Court Opinions

Format: 01/14/2022
Format: 01/14/2022
State of Tennessee v. Justin Kenneth Blankenbaker
M2020-01436-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn
The Defendant, Justin Kenneth Blankenbaker, was convicted by a jury of first-degree premeditated murder, arson, and abuse of a corpse, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for first-degree murder, specifically, challenging the element of premeditation; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for arson because he did not knowingly damage any structure. Following our review, we affirm.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/22
Benjamin Jordan Frazier et al. v. Tennessee Department of Children's Services
M2020-00368-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services denied an application for adoption assistance payments because the adoptive children did not meet federal eligibility criteria.  The adoptive family petitioned for judicial review.  And the chancery court reversed.  We conclude that the administrative agency’s decision was based on an erroneous interpretation of federal law.  So we affirm the chancery court’s decision.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
In Re Riley S.
M2020-01602-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their son, Riley S. The trial court found that DCS established several grounds for terminating both parents’ parental rights and that termination of their rights was in Riley’s best interest. On appeal, neither parent challenges any of the grounds for termination; instead, they contend DCS failed to prove, and that the trial court made insufficient findings to establish, that termination of their parental rights was in Riley’s best interest. Following a careful review of the record, we have determined that DCS proved several grounds for termination as to each parent. We have also determined that DCS proved, and the trial court made sufficient findings to establish, that termination of their parental rights was in the best interest of Riley. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s termination of the mother and father’s parental rights.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
Bonnie S. Bodine v. Long John Silver's LLC
M2021-00168-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This appeal arises from a premises liability action filed by Bonnie S. Bodine (“Plaintiff”) against an incorrect defendant. After learning that she had sued the wrong defendant, Plaintiff waited over four months to file a “Motion to Correct Misnomer,” requesting that she be permitted to “replace” the correct defendant in the action. This motion was not heard until five months later, after the defendant asked the trial court to place the case on the docket for both Plaintiff’s motion and the defendant’s summary judgment motion. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s motion to correct misnomer and subsequent motion to alter or amend, citing Plaintiff’s “extreme lack of due diligence.” Plaintiff appeals. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.

Marion County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
La Southaphanh v. Tennessee Department of Correction et al.
M2021-00234-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

A parolee petitioned for a common law writ of certiorari after the Tennessee Board of Parole revoked his parole and did not credit his sentence with a portion of the time he spent on parole.  The chancery court concluded that the Board did not act arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, or in excess of its jurisdiction.  The chancery court dismissed the petition.  We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
State of Tennessee v. Stephen Jacob McKinney
E2020-01730-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant, Stephen Jacob McKinney, pled guilty in the Hamilton County Criminal Court to vehicular homicide by intoxication, a Class B felony, in exchange for an eightyear sentence with the method and manner of service to be left to the trial court’s determination. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court concluded that the Defendant was ineligible for probation pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40- 35-303(a), which includes vehicular homicide by intoxication as one of the conviction offenses for which probation is not available. The trial court, therefore, sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to eight years in the Department of Correction at thirty percent release eligibility. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by not construing Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-303(a) in conjunction with Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-213(b)(2)(B), which provides that a defendant convicted of a first offense vehicular homicide by intoxication must serve a mandatory minimum sentence of forty-eight hours of incarceration before release from confinement on probation. The Defendant contends that the statutes are not in conflict if the release from confinement in the vehicular homicide statute is interpreted as release on parole. Based on our review, we conclude that the clearly worded intent of the legislature, as expressed in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-303(a), was to remove vehicular homicide by intoxication as an offense for which probation is available. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/22
State of Tennessee v. Noreeldeen I. Abdulkarim
M2020-00502-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Defendant, Noreeldeen I. Abdulkarim, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to attempted aggravated rape, for which he is serving a twelve-year sentence as a Range II offender. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because (1) the plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Both claims relate to his allegation that he was not advised that being listed on the sex offender registry and being subject to community supervision for life would be a consequence of the guilty plea. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/22
Steven Kampmeyer et al v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01196-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett

This case involves claims against the State of Tennessee asserted by a husband and wife. The claimant husband suffered injuries when his car collided with a Tennessee state vehicle parked in the roadway. He gave written notice of his claim to the Tennessee Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Division did not resolve it, so the Division transferred the claim to the Tennessee Claims Commission. The husband and wife then filed a complaint with the Claims Commission. The complaint contained a loss of consortium claim by the wife that was not in the written notice the husband gave to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. The Claims Commission complaint was filed within the applicable one-year statute of limitations. The Claims Commission granted the State’s motion to dismiss the wife’s loss of consortium claim as time-barred because she did not give the Division of Claims and Risk Management written notice of her claim within the limitations period. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The claimants appeal, relying on the holding in Hunter v. State, No. 01-A-01-9210-BC00425, 1993 WL 133240 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 1993), that a complaint filed with the Claims Commission within the statute of limitations fulfills the requirement in Tennessee Code Annotated § 9-8-402(a)(1) that claimants give timely written notice of their claim against the State to the Division of Claims and Risk Management. We reject this argument, overrule Hunter v. State, and affirm the Claims Commission’s dismissal of the wife’s claim for loss of consortium.

Sequatchie County Supreme Court 01/13/22
Jessica R. Adkins v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01213-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The Petitioner, Jessica R. Adkins, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her conviction and resulting life sentence for felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child neglect. The Petitioner’s conviction was based on her failure to seek medical treatment for her two-month-old daughter, who sustained blunt force trauma while in the care of the child’s father, Russell Dean Long, who was tried with the Petitioner. In this appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in finding that she received effective assistance of trial counsel. The State argues that the post-conviction court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition because it was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations and the Petitioner “made no efforts to show that she complied with the requirements of Tenn. R. Sup. Ct. 28 § 2(G) by delivering her pro se petition to the appropriate prison official within the time fixed for filing.” Because the post-conviction court treated the petition as timely from the outset of the hearing, thereby preempting any proof the Petitioner may have presented to show that she delivered her petition to the appropriate prison official for mailing within the time for filing of the petition, we remand to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing on the timeliness of the petition.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/22
Kimberly Black v. City of Clarksville, Tennessee
M2020-01580-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

An employee sought a reasonable accommodation from her employer when she began experiencing increased difficulties with her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. The employer was unable to provide a reasonable accommodation and, after concluding that the employee’s disability rendered her physically unable to perform the essential functions of her job, the employer removed the employee from her position and placed her on paid sick leave. The employee then resigned and sued the employer for discriminatory discharge under the Tennessee Disability Act. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer after determining that the employee was not qualified for the position and that the employee did not suffer an adverse employment action due to her voluntary resignation. Finding no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/13/22
David L. Liles, ET AL. v. Michael E. Young, ET AL.
M2020-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal involves the interpretation of a partnership agreement for the purpose of determining the respective ownership percentages of the partners. After our review of the partnership agreement, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/13/22
State of Tennessee v. Bradley Dwight Bowen
M2020-01311-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Bradley Dwight Bowen, appeals from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s revocation of his effective nine-year split confinement sentence for convictions for child neglect and possession of methamphetamine. He contends that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering him to serve his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/22
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Prink
W2020-01271-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Defendant, Timothy Prink, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in which he challenged his fifteen-year sentence resulting from his attempted first degree murder conviction and his four life sentences resulting from four first degree murder convictions. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/22
Jason Kovatch v. Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Et Al.
E2020-01744-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This appeal involves a denial of unemployment compensation benefits. Specifically, a former employee contends that there existed good cause as to why he resigned from his employment such that he should be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. The Commissioner’s Designee found that no good cause existed as to why the employee terminated his employment and therefore determined that he was not entitled to benefits. The employee then filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court thereafter affirmed the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision. On appeal, we conclude that there is substantial and material evidence in the record to support the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision, and therefore, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 01/12/22
State of Tennessee v. Vincent Williams
W2020-01500-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Vincent Williams, was convicted by a jury of attempted first-degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated assault, for which he received an effective forty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court committed plain error when it prevented him from introducing evidence of the victim’s bias and that the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the perpetrator. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/22
State of Tennessee v. Jim George Conaser
M2020-01354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Jim George Conaser, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a Class C felony, for which he is serving a twelve-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 102(a)(1)(A)(iii) (Supp. 2017) (subsequently amended). On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/22
Dewey Abbott III v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00500-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Petitioner, Dewey Abbott III, appeals from the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his second degree murder conviction and his agreed upon fifteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the
post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/22
Cathy McKeehan v. Katie Price
E2021-00453-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This appeal concerns an issue of whether a modular home violates a subdivision’s restrictive covenants. Katie Price (“Price”) wanted to place a modular home on her property in Fort Loudon Estates subdivision. Cathy McKeehan (“McKeehan”), a longtime resident of Fort Loudon Estates, sued Price in the Chancery Court for Loudon County (“the Trial Court”). McKeehan alleged that Price’s modular home violated a subdivision restriction against temporary structures. After a bench trial, the Trial Court found in favor of Price. McKeehan appeals. The evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s finding that Price’s home is not a temporary structure. We hold, as did the Trial Court, that Price’s modular home is not prohibited by the subdivision’s restrictions. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 01/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Jermaine Elvey Crawford
W2020-01203-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Defendant, Jermaine Elvey Crawford, appeals from the revocation of his probationary sentences in Carroll County Circuit Court case 14-CR-115 and Henry County Circuit Court case 15793. By agreement between the parties, a combined hearing was held on the probation violation warrants in both cases. Defendant asserts that there was no substantial evidence that he violated his probation. Based on the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial courts.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/22
Jeremy Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01743-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Jeremy Jones, Petitioner, was convicted of attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. His convictions were affirmed on appeal. State v. Jeremy Jones, No. W2015-01528-CCQA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 7654954 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 26, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 20, 2017). Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on various grounds, including ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s lack of communication and trial strategy. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief and dismissed the petition. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Timothy M. Dawson
E2020-01525-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

The defendant, Timothy M. Dawson, appeals his Loudon County Criminal Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, arguing that he is entitled to a new trial on grounds that he was incapacitated during the Momon colloquy. See Momon v. State, 18 S.W.3d 152 (Tenn. 1999). Discerning no error, we affirm.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/22
Shane Bruce v. Carolyn Jackson Et Al.
E2021-01426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

Because appellant did not timely file a Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B recusal appeal and the order appealed does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
Lisa Boyd v. David Benjamin Gibson IV M.D. ET AL.
W2020-01305-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is a lawsuit that challenges the appropriateness of care received by a cancer patient. Plaintiff originally filed suit in January 2018 and asserted a number of claims, some of which were predicated on alleged conduct occurring as early as August 2014. In an amended complaint, Plaintiff expanded her allegations, taking issue with conduct occurring as late as September 2016. The trial court ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint in toto as it concerned the Defendants at issue in this appeal. Due to a lack of clarity regarding the court’s specific bases for dismissal with respect to each of the claims involved, we vacate the judgment and remand for further consideration and findings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re C.N. et al.
M2020-01021-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Howard
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed six then-children from the custody of Deanna D. (“Mother”) and David D. (“Father”), in August 2018 after receiving multiple referrals regarding the family. After the children were in foster care for over a year, DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. DCS alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the children, persistence of conditions, severe abuse, and, in regards to Father only, a prison sentence of more than two years for conduct against a child. The trial court found that DCS proved each ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Mother and Father each appeal. Following a thorough review of the record, we affirm in part and reverse in part. We affirm the trial court’s ultimate holding that the parental rights of both Mother and Father should be terminated.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re Conservatorship Of John F. Ress
E2021-00134-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This appeal concerns the trial court’s interpretation of a divorce decree and an incorporated marital dissolution agreement as applied in a conservatorship once the husband died. The wife appeals the trial court’s use of parol evidence in reaching its decision. We reverse the judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/10/22