Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/19/2018
Format: 10/19/2018
Lee A. Beaman v. Kelley Speer Beaman
M2018-01651-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for judicial recusal filed by Kelley Speer Beaman (“Wife”) in the parties’ high profile divorce proceedings. Having reviewed the Petition for Recusal Appeal filed by Wife, together with the supplement to the Petition and the response in opposition to the Petition filed by Lee A. Beaman (“Husband”), we conclude that the Trial Judge should have granted the motion. The Trial Judge in this case conducted an independent investigation into the facts surrounding how and when Wife’s Trial Brief came into the possession of the online media outlet known as Scoop: Nashville, and his comments on the record regarding the results of his investigation create an appearance of prejudice against Wife and her counsel that require the Trial Judge’s recusal.  We therefore reverse the order of the Trial Court and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/19/18
Robert Sawyers, Sr. v. E & R Auto Sales, Inc.
M2018-00495-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This appeal arises from a dispute over an automobile purchase. Robert Sawyers, Sr. (“Plaintiff”) filed a claim against E & R Auto Sales, Inc. (“Defendant”) in the General Sessions Court for Davidson County (“the General Sessions Court”) alleging that Defendant sold him a problem-riddled vehicle and seeking $13,000 in damages. The General Sessions Court dismissed Plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff appealed to the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court dismissed a counter-claim filed by Defendant and awarded Plaintiff $350.00. Plaintiff appeals pro se, arguing he should have been awarded more money. Plaintiff’s brief fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We, therefore, find that Plaintiff has waived his issue on appeal. Furthermore, the record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence. As such, the record presented to this Court precludes meaningful review of the issue on appeal. Given all this, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/12/18
Joseph Meersman, Jr. Et Al. v. Regions Morgan Keegan Trust, Et Al.
M2017-02043-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This appeal concerns the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient process, and insufficient service of process of a lawsuit regarding the administration of two trusts of which appellant, Joseph Peter Meersman, Jr., was a beneficiary. Appellant first had summons issued and attempted service by mail on March 1, 2016. The case remained dormant for over a year before the appellant filed additional documents. The appellees subsequently filed motions to dismiss, basing the motions primarily on insufficient service of process. The trial court granted each defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that there was insufficient process, insufficient service of process, and the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants due to the insufficient service of process. We affirm.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/09/18
Katherine E. Anderson v. Ming Wang, Et Al.
M2018-00184-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a health care liability case. The trial court granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment on Appellant’s res ipsa loquitur claim under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115(c). Appellant appeals. Because Appellant presented sufficient evidence at the summary judgment stage to create a dispute of fact, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/05/18
Vicki Baumgartner, Personal Representative Of The Estate of Richard R. Baumgartner v. Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System
M2017-01715-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal involves the forfeiture of the retirement benefits of a former Tennessee trial judge after he was convicted in federal court of numerous felonies arising out of his official capacity as a trial judge and constituting malfeasance in office. The former trial judge appealed the termination of his benefits and participated in a contested case proceeding before an administrative law judge, who ultimately determined that the retirement benefits were properly terminated based on the felony convictions and that the statute requiring such forfeiture was not unconstitutional as applied to the former trial judge. The chancery court agreed with these conclusions. We likewise conclude that the application of the forfeiture statute did not unconstitutionally impair the pension contract of the former trial judge, nor did it unilaterally impose an impermissible retrospective law or constitute an excessive fine. We further conclude that the retirement benefits were suspended as of the appropriate date, despite the former trial judge’s insistence to the contrary. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the chancery court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/03/18
Lawrence B. Hammet, II Et Al. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA
M2018-00352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This is a residential foreclosure case. Homeowners appeal the trial court’s dismissal of their claims regarding the foreclosure of their home under Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon our review, we conclude that the Appellants’ claims should not have been dismissed on a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/02/18
Rachel L. Bell v. Michael Gardner
M2017-01520-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R.Ash

A debtor in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case hired an attorney to represent him in his divorce. Several years later, the attorney filed suit against the debtor for unpaid legal fees. The debtor raised the statute of limitations as a defense. The attorney claimed she delayed filing suit after receiving a letter from the debtor’s bankruptcy counsel. The letter asked the attorney to “[p]lease cease collection pursuant to the automatic stay of 11 USC § 362.” Applying the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the trial court “decline[d] to apply the statute of limitations as unjust” and granted judgment to the attorney for the unpaid fees. Because the court erred in concluding that the debtor was equitably estopped from asserting his statute of limitations defense, we reverse.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/28/18
William Thomas Fiala v. Kelly Lauren Fiala
M2017-01280-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

Mother appeals the trial court’s finding that a material change in circumstance occurred affecting the best interests of the child and that the child’s best interests were furthered by naming Father primary residential parent. We affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/21/18
Capital Partners Network OT, Inc. v. TNG Contractors, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-00411-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Plaintiff in this action, which recovered a judgment against the Tennessee Defendants in a New York court, sought to enroll and enforce the judgment in accordance with the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 26-6-101 to -108, in Davidson County Circuit Court. Defendants moved to dismiss the proceeding and to deny the New York judgment full faith and credit on the ground, inter alia, that it was void under Tennessee law. The court denied the motion, held that the judgment was entitled to full faith and credit, and enrolled the judgment. Defendants appeal; we reverse and remand the case for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/11/18
Xcaliber International LTD., LLC v. Tennessee Department Of Revenue
M2017-01918-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

This case involves an interlocutory appeal to the Davidson County Chancery Court (“trial court”) of an administrative decision denying a motion to compel discovery. The petitioner, Xcaliber International Ltd., LLC (“Xcaliber”), is a tobacco manufacturer. In December 2016, Xcaliber filed a petition for an administrative contested case hearing concerning a decision pending by the Tennessee Department of Revenue (“the Department”) to remove Xcaliber’s two cigarette brand families distributed in Tennessee from the Tennessee Directory of Approved Tobacco Product Manufacturers (“the Directory”). Within this administrative proceeding, Xcaliber filed a motion to compel discovery in May 2017, expressing its dissatisfaction with the Department’s responses to two sets of interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production of documents. Based on the pleadings, the administrative law judge denied Xcaliber’s motion to compel. On June 20, 2017, Xcaliber filed a petition in the trial court, seeking interlocutory review of the administrative order pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-5-322(a)(1) (Supp. 2017). The Department subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the petition for judicial review, purportedly asserting both a facial challenge and a factual challenge to the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the interlocutory administrative order. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order on August 24, 2017, granting the Department’s motion based on what the court treated as a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction and dismissing Xcaliber’s petition for judicial review with prejudice. Xcaliber has appealed. Having determined that the trial court has subject matter jurisdiction, we reverse and remand for review on the merits of the administrative order denying Xcaliber’s motion to compel discovery.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/10/18
Susan Hembree Schumacher v. Kerry James Schumaucher
M2016-02585-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/10/18
Vallaree Goodwin v. Kebede G. Hanebis
M2017-01689-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This is an appeal from a judgment entered on a jury verdict. The case arises from a motor vehicle accident. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Appellee, and the trial court entered a final judgment for $68,995.02. Because the trial court erred in excluding relevant medical records, we reverse the judgment and remand for a new jury trial.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/18
Barbara Patterson, Individually And As Surviving Spouse Of David Charles Patterson, Deceased v. STHS Heart, LLC
M2018-01419-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

Appellant sought disqualification of the trial judge pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. The trial judge denied the motion to recuse.  Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/28/18
Nicole Joseph v. William Edge SalonSpa, LLC
M2018-01425-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This is an appeal from a final judgment entered on April 24, 2018. Because the appellant did not file either her motion to alter or amend or her notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/28/18
Teal Properties, Inc. v. Dog House Investments, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-00257-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones, III

The dispositive issue on appeal is whether co-owners of a limited liability company who signed a commercial lease agreement on behalf of the entity are personally liable for the lessee’s obligations when they signed the agreement twice: once on a line preceded by the text “By:” and followed on the next line by the text “Title:” and a second time on a line below which the signatory’s name was typed, followed by the word “Individually.” After the lessor filed suit against the lessee company and the co-owners individually to collect utilities and tax payments allegedly owed under the lease agreement, the co-owners filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, arguing that the lease contains no provisions that make them personally liable for the lessee’s obligations. The trial court granted the co-owners’ motion, and lessor appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/15/18
Extended Stay America v. Scott Wilson
M2018-01337-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

This is an appeal from a judgment entered on February 20, 2015. Because the appellant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/14/18
Bethel University v. Tennessee State Board of Education, Et Al.
M2017-01428-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

The Tennessee Board of Education (“the Board”) denied approval of Bethel University’s (“Bethel”) educator preparation program (“EPP”). After unsuccessfully pursuing remedies under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA), Bethel sought judicial review of the Board’s action. The trial court found that the Board Policy 5.504, relied upon by the Board in its decision, was invalid and reinstated approval of Bethel’s EPP. The Board appeals, asserting 5.504 is a valid policy within the meaning of the UAPA and that the court erred in reinstating Bethel’s EPP. We affirm the trial court’s holding that 5.504 is a rule within the meaning of the UAPA and, since it was not promulgated as a rule in accordance with the UAPA, it is invalid and could not be used as a basis of denying approval of Bethel’s EPP. Further, we have determined that the court exceeded its authority in ordering reinstatement of Bethel’s EPP; we vacate the decision in that regard and remand the case to the trial court with instructions to remand the case to the Board for further consideration of Bethel’s approval status as an EPP.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/14/18
Troy Nicholas v. Tennessee Department of Safety And Homeland Security
M2017-01674-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

After police seized a vehicle allegedly used to transport drugs, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security initiated forfeiture proceedings against the vehicle’s owner. The owner filed a claim contesting the forfeiture proceedings, and the Department dismissed the claim as untimely. The owner petitioned for judicial review, and the trial court reversed the dismissal, reinstated the owner’s claim, and remanded for a hearing. We affirm the trial court’s decision.          

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/13/18
Steven M. Wirth v. James W. Friedlob
M2016-02422-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

Breach of contract and negligence action brought by disabled plaintiff who engaged nonattorney representative to assist in plaintiff’s application for social security disability benefits. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant and denied the plaintiff’s motion to set the judgment aside, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02(1). Plaintiff appeals; Determining that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Rule 60.02 motion, we affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/06/18
David Banks v. University Of Tennessee
M2017-01358-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William E. Young

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville terminated the employment of Appellant, a tenured faculty member. Appellant appealed his termination to an administrative hearing officer pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Following a contested hearing, the hearing officer upheld the University’s termination of Appellant.  Appellant then petitioned the chancery court to reverse the decision of the hearing officer.  The chancery court upheld the hearing officer’s decision to affirm the termination of Appellant’s employment and tenure. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/30/18
Philip Foxwell Berg v. Keiko Shigeno Berg
M2018-01163-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

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

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/27/18
Richard Gary Vincioni v. Vanderbilt University, Et Al.
M2017-01302-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

Appellant alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention against a University and its employees. The trial court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/25/18
Estate of David Lyons v. Latony Baugh, Et Al.
M2017-00094-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

The parties to a wrongful death action reached a mediated settlement under which the settlement proceeds were divided between the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children. After the settlement agreement was judicially approved and the proceeds disbursed, the trial court ruled that the surviving spouse had waived his right to collect any settlement proceeds. The deceased’s children filed a legal malpractice action against the estate of the attorney who had represented their guardian ad litem in the wrongful death action because he failed to contest the surviving spouse’s standing. As part of the settlement of the legal malpractice action, the children assigned their claims against the surviving spouse to the estate of the attorney. The estate then filed this equitable action
against the surviving spouse and his girlfriend, seeking recovery of the settlement proceeds and a constructive trust on any property purchased with those proceeds. Both the estate and the surviving spouse filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied the spouse’s motion but granted the estate summary judgment based on unjust enrichment. We reverse the grant of summary judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/25/18
Gary Lee Odom v. Rachel Lea Zamata Odom
M2017-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

In this divorce action, the wife was found to be in “willful, direct and summary contempt of court beyond a reasonable doubt,” based on her responses to the trial court judge’s questions during a motion hearing. The wife has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment. We decline to award to the husband his attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Delinquent Taxpayers as Shown On The 2011 Real Property Tax Records Of The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville & Davidson County., Et Al. v. The Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County. , Et Al.
M2015-02450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

A landowner’s real property was sold at a delinquent tax sale on August 14, 2013. The taxpayer subsequently conveyed her interest in the property to a third party that redeemed the property within the one-year redemption period. In the interim, new legislation took effect that altered the redemption process. The purchaser at the tax sale and two creditors of the taxpayer moved the court to set aside the redemption, contending that the redeeming party failed to comply with the new law. The trial court held that the redemption procedure set forth in the new legislation applied, that the redeeming party did not follow the redemption process set forth in the new legislation, and thus, that the redemption failed. The redeeming party appeals. We hold that the trial court correctly determined that the redeeming party was entitled to redeem but erred in concluding that the new statute applied to this redemption and that the redemption failed due to the redeeming party’s failure to follow the new redemption process; accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18