Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/08/2019
Format: 12/08/2019
In Re Jayda S.
E2019-00395-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

Mother appeals the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights. Concluding that the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the trial court’s findings of a ground for termination and that termination is in the child’s best interest, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/26/19
C.Bruce Batten v. Community Trust and Banking Company Et Al. - Dissent in Part
E2017-00279-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This appeal arises from the trial court’s reconsideration and granting of summary judgment motions that had initially been denied by another judge. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/26/19
C.Bruce Batten v. Community Trust and Banking Company Et Al. - Dissent in Part
E2017-00279-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

I concur in the majority opinion’s result with regard to Batten’s entitlement to the severance package and with regard to the award of attorney’s fees to Bank. However, I must dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment to Attorney Edge on Batten’s negligent misrepresentation claim. As discussed by the majority, the alleged representation at issue in this case was that Attorney Edge was unaware of anything that would affect Batten’s ability to receive his negotiated severance benefits if he tendered his resignation in December 2009. According to Batten, Attorney Edge’s representation was false because Attorney Edge was at that time aware of several facts that could undermine Batten’s ability to receive the severance package.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/26/19
Solomon Menche v. White Eagle Property Group, LLC, et al. - Dissent
W2018-01336-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision to affirm the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and expenses to the defendants following the entry of an agreed order granting a voluntary nonsuit to the plaintiff.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/26/19
Solomon Menche v. White Eagle Property Group, LLC, et al.
W2018-01336-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Plaintiff/Appellant brought suit against Defendants/Appellees over various business disputes. During the course of the discovery process, the trial court granted three motions to compel against Plaintiff, twice reserving Defendants’ request for attorney’s fees. Eventually, Defendants moved for discovery sanctions against Plaintiff, asking the trial court to award Defendants the attorney’s fees and expenses related to prosecuting the three motions to compel as well as the motion for sanctions. Shortly after the third motion to compel was granted, however, Plaintiff requested a voluntary nonsuit pursuant to Rule 41.01. Because Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment was pending, the Defendants were required to agree to the nonsuit. The trial court granted the nonsuit based on Defendants’ consent, but later held a hearing on the Defendants’ motion for sanctions and awarded the Defendants their attorney’s fees and expenses. Plaintiff appealed to this Court. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/26/19
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General And Reporter v. HRC Medical Centers, Inc., Et Al.
M2017-02559-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Donald R. Ash

This is an action brought by the State of Tennessee pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, Tennessee Code Annotated section 47-18-101, et seq., and seeking judicial dissolution, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 48-24-301, of HRC Medical Centers, Inc., a for-profit corporation operating approximately 50 hormone replacement therapy centers. The State alleged, inter alia, that the corporation’s advertising for its hormone replacement therapy was deceptive, and sought restitution for consumers. Also sued were the owners of HRC and their spouses; it is alleged that those defendants, as recipients of some of the assets of HRC, are personally liable for violations of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 66-3-305(a) and 66-3-306(a). The defendants filed motions to dismiss, for summary judgment, and to remand the case to the Division of Health Related Boards of the Tennessee Department of Health; all of the motions were denied. The State moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability under the Consumer Protection Act and, after the motion was granted, on the issue of damages. In granting the second motion, the trial court entered an award of $18,141,750, based upon the median amount paid by consumers for the hormone therapy treatment. The defendants appeal, raising issues related to the trial court’s denial of their motion for remand, motions to dismiss, and motions for summary judgment; they also appeal the grant of summary judgment to the State. Upon a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/23/19
In Re Brianna B., Et Al.
M2019-00446-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This is the second appeal in a case in which the mother of two children appeals the termination of her parental rights to the children. In the first appeal, this Court vacated the trial court’s holdings with respect to the grounds for termination and the determination that termination of the mother’s rights was in the children’s best interest; we remanded the case for the court to make additional factual findings and conclusions of law. On remand, the trial court considered the record and its previous order and entered an order in which it declined to make additional findings, and held “that its ruling is correct and is more than sufficient to find by clear and convincing evidence, that one or more statutory grounds for termination exist, and further, that termination is in the best interest of Lizzie, the remaining minor child.” Upon consideration of the record, we vacate the order entered following the remand from the prior appeal and remand the case for entry of an order that makes the factual findings and conclusions of law previously ordered by this Court.

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/23/19
Carolyn Diane Long v. Steven Lawrence Long
E2018-1868-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry M. Warner

This divorce case involves the trial court’s classification and division of the separate and marital property of the parties. The trial court did not place a valuation on any of the property that was contested, nor did it refer to or make any findings regarding the factors provided by the governing statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121 (2017). We vacate the trial court’s order and remand with instructions to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 08/23/19
Carl Short Ex Rel. Allison Hope Short v. Metro Knoxville HMA, LLC Et AL.
E2018-02292-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal concerns healthcare liability. Carl Short (“Plaintiff”), widower of Allison Short (“Decedent”), filed suit in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) alleging negligence in his late wife’s medical treatment against a number of physicians (“Physician Defendants”) and Turkey Creek Medical Center (“the Hospital”) (“Defendants,” collectively). Defendants moved to dismiss on the basis of noncompliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E), which requires that pre-suit notice include a HIPAA compliant medical authorization allowing the healthcare provider receiving the notice to obtain complete medical records from every other provider that is sent a notice.1 Plaintiff’s authorizations allowed each provider to disclose complete medical records to each named provider although it did not state specifically that each provider could request records from the other. The Trial Court held that Plaintiff’s authorizations failed to substantially comply with the statute’s requirements because of this failure to explicitly allow each provider to obtain records. Plaintiff appeals. We hold that Plaintiff’s method of permitting Defendants access to Decedent’s medical records substantially complied with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/23/19
Carl Short Ex Rel. Allison Hope Short v. Metro Knoxville HMA, LLC, Et Al. - Dissent
E2018-02292-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision to reverse the trial court’s dismissal of this action. I believe that the trial court properly relied on this Court’s majority opinion in Parks v. Walker, No. E2017-01603-COA-R3-CV, 2018 WL 6242461 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 28, 2018), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 27, 2019), as an analogous case. The trial court found that the plaintiff, Carl Short (“Plaintiff”), had failed to substantially comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) (Supp. 2018), which provides that written pre-suit notice shall include a HIPPA-compliant medical authorization “permitting the provider receiving the notice to obtain complete medical records from each other provider being sent a notice.” Inasmuch as the authorizations in the instant action authorize each defendant to disclose medical records to the other named medical providers but do not authorize each provider to request the other providers’ records, I conclude that, as in Parks, Plaintiff’s authorizations are “not sufficient to enable defendants to obtain plaintiff’s medical records” and are therefore not substantially compliant with the statute. See Parks, 2018 WL 6242461, at *3.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/23/19
In Re Kingston A. B.
M2018-02164-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

Father and Step-Mother filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights on the grounds of willful failure to visit and support. The trial court denied termination based upon willful failure to visit, but found sufficient evidence in favor of willful failure to support. The trial court, however, found that termination was not in the child’s best interest and therefore denied the petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Because we conclude that clear and convincing evidence does not support the ground of willful failure to support, we reverse the trial court’s finding of a ground to support termination. As such, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the termination petition.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/21/19
Gregory Webster, Et Al.v. David M. Isaacs
M2018-02066-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiffs’ negligence suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to serve the defendant with process within the one-year statute of limitations. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court did not err in denying the plaintiffs’ motion to enlarge the time frame for obtaining new service of process or in granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. We, therefore, affirm the decision of the trial court in all respects.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/21/19
Richard Keith, Et Al. v. Maury County Board of Zoning Appeals
M2017-02542-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

After receiving a cease and desist letter from a local zoning official forbidding them from hosting an off-road event on their property, landowners appealed to the board of zoning appeals. The board denied their application. And landowners sought review by filing an unverified petition for writ of certiorari in the chancery court. On the board’s motion, the court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, landowners argue that their petition in actuality seeks declaratory relief. We conclude that landowners were challenging a quasi-judicial decision of a local board of zoning appeals and that a petition for writ of certiorari was the proper method for seeking review. Because landowners’ petition was not verified, we affirm the dismissal.   

Maury County Court of Appeals 08/21/19
Anderson Lumber Company, Inc. v. William Kinney Et Al.
E2019-01427-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, filed by William Kinney and Margaret Kinney (“Defendants”), seeking to recuse the trial judge. The case arises out of the indebtedness of Defendant’s business, Kinney Custom Interiors, to the plaintiff, Anderson Lumber Company, Inc. (“Plaintiff”). Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Defendants, and finding no error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 08/21/19
Tammy L. Edwards v. Charles Edwards, Jr.
E2019-00518-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal concerns a post-divorce proceeding for contempt. Husband filed a petition for contempt alleging that Wife had failed to pay certain payments ordered by the trial court. The trial court dismissed Husband’s petition. Due to the deficiencies in Husband’s brief, we find that he has waived consideration of any issues on appeal and hereby dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
Pamela Dallas v. Shelby County Board of Education
W2018-01661-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

Dismissed teacher filed an action against the school board under the Teacher Tenure Act, or alternatively, under the Continuing Contract Law. The board of education filed a motion for summary judgment as to both claims, which the trial court ultimately granted. We conclude that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment under the Teacher Tenure Act because the plaintiff teacher was not tenured at the time of her dismissal. However, we reverse the grant of summary judgment on the plaintiff teacher’s claim under the Continuing Contract Law.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
B.W. Byrd Metal Fabricators, Inc. v. Alcoa, Inc.
E2018-01750-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

This appeal involves a lease agreement for the storage of a friction welding/joiner machine. The original agreement was entered into by John F. Humphrey Metal Fabricators, Inc. and Aluminum Company of America. B. W. Byrd Metal Fabricators, Inc. is the successor in interest to John F. Humphrey Metal Fabricators, Inc. and Aluminum Company of America was formerly known as Alcoa, Inc. The trial court awarded to the plaintiff rent payments for the months of May and June 2012, plus interest at 1.5% per month, but it found that the plaintiff had failed to submit invoices to put the defendant on notice of a debt and neglected to mitigate its damages. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm in part and reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
Jeremy Paul Barmmer v. Joy Denise Staininger
E2018-02058-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carter Scott Moore

This post-divorce appeal involves the trial court’s denial of a petition for modification of the parenting plan. Having carefully reviewed the record before us, we hold that the evidence supports the parenting plan determination and other rulings made by the court.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 08/19/19
Eric Dubuclet v. Tennessee Department of Human Services
M2018-01309-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

The Tennessee Department of Human Services denied Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to a two-person household based upon its determination that the household’s income exceeded the eligibility requirements.  After a final order was entered by the Department, the household petitioned the Chancery Court of Davidson County for review pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 4-5-322.  The Chancellor affirmed the decision of the agency and dismissed the petition for judicial review; the household appeals the decision.  Upon our review, we affirm, finding that the Department’s decision was not in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions, arbitrary or capricious, in excess of statutory authority, made upon unlawful procedure, or unsupported by substantial and material evidence.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Marilyn Kay Anderson v. James Cephas Anderson
M2018-01248-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

This appeal arises from a divorce. All the issues pertain to the classification, valuation, and equitable division of three large tracts of land. Husband acquired two of the tracts before the marriage: a 197-acre tract and a 103-acre tract. Both of these tracts were used in Husband’s farming operation before and during the marriage. During the marriage, Husband and Wife built their marital residence on a portion of the 197-acre tract. Husband acquired the third tract during the marriage but after the parties separated. Wife’s name is not on any of the deeds. Wife contends that the tracts Husband owned prior to the marriage transmuted into marital property. Alternatively, she contends their appreciation in value during the marriage was marital property. Wife also contends the third tract was marital property because Husband purchased it with marital funds from their joint bank account during the marriage. The trial court classified the 197-acre tract and the 103-acre tract as Husband’s separate property and held that none of the land transmuted into marital property. The trial court also concluded that Wife was not entitled to an interest in the appreciation of the properties because she did not substantially contribute to their maintenance or increase in value. The trial court classified the marital residence—that being the improvement but not any of the land associated with the marital residence—as marital property. As for the tract Husband acquired during the marriage, the court ruled that it was Husband’s separate property because Husband purchased it with his separate funds. This appeal followed. Based on the parties’ treatment and use of some of the 197-acre tract on Highland Road as their marital residence, it is evident that the parties intended for some portion of the land to transmute into marital property. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s determination that the entire 197-acre tract remained Husband’s separate property and remand for the trial court to identify that portion of the land the parties treated and used as part of their marital residence, classify that land as marital property, and determine its value. Based on this change of classification, the trial court should also consider whether the change in value necessitates a revision of the equitable division of the marital estate and, if so, enter judgment accordingly. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Scripps Media, Inc., Et Al. v. Tennessee Department of Mental Health And Substance Abuse Services, Et Al.
M2018-02011-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

This appeal concerns a request for public records. Phil Williams (“Mr. Williams”), a reporter, requested records from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (“TDMHSAS”) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) (“the State,” collectively) concerning an alleged affair between two State officials that may have involved public funds. The State refused on the basis that the records were part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Mr. Williams and his employer, Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”), (“Petitioners,” collectively) then filed a petition in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) seeking the records via the Tennessee Public Records Act (“the TPRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-101 et seq. Before the petition was heard, the investigation ended and the State produced the records. The Trial Court found the public interest exception applied notwithstanding the petition’s mootness and determined that the records were exempted from disclosure by Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16. Petitioners appealed. As did the Trial Court, we find this to be a matter of public interest warranting resolution even though moot. We hold that non-investigative public records made in the ordinary course of business, capable of being accessed from their inception by citizens of Tennessee, do not become exempt from disclosure because of the initiation of a criminal investigation in which they become relevant. Finding the State’s legal argument reasonable although erroneous, we decline Petitioners’ request for attorney’s fees under the TPRA. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
Daniel Harvey, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al.
W2018-01747-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

Plaintiffs filed a complaint against multiple governmental entities for flood damages to their property. Each defendant filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss and/or a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment, finding that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appeal. For the reasons stated herein, the decision of the trial court is affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/16/19
In Re C.M. Et Al.
E2018-02108-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwight E. Stokes

M.O. (mother) and K.M. (father) appeal from the trial court’s order terminating their parental rights with respect to C.M. and M.M. (the children). The court determined that clear and convincing evidence supported multiple grounds for terminating mother and father’s parental rights. By the same quantum of proof, the court determined that termination is in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
Milan Suppy Chain Solutions, Inc. f/k/a Milan Express, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc., et al.
W2018-00084-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This appeal involves a jury verdict in a commercial dispute pertaining to the quality of trucks purchased by the plaintiff, Milan Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. Contending that the purchased trucks were defective, Milan filed suit against Navistar, Inc. and Volunteer International, Inc., alleging various legal claims, including breach of contract, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and fraud. Although some of Milan’s claims were dismissed prior to trial, the remaining fraud and Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claims were tried before a jury. Defendant Volunteer International, Inc. was granted a directed verdict upon the conclusion of Milan’s proof and later awarded attorney’s fees, but a monetary judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages was entered against Navistar, Inc. The parties now appeal, raising a plethora of issues for our consideration. For the reasons stated herein, including our conclusion that the asserted fraud claims are barred by the economic loss doctrine, we reverse the judgment awarded to Milan. We affirm, however, the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees in favor of Volunteer International, Inc.

Madison County Court of Appeals 08/14/19
In Re Estate of Rickie Charles Vaughn - Dissenting in part
W2018-01600-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kathleen N. Gomes

I must respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision that Appellant’s April 12, 2018, post-judgment motion should be treated as a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59.04 motion to alter or amend the judgment so as to extend the time for filing his notice of appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b).

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/14/19