Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/22/2014
Format: 10/22/2014
In Re Glory A.W.
E2013-02303-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis Humphrey

William L.W. (“Father”) appeals the termination of his parental rights to the minor child Glory A.W. (“the Child”). We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court for Roane County’s (“the Juvenile Court”) finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds were proven to terminate Father’s parental rights for
abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(1) and § 36-1-102(1)(A)(ii); for substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2); and for persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3). We further find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. We affirm the Juvenile Court’s February 19, 2014 order terminating Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Roane County Court of Appeals 10/21/14
Mike Cradic v. McCoy Motors, Inc., et al.
E2013-02857-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody

This appeal arises from a dispute over payment on a note (“the Note”). McCoy Motors, Inc. borrowed $90,000.00 from A. D. Kinkead (“Kinkead”). The Note provided, among other things, that the loan could be renewed at the end of twelve month periods and that, if Kinkead died before the Note was fully paid, the principal of the unpaid balance would be paid to William L. McCoy, Jr. and Sue McCoy. Kinkead’s attorney-1 in-fact, Mike Cradic (“Cradic”), informed McCoy that Kinkead was demanding that the Note be paid in full. McCoy refused to pay in full but instead continued to make payments on the Note. Kinkead, through Cradic, sued the McCoys in the Law Court for Sullivan County (Kingsport) (“the Trial Court”) to compel full payment on the Note. Kinkead died and Cradic pursued the suit.
The Trial Court found that demand had been made on the Note, and that at the end of the twelve month period during which demand was made, the Note came due and payable. The Trial Court entered judgment against McCoy Motors, Inc., and the McCoys, individually. McCoy Motors, Inc. and the McCoys appeal. We affirm the Trial Court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 10/20/14
Herman Roland, Jr. , et al. v. Kelli Bridwell, et al.
E2014-00435-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John C. Rambo

This case involves a dispute as to whether the defendants’ predecessors in title abandoned an easement to a shared driveway either through an express intention to abandon the easement or by inference. The defendants deny that there was an intention to abandon the right-of-way. After a bench trial, the trial court found that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence to support their claim that the predecessors in title abandoned the driveway easement. Accordingly, the trial court entered a judgment that the easement has not been abandoned by the defendants or their predecessors in title. The court further concluded that the easement was to be used for ingress and egress only, and prohibited the parties from parking on or obstructing the easement in any way. The parties were found equally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the shared driveway. The trial court also determined that the garage maintenance agreement had been terminated. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Carter County Court of Appeals 10/20/14
Shemeka Metin Ibrahim v. Murfreesboro Medical Clinic Surgi Center, et al.
M2013-00631-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The trial court dismissed sua sponte Plaintiff’s healthcare liability and fraud claims for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. It accordingly dismissed her motions to continue for the purpose of retaining counsel as moot, and denied her motion to recuse. We reverse denial of Plaintiff’s motions for continuance, vacate dismissal of her action for failure to state a claim, affirm denial of her motion to recuse, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 10/17/14
Pamela A. Moritz v. Michael P. Tulay
E2013-01528-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

This is a post-divorce action involving issues of child custody, co-parenting time, and child support. The parties, Pamela Moritz (“Mother”) and Michael Tulay (“Father”), were divorced in Knox County in 2002. By agreement of the parties, custody of their children was vested in Mother, with Father being granted co-parenting time. Mother moved to Pennsylvania with the children in 2005 despite Father’s objection to such relocation. Father continued to enjoy co-parenting time with the children and pay child support to Mother. In 2007, Father filed a petition seeking to modify his child support obligation due to the oldest child’s reaching the age of majority. Thereafter, through a lengthy procedural history marked by Mother’s continuing failure to abide by the trial court’s orders, custody of the remaining minor child was granted to Father in 2009 while Mother was granted only supervised coparenting time. Mother did not appeal the 2009 order. Subsequently, in 2012, Mother filed petitions seeking to modify the custody award and invalidate the trial court’s prior orders. The trial court affirmed its earlier award of custody to Father as Mother presented no evidence of a material change of circumstance affecting the child’s best interest. The court also determined that Mother’s petitions to invalidate the earlier orders were untimely. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/17/14
Gerald Freeburg ETC v. Phillip Turner
E2013-02688-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This appeal arises from a child support matter. Gerald Freeburg (“Freeburg”), continuing in place of his adult daughter who died during the pendency of these proceedings, pursued a child support claim of his daughter against Phillip Turner (“Turner”) in the Chancery Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”). Freeburg submitted what purportedly was an order from an Oklahoma court reflecting Turner’s child support arrearage. The Trial Court held that the purported order from Oklahoma did not constitute a court order and dismissed the matter. Freeburg timely appealed. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 10/17/14
In Re: Estate of Linda A. Farmer
M2013-02506-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

This appeal arises from a civil action against the decedent’s brother who allegedly used his confidential relationship as his sister’s attorney-in-fact to unduly influence her to amend her revocable trust and name him the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary of the trust. It was also alleged that he breached his fiduciary duties by converting her assets. The claims were tried before a jury which returned a verdict in favor of the defendant; the jury found that the plaintiffs had not proven that the amendments to the decedent’s revocable living trust were brought about by undue influence. The jury also found that the defendant had proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that under the totality of circumstances the trust amendments were not the result of undue influence by the defendant and were fair to the decedent. The jury’s specific findings rendered all other claims moot; thus, the defendant prevailed on all issues. On appeal, the plaintiffs contend the trial court erred by, inter alia, not granting a directed verdict on the issue of breach of fiduciary duty and by failing to instruct the jury on certain issues; the plaintiffs also contend the jury verdict should be set aside because there is no material evidence to support the finding that the mostrecent amendment to the trust was fair to the decedent. We have determined there is material evidence to support the jury’s findings; thus, the most recent trust amendment is valid and the defendant is the sole residuary beneficiary of the trust. Because there are sufficient funds in the trust to satisfy the modest cash bequests to the remaining beneficiaries, we find that plaintiffs have no standing to pursue their remaining claims on appeal due to their inability to show a “distinct and palpable injury.” City of Brentwood v. Metro. Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 149 S.W.3d 49, 55 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004). Accordingly, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/15/14
Phyllis Williams v. Larry Stovesand Lincoln Mercury, Inc., et al.
M2014-00004-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

This is a dispute arising from the interpretation of a contract made during an asset sale of one automobile dealership to another. Seller filed a complaint seeking to collect payment pursuant to the contract on the ground that the contract was a promissory note upon which the buyer had defaulted. Buyer argued that the contract was actually for the payment of future rents to Seller, who remained the owner of the real estate upon which Buyer operated his automobile dealership. Seller filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court determined that, because the contract was an unambiguous promissory note and Buyer admitted non-payment, Seller was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/15/14
Rickey G. Young v. Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, et al.
W2013-02575-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

This case involves Employee’s right to unemployment compensation benefits. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied Employee’s claim for benefits after finding that he was discharged for workplace misconduct. Employee sought judicial review of the decision in the trial court, alleging that the Department did not provide him a fair and impartial hearing. Employee requested that the trial court reverse the decision or remand the matter for a new hearing. The Department agreed and filed a motion to remand. The trial court remanded the matter for a new hearing. Employee appealed and now contends that the trial court erred in remanding the matter. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Appeals 10/14/14
The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville & Davidson County, TN, et al. v. The Board of Zoning Appeals of Nashville & Davidson County, TN, et al.
M2013-00970-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancerllor Claudia Bonnyman

Advertising company applied to the Metropolitan Government Department of Codes and Building Safety for a permit to convert its standard billboard to a digital billboard. The zoning administrator denied the request; the company appealed to the Metropolitan Board of ZoningAppeals,which reversed the administrator’sdecision and granted the permit. Days later, the permit was revoked on the ground that the proposed digital billboard violated a provision in the zoning code. The company again appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which held that the permit had been revoked in error and reinstated the permit. The Metropolitan Government then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of the Board’s decision; the trial court reversed the decision granting the permit.  The advertising company appeals; finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/13/14
Connie Reguli, et al. v. Board of Professional Responsibility of The Supreme Court of Tennessee
M2014-00158-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This is a declaratory judgment action in which Petitioners, who were respondents in an ongoing disciplinary proceeding, requested the trial court answer 15 questions concerning the applicable rules of procedure and evidence and the process and organization of the Board. The trial court dismissed the action, finding that Petitioners merely sought an advisory opinion and that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to afford the relief desired. Petitioners appeal. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/13/14
Loretta M. Gaither v. Michael Deleon Gaither - separate concurring opinion
E2013-02681-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jacqueline S. Bolton

I concur completely in the majority’s treatment of the piano issue. Under the proof before the trial court, I also concur in the majority’s decision to modify the trial court’s judgment as to the marital residence and the overall division of the marital estate. I write separately to express my view that it is sometimes appropriate to take into account the cost of selling an asset even though there is no present intent to sell. Since the proof in this case does not support the trial court’s “20%” decision, I agree that this particular part of the trial court’s judgment is not correct.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/13/14
Loretta M. Gaither v. Michael Deleon Gaither
E2013-02681-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jaqueline S. Bolton

This is a divorce action involving the proper classification and division of the parties’ assets. The trial court found one asset, a baby grand piano, to be the wife’s separate property as it had been a gift to her from the husband. All other assets were determined to be marital. The most valuable asset was the parties’ marital residence, which was appraised at a value of $475,000. Although the trial court awarded the marital residence to the wife rather than ordering it to be sold, the trial court deducted twenty percent from the home’s equity value for the associated costs had it been sold. The trial court subsequently fashioned a nearly equal percentage distribution of the marital assets and debts, which included an allocation of a portion of the equity in the home to the husband. The husband has appealed. We determine that the trial court correctly classified the piano as the wife’s separate property. We also determine that the trial court improperly deducted the costs associated with a hypothetical sale of the marital residence from its equity value. We therefore modify the trial court’s award of equity in the home to the husband to effectuate the trial court’s ostensible overall percentage distribution. We affirm that equitable distribution in all other respects. We decline to award the wife attorney’s fees on appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/13/14
Phillip M. Nall, et al v. The City of Oak Ridge. et al
E2013-02608-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William E. Lantrip

Four sergeants with a municipal police department filed a grievance complaining that there was an unlawful disparity in pay among the sergeants on the force. The personnel board for the municipality denied the grievance. The sergeants appealed. The trial court determined that the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act was applicable under the facts of the case and the personnel board’s decision that it lacked authority to grant the relief sought was supported by material and substantial evidence. We affirm as modified.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 10/10/14
Paul T. Coleman v. Billie A. Brown, et al.
E2013-01544-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Weaver

In the present consolidated action, the plaintiff sought a determination from the trial court that he was the sole owner of a corporation and two limited partnerships based on the deaths of the other shareholders/partners. The trial court found that the plaintiff had failed, pursuant to the terms of the respective partnership agreements and the corporate buy-sell agreement, to assert his right to purchase the decedents’ interests within a reasonable time after their deaths. The trial court concluded that the plaintiff had waived his right to purchase those interests and was barred from now asserting such claim. The plaintiff has appealed that ruling. We affirm the trial court’s ruling regarding ownership of the corporate shares and partnership interests, although on different grounds. Determining that the corporate shares and partnerships interests are held by the personal representatives as assets of the decedents’ estates, we modify the trial court’s judgment to remove the designation of the personal representatives as assignees.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/10/14
In Re: Christopher J.B.,Jr., et al.
E2014-00489-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights to her three children. The trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Mother’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to visit and provide support and failure to comply with the requirements contained in the permanency plans. The court further found that termination of her rights was in the best interest of the Children. Mother appeals. We affirm the trial court’s termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 10/09/14
Randy Scott Lower v. Melanie Ewing Lower
M2013-02593-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This post-divorce appeal concerns Mother’s request to relocate to Alabama with the Parties’ minor child. Father objected to the move and responded by filing a petition to modify the parenting plan in which he opposed Mother’s requested relocation and requested designation as the Child’s primary residential parent. Following a hearing, the trial court granted Mother’s request to relocate and revised the parenting plan to reflect the change in visitation as a result of the relocation. Father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 10/08/14
Potter's Shopping Center, Inc. v. Joseph Szekely, et al.
M2014-00588-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Andrew R. Tillman

Appellants appeal from the trial court’s decision to grant partial summary judgment to the Appellee. After reviewing the record, we find that the trial court failed to state the legal grounds on which it was granting summary judgment as required by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56.04. Consequently, this Court cannot proceed with our review and must vacate the order at issue.

Fentress County Court of Appeals 10/08/14
Roger Jamal Myrick v. State of Tennessee, et al.
M2013-02352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

This appeal arises from a decision by the Davidson County Chancery Court dismissing inmate’s petition for declaratory judgment. Inmate was convicted of second degree murder and sought a declaratory order from the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) claiming he was eligible for parole and requesting a parole hearing date. The request was denied, so inmate filed a petition for declaratory judgment with the Davidson County Chancery Court, arguing that he was entitled to a parole hearing and mandatory parole pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-28-115(b)(1) and -117(b). The State filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim based on Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501. The trial court granted the State’s motion, and this appeal followed. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/08/14
Bobby W. McEarl, et al. v. Talmo Johnson, et al.
W2014-00274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny W. Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

This appeal arises from a boundary line dispute. The parties contest the location of the common boundary line between their respective properties. Appellees argue that the boundary line lies at the center of the creek that runs between the parties’ properties. Appellants contend that the boundary lies on the creek’s east bank. Both sides proffered expert testimony to prove the boundary location. The trial court found Appellees’ expert credible. Based on the testimonies of Appellees’ expert and their predecessor in title, and the deeds submitted into evidence, the court determined that the boundary line was located along the centerline of the creek. The trial court also awarded damages to Appellees based on Appellants’ removal of timber from the disputed area. Appellants appeal. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, we affirm and remand.

Chester County Court of Appeals 10/08/14
G and N Restaurant Group, Inc. d/b/a City Cafe Diner v. City of Chattanooga
E2013-02617-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This action involves the constitutionality of a city ordinance regulating beer sales by establishments operating twenty-four hours a day. In June 2006, the defendant city amended its beer ordinance, which previously had required restaurants serving beer and other alcoholic beverages to serve no alcohol between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on weekdays and 3:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon on Sundays. Pursuant to the amended code section, no establishment remaining open for business of any type between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. is permitted to simultaneously maintain a beer permit. The plaintiff restaurant is located within a hotel in Chattanooga and serves a wide variety of food items twenty-four hours a day. Upon its opening in 2004 and subsequent reopening in April 2006, pursuant to the unamended version of the city code, the restaurant served beer during the hours allowed. The restaurant continued to serve beer until it received a letter alleging a code violation from the Chattanooga Police Department in June 2011. Following a mandatory appearance before the Chattanooga Beer Board, the restaurant surrendered its beer permit. The restaurant brought this action in the trial court, alleging that the city code subsection at issue violated the restaurant’s substantive due process rights pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article 1, section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution. The trial court ruled in favor of the city, finding, inter alia, that the code subsection was rationally related to a legitimate government interest. The restaurant appeals. Because we determine that the code subsection is not rationally related to a legitimate government interest, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and grant the restaurant’s request for a judgment declaring the subsection to be constitutionally invalid. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/08/14
Tommy Williams, et al. v. Adrain Armitage, et al.
E2014-01479-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

This is an appeal from an order resolving the claim for damages made by the appellee, Tommy Williams, in the Original Complaint. However, the order did not resolve the counterclaim filed by the appellant, Adrian A. Armitage, and Albert L. Armitrage. Because the order appealed from does not resolve all claims raised in the proceedings below, we dismiss this appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 10/07/14
Steven B. Stubblefield v. Tennessee Department of Health, et al.
M2013-02239-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A physician was charged with failing to report a reckless driving conviction on his medical license renewal application. Following a contested case hearing before an administrative agency, the physician’s medical license was placed on probation for five years. The physician sought judicial review, arguing the agency’s sanction was disproportionate to what he represented was merely a mistake. The trial court affirmed the agency’s decision, and the physician appealed. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/06/14
John C. Wells, III v. Tennessee Board of Probation And Parole
M2013-02613-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

This appeal arises from a decision by the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (“the Board”) to deny inmate parole at his initial parole review hearing. Inmate was convicted of nine counts of aggravated sexual battery and was denied parole due to the seriousness of his crimes and the likelihood thathe would commit similar crimes again if released. Inmate filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, arguing that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction, was illegally comprised, and acted arbitrarily and capriciously. The trial court dismissed the petition with prejudice, and this appeal followed. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/06/14
Kathryn A. Duke v. Harold W. Duke, III
M2013-00624-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

This case involves the modification of a parenting plan. The trial court reduced Father’s time with the parties’ children to four hours of supervised time every other weekend. The trial court so limited the Father’s parenting time as a result of his intentional interference with the children’s relationship with Mother. Father appeals the trial court’s modification of the parenting schedule. In addition, he claims the trial court erred by: (1) limiting Father’s communication with the children; (2) refusing Father’s request to retain an expert to rebut testimony by an expert Mother and Father initially agreed would provide a recommendation about parenting time; (3) excluding certain portions of his treating physician’s testimony; (4) requiring the children to continue counseling sessions with a psychologist; (5) terminating Father’s participation in educational decisions for the children; (6) instituting a permanent injunction against Father; (7) finding Father guilty of six counts of criminal contempt; (8) finding Father in civil contempt; (9) denying Father’s requests to reopen the proof to present newly discovered evidence; and (10) awarding Mother $678,933.05 in attorneys’ fees and discretionary costs. We reverse the judgment of the trial court finding Father in civil contempt. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/03/14