Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/22/2019
Format: 10/22/2019
Tamala Teague, As Successor Personal Representative Of The Estate Of Lola Lee Duggan v. Garnett Kidd Et Al. - Dissent
E2019-00330-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

As noted in the majority's opinion, the first administrator' of the estate of Lola Lee Duggan sought "to recover funds unlawfully converted through fraud, false dealing and misapplication of trust by Defendant[s]." He requested "that a Lien Lis Pendens be placed against the real property acquired by Garnett and William Kidd ("the Kidds" or "Defendants")2 in this cause to secure any judgment which may be obtain[ed] by the Estate." (Emphasis in original.). Despite praying "[t]hat [p]laintiff have such additional general and equitable relief to which it may be entitled upon the hearing of this cause," the administrator did not specifically seek the entry of an order declaring the existence of a constructive trust. Upon trial, appeal, and remand from this court, an amended final judgment was entered against Mrs. Kidd for $117,679 in damages and $79,052.48 in prejudgment interest, for a total judgment of $196,731.48.3 That judgment was not appealed by the successor administrator ("Plaintiff').

Polk County Court of Appeals 09/12/19
Tamala Teague, As Successor Personal Representative Of The Estate Of Lola Lee Duggan v. Garnett Kidd Et Al.
E2019-00330-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri Bryant

This case implicates the doctrine of res judicata. Tamala Teague (plaintiff) is the administrator of the estate of Lola Lee Duggan. Garnette Kidd and William Kidd (defendants) are Ms. Duggan’s daughter and son-in-law. In a previous lawsuit, the trial court determined that defendants wrongfully took more than $100,000 of Ms. Duggan’s assets and used some of that money to purchase 132 acres of real estate. After a bench trial, the court, in that first case, awarded money damages to Ms. Duggan’s estate. A few years later, plaintiff filed a second complaint against the defendants. The complaint alleged the same facts that precipitated the previous lawsuit. This time, however, plaintiff sought a different remedy – the entry of an order declaring the existence of a constructive trust with respect to the 132 acres of real estate. The trial court ruled that the doctrine of res judicata barred plaintiff from pursuing this alternative remedy in a second suit against the same defendants on the same cause of action. Accordingly, the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss and denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Polk County Court of Appeals 09/12/19
Timothy Hopson, Ex Rel Elizabeth Miller v. American Advisors Group
E2018-01698-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

This is a consolidated appeal concerning real property granted to the defendant in a detainer action. We affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 09/12/19
Timothy Hopson v. American Advisors Group
E2018-1916-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

This is a consolidated appeal concerning real property granted to the defendant in a detainer action. We affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 09/12/19
Victoria Bigelow v. John Schumacher
M2019-00806-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Tidwell

This is a parentage action in which the putative father challenged the trial court’s jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-201, et seq. After the trial court accepted jurisdiction and appointed a special master, the putative father filed a notice of appeal. Because the trial court has not entered a final judgment that resolves all the claims between the parties, we dismiss the appeal. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/11/19
Deborah Lynn Mathews v. Douglas Clay Mathews
M2018-01886-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This is a post-divorce case involving a husband’s petition to terminate his alimony obligation. Husband argued that the wife cohabited with a paramour, which, pursuant to the parties’ MDA, terminated his alimony obligation. The trial court, however, found that wife and her paramour did not cohabit with one another and denied husband’s petition. Additionally, the trial court denied wife’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that her increased income, combined with the alimony she was receiving from husband, allowed her to afford to pay her attorney’s fees at trial. Wife and Husband raise separate issues on appeal. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/11/19
Jared Effler Et Al. v. Purdue Pharma L.P. Et Al.
E2018-01994-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal concerns the interpretation of the Drug Dealer Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-38-101, -116 (“DDLA”). A number of Tennessee district attorneys (“the District Attorney Plaintiffs”), as well as two minor children through their guardian ad litem (“Plaintiffs,” all together), sued certain drug manufacturers (“Manufacturer Defendants”) and others in the Circuit Court for Campbell County (“the Trial Court”) alleging the diversion of opioids.1 Manufacturer Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The Trial Court, in granting the motion to dismiss, held that the DDLA does not apply to manufacturers who lawfully produce drugs and that Plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs appeal, arguing that their complaint contained allegations sufficient to withstand the motion to dismiss. Manufacturer Defendants contend that the DDLA applies to “street dealers,” not regulated entities such as themselves. In addition, Manufacturer Defendants argue that the District Attorney Plaintiffs lack standing. We hold, first, that the DDLA allows district attorneys to pursue DDLA claims on behalf of the political subdivisions within their respective judicial districts. Thus, the District Attorney Plaintiffs have standing. We hold further that, taking as true Plaintiffs’ detailed allegations that Manufacturer Defendants knowingly participated in the diversion of opioids, Plaintiffs have stated claims upon which relief can be granted. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court and remand for this case to proceed.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 09/11/19
Patricia A. Graham v. Garrett Weaver Et Al.
E2018-00682-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

Plaintiff appeals the dismissal of her premises liability action for failure to show that Defendant was the owner of the premises or built the deck on which Plaintiff fell. Plaintiff has failed to file a trial transcript or statement of the evidence; consequently, we accord the trial court’s judgment a presumption that the evidence supports the holding and affirm the judgment.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
Sharon A. Loving v. Jonathan E. Loving
E2018-00667-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

Husband appeals from a divorce judgment and the entry of a permanent parenting plan, arguing that the trial court erred in not allowing him to put on any proof at the trial of this matter. For the reasons stated herein, and because we conclude that Husband should have been able to put on proof concerning the child’s best interests, we vacate the permanent parenting plan and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Rachel Beth Haynes v. Allan Vincent Daugherty
M2018-01394-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Diana Benson Burns

The issue in this interlocutory appeal is whether the trial court erred in requiring a cash-only appearance bond. Father, who had an arrearage judgment for failing to pay child support, was arrested and incarcerated pursuant to an order of attachment under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-101(f)(2). The trial court set an appearance bond, without an evidentiary hearing, at the full amount of the alleged arrearage, $13,413.45, and restricted the bond to cash. The order also directed that, upon payment of the cash bond, the funds were to be forwarded immediately to the State Disbursement Unit and applied to Father’s arrears. In subsequent hearings, the trial court denied Father the right to post a secured bond, and this Tenn. R. App. P. 10 Extraordinary Appeal followed. First, we hold that the trial court violated Father’s constitutional rights under Article I, section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution and under the equal protection guarantees of both the Tennessee and United States Constitutions by imposing a cash-only appearance bond. Second, we hold that the trial court violated Father’s due process rights under both the state and federal constitutions by imposing a $13,413.45 cash-only bond as a means to collect a civil debt and ordering that the bond be immediately applied in satisfaction of the alleged debt, without an evidentiary hearing. Finally, we hold that the trial court misconstrued the applicable statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-101(f)(2), as allowing it to use the appearance bond solely as a means to collect the alleged arrears, rather than as a means to ensure Father’s appearance for legal proceedings. Therefore, because the trial court failed to identify and apply the appropriate legal principles, both statutory and constitutional, and its decision was not supported by an evidentiary foundation, the decision constituted an abuse of discretion. Because the trial court erred in requiring a cash-only appearance bond, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, the amount of bond shall be $1,000, which Father may post with sufficient sureties, and the case is remanded for further proceedings as may be necessary.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Rachel Beth Haynes v. Allan Vincent Daugherty - Concurring in part and dissenting in part
M2018-01394-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Diana Benson Burns

When Allan Daugherty fell behind in paying child support for his three children, the State of Tennessee, acting on behalf of the children’s mother, filed a petition for civil contempt. Mr. Daugherty and the State agreed on the amount of the child support arrearage, $10,288.57, and Mr. Daugherty further agreed that an automatic attachment could issue for his arrest if he failed to pay child support for a thirty-day period. The circuit court confirmed an agreed order reflecting both of these agreements. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
Arnold Ray Parker v. William H. Clayton
M2017-02556-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this suit for conversion, a truck owner alleges that his friend converted his truck for the friend’s own use and the friend asserts that the owner gave him the truck as a gift. The trial court found the owner was more credible and concluded the friend was liable for conversion. The court awarded the owner damages, including lost earnings to compensate him for the time he was unable to earn a living by driving his truck. The friend appealed, claiming the court erred by awarding the owner more than the dollar amount set forth in the complaint. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in most respects, but we modify the damages award to conform to the requested amount.

Perry County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
In Re Estate of John E. Mayfield - Dissenting
M2018-01977-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s reversal of the Trial Court’s order dismissing Mr. Saltsman’s claim. I instead would affirm the dismissal because Mr. Mayfield informed Mr. Saltsman before Mr. Saltsman ever even saw it that the Commercial Purchase and Sale Agreement (“the Purported Instrument”) was invalid and, as the majority states, “had to be rewritten . . .”, and Mr. Saltsman acknowledged and agreed to that.

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 09/09/19
In Re Estate of John E. Mayfield
M2018-01977-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The owner of a storage facility agreed to sell the facility and died shortly after signing the purchase and sale agreement. The buyer filed a claim with the estate, seeking specific performance of the agreement. The estate’s administrator excepted to the claim, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable and that the decedent lacked the mental capacity to understand his actions when he signed the agreement. The trial court concluded that the agreement was not enforceable because there was no mutuality of assent to its terms and dismissed the buyer’s claim. The buyer appealed, and we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand it for further proceedings.

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 09/09/19
Dianne Hamilton, et al. v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals
W2019-01501-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. The plaintiff contends the trial judge should be disqualified because a lawyer with the Lewis Thomason law firm, which represents the defendant in this action, provided a letter of recommendation on behalf of the trial judge in support of the judge’s application for appointment to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Plaintiff also contends the trial judge should be disqualified because the judge failed to disclose “the extrajudicial relationship.” Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal, pursuant to the de novo standard as required under Rule 10B § 2.01, we find that the lawyer who provided the letter of recommendation has no involvement in this case, and that lawyer merely has a de minimis interest in the outcome of this case because the law firm representing the defendant is one of the larger multi-city firms in this state. Based on these facts and the relevant legal principles, we find no basis to conclude that the trial judge’s impartiality might be reasonably questioned. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Deborah Anne Dillon, Et Al. v. Craig Morris, Et Al.
M2019-01181-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

The plaintiffs/appellants filed a notice of appeal from the trial court’s order dismissing one of the plaintiffs’ claims as to all of the defendants and all of the claims as to one of the defendants. The defendants/appellees responded to the notice of appeal by filing a motion to dismiss this appeal as premature and not subject to a final appealable order of the trial court. Because the trial court has not yet resolved all the claims between all the parties, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jennifer Doe v. Austin Davis - Dissenting
M2018-02001-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

Upon reading the majority opinion, both what is said and what is left unsaid, one may sum it up as follows: Mr. Davis is at fault, he did not follow the rules, and he is getting what he deserves. Mr. Davis may indeed deserve what the majority is giving him, but not in the way they do it. I respectfully dissent.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jennifer Doe v. Austin Davis
M2018-02001-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

The plaintiff, who is now an adult, filed this action against Austin Davis seeking compensatory and punitive damages for intentional invasion of privacy and defamation. The plaintiff also sought to enjoin Mr. Davis from further intrusion into her private life by posting to social media statements regarding her childhood sexual molestation as well as the private details of her life and childhood. After two years of Mr. Davis’s refusal to submit to any discovery on any subject and refusal to obey an order compelling discovery, the parties appeared before a special master for a case management conference. During this meeting, Mr. Davis unequivocally informed the Special Master that he had no intention of providing responses to any of the plaintiff’s discovery. Two weeks later, Mr. Davis responded to the plaintiff’s renewed motion to compel discovery by reiterating his refusal to provide responses, stating: “[T]he Defendant does not wish to provide any Discovery information to anyone voluntarily or involuntarily involved in the [sexual abuse] cover up.” Mr. Davis reaffirmed this declaration in open court during the hearing on the renewed motion for sanctions. Following the hearing, the trial court granted the motion for sanctions and awarded the plaintiff a default judgment on all issues concerning liability. After a trial on the issue of damages, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff $300,000 in compensatory damages and $1,800,000 in punitive damages. The trial court adopted both awards in its final judgment, and this appeal followed. The brief filed by Mr. Davis in this appeal is profoundly deficient and fails to comply with Rule 27(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Specifically, his Statement of the Case and Statement of Facts are littered with a series of nonsensical, illogical statements unrelated to the merits of this appeal. Moreover, the Argument section of his brief fails to set forth any contentions with respect to the issues presented, and the reasons therefore, including the reasons why the contentions require appellate relief, with citations to the authorities and appropriate references to the record as required by Rule 27(a)(7)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. In fact, the entire Argument, which is less than one page, merely contains a restatement of the issues and the statement that Mr. Davis relies on this “court’s ability to exercise ‘sua sponte’ authority in the best interest of justice, and to protect children.” Based on Mr. Davis’s profound failure to comply with Rule 27(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Mr. Davis has waived his right to an appeal. Accordingly, this appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Zachary Ronald Wright v. Angelene Hope Wright
E2018-02112-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

After father engaged in abusive conduct, mother petitioned for an order of protection. The trial court granted an ex parte order precluding father from contacting mother and their two minor children and set a hearing. Following a bench trial, the trial court held that the minor children were domestic abuse and sexual assault victims; it extended the order of protection for one year. The court permitted father supervised visitation with his biological daughter once every other week, and awarded mother child support. The court deviated from the amount of support required by the child support guidelines, and instead awarded mother $200 per week. The court did not state the amount of support that would have been ordered under the guidelines nor a justification for the variance. Father appeals. We affirm the extension of the order of protection for one year. We vacate the portion of the trial court’s order requiring father to pay excess child support, and remand to the trial court with instructions to make the requisite findings, pursuant to applicable law, and consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Tennessee Department of Health Et Al. v. Norma J. Sparks
M2018-01317-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

The Department of Health reprimanded and issued civil penalties against a physician assistant for prescribing controlled substances under the supervision of a physician who lacked DEA registration, failing to register with the Controlled Substances Monitoring Database (“CSMD”), and failing to check the database prior to prescribing controlled substances. On a petition for review, the chancery court reversed the Department’s decision. We conclude that the Department’s interpretation of the Physician Assistants Act is contrary to law and improperly places the duty on the physician assistant to determine whether a supervising physician is in compliance with an unwritten requirement that the physician be registered with the DEA to be able to supervise a physician assistant who prescribes controlled substances. Furthermore, the record does not contain substantial and material evidence that the Department provided the physician assistant with the statutorily-required notice that either registration with the CSMD or checking with the CSMD was required. We affirm the decision of the chancery court in all respects.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Alan Cartee v. Dale Morris, Et Al.
M2018-02272-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda J. McClendon

The plaintiff filed a premises liability action against a premises owner alleging that the premises owner was liable for injuries the plaintiff sustained after falling down a staircase located on the premises owner’s property. The trial court denied the premises owner’s motion for summary judgment but granted permission to pursue an interlocutory appeal. Because the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of an essential element of his claim, we reverse the decision of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jeremy Ash v. Jaclyn Ash
M2018-00901-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

This appeal arises from a post-divorce dispute over child custody wherein the father filed a petition to modify the permanent parenting plan. Following a hearing in October 2017, the Trial Court found that a material change in circumstance existed and implemented a temporary parenting plan, determining that plan to be in the child’s best interest. Thereafter in April 2018, the Trial Court converted that temporary parenting plan into a permanent parenting plan upon its determination that the temporary plan appeared to be working satisfactorily. Mother appeals to this Court. Because the Trial Court did not conduct a best interest analysis or make the required statutory finding of best interest, we vacate the April 2018 judgment of the Trial Court and remand for further proceedings as necessary. We affirm the Trial Court in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Twenty Holdings, LLC v. Land South TN, LLC and Brandon Majors
M2018-01903-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Plaintiff sued defendant-company and its employee for damages to its real property when the defendant-company’s tractor-trailer collided with the plaintiff’s residential properties while the truck was unmanned. The plaintiff raised claims of negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, trespass, negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and punitive damages. A jury trial occurred, and the trial court granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict as to all but the plaintiff’s negligence claim. The jury later awarded the plaintiff $185,000.00 for the diminution in value to the real property. Both parties appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/05/19
Horizon Trades, Inc. v. Aubrey Givens, Et Al.
M2019-00323-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

This is an appeal from an order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint as to one of two defendants. Because the order appealed does not dispose of all the plaintiff’s claims, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/05/19
Jessica Hartmann v. Brian Hartmann
M2018-00891-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ted A. Crozier

This is an appeal in a proceeding to modify an agreed parenting plan, which was incorporated into a decree when Mother and Father finalized their divorce in Arizona in 2016. Prior to the entry of the decree, the Mother and their three minor children moved to Montgomery County, Tennessee, with Father’s consent when he obtained temporary employment in Kuwait. The agreed parenting plan provided that by July 15, 2017, Mother, Father, and the children would relocate to a mutually agreed upon location or, in the event a location could not be agreed upon, to either Raleigh, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, or Augusta, Georgia. Upon his return from Kuwait in June 2017, Father moved to Augusta, Georgia. Mother petitioned the Circuit Court of Montgomery County to modify custody in October 2017; Father counter-petitioned for contempt and enforcement of the Arizona decree. After a hearing, the court enrolled the Arizona decree, found that there was a material change of circumstance requiring modification of the decree, adopted a parenting plan submitted by Mother, and modified Father’s child support. Father appeals; upon our review we have determined that the evidence does not support the court’s a finding of a material change of circumstance. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for entry of an order that the children be relocated in accordance with the final decree.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/04/19