Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/17/2019
Format: 11/17/2019
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Rachel Beth Haynes v. Allan Vincent Daugherty - Concurring in part and dissenting in part
M2018-01394-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Diana Benson Burns

When Allan Daugherty fell behind in paying child support for his three children, the State of Tennessee, acting on behalf of the children’s mother, filed a petition for civil contempt. Mr. Daugherty and the State agreed on the amount of the child support arrearage, $10,288.57, and Mr. Daugherty further agreed that an automatic attachment could issue for his arrest if he failed to pay child support for a thirty-day period. The circuit court confirmed an agreed order reflecting both of these agreements. 

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
Arnold Ray Parker v. William H. Clayton
M2017-02556-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

In this suit for conversion, a truck owner alleges that his friend converted his truck for the friend’s own use and the friend asserts that the owner gave him the truck as a gift. The trial court found the owner was more credible and concluded the friend was liable for conversion. The court awarded the owner damages, including lost earnings to compensate him for the time he was unable to earn a living by driving his truck. The friend appealed, claiming the court erred by awarding the owner more than the dollar amount set forth in the complaint. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in most respects, but we modify the damages award to conform to the requested amount.

Perry County Court of Appeals 09/10/19
In Re Estate of John E. Mayfield - Dissenting
M2018-01977-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s reversal of the Trial Court’s order dismissing Mr. Saltsman’s claim. I instead would affirm the dismissal because Mr. Mayfield informed Mr. Saltsman before Mr. Saltsman ever even saw it that the Commercial Purchase and Sale Agreement (“the Purported Instrument”) was invalid and, as the majority states, “had to be rewritten . . .”, and Mr. Saltsman acknowledged and agreed to that.

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 09/09/19
In Re Estate of John E. Mayfield
M2018-01977-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The owner of a storage facility agreed to sell the facility and died shortly after signing the purchase and sale agreement. The buyer filed a claim with the estate, seeking specific performance of the agreement. The estate’s administrator excepted to the claim, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable and that the decedent lacked the mental capacity to understand his actions when he signed the agreement. The trial court concluded that the agreement was not enforceable because there was no mutuality of assent to its terms and dismissed the buyer’s claim. The buyer appealed, and we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand it for further proceedings.

Cheatham County Court of Appeals 09/09/19
Dianne Hamilton, et al. v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals
W2019-01501-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. The plaintiff contends the trial judge should be disqualified because a lawyer with the Lewis Thomason law firm, which represents the defendant in this action, provided a letter of recommendation on behalf of the trial judge in support of the judge’s application for appointment to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Plaintiff also contends the trial judge should be disqualified because the judge failed to disclose “the extrajudicial relationship.” Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal, pursuant to the de novo standard as required under Rule 10B § 2.01, we find that the lawyer who provided the letter of recommendation has no involvement in this case, and that lawyer merely has a de minimis interest in the outcome of this case because the law firm representing the defendant is one of the larger multi-city firms in this state. Based on these facts and the relevant legal principles, we find no basis to conclude that the trial judge’s impartiality might be reasonably questioned. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for recusal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Deborah Anne Dillon, Et Al. v. Craig Morris, Et Al.
M2019-01181-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

The plaintiffs/appellants filed a notice of appeal from the trial court’s order dismissing one of the plaintiffs’ claims as to all of the defendants and all of the claims as to one of the defendants. The defendants/appellees responded to the notice of appeal by filing a motion to dismiss this appeal as premature and not subject to a final appealable order of the trial court. Because the trial court has not yet resolved all the claims between all the parties, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jennifer Doe v. Austin Davis - Dissenting
M2018-02001-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

Upon reading the majority opinion, both what is said and what is left unsaid, one may sum it up as follows: Mr. Davis is at fault, he did not follow the rules, and he is getting what he deserves. Mr. Davis may indeed deserve what the majority is giving him, but not in the way they do it. I respectfully dissent.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jennifer Doe v. Austin Davis
M2018-02001-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

The plaintiff, who is now an adult, filed this action against Austin Davis seeking compensatory and punitive damages for intentional invasion of privacy and defamation. The plaintiff also sought to enjoin Mr. Davis from further intrusion into her private life by posting to social media statements regarding her childhood sexual molestation as well as the private details of her life and childhood. After two years of Mr. Davis’s refusal to submit to any discovery on any subject and refusal to obey an order compelling discovery, the parties appeared before a special master for a case management conference. During this meeting, Mr. Davis unequivocally informed the Special Master that he had no intention of providing responses to any of the plaintiff’s discovery. Two weeks later, Mr. Davis responded to the plaintiff’s renewed motion to compel discovery by reiterating his refusal to provide responses, stating: “[T]he Defendant does not wish to provide any Discovery information to anyone voluntarily or involuntarily involved in the [sexual abuse] cover up.” Mr. Davis reaffirmed this declaration in open court during the hearing on the renewed motion for sanctions. Following the hearing, the trial court granted the motion for sanctions and awarded the plaintiff a default judgment on all issues concerning liability. After a trial on the issue of damages, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff $300,000 in compensatory damages and $1,800,000 in punitive damages. The trial court adopted both awards in its final judgment, and this appeal followed. The brief filed by Mr. Davis in this appeal is profoundly deficient and fails to comply with Rule 27(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Specifically, his Statement of the Case and Statement of Facts are littered with a series of nonsensical, illogical statements unrelated to the merits of this appeal. Moreover, the Argument section of his brief fails to set forth any contentions with respect to the issues presented, and the reasons therefore, including the reasons why the contentions require appellate relief, with citations to the authorities and appropriate references to the record as required by Rule 27(a)(7)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. In fact, the entire Argument, which is less than one page, merely contains a restatement of the issues and the statement that Mr. Davis relies on this “court’s ability to exercise ‘sua sponte’ authority in the best interest of justice, and to protect children.” Based on Mr. Davis’s profound failure to comply with Rule 27(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Mr. Davis has waived his right to an appeal. Accordingly, this appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Zachary Ronald Wright v. Angelene Hope Wright
E2018-02112-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

After father engaged in abusive conduct, mother petitioned for an order of protection. The trial court granted an ex parte order precluding father from contacting mother and their two minor children and set a hearing. Following a bench trial, the trial court held that the minor children were domestic abuse and sexual assault victims; it extended the order of protection for one year. The court permitted father supervised visitation with his biological daughter once every other week, and awarded mother child support. The court deviated from the amount of support required by the child support guidelines, and instead awarded mother $200 per week. The court did not state the amount of support that would have been ordered under the guidelines nor a justification for the variance. Father appeals. We affirm the extension of the order of protection for one year. We vacate the portion of the trial court’s order requiring father to pay excess child support, and remand to the trial court with instructions to make the requisite findings, pursuant to applicable law, and consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Tennessee Department of Health Et Al. v. Norma J. Sparks
M2018-01317-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

The Department of Health reprimanded and issued civil penalties against a physician assistant for prescribing controlled substances under the supervision of a physician who lacked DEA registration, failing to register with the Controlled Substances Monitoring Database (“CSMD”), and failing to check the database prior to prescribing controlled substances. On a petition for review, the chancery court reversed the Department’s decision. We conclude that the Department’s interpretation of the Physician Assistants Act is contrary to law and improperly places the duty on the physician assistant to determine whether a supervising physician is in compliance with an unwritten requirement that the physician be registered with the DEA to be able to supervise a physician assistant who prescribes controlled substances. Furthermore, the record does not contain substantial and material evidence that the Department provided the physician assistant with the statutorily-required notice that either registration with the CSMD or checking with the CSMD was required. We affirm the decision of the chancery court in all respects.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Alan Cartee v. Dale Morris, Et Al.
M2018-02272-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda J. McClendon

The plaintiff filed a premises liability action against a premises owner alleging that the premises owner was liable for injuries the plaintiff sustained after falling down a staircase located on the premises owner’s property. The trial court denied the premises owner’s motion for summary judgment but granted permission to pursue an interlocutory appeal. Because the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of an essential element of his claim, we reverse the decision of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Jeremy Ash v. Jaclyn Ash
M2018-00901-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Phillip R. Robinson

This appeal arises from a post-divorce dispute over child custody wherein the father filed a petition to modify the permanent parenting plan. Following a hearing in October 2017, the Trial Court found that a material change in circumstance existed and implemented a temporary parenting plan, determining that plan to be in the child’s best interest. Thereafter in April 2018, the Trial Court converted that temporary parenting plan into a permanent parenting plan upon its determination that the temporary plan appeared to be working satisfactorily. Mother appeals to this Court. Because the Trial Court did not conduct a best interest analysis or make the required statutory finding of best interest, we vacate the April 2018 judgment of the Trial Court and remand for further proceedings as necessary. We affirm the Trial Court in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/06/19
Twenty Holdings, LLC v. Land South TN, LLC and Brandon Majors
M2018-01903-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Plaintiff sued defendant-company and its employee for damages to its real property when the defendant-company’s tractor-trailer collided with the plaintiff’s residential properties while the truck was unmanned. The plaintiff raised claims of negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, trespass, negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and punitive damages. A jury trial occurred, and the trial court granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict as to all but the plaintiff’s negligence claim. The jury later awarded the plaintiff $185,000.00 for the diminution in value to the real property. Both parties appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/05/19
Horizon Trades, Inc. v. Aubrey Givens, Et Al.
M2019-00323-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

This is an appeal from an order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint as to one of two defendants. Because the order appealed does not dispose of all the plaintiff’s claims, we dismiss the appeal for lack of a final judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/05/19
Jessica Hartmann v. Brian Hartmann
M2018-00891-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ted A. Crozier

This is an appeal in a proceeding to modify an agreed parenting plan, which was incorporated into a decree when Mother and Father finalized their divorce in Arizona in 2016. Prior to the entry of the decree, the Mother and their three minor children moved to Montgomery County, Tennessee, with Father’s consent when he obtained temporary employment in Kuwait. The agreed parenting plan provided that by July 15, 2017, Mother, Father, and the children would relocate to a mutually agreed upon location or, in the event a location could not be agreed upon, to either Raleigh, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, or Augusta, Georgia. Upon his return from Kuwait in June 2017, Father moved to Augusta, Georgia. Mother petitioned the Circuit Court of Montgomery County to modify custody in October 2017; Father counter-petitioned for contempt and enforcement of the Arizona decree. After a hearing, the court enrolled the Arizona decree, found that there was a material change of circumstance requiring modification of the decree, adopted a parenting plan submitted by Mother, and modified Father’s child support. Father appeals; upon our review we have determined that the evidence does not support the court’s a finding of a material change of circumstance. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for entry of an order that the children be relocated in accordance with the final decree.  

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 09/04/19
In Re Janiyah J. Et Al.
E2018-02006-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory ground of severe child abuse and that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/04/19
Stephny Young, et al. v. Paxton V. Dickson, M.D.
W2019-01442-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

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 reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion and remand the case for reassignment to a different judge.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/03/19
Glenn A. Stark v. Jana A. Burks
W2018-01283-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Brigham

In this action concerning enforcement or modification of a permanent parenting plan, the trial court analyzed the issues in accordance with the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated Title 36 concerning child custody matters, rather than Title 37, involving dependency and neglect proceedings. Following the trial court’s modification of the parties’ permanent parenting plan, the father filed post-trial motions seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem and entry of an order providing for joint counseling sessions with the father and the child. The trial court denied these motions and awarded the mother attorney’s fees as the prevailing party pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-103(c). The father has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Henry County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Chivon G.
E2018-02012-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on the minor child of the mother/appellant. The child was placed in the legal custody of the petitioner/appellee on November 8, 2016, based upon the trial court’s finding that the child was dependent and neglected while in the mother’s care. On June 7, 2018, the petitioner filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of the mother upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the mother had abandoned the child by willfully failing to provide financial support and (2) the conditions leading to the child’s removal from the mother’s home persisted. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The mother has appealed. Having determined that the statutory ground of persistence of the conditions leading to removal was not proven by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse the trial court’s finding as to this ground. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the mother’s parental rights to the child.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Nina Villalba Et Al. v. Ciara McCown
E2018-01433-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

In this personal injury action arising from an automobile accident, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant upon finding that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate service of process in the originally filed action, which had been dismissed, such that the plaintiffs’ refiled action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiffs have appealed. Having determined that, pursuant to the version of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(11) in effect at the time that the initial complaint was filed, the plaintiffs demonstrated valid service of process of the initial complaint, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to the defendant and grant partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs concerning the affirmative defenses of ineffective service of process and expiration of the statute of limitations. We remand this action for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Matasia R. Et Al.
E2018-01834-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Johnny Alan Howell Et Al. v. Nelson Gray Enterprises Et AL.
E2019-00033-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

This appeal involves a motorcycle/vehicle collision that occurred when a vehicle exited from a restaurant parking lot and collided with the plaintiffs’ motorcycle on a public highway. The plaintiffs filed a negligence and premises liability claim against the property owner, the restaurant owner, and the franchisee. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and noted that the defendants did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs, effectively negating an essential element of the plaintiffs’ claim. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the grant of summary judgment by the trial court.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Brenlee F.
E2018-01498-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment by her (1) failure to visit; (2) failure to support; and (3) conduct that exhibited a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We reverse the trial court on its finding that the mother abandoned the child by failing to remit support. We affirm the trial court on all other rulings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Arnold Cunningham v. Sunice, Inc.
M2018-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

A Canadian company hired an independent contractor domiciled in Tennessee to market its sportswear to golfers on the PGA Tour. After the Canadian company terminated the contract, the independent contractor filed a breach of contract action in Tennessee. The Canadian company moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding insufficient minimum contacts with Tennessee, the trial court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, we conclude that the plaintiff failed to establish sufficient minimum contacts for the exercise of general or specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. So we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/19
In Re Estate of Jerry Bradley Espy
M2018-01594-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tolbert Gilley

The only child of the decedent contests the validity of her father’s will on the grounds that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity, and the will was the result of his step-daughter’s undue influence. When the step-daughter, who was designated as the executrix and sole beneficiary, filed a petition to admit the will to probate, the daughter filed a will contest. Following discovery, the step-daughter filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the will contest. The motion was properly supported by a statement of undisputed facts that principally relied on the affidavit of the attorney who prepared the decedent’s will and attended the execution of the will. The attorney’s affidavit stated that the decedent was of sound mind when he executed his will and that the step-daughter, who was the sole beneficiary of the will, was not involved in the preparation of the will and was not present when the will was executed. The motion for summary judgment was also supported by the affidavit of a nurse who cared for the decedent at the veterans’ home and who also witnessed the execution of the will. The nurse testified that he was responsible for the day to day care of the decedent for three years and interacted with him on a daily basis. He also testified that he witnessed the genuine love and affection the decedent and his step-daughter shared, that the decedent wanted to leave everything to her, and that the decedent “was of sound mind and memory when he signed his Will in my presence.” The daughter filed a response to the motion; however, she failed to make specific citations to the record, as Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03 requires, of facts that would support her contentions of lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence. She also filed medical records concerning the decedent’s medical history; however, the records were not authenticated. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment based on the finding that there was no genuine dispute of material facts and the step-daughter was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/29/19