Court Opinions

Format: 08/18/2022
Format: 08/18/2022
Jeff Lunn et al. v. Dickson County, Tennessee et al.
M2021-00543-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

In this certiorari review of the decision of a board of zoning appeals upholding the zoning director’s interpretation and application of the zoning resolutions to permit the building of a fuel terminal, the appellants challenge the decision as being arbitrary and unsupported by the evidence.  The trial court concluded that ample material evidence existed to support the decision of the director. Upon our de novo review, we agree and accordingly affirm the decision of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 05/27/22
Turnbull Preservation Group, L.L.C. et al. v. Dickson County, Tennessee et al.
M2021-00542-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillian, Jr.

This is an Open Meetings Act case regarding the Dickson County Planning Commission’s approval and subsequent denial of a site plan for the construction and operation of a fuel terminal. A non-profit and two Dickson County residents filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing that the Planning Commission acted in violation of the Open Meetings Act when it held an unpublicized meeting and initially approved the site plan. The trial court found the case was moot because the Dickson County Planning Commission overturned its approval of the site plan at a subsequent meeting. We agree and affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the case as moot.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 05/27/22
James Michael Bailey, et al. v. Firstbank
M2020-00837-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

Consumers discovered negative information on their credit reports.  Believing that the information was false, the consumers filed a Fair Credit Reporting Act claim against the bank that furnished the information.  See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n, 1681o.  On the bank’s motion, the court summarily dismissed the action because the consumers were unable to prove an essential element of a Fair Credit Reporting Act claim.  The court also denied the bank’s request for an award of attorney’s fees.  Both sides appealed.  Based on the undisputed facts, we conclude that the bank was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on the Fair Credit Reporting Act claim.  We also conclude that the bank did not prove that it was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees.  So we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/27/22
Wayne Gray et al. v. Dickson County, Tennessee et al.
M2021-00546-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This consolidated appeal involves citizen challenges, via the common law writ of certiorari, to the procedure by which the Dickson County Planning Commission and Dickson County Commission approved a settlement agreement negotiated with Titan Partners, L.L.C.  Specifically, the Petitioners allege that they were entitled to notice that the settlement agreement was going to be discussed at the regularly scheduled meetings of the Planning Commission and County Commission.  They further allege that executive sessions were improperly utilized to discuss the settlement agreement in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  The trial court found no violation of the Open Meetings Act and affirmed the actions of the Planning and County Commissions.  Upon our review of the record, we agree that there was no violation of the Open Meetings Act and affirm the trial court in all respects.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 05/27/22
Wayne Gray et al. v. Dickson County, Tennessee et al.
M2021-00545-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This consolidated appeal involves citizen challenges, via the common law writ of certiorari, to the procedure by which the Dickson County Planning Commission and Dickson County Commission approved a settlement agreement negotiated with Titan Partners, L.L.C.  Specifically, the Petitioners allege that they were entitled to notice that the settlement agreement was going to be discussed at the regularly scheduled meetings of the Planning Commission and County Commission.  They further allege that executive sessions were improperly utilized to discuss the settlement agreement in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  The trial court found no violation of the Open Meetings Act and affirmed the actions of the Planning and County Commissions.  Upon our review of the record, we agree that there was no violation of the Open Meetings Act and affirm the trial court in all respects.

Dickson County Court of Appeals 05/27/22
Recipient of Final Expunction Order in McNairy County Circuit Court Case No. 3279 v. David B. Rausch, Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
M2021-00438-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

In this interlocutory appeal, we address whether the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“the TBI”) may refuse to comply with a final expungement order issued by a trial court. We conclude that the TBI lacks authority to refuse to comply with a final expungement order. Thus, we reverse the trial court’s judgment, grant the Plaintiff’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, and remand this matter to the trial court for any further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Supreme Court 05/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Nikos Burgins
E2021-00602-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Nikos Burgins, appeals his conviction for solicitation of first degree murder and corresponding thirty-year sentence. The Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred by qualifying three law enforcement officers as gang experts; (2) the court erred by allowing a layperson to offer expert testimony about handwriting; (3) the court erred by declining to issue an absent material witness instruction; (4) the court erred by admitting general gang evidence, including testimony regarding unrelated gang violence in a prison; and (5) the court should have granted his motion for judgment of acquittal due to insufficient evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/22
Sheryl Haynes v. Terry Haynes
W2021-01004-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

A husband appeals a final decree of divorce in which the trial court classified the marital residence as marital property and awarded the wife alimony in futuro. Because the husband failed to file either a transcript or statement of the evidence, we conclusively presume that the record would have supported the trial court’s decision, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 05/26/22
Steven Jeffrey Archer v. Sodexo Operations, LLC, et al.
W2020-01176-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

This interlocutory appeal arises from a health care liability action. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. In response, the plaintiff invoked the discovery rule and argued that his claim was timely filed after he learned the identity of the defendant. The plaintiff submitted an affidavit of counsel in an effort to detail the due diligence undertaken by the plaintiff to ascertain the identity of the defendant. Upon considering the affidavit, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. However, the trial court granted permission for the defendant to seek an interlocutory appeal. This Court granted the defendant’s application. We now affirm the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/25/22
State of Tennessee v. James Rodney Smith
M2021-00547-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, James Rodney Smith, was convicted of arson following a jury trial, and he was sentenced to four years on probation and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.  No appeal was filed, and the Defendant sought post-conviction relief and was permitted to file a delayed motion for a new trial and appeal.  James Rodney Smith v. State, No. M2019-00820-CCA-R3-PC, 2020 WL 3832996, at *6 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 8, 2020) (reversing the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief and remanding for a hearing on due process tolling), no perm. app. filed.  On appeal of the conviction, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the unanimity of the jury verdict, and the restitution order.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Houston County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/22
Jonathan Robert Leonard v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00535-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Petitioner, Johnathan Robert Leonard, sought post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of rape of a child, two counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received an effective ninety-six-year sentence.  Relevant to this appeal, he alleged that counsel was ineffective because counsel failed to adequately meet and confer with him, preserve for appeal several issues related to prosecutorial misconduct during trial proceedings, and appeal his sentence.  See Johnathan Robert Leonard v. State, No. M2018-01737-CCA-R3-PC, 2019 WL 5885085, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 12, 2019), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 26, 2020).  Following a hearing, the post-conviction court granted the Petitioner relief in the form of a delayed appeal regarding his claim that counsel was ineffective in failing to appeal his sentence, but this court reversed and remanded for adjudication of the Petitioner’s remaining allegations.  Id. at *9.  On remand, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner’s remaining claims after a second evidentiary hearing.  The Petitioner appeals, maintaining that counsel failed to adequately meet and confer with him and to preserve for appeal claims related to prosecutorial misconduct.  We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/22
Benny Vaughn v. Coffee County, Tennessee
M2021-00653-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

An inmate filed this case alleging that he sustained injuries while in the county jail after slipping on water in his cell. The trial court granted the county’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the county lacked actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition. Because we conclude that the inmate submitted sufficient proof to create a dispute of material fact as to the county’s actual notice of the alleged dangerous condition, we reverse.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 05/25/22
Dennis Owen v. Kenneth A. Grinspun et al.
M2021-00681-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

Appellant appeals the trial court’s dismissal of this cause of action on the basis that it was filed by a deceased plaintiff and therefore a nullity that could not be corrected via amendment. We affirm. 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 05/25/22
Claudette Gilley Sanford v. Phillip Howard Sanford
E2021-00414-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

A former wife sued her former husband for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of the disclosure warranty in the marital dissolution agreement entered in their divorce fifteen years earlier. Finding that the former wife released those claims through an agreed order entered three years before the underlying action, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the former husband. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/24/22
Westley Murel Hall v. Megan Leigh Hall
M2021-00757-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson

In this post-divorce action, the trial court conducted a hearing with respect to the mother’s request to relocate to Ohio with the parties’ minor child, a request which the father opposed.  Following a bench trial, the trial court entered an order permitting relocation and modifying the parties’ permanent parenting plan to provide the father with more co-parenting time.  The trial court also granted an award of attorney’s fees to the mother.  The father has appealed.  Based on the trial court’s failure to render sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning its award of attorney’s fees to the mother, we vacate the attorney’s fee award and remand the case to the trial court for entry of an order containing written findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning the basis for its decision to award attorney’s fees to the mother and the reasonableness of the amount awarded.  The trial court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 05/24/22
Town of Monterey, Tennessee et al. v. The Garden Inn, LLC et al.
M2020-01511-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

This is a declaratory judgment action concerning an express ingress/egress easement that provides access via The Garden Inn at Bee Rock in Monterey, Tennessee, to a neighboring natural landmark owned by the Town of Monterey, Tennessee. After years of public use of the easement to access the landmark, The Garden Inn took steps to physically hinder the public’s use of the easement. As a consequence, the Town of Monterey and others commenced this action against The Garden Inn, LLC, to declare the respective rights and responsibilities of the parties. After years of litigation, The Garden Inn contended that a conservation foundation was an indispensable party. In doing so, The Garden Inn contended that failure to add the conservation foundation, which holds a conservation easement by which it may prohibit certain uses of the landmark property, would subject The Garden Inn to multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations. The trial court disagreed, holding that the conservation foundation “has no interest in the fight with respect to the interpretation of this easement for ingress and egress.” Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town of Monterey concerning the scope and uses of the easement. The Garden Inn appealed, challenging only the trial court’s determination that the conservation foundation was not an indispensable party. We affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 05/24/22
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Edward Boykin, Jr.
M2020-00558-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Ronald Edward Boykin, Jr., pleaded guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he was sentenced to concurrent fifteen-year sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction with release eligibility after serving thirty percent of the sentences. The Defendant was also required to register as a sex offender and to be subject to community supervision for life. Thereafter, the Defendant filed a motion to correct his
sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, alleging that “[t]he trial court erred in holding that the lifetime community supervision portion of [the Defendant’s] ,sentence is legal, where the statutory authority for that provision mandates lifetime supervision for certain offenses but not the offenses for which [the Defendant] was convicted.” The trial court denied the motion, and the Defendant appeals. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for entry of corrected judgments of conviction.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/22
Lawrence Simonetti et al. v. Thomas Frank McCormick et al.
M2021-00754-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This appeal arises from the denial of a motion to compel arbitration in a construction dispute involving the purchase of a newly constructed townhome in Nashville.  The plaintiffs brought suit in the Davidson County Circuit Court, asserting claims of promissory fraud, breach of contract, and breach of implied warranty, while also attempting to pierce the corporate veil of one of the involved companies.  The defendants filed motions to dismiss and/or compel arbitration, contending that the contract between the parties required the matter to be resolved via arbitration.  The trial court denied the motions in an order finding that the arbitration clause relied upon by the defendants was part of a warranty that was not included in the initial contract and to which the plaintiffs had not agreed.  Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motions.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/24/22
Jack Breithaupt et al. v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center
M2021-00314-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal is a health care liability case involving issues of pre-suit notice and the statutory requirements under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121.  The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment; granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment; and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims with prejudice after determining she failed to give the defendant
pre-suit notice in compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121.  The plaintiff appeals.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/24/22
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. David Jonathan Tulis v. Bill Lee, Governor of Tennessee Et
E2021-00436-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

In this mandamus action, the petitioner/relator, acting on relation to the state, sought to have the trial court, inter alia, issue writs requiring the state governor and county health department administrator to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 68-5-104, which pertains to “[i]solation or quarantine.” The relator named the governor and health department administrator as respondents in both their official and “personal” capacities. Upon the respondents’ respective motions to dismiss the petition and following a hearing, the trial court entered separate orders granting the motions to dismiss as to each respondent, finding, as pertinent on appeal, that (1) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction as to the claim against the governor in a mandamus action, (2) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction as to the claim against the health department administrator because the relator lacked standing, and (3) the relator otherwise failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted. The trial court also granted the health department administrator’s motion for a reasonable award of attorney’s fees and costs in defending against the lawsuit in her personal capacity pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-20-113. The relator filed motions to alter or amend, which the trial court denied following a hearing in orders certified as final pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. The relator timely appealed. Concluding that (1) the trial court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction is dispositive as to the action against the governor in his official capacity, (2) the relator’s lack of standing is dispositive as to the action against the county health administrator in her official capacity, and (3) the relator’s actions against both respondents in their personal capacities failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal orders. We clarify, however, that the relator’s lack of standing with respect to his claim against the county health administrator did not equate to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction in the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/23/22
Harold Allen Vaughn v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The petitioner, Harold Allen Vaughn, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in relying on our supreme court’s decision in Cordarius Maxwell v. State, No. 2018-00318-SC-R11-PC (Tenn. Sept. 3, 2019) (order) and finding his petition procedurally deficient. Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the dismissal.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Glenn Roby, Jr. And Kevyn Deshawn Allen
M2020-00301-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellants, Glenn Roby, Jr., and Kevyn Deshawn Allen, of first degree premediated murder, and the trial court sentenced them to life in confinement.  On appeal, Roby contends that the trial court erred by allowing proof of a robbery and shooting that occurred just hours prior to the events in this case, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to play portions of a witness’s recorded interview for the jury as a prior inconsistent statement, that the trial court erred by denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, and that he was denied his right to subpoena witnesses.  Allen contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by denying his severance motion.  In addition, both Appellants contend that the trial court erred by allowing inflammatory crime scene and autopsy photographs into evidence.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/22
Mickell Lowery v. Michael Redmond, et al.
W2021-00611-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Petitioner/Appellee filed a petition in chancery court against Respondents/Appellants, alleging various claims related to allegedly false and defamatory statements made by the Respondents/Appellants. An objection was made to the chancery court’s subject matter jurisdiction, seeking dismissal or transfer of the action to circuit court. The chancery court denied the motion to dismiss or transfer and ultimately rendered judgment in favor of Petitioner/Appellee. We conclude that the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We therefore reverse the judgment of the chancery court regarding subject matter jurisdiction, vacate all other orders of judgment entered by the trial court, and remand the case for transfer to circuit court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/23/22
Leo Charles Hillman et al. v. Young Street Partners II, LLC et al
M2021-00142-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This case involves the interpretation of a commercial lease provision containing a tenant improvement allowance.  Following a hearing, the trial court initially entered an order in August 2020, granting partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs/assignees and directing the defendant/assignor, Young Street Partners II, LLC (“Young Street”), to reimburse the plaintiffs for $92,000.00 they had paid to a tenant claiming the improvement allowance, as well as costs, attorney’s fees, and statutory prejudgment interest.  Upon the filing of subsequent competing motions for summary judgment and following a hearing, the trial court confirmed its prior judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and further dismissed Young Street’s counterclaim for attorney’s fees and costs in an order entered in January 2021, thereby denying Young Street’s motion for partial summary judgment.  Following entry of an order of voluntary dismissal without prejudice against all defendants except Young Street and upon the plaintiffs’ motion, the trial court entered an order certifying its January 2021 order as final pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02.  Young Street has appealed.  Determining that the trial court improvidently granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, we vacate the judgment and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.  We deny the plaintiffs’ request for an award of attorney’s fees on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Roy Michael Ford
E2021-00780-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Roy Michael Ford, Defendant, was indicted for several offenses in relation to the death of Scotty Brogan, the victim. Defendant sought severance of the second degree murder charge from the remaining offenses. The trial court granted the request and Defendant proceeded to trial on the second degree murder charge. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 17 years in incarceration. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the second degree murder conviction; (2) the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the deceased victim; (3) the trial court improperly permitted a witness to testify about what she would have done had she been in Defendant’s position; and (4) his sentence is excessive. After a review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/19/22