Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 10/21/2021
Format: 10/21/2021
In Re Matthew K. et al.
E2020-00773-COA-R3-PT

This consolidated appeal involves termination of parental rights in a case focusing on Zayne R., the minor child of Brittney R. (“Mother”) and Joseph D., and Matthew K., the minor child of Mother and Joshua K. In June 2019, Mother’s parents, Larry R. (“Grandfather”) and Bertha R. (“Grandmother”) (collectively, “Grandparents”), filed two petitions in the Hamilton County Circuit Court (“trial court”), seeking termination of Mother’s parental rights, respectively, to Zayne R. and Matthew K. (collectively, “the Children”). The Children had previously been removed from Mother’s custody and placed in the custody of Grandparents pursuant to an order entered by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court (“juvenile court”). Following a consolidated bench trial, the trial court granted Grandparents’ termination petitions based upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned the Children by failing to visit and by failing to financially support them during the statutorily determinative period. The trial court further found that it was in the Children’s best interest to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Mother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s final orders terminating Mother’s parental rights.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/13/21
Christina Lynn McCartney v. Lester Dale McCartney, Et Al.
M2020-00703-COA-R3-CV

This is a divorce case. Husband/Appellant appeals the trial court’s: (1) pre-trial procedural rulings; (2) characterization of certain assets as marital property; and (3) equitable division of the marital estate. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Sequatchie County Court of Appeals 08/13/21
Albert M. Bender, Jr., Et Al. v. Attorney S. Madison Roberts, Et Al.
M2019-01699-COA-R3-CV

The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ conversion claim in accordance with Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, determining that it was filed outside the applicable three-year statute of limitations. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/13/21
State of Tennessee v. John Gross
M2020-01143-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, John Gross, was convicted after a bench trial in the Davidson County Criminal Court of violation of an order of protection, a Class A misdemeanor, and aggravated stalking, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-113 (2018) (subsequently amended) (violation of an order of protection), 39-17-315 (Supp. 2017) (subsequently amended) (aggravated stalking). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of two years, eleven months, twenty-nine days’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that plain error exists because the trial court admitted as evidence the recordings of the Defendant’s phone calls to the victim. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/21
Damiean Devon Tolson v. John E. Herbison
M2020-01362-COA-R3-CV

Appellant, acting pro se, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his legal malpractice action against Appellee, the attorney who represented Appellant in post-conviction matters related to his criminal case. The trial court held that Appellant’s lawsuit was barred by the running of the one-year statute of limitations. Tenn. Code Ann § 28-3-104(c)(1). Discerning no error, we affirm and remand. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/12/21
In Re Zoey L.
E2020-01250-COA-R3-PT

This is the second appeal from a termination of parental rights case. In the first appeal, we remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to make the requisite written findings of fact and conclusions of law. On remand, the trial court found that the ground of abandonment by willful failure to visit had been proven and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child. In this appeal, Mother argues that the trial court failed to analyze the best interest factors and how they applied to the facts of the case. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 08/11/21
In Re Mynajah S.
E2021-00040-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the grounds of severe abuse, abandonment by failure to visit and support, persistence of conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume physical custody or financial responsibility for the child. We affirm the trial court’s rulings as to both grounds for termination and best interest.

Court of Appeals 08/11/21
Los Pumas Concrete v. Harmony Hospitality, LLC Et Al.
M2020-00956-COA-R3-CV

A subcontractor that performed concrete and site work on a hotel construction project filed a lien on the property and then commenced this action against the general contractor and the owner of the property to recover sums due on the balance of the subcontract, for additional change order work, and interest. The claims relevant to the issues on appeal are against the owner for unjust enrichment and to enforce the lien. After obtaining a default judgment against the now defunct general contractor, the subcontractor moved for summary judgment on its claims against the owner. The owner contended that summary judgment was not proper because there were genuine issues of material fact concerning the amount owed to the subcontractor and whether the change orders had been approved. The court found it undisputed that the subcontractor performed work, in addition to that paid by the owner to the general contractor, for which the subcontractor was not paid; and that the owner received and appreciated a benefit from the services rendered by the subcontractor. Based on these findings, the trial court held that the subcontractor satisfied its burden of proving that the property owner was unjustly enriched. Accordingly, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the subcontractor on its claims of unjust enrichment and to enforce its lien. We affirm the trial court in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/11/21
In Re Evan M.
E2020-01673-COA-R3-PT

This appeal concerns termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Nicole M. (“Mother”) and Joseph M. (“Father”) to their minor son Evan M. (“the Child”). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order finding a host of grounds for termination against Mother and Father. These grounds were based largely on proof of substance abuse and domestic violence. The Juvenile Court also found that termination of Mother and Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. Mother and Father appeal. We affirm the Juvenile Court as to certain grounds for termination found against Mother and Father. However, we reverse certain other grounds for lack of clear and convincing evidence. In addition, we affirm the Juvenile Court’s finding that termination of Mother and Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. We thus affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Juvenile Court, the result being we affirm the termination of Mother and Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 08/10/21
Deborah Bistolfi Felker, et al. v. Rex Stephen Felker
W2019-01925-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a post-divorce complaint to enforce the parties’ Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”), which was executed in 2005 in Shelby County, Tennessee. The complaint was filed in the Shelby County Circuit Court (“trial court”) by the wife and the parties’ adult son. The husband, now a resident of Hamblen County, Tennessee, filed a motion to dismiss based on, inter alia, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and expiration of the statute of limitations. The husband also subsequently filed an answer to the complaint, denying that the wife was entitled to relief and asserting various affirmative defenses. The trial court denied the husband’s motion to dismiss, determining that jurisdiction was proper in Shelby County. The court further found that the husband had breached the terms of the MDA and that the complaint was not time-barred. The court ordered the husband to procure life insurance for the benefit of the parties’ son within thirty days and to cooperate with the wife’s procurement of additional life insurance on the husband’s life. The court also ordered the husband to pay the wife’s attorney’s fees. The husband has appealed. Determining that the applicable statute of limitations had expired before the complaint was filed, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for entry of a judgment of dismissal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Stephen A. Simpson
E2020-01340-CCA-R3-CD

The Loudon County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Stephen A. Simpson, with one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and one count of simple possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. Following trial, a jury convicted Defendant of both counts. For the DUI count, the trial court sentenced Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to forty-eight hours in confinement and the remainder to serve on supervised probation. For possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, the court sentenced Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on supervised probation. The trial court ran the sentences concurrently. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his DUI conviction. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Andre Terry and Nolandus Sims
E2019-01741-CCA-R3-CD

In a joint trial, a Knox County jury convicted the defendants, Andre Terry and Nolandus Sims, of two counts of felony murder, one count of second-degree murder, two counts of attempted especially aggravated robbery, two counts of carjacking, one count of employing a firearm during a dangerous felony, two counts of aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. For the crimes, Defendant Terry received an effective sentence of life plus fourteen years, and Defendant Sims received an effective sentence of life plus fifteen years. On appeal, the defendants separately challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions and the introduction of gang-related evidence during trial. Defendant Terry also challenges the trial court’s jurisdiction, suggesting the juvenile court failed to conduct a proper transfer hearing, and the trial court’s denial of his numerous motions to sever. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Verchell Shanklin
W2019-01460-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Mickey Verchell Shanklin, of the sale of heroin, the delivery of heroin, the sale of fentanyl, and the delivery of fentanyl and assessed fines of $50,000 for the heroin convictions and $25,000 for the fentanyl convictions. The trial court merged the heroin convictions and the fentanyl convictions and ordered the Defendant to serve concurrent terms of thirty years for the heroin convictions and fifteen years for the fentanyl convictions as a Range III, persistent offender at forty-five percent. The trial court also affirmed the total fines of $75,000. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the fines are excessive. We remand the case to the trial court for a hearing with regard to the fines. We otherwise affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Verchell Shanklin - Dissent
W2019-01460-CCA-R3-CD

I dissent from the conclusion reached by the majority that it is necessary to remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on the fines owed by the Defendant.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
In Re Trinity S. et al.
E2021-00098-COA-R3-PT

A mother appeals the juvenile court’s decision to terminate her parental rights. She challenges the juvenile court’s determination by clear and convincing evidence that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the children. We affirm the juvenile court’s termination of the mother’s parental rights.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 08/09/21
In Re LeAnn K. Et Al.
M2021-00053-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case.  The trial court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights as to five of his children.  Father now appeals, contending that there was a lack of clear and convincing evidence in the record to support the trial court’s decision.  For the reasons stated in this Opinion, we vacate in part, reverse in part, but otherwise we affirm the trial court’s termination of Father’s parental rights.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 08/09/21
Michael Ashley Lockhart v. Casey Dawn Higgins
M2020-01370-COA-R3-CV

A father filed a petition to change the surname of his nonmarital child. After the trial court granted the father’s petition, the mother appealed. Finding that the father failed to meet his burden of establishing that a surname change was in the child’s best interest, we reverse.

Warren County Court of Appeals 08/09/21
Wesley H. Luthringer v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00503-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Wesley H. Luthringer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of aggravated vehicular homicide, alleging that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new counsel and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
In Re Terry E. Et Al.
E2020-01572-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case. The trial court concluded that multiple grounds for terminating Mother’s parental rights existed and that termination was in the Children’s best interests. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 08/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy W. Alexander
W2020-00953-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jeremy W. Alexander, appeals as of right from the Henderson County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his effective twenty-seven-year sentence in the Department of Correction for his three guilty-pleaded convictions for sale of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by fully revoking his sentence and that an alternative to full incarceration should have been imposed to allow him to seek treatment for his methamphetamine addiction. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/06/21
Jonathan Finley v. Wettermark Keith, LLC
E2020-01081-COA-R3-CV

In this legal malpractice action, the trial court determined that any duty owed by the defendant law firm to the plaintiff ceased when the law firm undisputedly terminated its representation of the plaintiff more than five months prior to expiration of the statute of limitations applicable to the plaintiff’s underlying claim. The court found that the plaintiff had ample time within which to hire new counsel before the statute of limitations would have run on his personal injury claim. The court also found that the plaintiff had failed, within that timeframe, to obtain new counsel or inquire about the status of his claim such that any damages he suffered were due to his own inaction. The court accordingly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant law firm. The plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Joseph Dinguss
E2020-01459-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Aaron Joseph Dinguss, pled guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I offender to nine years in the Department of Correction. The sole issue the Defendant raises on appeal is whether the trial court erred in finding enhancement factor (10) applicable without proof that anyone other than the victim was placed at actual risk by the Defendant’s conduct. We conclude that the trial court misapplied enhancement factor (10) because there was no proof of a high risk to the life of any human other than the victim, but that the nine-year sentence is nonetheless entitled to a presumption of reasonableness. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/21
Tony W. Carrick Et Al. v. City of Shelbyville, Tennessee
M2020-01218-COA-R3-CV

Following a single-vehicle accident on a road owned and controlled by the City of Shelbyville (the “City”), Tony Carrick and his wife, Linda Carrick (together, “Plaintiffs”), filed suit against the City alleging damages for personal injury, injury to property, and loss of consortium. The City moved for summary judgment on the basis that it retained its immunity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”) because it had no actual or constructive notice of a defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition on the road where the accident occurred. The trial court agreed with the City and granted its motion for summary judgment. Having reviewed the record, we conclude that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether the City had actual or constructive notice of the condition at issue. We reverse.

Bedford County Court of Appeals 08/05/21
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Anthony Santillan
M2020-00074-CCA-R3-CD

Joseph Anthony Santillan, Defendant, appeals from his convictions for second degree murder, felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted aggravated robbery, and effective sentence of life imprisonment plus five years for his involvement in the shooting death of a Nashville tourist in September of 2016.  After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred by limiting the questioning about a witness’s criminal history; (2) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting defense counsel from questioning a witness about leniency in exchange for her testimony; (3) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting evidence of Defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement; (4) whether the trial court erred by admitting gruesome crime scene photographs into evidence; and (5) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/21
In Re Ahleigha C.
E2020-01683-COA-R3-PT

The Juvenile Court for Cocke County (the “trial court”) entered an order terminating the parental rights of Jose G.L. as to his minor child, Ahleigha C. (the “Child”). The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Father’s rights should be terminated for abandonment and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the Child. Father appeals. Because the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services failed to prove either ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 08/04/21