Erick Gordon v. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
E2022-01175-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

The petitioner’s employment as a Tennessee highway patrolman was terminated for cause
after he attended a training course on breathalyzer machines and, as part of the training,
submitted two breath samples that returned positive numbers for alcohol content in his
blood. The petitioner appealed, but his termination was upheld in the first two steps of the
internal appeals process by the respondent, the Tennessee Department of Safety and
Homeland Security (“the Department”). The petitioner appealed to the Tennessee Board
of Appeals, which conducted a hearing on the matter. Prior to the hearing, Mr. Gordon
filed a motion in limine, seeking to exclude the two breathalyzer test results on grounds
that the tests were not conducted in compliance with the evidentiary requirements for
breathalyzer test results. The Board declined to exclude the breathalyzer test results and
upheld the petitioner’s termination, ending the Department’s internal appeals process. The
petitioner sought judicial review with the trial court. The trial court reversed and modified
the Board’s decision, determining that the Board improperly considered the numeric
breathalyzer test results and that without them there was no substantial and material
evidence remaining to support the Board’s decision to terminate Mr. Gordon’s
employment. Nonetheless, the trial court determined that some discipline was warranted
and accordingly ordered the Department to reinstate the petitioner with back pay and
benefits to one year following his dismissal, in effect sanctioning petitioner with a oneyear
suspension without pay. The Department timely appealed. Discerning no reversible
error, we affirm.

Court of Appeals

Janice Deloach v. Sahara Daycare Center, Inc., ET AL
W2022-01695-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This is a breach of contract case involving a business partnership. Due to deficiencies in
Appellants’ brief, we do not reach the substantive issues and dismiss the appeal. We grant
Appellee’s motion to declare Appellant’s appeal frivolous and award her damages.

Shelby Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. David Elias Hernandez Sanchez
M2023-00180-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Bateman

The defendant, David Elias Hernandez Sanchez, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his bid for judicial diversion of the four-year sentence imposed for his guilty-pleaded conviction of aggravated assault. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Montgomery Court of Criminal Appeals

In Re Jonah B.
E2022-01701-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child, who was nearly three years old at the time of trial. On appeal, Father disputes that termination of his parental rights is in the child’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s determinations as to both the ground for termination and that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

Campbell Court of Appeals

Penny Lawson, et al. v. Hawkins County, TN et al.
E2020-01529-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

This appeal concerns governmental immunity. Steven W. Lawson (“Decedent”), by and through his widow, Penny Lawson, and on behalf of Corey Lawson, Decedent’s child (“Plaintiffs,” collectively), sued the Hawkins County Emergency Communications District Board (“ECD-911”), Hawkins County, Tennessee, and Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency (“the EMA”) (“Defendants,” collectively) in the Circuit Court for
Hawkins County (“the Trial Court”) alleging negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness in Defendants’ response to a road washout that led to Decedent’s death. Defendants filed motions for judgment on the pleadings, which the Trial Court granted partly on grounds that claims of recklessness could not proceed against the Defendant entities under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“the GTLA”). Plaintiffs appealed. We reversed. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed this Court, holding that when the GTLA removes immunity for negligence, it does so for ordinary negligence only. The matter was remanded to this Court for further proceedings. We hold, inter alia, that while Defendants’ immunity is removed under the GTLA by Plaintiffs’ ordinary negligence claims, the public duty doctrine bars those claims. However, ECD-911’s immunity also is removed by Plaintiffs’ claim of gross negligence under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-108, and the third special duty exception to the public duty doctrine allows that claim to proceed against ECD-911. We reverse the Trial Court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings to ECD-911 and remand for Plaintiffs’ case to proceed against that entity. Otherwise, we affirm.

Hawkins Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Lori Anne Pierce
E2023-00163-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Matthew J. Wilson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

A Bradley County jury found Defendant, Lori Anne Pierce, guilty of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class B felony (Count 1); possession of alprazolam with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class D felony (Count 2); possession of clonazepam with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class D felony (Count 3); and attempted unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to deliver, a Class A misdemeanor (Count 4). On appeal, Defendant challenges whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that she constructively possessed the contraband on all four counts. Defendant also challenges whether the evidence was sufficient to prove intent to sell or deliver on all counts. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for correction of the judgment forms to indicate Defendant’s proper offender status and release eligibility.

Bradley Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. George Wells
M2022-01561-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, George Wells, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide with an agreed-upon sentencing range of two to five years. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant’s request for diversion or any other form of alternative sentencing and imposed a five-year incarcerative sentence. The Defendant appeals the trial court’s sentencing decision, challenging the length, manner of service, and denial of judicial diversion. After review, we determine that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to consider and weigh all of the relevant judicial diversion factors and by utilizing an improper factor. Based upon our de novo review of the judicial diversion factors, the trial court’s judgment is reversed, and the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion is granted. The matter is remanded to the trial court for the imposition of a term and the conditions of judicial diversion.

Davidson Court of Criminal Appeals

Gerrish & McCreary, PC v. Carri Chandler Lane
W2022-01441-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Yolanda Kight Brown

Appellant appeals the trial court’s denial of her Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02
motion. In 2003, the trial court entered judgment against Appellant and in favor of
Appellee/law firm. In her role as Appellee’s bookkeeper, Appellant committed fraud,
misrepresentation, conversion, and negligence in stealing funds from the Appellee’s
operating account. The 2003 order of judgment also contains a separate judgment for
conversion against Appellant’s then-husband, who is not a party to this appeal. However,
there is no finding of joint-and-several liability in the 2003 order, and Appellant did not
appeal the order. After receiving an extension of its judgment, in July 2021, Appellee filed
a garnishment against Appellant, claiming that the outstanding balance on the judgment,
with interest, was in excess of $1,000,000.00. After the garnishment was filed, Appellant
sought a finding that she should receive a credit against the judgment based on the payment
made by her then-husband in satisfaction of the 2003 judgment entered against him.
Appellant also sought credit for monies paid by Appellee’s bank under a private settlement.
The bank was never sued. The trial court denied the credits on its finding that the bank and
Appellant’s then-husband were neither joint tortfeasors, nor jointly and severally liable.
The trial court noted that any relief from the 2003 judgment for mistake in the omission of
joint-and-several language was time-barred as Appellant failed to bring her Rule 60.02
motion, under subsection (1) for mistake, within the one-year time period contemplated in
the rule. Having determined that there was no joint-and-several liability, the trial court
determined that Appellant was not entitled to credits for either her then-husband’s payment
or the bank’s payment and denied relief under Rule 60.02(4) for satisfaction of the
judgment. Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby Court of Appeals

In Re: Glenn B. et al
M2023-00096-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Branden Bellar

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to three of her children. The trial court found six grounds for termination: abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to support, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. The trial court also found termination of Mother’s parental rights to be in the best interests of the children. Mother raises procedural and substantive challenges to the trial court’s decision. We affirm the judgment of the trial court terminating Mother’s parental rights.

Smith Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Dominique Michael Byrd
E2023-00274-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County jury found the Defendant, Dominique Michael Byrd, guilty of theft of property and vandalism, and the trial court sentenced him to serve an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the Defendant argues only that the evidence is legally insufficient to show that he is the person who committed the crimes. On our review, we respectfully disagree and affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox Court of Criminal Appeals

In Re Raylon S. et al
M2023-00573-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

A mother and stepfather sued to terminate a father’s parental rights based on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and abandonment by failure to support as well as the best interest of the children. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that both grounds for termination existed and that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate the father’s parental rights. The father appealed. We affirm.

Van Buren Court of Appeals

Greg Gonzales v. Orion Federal Credit Union et al.
M2022-00796-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal

A federally chartered credit union agreed to purchase substantially all assets of a Tennessee-chartered bank. The Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions objected. He contended that the transaction was prohibited by the Tennessee Banking Act because the credit union was not a bank holding company. So he sought declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the transaction. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court concluded the sale of substantially all of the assets of a bank was not prohibited by the Act. We affirm.

Davidson Court of Appeals

Lewana Castillo Webb v. Gregory Ryan Webb
E2023-00378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Caroline E. Knight

This case involves the respondent’s pro se appeal from an order of protection granted by
the trial court in favor of the petitioner. The petitioner initially obtained an order of
protection for one year from the general sessions court, which the respondent appealed to
the circuit court. After a de novo hearing, the trial court extended the order of protection
for three years, to expire on January 24, 2026. The respondent timely appealed to this
Court. Because the respondent’s appellate brief does not comply with Tennessee Rule of
Appellate Procedure 27 and Tennessee Court of Appeals Rule 6, we hereby dismiss the
appeal.

Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Webster Malone
M2023-00058-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James A. Turner

A Rutherford County jury convicted the Defendant, Webster Malone, of two counts of selling less than .5 grams of cocaine. The trial court denied his request for community corrections and sentenced him to an effective sentence of fifteen years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Rutherford Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Duane R. Doxtater
E2023-00261-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The Defendant, Duane R. Doxtater, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his effective tenyear
probationary sentence for multiple convictions stemming from two separate global
guilty plea agreements. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by fully revoking his
probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement.
Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan Court of Criminal Appeals

Sara Beth Schwab v. Alfred C. Schwab, III
M2022-00590-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deana C. Hood

This is a post-divorce dispute in which the former husband seeks to terminate alimony in futuro based on the fact that a third party, not related by blood, resided with the former wife for several months. It is undisputed that the girlfriend of the parties’ son had previously resided in the former wife’s home, but that the girlfriend had moved out before the husband filed his petition to terminate alimony. The parties’ Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”) provides that “alimony shall terminate upon the death of Husband or Wife, the remarriage of Wife, o[r] Wife’s cohabitation with someone to whom she is not related by blood pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. [§] 36-5-121(f).” The trial court held that the reference to § 36-5-121(f) evinced an intent to rely on the so-called “cohabitation statute” in subsection (f)(2)(B), which creates a rebuttable presumption that an alimony recipient does not need the same level of support when they are living with a third person. However, because the son’s girlfriend was no longer residing in the wife’s home, the trial court summarily dismissed the petition. The trial court relied on a line of cases, including Woodall v. Woodall, No. M2003-02046-COA-R3-CV, 2004 WL 2345814 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2004) and Wiser v. Wiser, No. M2013-02510-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 1955367 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 30, 2015), which stand for the proposition that “[a]n obligor spouse cannot rely on Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(f)(2)(B) to terminate or suspend alimony payments if the alleged cohabitation ceased before the modification petition was tried.” We affirm the trial court in all respects. The MDA also contains a mandatory attorney fee provision entitling the wife, as the prevailing party, to recover her reasonable expenses incurred in defending this appeal, including attorney’s fees and court costs. Accordingly, on remand, the trial court shall make the appropriate award.

Williamson Court of Appeals

Clata Renee Brewer et al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County et al.
M2023-00788-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor I’Ashea L. Myles

This action involves various requests directed to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (“Metro”) for the release of records, pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act (“TPRA”), related to a school shooting that occurred at a private school in Nashville. Before making a determination concerning release of the records, the trial court allowed certain interested parties to intervene in the action pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 24.02. The parties requesting the records have appealed that ruling pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 24.05.1 Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson Court of Appeals

JTM Enterprises v. Oddello Industries, LLC
E2022-00855-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

The parties’ dispute centers upon whether a tenant is required to pay rent for a particular ten-month period. The landlord asserts that it delayed but did not waive payment. The tenant counters that the landlord’s agent waived rent and that the tenant forbore terminating the lease based on the agent’s representations. The trial court, after setting aside a default judgment, concluded that the landlord’s agent did not have the authority to waive rent but had the authority to modify the lease to reduce rent for three of the ten months. The tenant
appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in its determination as to the agent’s authority, the issue of estoppel, and the issue of waiver. The landlord asserts that the trial court erred in setting aside the default judgment and in reducing the rent for the three-month period. After a review of the record, we affirm the setting aside of the default judgment but reverse the trial court’s ruling on the agent’s authority and remand for further proceedings.

Hamblen Court of Appeals

In Re Justin N. et al.
E2022-01603-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights to two minor children. The trial court found as grounds for termination: (1) abandonment by failure to support, (2) abandonment by failure to visit, and (3) a failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent. The trial court also found that termination was in the children’s best interests. We affirm as to the finding of abandonment by failure to support and failure to visit. Because the trial court’s order does not contain sufficient findings of fact, we vacate the trial court’s
findings that the father failed to manifest a willingness and ability to parent. We also reverse the trial court’s use of the outdated best interest factors and vacate the trial court’s finding that termination was in the children’s best interests.

Polk Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Christopher Guy
W2023-00177-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Christopher Guy, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his effective sixyear
probationary sentence for his convictions for two counts of misdemeanor domestic
assault and one count of felony vandalism. The Defendant argues that (1) the trial court
lacked jurisdiction to revoke his probation because he had completed his probationary
period by the time the revocation warrant was filed and (2) the revocation warrant should
have been dismissed due to law enforcement’s failure to preserve evidence. The Defendant
also contends that he should have been granted an appellate bond during the pendency of
the appeal. The State responds that we should affirm the trial court’s revocation order and
that the Defendant is not entitled to relief on his appellate bond issue. Following our
review, we determine that the Defendant had completed the probationary periods on his
misdemeanor domestic assault convictions before the issuance of the revocation warrant
but that the revocation warrant was timely as to the probation for his felony vandalism
conviction. We affirm in part and reverse in part and remand for entry of an amended
probation revocation order and a corrected judgment for the Defendant’s felony vandalism
conviction in accordance with this opinion.

Shelby Court of Criminal Appeals

Christina N. Lewis v. Walter Fletcher, et al.
W2022-00939-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

This appeal arises out of an incident where the plaintiff fell off a staircase and sustained
injuries. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendants, who owned the building,
alleging negligence and negligence per se based on a violation of a building code. The
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion for
summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff appealed. We
affirm.

Weakley Court of Appeals

Priscilla Smith v. Sharon Berry Et Al.
E2023-00281-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

Priscilla Smith filed a complaint in the Chancery Court for Hawkins County (“the Trial Court”) against multiple neighbors, including Michael and Sharon Berry. She sought access to her property by way of an undeveloped road called Hyder Lane. The Berrys’ garage was on the undeveloped road. After trial, the Trial Court determined that Hyder Lane was a public road and ordered the garage to be removed and the road opened for
Ms. Smith’s use and access to her property. The Berrys appealed. Having concluded thatcertain indispensable parties were never joined to the action, we vacate the Trial Court’s judgment and remand for the joinder of these indispensable parties.

Hawkins Court of Appeals

James R. Vandergriff v. Erlanger Health Systems Et Al.
E2022-00706-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey Usman
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

The plaintiff underwent surgery for a severe head injury. Due to various complications and infections, he required multiple follow-up procedures and treatments. The plaintiff filed medical malpractice claims against the hospital and doctors involved in his treatment over the course of an approximately five-month time period. The defendants moved to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. The trial court found that the plaintiff filed his lawsuit more than one year after his cause of action had accrued and that he was not entitled to an extension of the statute of limitations. It therefore dismissed the entire lawsuit. We conclude that the trial court did not err in its determination of the accrual date for the plaintiff’s cause of action as to his initial medical treatment; accordingly, we affirm the dismissal of the plaintiff’s cause of action as to allegations of medical malpractice as it relates to the plaintiff’s initial treatment. We reverse, however, the dismissal insofar as it
extends to later alleged incidents of malpractice, as they fell within the statute of limitations.

Hamilton Court of Appeals

State of Tennessee v. David Lyndel Cochran
E2023-00142-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Matthew J. Wilson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Defendant, David Lyndel Cochran, stands convicted of one count each of aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping. He appeals, arguing the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in allowing a sexual assault nurse examiner to offer expert testimony. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Kim Owen Alley
E2022-01523-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The Hawkins County Grand Jury charged the Defendant, Kim Owen Alley,1 by
presentment with one count of theft of $60,000 or more but less than $250,000, one count
of transacting business as an unregistered broker-dealer, and one count of fraudulent acts
or devices. A few months later, another presentment was issued charging the Defendant
with two additional charges: one count of money laundering and one count of theft of
$2,500 or more but less than $10,000.2 Prior to trial, the State entered a nolle prosequi for
the theft count in the second presentment. Then, following the State’s proof at trial, the
trial court dismissed all three charges from the first presentment because the evidence
presented did not correspond to the dates alleged in the presentment. At the conclusion of
the trial, the jury convicted the Defendant of the remaining money laundering count, and
the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to ten years’
incarceration with a release eligibility of thirty percent. On appeal, the Defendant argues:
(1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his money laundering conviction; (2) the trial
court erred in providing a jury instruction for theft of property as a part of the jury
instruction for money laundering after all the theft charges had been dismissed; and (3) his
ten-year sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hawkins Court of Criminal Appeals