Court Opinions

Format: 12/08/2022
Format: 12/08/2022
Daysparkles Oliver v. Tennessee Department of Safter and Homeland Security
M2021-00121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal

Narcotics officers seized two vehicles and approximately $23,000 in U.S. currency while executing a search warrant at a residence. An administrative law judge ordered the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to return the seized property to the purported owner. The judge determined that the search warrant was issued without probable cause, resulting in an illegal seizure. And, if not, the Department failed to prove that it strictly complied with the forfeiture statutes. The Department petitioned for judicial review. After reviewing the administrative record, the chancery court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the administrative decision for further proceedings. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/04/22
Gayle Arlene Green Matlock v. Mark Steven Matlock
E2022-00041-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III
In this post-divorce action, the trial court granted a motion to enforce provisions of a marital dissolution agreement and for relief following a bench trial. Upon our finding that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for compliance with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
Loudon County Court of Appeals 11/04/22
In Re Brylan S.
W2021-01446-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Van McMahan

In this termination of parental rights case, Appellant/Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by an incarcerated parent by failure to support and by wanton disregard, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1), 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv); (2) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the child, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(9)(a)(iv); and (3) persistence of the conditions that led to the child’s removal, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36- 1-113(g)(3)(A). Father also appeals the trial court’s determination that termination of his parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because Appellee Department of Children’s Services does not defend the ground of persistence of conditions, we reverse the trial court’s termination of Appellant’s parental rights on that ground. We affirm the termination of Appellant’s parental rights on all remaining grounds, and on its finding that termination of Appellant’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 11/03/22
Troy Love v. Andre McDowell Et Al.
E2022-00230-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Elizabeth C. Asbury

This appeal involves a challenge to a chancery court’s granting of a motion to enforce a settlement agreement related to litigation over the partition of family-owned property. The appellant is incarcerated, which caused complications for all parties in efficiently resolving their dispute. The chancellor concluded the appellant was bound by the settlement reached by his agent, who was acting with both actual and apparent authority. On appeal, the appellant contends the chancellor erred in finding his agent had actual and apparent authority to agree to a settlement on his behalf. We conclude that the appellant has failed to demonstrate that the chancellor erred in finding the appellant conferred actual authority upon his agent; accordingly, we affirm the chancery court’s granting of the appellees’ motion to enforce the parties’ settlement agreement.

Union County Court of Appeals 11/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Sanchez Amos
M2021-00986-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Calvin Sanchez Amos, Defendant, was indicted for possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell in a drug-free zone, possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and evading arrest. Defendant pled guilty to evading arrest and proceeded to trial on the remaining charges. A jury found Defendant guilty of the lesser included offenses of possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine for resale and attempted possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. At the sentencing hearing, Defendant agreed to an effective sentence of 12 years. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court’s ruling on the admissibility of a video from Defendant’s phone in which he is seen cooking crack cocaine. After a full review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Tanya Dawn Everett
E2022-00189-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Davie Reed Duggan

Following a conviction for theft of property, the Defendant, Tanya Dawn Everett, was sentenced to a term of four years and placed on probation. Thereafter, the Blount County Circuit Court found that the Defendant violated the terms of her probation by failing to report and by committing new criminal offenses. As a consequence, the trial court revoked the suspended sentence and ordered the Defendant to serve the balance of her original sentence in custody. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering her to serve the balance of her sentence in confinement. We respectfully affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Glenn Sewell
W2021-00023-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Johnson Mitchell

Petitioner, Glenn Sewell, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in denying his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/02/22
Marlez Wilson A/K/A Marlez Wright v. State of Tennessee
W2022-00024-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Marlez Wilson a/k/a, Marlez Wright, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in concluding that he received the effective assistance of counsel. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/02/22
Shelby Ireland v. Tennessee Farmers Life Insurance Company et al.
M2021-01360-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

This appeal challenges a grant of summary judgment to an insurance company on a breach of contract claim for failing to honor a life insurance policy.  The chancery court concluded the policy was void because of misrepresentations made by the decedent in obtaining coverage. The beneficiary, the spouse of the decedent, argues disputed facts exist both as to whether any misrepresentations were made and whether any of the purported misrepresentations increased the insurer’s risk of loss.  Accordingly, the beneficiary contends that the chancellor erred in awarding summary judgment.  We find no error and affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. 

Maury County Court of Appeals 11/02/22
State of Tennessee v. William Strickland
E2021-01280-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The Defendant-Appellant, William Lester Strickland, appeals from the revocation of his probationary sentence for aggravated burglary. The sole issue presented for review is whether the trial court erred in fully revoking the Defendant’s probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/02/22
In Re Estate of John Jefferson Waller
M2022-00183-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

A reverse mortgage borrower died.  The administrator of his estate petitioned the probate court to enjoin the lender from foreclosing and to set aside the loan and mortgage based on lack of capacity and fraud.  While the injunction against the lender was in place, the mortgaged property was sold.  On the administrator’s motion, the probate court ordered the administrator to escrow the payoff amount for the reverse mortgage pending the outcome of the litigation.  After a bench trial, the probate court dismissed the estate’s claims against the lender.  The administrator then asked the court for leave to release the escrowed funds in an amount equal to a payoff provided by the lender shortly before the sale.  The lender objected because the sale had occurred over four years before.  The lender requested payment of interest accruing since the sale and recovery of its attorney’s fees and costs.  The probate court sided with the administrator and denied the lender’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/02/22
In Re Kamyiah H.
M2021-00834-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathryn Wall Olita

A mother appeals the trial court’s decision to terminate her parental rights based on the grounds of (1) abandonment by wanton disregard, (2) persistence of conditions, (3) sentenced to two or more years’ imprisonment for conduct against a child, (4) incarcerated under a sentence of ten or more years, and (5) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody and financial responsibility.  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.  Finding that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact for the failure to manifest an ability and willingness ground, we vacate that termination ground.  We affirm the trial court’s decision in all other respects.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/02/22
Karen Thomas v. State of Tennessee
E2021-01338-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, Karen Thomas, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her conviction of aggravated stalking, alleging that she received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel did not object to the State presenting rebuttal testimony at trial or the trial court’s jury instruction regarding the rebuttal testimony. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/02/22
Casey Phillips v. Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund
E2022-00296-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

Appellant filed for disability benefits with the Appellee, Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund (“CFPPF”). The CFPPF board denied Appellant’s application by letter dated October 27, 2020. On June 28, 2021, Appellant filed a request for rehearing with the board; the board denied rehearing by letter dated August 19, 2021. On September 10, 2021, Appellant filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking review in the trial court, and the CFPPF moved to dismiss under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02. The trial court held that the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (“UAPA”) applied and further held that the board’s October 27, 2020 was not compliant with the UAPA requirements for final orders. Nonetheless, the trial court held that the October 27, 2020 letter was a final order so as to trigger the sixty-day time for filing for review in the trial court and dismissed Appellant’s petition with prejudice. Because the October 27, 2020 order was not UAPA-compliant, it did not constitute a final order so as to trigger the running of the sixty-day statute of limitations. As such, the trial court erred in dismissing Appellant’s petition with prejudice. Reversed and remanded.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/02/22
In Re Bentley J. et al.
M2022-00077-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Reed Brown

This is a termination of parental rights case involving two minor children.  Mother and Father appeal the trial court’s order terminating their parental rights to the children on multiple bases.  Having reviewed the record on appeal, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Pickett County Court of Appeals 11/01/22
Gary Haiser Et Al. v. Michael McClung Et Al.
E2021-00825-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This appeal involves a long-running dispute between two groups of property owners in the real estate community development of Renegade Mountain over composition of the board of directors and resultant control of the community organization. Plaintiffs, members of the Renegade Mountain Community Club, Inc. (“RMCC”), a homeowner’s association, brought this action in 2011, seeking a declaratory judgment affirming their status as directors and officers of RMCC. The Defendants contested the validity of the election at which Plaintiffs were allegedly elected. Plaintiffs also sought a declaration of whether the purported developer possessed developer’s rights. After two prior appeals and a subsequent retrial, the trial court held that Defendant Moy Toy, Inc., a property owner, does not have developer’s rights. The trial court further ruled that Plaintiffs were properly elected as members of RMCC’s board and enforced an easement of enjoyment to use certain property in the development that was designated as “common areas,” in favor of Plaintiffs and all other members of RMCC. Defendants appeal. We vacate the trial court’s findings that the parties stipulated that the old golf course property was not “common property,” and that Plaintiffs “have no interest” in it because the parties agreed and stipulated only that the old golf course property was “not an issue” in this case. We affirm the judgment of the trial court in all other respects.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 11/01/22
Rachel Reiss Et Al. v. Rock Creek Construction, Inc.
E2021-01513-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal involves a counterclaim asserting defamation filed by the original defendant, a construction company, concerning statements that the original plaintiffs/homeowners made online and to third parties that were allegedly damaging to the construction company’s reputation. The homeowners sought dismissal of the defamation claims pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-17-101, et seq., known as the Tennessee Public Participation Act (“TPPA”). The trial court denied the homeowners’ motion to dismiss and ultimately entered judgment against them. The homeowners have appealed solely the trial court’s denial of their motion to dismiss. Determining that the trial court should have analyzed the motion to dismiss pursuant to the provisions of the TPPA rather than applying a traditional Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12 analysis, we vacate the court’s denial of the motion to dismiss and remand for further proceedings. We also vacate the trial court’s monetary award to the defendant construction company and remand that issue for further consideration once the motion to dismiss has been properly adjudicated.

Knox County Court of Appeals 11/01/22
James Franklin Byrd v. Valerie Finley Byrd v. Byrd Brothers, LLC, et al.
W2021-00926-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

This is an appeal following a four-day divorce trial. The husband raises nine issues on appeal regarding the grounds for divorce, the role and testimony of an expert witness, the valuation and division of marital property, judgments for attorney fees and accountant fees, and a finding of criminal contempt. For the following reasons, we affirm as modified and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/31/22
Richard Cleophus Smith v. State of Tennessee
E2022-00200-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The petitioner, Richard Cleophus Smith, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, evading arrest, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel and due process. Because the petitioner’s post-conviction counsel also represented the petitioner on direct appeal, we remand to the post-conviction court to determine whether the petitioner knowingly and voluntarily agrees to waive post-conviction counsel’s conflict of interests.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey L. Crowe
M2022-00072-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Jeffrey L. Crowe, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for reckless aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, second offense DUI by impairment, second offense DUI per se, and resisting arrest. Following a bench trial, Defendant was convicted of the charged offenses and sentenced to an effective sentence of two years to be suspended on probation after serving 32 days incarcerated. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; that the trial court erred when it restricted Defendant’s cross-examination of the victim; and that the trial court committed plain error when it allowed hearsay testimony. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs and arguments of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/22
Thomas Jackson (Deceased), By Next of Kin, Latisha Jackson v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center
M2022-00476-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

Patient, by next of kin, sued hospital alleging negligence during his treatment. Trial court granted hospital’s motion to dismiss based on patient’s failure to file the complaint prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Patient appealed the dismissal. Because the trial court correctly determined that the statute of limitations commenced running when the patient was discharged, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/31/22
State of Tennessee v. James Lee Simpson
M2021-01031-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Following a trial, a Davidson County jury convicted Defendant, James Lee Simpson, of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault resulting in death, and felon in possession of a firearm, for which he received a total effective sentence of fifteen years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by providing incomplete and erroneous jury instructions on the issue of self-defense; (2) the trial court erred by preventing Defendant from cross-examining a witness regarding alleged prior acts of violence by the victims in violation of both Tennessee Rule of Evidence 405 and Defendant’s right to confrontation; (3) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of necessity; (4) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Defendant; (5) the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support convictions for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault resulting in death; and (6) the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the State to cross-examine a witness regarding Defendant’s prior conviction for possessing a firearm after concluding that Defendant had “opened the door” to the cross-examination. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse Defendant’s convictions and remand for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/22
Sonney Summers v. RTR Transportation Services et al.
M2022-00084-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Robert E. Lee Davies, Sr. Judge
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Durham
Employee Christine Summers was killed in the course and scope of her employment with
RTR Transportation Services. Employee's surviving spouse, Sonney Summers, filed a
claim for death benefits. The parties ultimately agreed that Mr. Summers was entitled to
death benefits. However, they disagreed regarding whether the death benefits should be
paid in a lump sum. They also disagreed regarding whether Mr. Summers's attorneys were
entitled to have their fees paid in a lump sum and whether attorneys' fees were recoverable
for burial expenses. The trial court determined that neither Mr. Summers's death benefits
nor the attorneys' fees should be commuted to a lump sum payment. The trial court also
found that attorneys' fees were not recoverable for burial expenses. The Workers'
Compensation Appeals Board affirmed. Employee has appealed, and the appeal has been
referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for consideration and a
report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court
Rule 51. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
Workers Compensation Panel 10/28/22
McGinnis Oil Company, LLC v. William H. Bowling d/b/a Teague Grocery, et al.
W2021-01104-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

This is a contract dispute. The trial court dismissed Appellant's action for failure to state a claim based on the statutes of limitations prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-2-725 and/or Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-3-109(a)(3). We reverse and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 10/28/22
Laurel Martin Griffin v. Kevin Michael Griffin
M2021-00173-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

In a previous appeal from a divorce, this Court vacated the trial court’s award of alimony to the wife.  We remanded for reconsideration of the amount of alimony after determining the husband’s ability to pay.  On remand, the parties stipulated that the husband’s gross income was less than the amount the trial court originally relied upon in setting alimony.  But the court made no change in its alimony award.  The husband appeals.  We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/27/22