Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/03/2021
Format: 03/03/2021
Jennifer Carman, Et Al. v. Joshua Kellon Et Al.
M2019-00857-COA-R3-CV

A jury found the mother of an adult child liable for negligent entrustment after the adult child injured a jogger while driving his truck. The mother moved for a directed verdict at the close of the plaintiff’s proof, which the court denied. After the jury returned verdicts for the plaintiffs, the mother failed to file a post-trial motion seeking a new trial. On appeal, we conclude that the mother waived her right to contest the trial court’s denial of her motion for a directed verdict by failing to file a motion asking for a new trial as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 3(e).

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/18/20
April Hawthorne v. Morgan & Morgan Nashville, PLLC, et al.
W2020-01495-COA-T10B-CV

A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B petition for recusal appeal was filed in this Court following the denial of a motion that sought the disqualification of the trial court judge. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/17/20
Shantonio Lovett Hunter v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00283-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Shantonio Lovett Hunter, was indicted for six counts of aggravated child abuse, one count of aggravated child neglect, and two counts of felony murder. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, Petitioner entered a guilty plea to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 28 years. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, alleging that her trial counsel was ineffective and her plea was involuntarily and unknowingly entered. Following an evidentiary hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. Petitioner has appealed, and having reviewed the entire record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/17/20
State Of Tennessee v. Matthew Howard Norris
M2020-00310-CCA-R3-CD

In this multiple indictment case, the Defendant, Matthew Norris, pleaded guilty to one count of burglary and two counts of theft over $2,500, in exchange for a total effective sentence of eight years. The parties agreed to allow the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. After a hearing, the trial court ordered that the Defendant serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his request for judicial diversion and his request for an alternative sentence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/20
Jared Effler, Et Al. v. Purdue Pharma L.P. Et Al.
E2018-01994-SC-R11-CV

Declaring that the sale and distribution of illegal drugs affects every community in the country, the Tennessee Legislature enacted the Tennessee Drug Dealer Liability Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-38-101 to -116. This Act provides a cause of action against a knowing participant in the illegal drug market for injuries caused by illegal drug use. In response to the opioid epidemic in East Tennessee, seven District Attorneys General and two Baby Doe plaintiffs sued several drug companies under the Act. The District Attorneys and the Baby Doe plaintiffs alleged that the drug companies knowingly participated in the illegal drug market by intentionally flooding East Tennessee communities with prescription opioid medications, leading to widespread addiction and diversion of the opioids into the black market. The District Attorneys claimed that the opioid epidemic had damaged the communities in their districts, and the Baby Doe plaintiffs alleged that they were harmed by exposure to opioids in utero. The drug companies moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the pleadings. Their two-fold challenge asserted that the Act did not authorize the District Attorneys to sue for damages and that the Act did not apply to the drug companies’ conduct. The trial court ruled that the Act did not apply and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed. The issues we decide are whether the District Attorneys had statutory standing to sue under the Act and whether the Act applies to the drug companies based on factual allegations in the complaint that the drug companies knowingly participated in the illegal drug market. We hold that the District Attorneys lack standing because the Act does not name them as parties who can sue under the Act. This leaves the Baby Doe plaintiffs, who alleged facts showing that the drug companies knowingly participated in the illegal drug market by facilitating the marketing or distribution of opioids. Taking these factual allegations as true, as required at this stage of the case, we hold that the Baby Doe plaintiffs have stated a claim against the drug companies under the Act. 

Campbell County Supreme Court 12/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Demarcus Stevenson
W2019-01785-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted Defendant, Demarcus Stevenson, of second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which Defendant received an effective sentence of forty-three years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence the prior written statement of a witness, in its entirety, as a prior inconsistent statement under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 803(26) and by admitting testimony under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) regarding Defendant’s prior act of violence against the murder victim. Defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/16/20
Ryan Kimble v. Dyer County, Tennessee, et al.
W2019-02042-COA-R3-CV

The trial court dismissed plaintiff/Appellant’s Governmental Tort Liability action against the county and an unknown deputy. The trial court determined that Appellant’s lawsuit was barred by the Public Duty Doctrine. Because Appellant has not pled facts sufficient to establish a special duty exception to the Public Duty Doctrine, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 12/16/20
In Re James T. Et Al.
M2020-00111-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of persistence of conditions, mental incompetence, and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/16/20
Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee v. Civil Service Commission Of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2019-01587-COA-R3-CV

In this judicial review of an administrative decision, the trial court reversed the civil service commission’s decision to reinstate a police officer to his position upon finding that the commission’s reversal of the police department’s termination of the employee was arbitrary and capricious.  The employee has appealed.  Having determined that the findings of the civil service commission were supported by substantial and material evidence but that its ultimate decision was arbitrary and capricious, we affirm the judgment of the trial court reversing the commission’s decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/16/20
Zarmina Folad Et Al. v. Quillco, LLC D/B/A The Bottle Shop At McEwen Et Al.
M2020-00628-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns injuries allegedly caused by dogs running loose and the application of Tennessee Code Annotated section 44-8-413. Under this statute, the “owner of a dog has a duty to keep that dog under reasonable control at all times, and to keep that dog from running at large.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413(a)(1). “A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.” Id. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Appellee/Defendant, an LLC, where the dogs had been kept prior to the incident, as to an alleged violation of section 44-8-413, holding that the Appellee/Defendant never assumed ownership of the dogs at the center of this dispute. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the trial court’s entry of summary judgment on this issue.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/15/20
Timothy A. Baxter v. Jennifer D. Rowan
W2018-02209-COA-R3-JV

This case involves an unwed father’s right to visitation with his minor child. After an initial denial of Father’s request for visitation, the trial court later granted Father and Father’s mother visitation rights following the filing of a Rule 60 motion. In granting relief, the trial court found that Father had standing, having previously executed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Mother filed a timely appeal arguing that the trial court erred in granting Father relief. Notably, Mother contested Father’s standing to sue for visitation, arguing that the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity did not vest Father with standing to sue. For the reasons contained herein, we affirm in part and vacate in part the trial court’s order granting Father relief. Further, we reverse the portion of the trial court’s order granting visitation rights to Father’s mother.

Madison County Court of Appeals 12/15/20
Timothy A. Baxter v. Jennifer D. Rowan - Concur
W2018-02209-COA-R3-JV

I concur in the majority’s holding that an unwed father, who previously executed a VAP, has standing to sue for custody and visitation rights to his minor child. I also concur in the holding reversing the trial court’s award of visitation rights to the paternal grandmother. I write separately only to highlight my concern about the procedure used by the unwed father in this case to obtain his visitation rights.

Madison County Court of Appeals 12/15/20
In Re Estate of Jessie J. Lake
W2019-01818-COA-R3-CV

The administrator of Appellee estate filed a declaratory judgment action against Geneva Cosey, seeking to quiet title to real property owned by decedent. Geneva Cosey died during the trial court proceedings, and the administrator filed a suggestion of death. However, neither party filed a substitution of party. As such, the trial court granted a default judgment in favor of the estate (and the administrator as the sole heir) on the declaratory judgment action. Tenn. R. Civ. P. 25.01. Thereafter, Geneva Cosey’s daughter, Eloise Cosey, filed an appeal to this Court. The notice of appeal was brought in the name of Geneva Cosey, deceased, and Eloise Cosey, as Geneva Cosey’s next of kin. The notice was signed and submitted by attorney Matthew Edwards. Because neither Eloise Cosey nor Mr. Edwards satisfy the standing requirement under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 19(a), the notice of appeal is ineffective and the appeal is dismissed.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 12/15/20
Patrick Wadri v. State Of Tennessee
M2020-00066-CCA-R3-PC
Petitioner, Patrick Wadri, entered an open plea in the General Sessions Court of Williamson County to two counts of driving on a suspended license, one count of use of a stolen license plate, and one count of failure to appear. The General Sessions Judge imposed an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to probation after the service of thirty days in incarceration. Petitioner subsequently sought post-conviction relief on the basis that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/20
Antonio Davis v. Rivergate Muffler and Auto Repair Et Al.
M2019-02243-COA-R3-CV

The owner of a vehicle seeks to recover for damage done to his vehicle while being repaired by the defendant auto repair shop. The defendant denied liability and asserted a counterclaim for the work it performed at the owner’s request. The circuit court dismissed the owner’s claims and awarded the defendant a judgment of $1,600. The owner appeals. We affirm the trial court in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/15/20
Cody D. Marks v. State Of Tennessee
M2019-02249-CCA-R3-PC

A Giles County jury convicted the Petitioner, Cody D. Marks, of the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range II offender to fifteen years of incarceration, twelve years of which was to be served at 100%. This court affirmed his convictions and sentence on appeal. State v. Cody D. Marks, No. M2018-00020-CCA-R-CD, 2018 WL 6992553, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Nov. 13, 2018), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 28, 2019). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/20
Kimberly Johnson Dougherty v. M.E. Buck Dougherty, III
W2020-01606-COA-T10B-CV

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, filed by M.E. Buck Dougherty, III (“Petitioner” or “Father”), seeking to recuse the trial judge in this case involving modification of a parenting plan. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Petitioner, and finding that the Chancery Court for Fayette County (“the Trial Court”) properly recused but erred in entering further orders, we vacate, in part, the November 5, 2020 order and affirm the order as so modified.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 12/14/20
In Re Estate of Henry C. Ellis, III
W2019-02121-COA-R3-CV

Appellant appeals the circuit court’s decision to allow a law firm to intervene in an estate matter. Because we conclude that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this estate matter, we vacate the decision of the circuit court and remand with instructions to transfer this matter back to probate court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/14/20
Bernard Keith Richardson v. Cassandra Yvette Richardson
E2019-02108-COA-R3-CV

Husband appeals the trial court’s decisions regarding the classification and division of property relative to divorce. We affirm the decision of the trial court in all respects.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/14/20
In Re: Owen C.
E2020-00863-COA-R3-PT

This appeal involves the termination of both parents’ rights to one of their minor children. Following a trial, the Bradley County Juvenile Court found that petitioners proved two statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence: abandonment by failure to visit and abandonment by failure to support. The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. Both parents appealed, arguing the abandonment was not willful. Having reviewed the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/14/20
Geneva Lawson Et Al. v. Maryville City Schools
E2019-02194-COA-R3-CV

This is a Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability action for personal injuries resulting from a trip and fall on the premises of a public school that was owned and operated by Maryville City Schools. The complaint alleged, in pertinent part, that the plaintiff tripped and fell near the entrance to the Maryville High School on a section of the school’s sidewalk that was deteriorated, the condition of which the defendant knew or should have known. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, arguing it was “immune from suit pursuant to the public duty doctrine.” Finding the public duty doctrine applied and the defendant was immune, the trial court dismissed the complaint. This appeal followed. We have determined that the facts alleged in the complaint do not pertain to or give rise to a defense based on the public duty doctrine. Further, accepting the plaintiffs’ factual allegations as true—as we are required to do at this stage in the proceedings—we have determined that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to survive a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is vacated, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Blount County Court of Appeals 12/14/20
In Re: Avagaline S.
E2020-00222-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, Appellant Mother appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the ground of failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent the child, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(14). Similarly, Appellant Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by failure to visit, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1); (2) abandonment by failure to support, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1); and (3) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent the child, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(14). Appellants also appeal the trial court’s finding that termination of their parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because the record does not support grounds for termination of Appellants’ parental rights, we reverse the trial court’s order concerning same. Accordingly, the issue of whether termination is in the Child’s best interest is pretermitted.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 12/11/20
In Re: Collwynn J.
E2020-00726-COA-R3-PT

This appeal involves the termination of the parental rights of a mother and father to their child. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to support two grounds for termination: persistence of conditions and severe abuse. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interests of the child. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/11/20
State of Tennessee v. David Oeser
M2019-01052-CCA-R3-CD

A Rutherford County jury convicted the Defendant, David Oeser, as charged of first degree premediated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and tampering with evidence. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202(a)(1), (a)(2), 39-13-403, 39-14-403, 39-16-503. The trial court imposed life sentences for the Defendant’s first degree murder convictions before merging them. It then sentenced the Defendant to twenty years at one hundred percent for the especially aggravated robbery conviction, five years at thirty percent for the aggravated burglary conviction, and five years at thirty percent for the tampering with evidence conviction, with these sentences served concurrently with one another but consecutively to the life sentence, for an effective sentence of life plus twenty years. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for first degree premediated murder; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the sentences for the especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and tampering with evidence convictions served consecutively to his life sentence. After carefully reviewing the record and the applicable law, we remand the case for entry of corrected judgment forms in Counts 1 and 3 as specified in this opinion. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/20
Vicki Pillow v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02274-SC-R3-WC

An employee sustained severe injuries when she was run over by a public transit bus on her way to work. The employer denied the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, and she filed a complaint with the Tennessee Claims Commission. Both parties filed competing motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the employee was within the course and scope of her employment when the injury occurred. The Claims Commission answered the question in the negative and determined that the case was subject to the “coming and going” rule. Therefore, the Claims Commission granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. Upon our review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the decision of the Claims Commission.

Workers Compensation Panel 12/11/20