Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/19/2022
Format: 05/19/2022
State of Tennessee ex rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, et al. v. Necessary Oil Co., et al.
M2021-00452-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

The State filed this action against the defendants for judicial enforcement of an order and assessment entered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation concerning violations of the Water Quality Control Act.  The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the State as to the defendants’ liability for upfront civil penalties and damages due under the order.  We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/24/22
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00299-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Plaintiffs filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a binding judicial interpretation of a contract executed by the three defendants. Plaintiffs were not parties to the contract, nor did their complaint allege that they were third-party beneficiaries of it. The three defendants filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim based on lack of standing, which the trial court granted. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/23/22
Estate of Martha Harrison Bane v. John Bane Et Al.
E2020-00978-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

Martha Harrison Bane conveyed an approximately eight-acre tract of land to her son and daughter-in-law in 2003. Several years later, Ms. Bane sought to have the deed set aside on the basis of undue influence. A default judgment was entered against the defendants and the land was re-conveyed back to Ms. Bane by a Clerk and Master’s deed. Several years after that, the defendants had the default judgment set aside. The trial court then held a hearing on the original petition to have the deed set aside in February of 2018 and determined that the deed was valid. Ms. Bane’s estate appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 03/23/22
Jayme Holland v. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
M2020-01044-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal

The police seized a vehicle and commenced a forfeiture proceeding.  The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security notified the vehicle owner that a forfeiture warrant for the vehicle had been issued.  And the owner filed a written claim and request for a hearing.  But before the hearing could take place, the administrative law judge granted the Department’s request for a voluntary dismissal of the forfeiture proceeding.  In a subsequent order, the administrative law judge awarded attorney’s fees to the owner under Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-5-325(a).  The Department petitioned for judicial review of the fee award.  The owner filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the administrative decision was not final because the order did not address her request for attorney’s fees under a federal statute.  After denying the motion to dismiss, the trial court ruled that the fee award violated the state statute.  So it vacated the administrative decision.  On appeal, the owner argues that the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss and in ruling that the fee award violated the state statute.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/23/22
Anthony Walker, et al. v. Rivertrail Crossing Homeowner's Association, Inc., et al.
W2020-01201-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

This is a premises liability case arising from injuries sustained by Appellant Anthony Walker when he attempted to mow a section of ground within the common area controlled by Appellee, Rivertrail Crossing Homeowner’s Association. The trial court granted Appellee’s motion for summary judgment. Discerning no error, we affirm

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/23/22
Martina Smith, et al. v. Donna Jean Walker, et al.
W2021-00241-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

Appellants purchased a home from Appellee that was contaminated with mold. Appellants therefore filed suit against Appellee. The trial court granted summary judgment in Appellee’s favor. Because the trial court’s order does not comply with Rule 56.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure or Smith v. UHS of Lakeside, Inc., we vacate and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 03/22/22
Teli White v. Shelby County Board of Education
W2020-00278-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

Appellee, a tenured high school teacher, petitioned for judicial review of Appellant Shelby County Board of Education’s decision to terminate his employment. Without making findings to explain its reasoning, the trial court remanded the case to the school board for a second hearing. From our review, neither party argued that the school board’s initial hearing was procedurally deficient. As such, the trial court’s decision to remand the case to the school board, without findings to support such decision, was error. Vacated and Remanded

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/22/22
In Re Tristan H.
M2021-00618-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Howard

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights proceeding.  As to the mother of the child at issue, we vacate the trial court’s termination of her parental rights due to procedural concerns that are acknowledged by the Department of Children’s Services.  With respect to the father of the child, however, we conclude that one ground for termination was properly established.  We further conclude that the evidence clearly and convincingly shows that the termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/22/22
In Re SmileDirectClub, Inc. Securities Litigation
M2021-00469-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

In this action alleging violations of a federal securities law due to purported misrepresentations and omissions in an initial public stock offering, the plaintiffs sought to certify a class consisting of all persons who purchased common stock during the initial public offering.  The trial court certified the class, determining that the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 23 had been satisfied.  The defendants have appealed.  Although we dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims under section 12 of the Securities Act of 1933, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 77l, due to lack of standing, we otherwise affirm the trial court’s certification of the proposed class.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/18/22
In Re Jayce D. et al.
M2021-00539-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daryl A. Colson

This appeal involves a petition to terminate parental rights.  The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that seven grounds for termination as to the mother were proven: (1) abandonment by failure to visit; (2) abandonment by an incarcerated parent for failure to support; (3) abandonment by an incarcerated parent for wanton disregard; (4) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (5) substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; (6) persistent conditions; and (7) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody.  Additionally, the juvenile court found that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interests of the children.  The mother appeals.  On appeal, the Department of Children’s Services does not defend the ground of abandonment by failure to visit.  We reverse the juvenile court in part and affirm in part, affirming the ultimate termination of parental rights.

Overton County Court of Appeals 03/18/22
Gehlen Liebetreu v. Sandra Liebetreu
M2021-00623-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

Father appeals the trial court’s award of unsupervised parenting time and an award of attorney’s fees to Mother. Specifically, Father argues that Mother is a high risk for abduction of the parties’ children and that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing her unsupervised visitation.  We affirm the trial court’s award of unsupervised parenting time to Mother, but we reverse the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to her.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 03/18/22
Michael Halliburton v. Tennessee Board of Parole
M2020-01657-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal concerns the Open Courts Clause of the Tennessee Constitution.  Michael Halliburton (“Halliburton”), an inmate, filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) against the Tennessee Board of Parole (“the Board”) seeking judicial review of his March 10, 2020 parole proceedings before the Board.  The Trial Court dismissed Halliburton’s petition.  In so doing, the Trial Court relied on Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-812, which provides that “on notice of assessment of any fees, taxes, costs and expenses under this part, a clerk of a court may not accept for filing another claim by the same inmate until prior fees, taxes, costs and other expenses are paid in full.”  This Court affirmed, holding in part that Halliburton waived his issue of whether Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-812 violates the Open Courts Clause in Article I, Section 17 of the Tennessee Constitution.  However, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Halliburton sufficiently raised the issue in his answer to the Board’s motion to dismiss.  Our Supreme Court granted Halliburton’s application for permission to appeal, and remanded for this Court to consider his Open Courts issue. We hold, inter alia, that Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-812 places a constitutionally permissible limitation on the right of inmates to file civil actions.  The statute does not permanently bar inmates from seeking redress; it simply requires they pay outstanding fees first.  Therefore, we hold that Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-812 does not violate the Open Courts Clause.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/17/22
Tennessee Bank & Trust v. Scott Michael Boruff
M2021-00552-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

A bank brought an action against a borrower for failure to repay a promissory note.  The borrower asserted that the bank failed to mitigate its damages by failing to sell the shares of stock it held as collateral to pay off the loan at a time when the stock’s value was high.  After a bench trial, the trial court granted judgment in favor of the bank, holding that the parol evidence rule prevented consideration of his purported oral modification of the parties’ agreement. Borrower appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/15/22
Lacy McAllister v. Lawrence County School System Board of Educations, et al.
M2021-00082-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

This case involves a challenge to a decision to non-renew the employment of a non-tenured teacher. The plaintiff sued the defendants for breach of her one-year contract of employment.  The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 03/15/22
In Re Conservatorship of John Bruce Wilson, Jr.
M2021-00145-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Middle Section Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal arises from a conservatorship case in which the chancery court authorized the attorneys ad litem for the ward of the conservatorship to enter into a compromise and settlement regarding a dispute among the ward and his four siblings over their deceased father’s estate. The sole issue on appeal is whether the Chancellor abused his discretion in finding the settlement was in the ward’s best interest. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 03/15/22
Edward Ronny Arnold v. Deborah Malchow et al.
M2021-00695-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

Appellant appeals from various orders entered against him in two consolidated cases. Because we lack subject matter jurisdiction, we dismiss this appeal

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/15/22
Samuel Morris Reed v. Cars of Nashville, Inc.
M2021-00854-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This action involves a contractual dispute over the sale of a 2010 Honda Civic that a pro se appellant purchased from a used car dealer.  The appellant’s brief significantly fails to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27.  Accordingly, we find that any issues on appeal are waived.  We dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/15/22
In Re Kailey A. Et Al.
E2021-00801-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth N. Bailey, Jr.

This appeal involves the parental rights of a mother, Mary K. (“Mother”), to her minor children, Kailey A., Abigail K., Isaiah K., and Izzabella K. (collectively, “the Children”). The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights on the statutory ground of severe child abuse committed against the Children. The Greene County Juvenile Court (“the Juvenile Court”) found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had severely abused the Children and that it was in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 03/14/22
Dolores C. Jones v. Smith & Nephew INC.
W2021-00426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

Appellant filed this products liability action more than 10 years after undergoing a total hip replacement using Appellee's hip implant system. The trial court granted Appellee's motion to dismiss on the ground that Appellant's lawsuit fell outside the 10-year statute of repose and any exceptions thereto. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/14/22
Commercial Painting Company INC. v. The Weitz Company LLC ET AL
W2019-02089-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This is the third appeal arising from a commercial construction project. Most recently, the case went to trial before a jury, which awarded the plaintiff subcontractor $1,729,122.46 in compensatory damages under four separate theories and $3,900,000.00 in punitive damages. The trial court further awarded the plaintiff pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney’s fees and costs. We conclude the economic loss rule is applicable to construction contracts negotiated between sophisticated commercial entities and that fraud is not an exception under the particular circumstances of this case. Because punitive damages and interest are not authorized under the parties’ agreement, those damages are reversed. The compensatory damages of $1,729,122.46 awarded for breach of contract are affirmed. The award of attorney’s fees incurred at trial are vacated for a determination of the attorney’s fees incurred in obtaining the compensatory damages award. No attorney’s fees are awarded on appeal. We therefore reverse in part, affirm in part, and vacate in part.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/11/22
Brad Rothbauer v. Ashley Sheltrown
W2021-00607-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Boyette Denton

Following the establishment of paternity, a father petitioned to change his child's surname. The trial court denied the petition. The trial court's order does not contain findings as to whether the name change is in the child's best interests. Therefore, we vacate the judgment and remand.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 03/10/22
LaFarge North America v. Warren Mills ET AL.
W2020-00959-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This is the second appeal of this case. After remand from the first appeal, the trial court denied Appellant’s motion to reopen discovery concerning Appellant’s counterclaim, wherein he asserted that the guaranty he signed was void and unenforceable. In the first appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Appellant’s counterclaim, finding that the disputed guaranty was, in fact, valid. As such, we conclude that the trial court did not err in precluding further discovery on the dismissed counterclaim. We grant Appellee’s request for an award of attorney’s fees and costs for frivolous appeal, and remand the case for determination of Appellee’s reasonable appellate attorney’s fees and costs and entry of judgment on same.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/09/22
In Re Caroline R. Et Al.
E2021-00245-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwight E. Stokes

The trial court terminated a mother and father’s parental rights to their children on the grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (2) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody or financial responsibility; (3) persistence of conditions; and (4) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. The trial court also ruled that the termination ground of abandonment by failure to visit had been proven against the father. The trial court further found that termination of the mother and father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence supports these grounds for termination. We also affirm the trial court’s determination that the termination of the mother and father’s parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 03/09/22
Jerry Alan Thigpen v. The Estate of Kent Howard Smith et al.
M2020-01015-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

Appellant’s brief in this case fails to substantially comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal.

Trousdale County Court of Appeals 03/09/22
Megan Arndts Woody v. Jeremy Brice Woody
E2020-01200-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Casey Mark Stokes

In this divorce case, a father appeals the trial court’s reduction of his parenting time after the parties had co-parented equally by agreement, and then nearly equally under a temporary court order. He also appeals the award of alimony. We reverse the residential parenting schedule portion of the parenting plan entered by the trial court and remand for the imposition of a plan that better maximizes both parents’ time with the child. Regarding alimony, because the trial court did not make the required findings, its judgment on that issue is vacated.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 03/08/22