Court Opinions

Format: 07/30/2021
Format: 07/30/2021
Angela Michelle Cela v. Sokol Cela
M2019-01861-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathryn Wall Olita

In this divorce case, the wife appeals the trial court’s calculation of her portion of the husband’s military retirement and valuation of her speech therapy practice, as well as the overall division of marital assets. As appellee, the husband raises a number of issues, all of which are without merit. We vacate the portion of the trial court’s judgment addressing the husband’s military retirement and remand for recalculation of the wife’s share in the same. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/30/21
Justin C. Howell v. Grady Perry, Warden
M2020-00265-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher Sockwell

Pro se petitioner, Justin C. Howell, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Upon our review, we affirm.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/21
In Re Sophia S. Et Al.
E2020-01031-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Randy M. Kennedy

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children. The juvenile court concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence of severe abuse by the mother and that termination was in the children’s best interests. On appeal, the mother challenges whether there was clear and convincing evidence to support the court’s best interest determinations. In weighing the statutory best-interest factors, she contends the trial court did not properly consider her completion of permanency plan requirements and nearly fifteen months of drug-free tests. The mother also complains that she was denied contact with her children by court order shortly after their removal and, despite her progress, was thwarted in her efforts to reestablish contact. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Jackson Chapman North
M2020-00221-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Defendant, Jackson Chapman North, pleaded guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to two counts of vandalism valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, vandalism valued at more than $1,000 but less than $2,500, a Class E felony, vandalism valued at $1,000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of a weapon, a Class C misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-408 (2018) (vandalism); 39-14-105 (2018) (grading); 39-17-1307 (2018) (unlawful weapon possession). The trial court ordered partial consecutive service and imposed an effective six-year sentence, with four years, sixty days in confinement and the remainder on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that his sentence is excessive. We affirm the Defendant’s sentence, but as a matter of plain error, we reverse the trial court’s restitution order and remand the case for proper restitution determinations.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/21
J. Pemberton Guerry v. James Christopher Jenkins and Gail Jenkins
E2020-00709-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

This appeal arises from an action for breach of a promissory note. After granting the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on his claim against one of the defendants, the court held an evidentiary hearing to determine damages. Following the hearing, the court entered a judgment for $1,628,074.27, which included interest and attorney’s fees. On appeal, the defendant contends that, in accordance with the terms of the promissory note, the plaintiff is only entitled to recover the principal sum of $14,194.43 plus interest. We have determined that the defendant failed to properly raise this issue in the trial court; therefore, it is waived. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/30/21
Nathaniel Hicks, Et Al. v. Thomas Chears, Et Al.
M2019-01428-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

Property owners sued lessees for possession and back rent. Lessees counterclaimed, alleging anticipatory breach, fraud, unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing in conjunction with a purchase option. Property owners moved for summary judgment on their claim for possession, arguing that lessees never exercised their option to purchase. In response, lessees asserted anticipatory breach. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to property owners. After a bench trial, the court dismissed the remaining counterclaims. On appeal, lessees challenge both decisions. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Vincent Parker Lee
M2020-00572-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

Aggrieved of his convictions of rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, and incest, the defendant, Vincent Parker Lee, appeals. In this appeal, the defendant asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of rape of a child; that the trial court erred by permitting the State to ask leading questions of the child rape victim; that the State’s failure to make an election of offenses at the close of its case-in-chief resulted in plain error; that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors deprived him of the right to a fair trial; and that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. We find no deficiency in the State’s proof and no error in either the trial court’s ruling with regard to the State’s examination of the child rape victim or the consecutive alignment of the sentences. The State’s failure to elect offenses at the close of its case-in-chief was error, but, because the error can be classified as harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, it does not rise to the level of plain error. Consequently, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Mario Nathaniel Wade
M2020-01518-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

In this delayed appeal, Mario Nathaniel Wade, Defendant, challenges his convictions for robbery and carjacking. Defendant asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court erred by failing to require the State to make an election with respect to the carjacking charge, and that he was sentenced improperly. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Michael Edward Cohen
M2019-01122-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Appellee, Michael Edward Cohen, was charged in the Davidson County Criminal Court with sexual exploitation of a minor involving more than one hundred images, a Class B felony. He filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing that he turned over the images to a police officer involuntarily after the officer threatened to obtain a search warrant for his residence when the officer did not have probable cause for a warrant. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and granted the motion, and the State appeals. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Dwaquille Raheem Jabal
M2020-01093-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Dwaquille Raheem Jabal, appeals the dismissal of his motion for sentence modification, arguing that he continued to serve his sentence beyond the date he was supposed to be placed on probation and that “[i]t would be inequitable for [him] not to be credited with the probation date that he was given.” Upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/21
Timothy O'Guin v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00732-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Halton

A patient died after a fall at a state-owned rehabilitation facility. The administrator of the deceased patient’s estate filed a monetary claim against the State of Tennessee for negligently creating or maintaining a dangerous condition on real property. The State moved for summary judgment arguing that the claimant lacked sufficient evidence of causation. The Claims Commission agreed and granted summary judgment to the State. Because the claimant lacked sufficient evidence that the State’s conduct more likely than not caused the patient’s fall, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 07/28/21
Doug Zukowski Ex Rel. Taylor Alexander Zukowski v. Hamilton County Department of Education
E2020-00939-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This appeal arises from a school bullying lawsuit. Doug Zukowski and Aimee Zukowski filed suit in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) on behalf of their son Taylor Alexander Zukowski (“Alex,” who later joined the suit in his own right after turning 18) (“Plaintiffs,” collectively) against the Hamilton County Department of Education (“Defendant”). Plaintiffs alleged that Alex was bullied while a student at Chattanooga’s Center for Creative Arts (“CCA”), a public fine arts magnet school, and that Defendant breached its duty of care to protect Alex. Plaintiffs appeal, raising a number of issues. We find that the record does not contain the requisite clear and convincing evidence necessary to overturn the Trial Court’s credibility determinations. We also find, inter alia, that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s factual finding that Defendant’s employees responded appropriately when Alex reported to them that he was bullied. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/28/21
Ernesto Perez Aguirre v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02209-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Ernesto Perez Aguirre, Petitioner, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that his guilty plea was unknowingly and involuntarily entered. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/21
State of Tennessee v. Quinton Cage
M2020-00360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill B. Ayers

The petitioner, Quinton Cage, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Also before us is the petitioner’s motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 14, to consider post-judgment facts. Because the petitioner’s claim of a double jeopardy violation is not cognizable in a Rule 36.1 motion, we affirm the trial court’s summary dismissal of the motion to correct an illegal sentence. Furthermore, because the post-judgment facts posited by the petitioner do not relate to actions that occurred after the judgment in this case, we deny the petitioner’s motion to consider post-judgment facts.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/21
Sterling Lamarr Cooper v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
E2020-01568-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

The Petitioner, Sterling Lamarr Cooper, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Thomas Dotson
E2019-01614-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

Matthew Thomas Dotson (“Defendant”) appeals his Roane County convictions for first degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, first degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect, for which he received an effective sentence of life without parole. Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his May 3, 2012, statements to law enforcement; (2) the State improperly elicited testimony from a witness regarding Defendant’s prior drug usage and the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s request for a mistrial following such testimony; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by admitting photographs of the victim into evidence; and (4) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of amended judgments reflecting proper merger of offenses as outlined below and for the imposition of sentences in Counts 4 and 5.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/21
Darrell Wayne Bumpas v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00948-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Darrell Wayne Bumpas, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in concluding that he received 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.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Torijon Coplin - Concur in Part/Dissent in Part
W2019-01593-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

J. ROSS DYER, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part. While I agree with the majority’s conclusion that the criminal responsibility instruction in the instant matter was deficient, I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the proof presented at trial is not sufficient to support a determination that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/21
State of Tennessee v. Torijon Coplin
W2019-01593-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A jury convicted the Defendant, Torijon Coplin, of aggravated assault and tampering with evidence, and he received an effective sentence of four years suspended to supervised probation after eleven months and twenty-nine days of service. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and argues the trial court erred in charging the jury as to criminal responsibility. Because the criminal responsibility charge did not include the natural and probable consequences requirement and because the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to the tampering with evidence conviction, we reverse the conviction for tampering with evidence and remand for further proceedings. The judgments are otherwise affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/21
Arthur Jack Shipley v. Christa Elise Shipley
E2021-00670-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

Because the notice of appeal in this case was not timely filed this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/26/21
Michael Murphy v. Richard Sarta Et Al.
E2020-00445-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Following a judgment in their favor in a personal injury action, the defendants were granted an award of discretionary costs in the amount of $3,499.81. Appellant appeals, raising several arguments in opposition to the costs awarded. Because many of Appellant’s arguments were not properly raised in the trial court, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion on the remaining issues, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 07/26/21
Tywan Sykes v. James Berrong Et Al.
E2021-00726-COA-UNK-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

Because the notice of appeal in this case was not timely filed this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Blount County Court of Appeals 07/26/21
Terrence Lewis v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00653-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Terrence Lewis, Petitioner, appeals after the trial court denied post-conviction relief and dismissed his post-conviction petition in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Because Petitioner failed to prove his allegations by clear and convincing evidence, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/21
State of Tennessee v. Terry Newsom
W2020-00695-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A Madison County jury convicted the Defendant, Terry Newsom, of evading arrest, reckless endangerment, and driving with a suspended license. The trial court imposed an effective three-year sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction and ordered the Defendant to pay the fines imposed by the jury. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for reckless endangerment, that the trial court erred when it sentenced him, and that the fines were improperly imposed. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/21
Joseph Riccardi v. Carl Little Construction Company, Inc Et Al.
E2020-00678-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

Plaintiff Joseph Riccardi brought this action for negligent construction of his residence against Carl Little Construction Company (“Defendant”), builder of the residence, and the Bridgewater Condominiums Property Owners Association (“Bridgewater POA”). He alleged that Defendant negligently built the residence on non-compacted fill dirt, causing structural and cosmetic damages to the residence. Plaintiff alleged that Bridgewater POA was contractually responsible for repairs to the exterior of the residence. The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendant based on its finding that the statutes of limitation and repose had run. The court held that Bridgewater POA was liable for repairs to the porches and patios of the property, but not the foundation or the cracks in the interior. We vacate summary judgment against Defendant, finding that Plaintiff presented evidence sufficient to establish genuine issues of material fact regarding when Plaintiff’s cause of action accrued and whether Defendant fraudulently concealed the defects in the residence. We affirm the judgment against Bridgewater POA.

Washington County Court of Appeals 07/26/21