Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/20/2022
Format: 01/20/2022
Willie Adams v. Illinois Central Railroad Company
W2020-01290-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Appellee alleges that Appellant abused the discovery process. The trial court agreed, granting Appellee’s motion to exclude Appellant’s expert witnesses and, consequently, granting summary judgment in Appellee’s favor. Because the basis for the imposition of the sanction is unclear and the trial court does not engage in the necessary analysis regarding discovery sanctions, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Madison County Court of Appeals 01/19/22
Ebenezer Olusegun George v. Byrle Victoria Smith-George
W2020-01583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This is an appeal of a post-divorce matter filed by Wife to enforce the parties’ marital dissolution agreement. Primarily at issue was the Wife’s award of alimony in solido, which, pursuant to the parties’ agreement, was to be paid to her out of Husband’s retirement accounts, tax free to Wife. Wife contended that Husband violated the parties’ agreement because she had allegedly been taxed on the amount of alimony in solido. The trial court found no violation of the marital dissolution agreement concerning the alimony in solido payment. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/19/22
Coffee County, Tennessee v. Carl Spining et al.
M2020-01438-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

This appeal arises from a Rule 12.02(6) dismissal of a legal malpractice action as time-barred under the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-104(c)(1). In its September 17, 2019 Complaint, the plaintiff county alleged that its trial counsel in an underlying Public Employee Political Freedom Act (“PEPFA”) action committed malpractice by failing to object to the jury verdict form in conjunction with agreeing to bifurcate the issue of damage. The defendant attorney and his law firm moved to dismiss the complaint as time-barred under § 28-3-104(c)(1), asserting that the county’s claim accrued no later than July 7, 2017—the date on which the court entered the final judgment against the county in the underlying PEPFA case. The county opposed the Motion, asserting that its claim did not accrue until September 18, 2018—the date on which the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the PEPFA case—because it was on that date the county first reasonably became aware of the alleged malpractice. The trial court granted the Motion to Dismiss on the ground the county knew it had been injured and had sufficient constructive knowledge to trigger accrual of the action more than one year prior to its commencement. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 01/19/22
Jason Britt v. Richard Jason Usery, et al.
W2021-00137-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Although the Plaintiff appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his claims, we dismiss the appeal due to the absence of a final appealable judgment.

Henderson County Court of Appeals 01/18/22
James E. Cryer v. The City of Algood, Tennessee
M2020-01063-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

Following a two-vehicle car accident in DeKalb County, Tennessee, between plaintiff James E. Cryer and a police officer, Mr. Cryer filed suit against the City of Algood alleging various acts of negligence. The case proceeded to a bench trial and at the close of Mr. Cryer’s proof, the trial court granted the City’s motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02(2). The trial court ruled that no reasonable trier of fact could conclude Mr. Cryer was less than 50% responsible for the accident and that Mr. Cryer’s claims were therefore barred. Mr. Cryer appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

DeKalb County Court of Appeals 01/18/22
Benjamin Jordan Frazier et al. v. Tennessee Department of Children's Services
M2020-00368-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services denied an application for adoption assistance payments because the adoptive children did not meet federal eligibility criteria.  The adoptive family petitioned for judicial review.  And the chancery court reversed.  We conclude that the administrative agency’s decision was based on an erroneous interpretation of federal law.  So we affirm the chancery court’s decision.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
In Re Riley S.
M2020-01602-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their son, Riley S. The trial court found that DCS established several grounds for terminating both parents’ parental rights and that termination of their rights was in Riley’s best interest. On appeal, neither parent challenges any of the grounds for termination; instead, they contend DCS failed to prove, and that the trial court made insufficient findings to establish, that termination of their parental rights was in Riley’s best interest. Following a careful review of the record, we have determined that DCS proved several grounds for termination as to each parent. We have also determined that DCS proved, and the trial court made sufficient findings to establish, that termination of their parental rights was in the best interest of Riley. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s termination of the mother and father’s parental rights.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
Bonnie S. Bodine v. Long John Silver's LLC
M2021-00168-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

This appeal arises from a premises liability action filed by Bonnie S. Bodine (“Plaintiff”) against an incorrect defendant. After learning that she had sued the wrong defendant, Plaintiff waited over four months to file a “Motion to Correct Misnomer,” requesting that she be permitted to “replace” the correct defendant in the action. This motion was not heard until five months later, after the defendant asked the trial court to place the case on the docket for both Plaintiff’s motion and the defendant’s summary judgment motion. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s motion to correct misnomer and subsequent motion to alter or amend, citing Plaintiff’s “extreme lack of due diligence.” Plaintiff appeals. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.

Marion County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
La Southaphanh v. Tennessee Department of Correction et al.
M2021-00234-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

A parolee petitioned for a common law writ of certiorari after the Tennessee Board of Parole revoked his parole and did not credit his sentence with a portion of the time he spent on parole.  The chancery court concluded that the Board did not act arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, or in excess of its jurisdiction.  The chancery court dismissed the petition.  We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/14/22
Kimberly Black v. City of Clarksville, Tennessee
M2020-01580-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

An employee sought a reasonable accommodation from her employer when she began experiencing increased difficulties with her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. The employer was unable to provide a reasonable accommodation and, after concluding that the employee’s disability rendered her physically unable to perform the essential functions of her job, the employer removed the employee from her position and placed her on paid sick leave. The employee then resigned and sued the employer for discriminatory discharge under the Tennessee Disability Act. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer after determining that the employee was not qualified for the position and that the employee did not suffer an adverse employment action due to her voluntary resignation. Finding no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/13/22
David L. Liles, ET AL. v. Michael E. Young, ET AL.
M2020-01702-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal involves the interpretation of a partnership agreement for the purpose of determining the respective ownership percentages of the partners. After our review of the partnership agreement, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/13/22
Jason Kovatch v. Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Et Al.
E2020-01744-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

This appeal involves a denial of unemployment compensation benefits. Specifically, a former employee contends that there existed good cause as to why he resigned from his employment such that he should be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. The Commissioner’s Designee found that no good cause existed as to why the employee terminated his employment and therefore determined that he was not entitled to benefits. The employee then filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court thereafter affirmed the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision. On appeal, we conclude that there is substantial and material evidence in the record to support the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision, and therefore, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 01/12/22
Cathy McKeehan v. Katie Price
E2021-00453-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

This appeal concerns an issue of whether a modular home violates a subdivision’s restrictive covenants. Katie Price (“Price”) wanted to place a modular home on her property in Fort Loudon Estates subdivision. Cathy McKeehan (“McKeehan”), a longtime resident of Fort Loudon Estates, sued Price in the Chancery Court for Loudon County (“the Trial Court”). McKeehan alleged that Price’s modular home violated a subdivision restriction against temporary structures. After a bench trial, the Trial Court found in favor of Price. McKeehan appeals. The evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s finding that Price’s home is not a temporary structure. We hold, as did the Trial Court, that Price’s modular home is not prohibited by the subdivision’s restrictions. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 01/11/22
Shane Bruce v. Carolyn Jackson Et Al.
E2021-01426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

Because appellant did not timely file a Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10B recusal appeal and the order appealed does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
Lisa Boyd v. David Benjamin Gibson IV M.D. ET AL.
W2020-01305-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is a lawsuit that challenges the appropriateness of care received by a cancer patient. Plaintiff originally filed suit in January 2018 and asserted a number of claims, some of which were predicated on alleged conduct occurring as early as August 2014. In an amended complaint, Plaintiff expanded her allegations, taking issue with conduct occurring as late as September 2016. The trial court ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint in toto as it concerned the Defendants at issue in this appeal. Due to a lack of clarity regarding the court’s specific bases for dismissal with respect to each of the claims involved, we vacate the judgment and remand for further consideration and findings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re C.N. et al.
M2020-01021-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Howard
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed six then-children from the custody of Deanna D. (“Mother”) and David D. (“Father”), in August 2018 after receiving multiple referrals regarding the family. After the children were in foster care for over a year, DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. DCS alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the children, persistence of conditions, severe abuse, and, in regards to Father only, a prison sentence of more than two years for conduct against a child. The trial court found that DCS proved each ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Mother and Father each appeal. Following a thorough review of the record, we affirm in part and reverse in part. We affirm the trial court’s ultimate holding that the parental rights of both Mother and Father should be terminated.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
In Re Conservatorship Of John F. Ress
E2021-00134-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

This appeal concerns the trial court’s interpretation of a divorce decree and an incorporated marital dissolution agreement as applied in a conservatorship once the husband died. The wife appeals the trial court’s use of parol evidence in reaching its decision. We reverse the judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/10/22
Charles Biggs et al. v. Town of Nolensville
M2021-00397-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This is an appeal from a governmental tort liability case in which the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant governmental entity on the basis that it retained its immunity.  Plaintiffs now appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment.  Specifically, plaintiffs contend that the trial court failed to consider their expert affidavit.  On appeal, we reverse the trial court’s entry of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
Bearing Distributors, Inc. v. David Gerregano, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2020-01075-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In this case involving the plaintiff corporation’s challenge to the business tax assessed against it by the defendant, Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue David Gerregano (“Commissioner”), the parties filed competing motions for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court upheld the business tax assessed against the plaintiff at a retail tax rate, rather than the lower wholesale tax rate that the plaintiff argued was applicable, and which the plaintiff had paid. Granting summary judgment in favor of Commissioner, the trial court awarded to Commissioner a judgment for unpaid taxes in the amount of $141,004.70 plus interest from the date of the adjusted assessment. The plaintiff prematurely appealed the grant of summary judgment prior to the trial court’s entry of a post-judgment order awarding statutory attorney’s fees and expenses to Commissioner. Following entry of the post-judgment order, this appeal proceeded concerning the summary judgment order. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
Philip James Burt v. Shannan Denise Burt
E2021-01173-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nichole Cantrell

The Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant, Philip James Burt, stated that appellant was appealing the judgment entered on September 13, 2021. As the order appealed from does not constitute a final appealable judgment, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 01/05/22
David Hughes Et Al v. The Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company
E2020-00225-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The driver of a vehicle covered by a general automobile liability policy notified the insurance carrier of a potential uninsured motorist claim. The insurance carrier responded that the named insured had rejected in writing uninsured motorist coverage for vehicles in use in Tennessee. The driver claimed that the prior rejection was no longer effective because the named insured had submitted a new application during the renewal process. After a bench trial, the court ruled that the policy did not include uninsured motorist coverage. We conclude that the prior written rejection remained in effect when the policy was renewed. And because the named insured did not submit a new application in connection with the renewal transaction, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 12/30/21
Donny N. Parsley v. City of Manchester, Tennessee
M2021-00200-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section, Presiding Judge, Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

This is a declaratory judgment action in which the plaintiff—a citizen of the City of Manchester, Tennessee, who was “the next highest vote getter” for Alderman, but not elected in the most recent election—contends he is entitled to fill a mid-term vacancy on the Board of Aldermen. The dispute arose when the City’s Board of Aldermen announced it was accepting applications to fill the vacant seat on the Board. In the Complaint that followed, the plaintiff asked the court to declare the proper procedure for filling a mid-term Board vacancy under the City’s Charter. The trial court dismissed the Complaint pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), explaining that the Complaint failed to state a claim because the unambiguous language in the Charter did not entitle the plaintiff to the vacant seat. The court also ruled the plaintiff did not have standing “as a citizen.” On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the trial court should have declared the rights of the parties instead of dismissing the declaratory judgment action under Rule 12.02(6) and asserts that he had standing as the “next highest vote getter” in the last election. While motions to dismiss “are rarely appropriate in declaratory judgment actions,” Cannon Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Wade, 178 S.W.3d 725, 730 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005) (citation omitted), the plaintiff has not shown that he was prejudiced by the decision. This is because, after thoroughly analyzing the City’s Charter in the context of the facts stated in the Complaint, the court concluded that the Charter was unambiguous and provided no circumstance in which the “next highest vote getter” from the previous election would be entitled to fill a mid-term vacancy. Accordingly, we modify the judgment of the trial court and remand with instructions for the trial court to enter judgment holding that Plaintiff is not entitled to fill the vacancy on the Board of Alderman under Article IV, §6(c) by virtue of the fact that he was the next highest vote getter at the election preceding the occurrence of a vacancy.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 12/29/21
Johnny Ingle v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00334-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Johnny Ingle, for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and domestic assault. Before these charges were resolved, the Defendant filed a habeas corpus petition, which the trial court summarily dismissed as inappropriately filed before there was a final conviction. Based upon the Defendant’s frustration with his case, the trial court held a hearing to address the Defendant’s complaints. During the hearing, the trial court found the Defendant in contempt of court and sentenced him to ten days. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it found him in contempt of court. Our review of the record revealed that the Defendant failed to timely file his appeal, therefore, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/28/21
In Re Zian L.
M2021-00879-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge, D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sammie E. Benningfield, Jr.

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for White County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Hope H. (“Mother”) to her minor son Zian L. (“the Child”). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on three grounds and finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest, all by the standard of clear and convincing evidence. Mother appeals, arguing that the Juvenile Court erred in its best interest determination. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

White County Court of Appeals 12/28/21
Marilyn Jones v. Daniel Marshall
M2020-01627-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge, D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

In this legal malpractice action, the plaintiff appeals the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant and dismissing all of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. The trial court found that the plaintiff’s action was untimely and violated the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/28/21