case proceeded to a bench trial. Following trial, the circuit court awarded possession of the house to the conservator, and the defendant now appeals. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 05/30/19
James V. Holleman v. Barbara J. Holleman
E2018-00451-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

In this post-divorce action, the trial court denied the wife’s request for relief from a prior judgment and ordered the parties to comply with their written marital dissolution agreement regarding the sale of a parcel of marital real property. Following numerous motions filed by the parties, including several motions for recusal filed by the wife, the trial court eventually granted recusal. The newly assigned trial court judge held a hearing to consider pending motions and determine the status of the case, and the wife filed another motion to recuse shortly after that hearing. The trial court entered a subsequent order, wherein the court denied recusal and instructed the Clerk and Master to select a realtor and sell the parcel of property on the parties’ behalf. Wife subsequently filed a motion seeking “relief of void orders,” pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60, which was denied by the trial court. Wife filed a second but different Rule 60 motion thereafter, which was also denied by the trial court. Wife timely appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in this matter. We grant Husband’s request for attorney’s fees pursuant to the parties’ MDA and remand this issue to the trial court for a determination of a reasonable award of attorney’s fees in favor of Husband. We deny Wife’s motions seeking supplementation of the record and consideration of postjudgment facts.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 05/30/19
Lester Eugene Siler et al. v. Charles Scott et al.
E2017-01112-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

This case arises out of an incident in 2004 when five Campbell County deputy sheriffs went to the plaintiffs’ residence. The officers ordered the wife of Lester Eugene Siler, and his son, Dakota Siler, to leave the house. The deputies then proceeded to beat and torture Mr. Siler for more than two hours in an attempt to get him to sign a search warrant. Their efforts were to no avail. They arrested Mr. and Mrs. Siler and charged them at the jail with offenses. These charges were ultimately dismissed. Subsequently, plaintiffs sued the five deputies. In addition, the suit named as defendants, Chief Deputy Charles Scott, Sheriff Ron McClellan, and Campbell County. The trial court granted separate motions to dismiss filed by Scott and McClellan, finding them to be immune from suit. Following a lengthy delay, a jury trial took place in 2016. At the beginning of the trial, the defendants admitted liability on all of plaintiffs’ claims. The jury awarded Lester Siler a total of $90,000 against the individual defendants, and $10,000 against Campbell County. The trial court suggested, and Campbell County accepted, an additur to the awards against the county, increasing them to $25,000. In a pre-trial ruling, the court held this amount to be the maximum liability against the county for each plaintiff, based on its ruling that sovereign immunity was waived but only to the extent of the $25,000 sheriff’s surety bond. The jury awarded zero damages to Jenny Siler and Dakota Siler. Plaintiffs raise numerous issues on appeal, asserting, among other things, that the trial court erred in refusing their request to change venue, improperly conducting jury selection, making several errors in the admission and preclusion of evidence, dismissing Scott and McClellan, limiting Campbell County’s liability to $25,000 total per plaintiff, incorrectly instructing the jury, and declining their request for attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs further argue that the verdicts were below the range of reasonableness. We affirm the trial court’s judgment. 

Campbell County Court of Appeals 05/30/19
In Re Estate of Dante Lamar Edmonds
W2018-01783-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

Initially, Decedent’s Mother was appointed personal representative of Decedent’s estate without notice to Decedent’s spouse or minor child. Spouse promptly filed a petition to remove Decedent’s mother as personal representative. The trial court granted the petition and named the guardian ad litem of the child as personal representative of the estate. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/30/19
Endeavor Metals Group, LLC v. Andrew McKevitz
E2018-01724-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This appeal arises from an action in the circuit court to set aside a default judgment entered in the general sessions court as void on the grounds the general sessions court lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. After the judgment creditor filed his answer, the judgment debtor moved for summary judgment on these issues. Per the requirements of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03, the judgment debtor filed a statement of undisputed material facts supported by citation to the record that the individual upon whom service of process was effectuated was not a partner, managing agent, officer, or an agent authorized to accept service of process on its behalf. In his response to the motion, the judgment creditor agreed that some of the facts were undisputed but disputed others; however, in contravention of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03, he did not cite to the record in support of the facts to which he contended there was a dispute. Accordingly, the circuit court deemed all of the facts in the statement of undisputed material facts to be undisputed. Based on the undisputed facts, the circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the general sessions court lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Jed Emert v. Millennium Taxi Service, LLC, et al. - dissenting opinion
E2018-01450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

I would affirm the trial court’s holding that plaintiff failed to produce evidence sufficient to enable a reasonable trier of fact, without speculation, to find that the defendant driver caused the door to close on plaintiff as he exited the taxi.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/29/19
Jed Emert v. Millennium Taxi Service, LLC, et al.
E2018-01450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

The trial court granted summary judgment to various of the defendants in a personal injury action. The Plaintiff appeals, contending that material facts are in dispute, precluding summary judgment. Finding that disputes of material fact exist, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/29/19