Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/24/2021
Format: 10/24/2021
Loring Justice v. Vey Michael Nordquest, PH.D.
E2020-01152-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

Loring Justice (“Plaintiff”), individually and as next friend of N.N./N.J. (“the Child”) sued Vey Michael Nordquist, Ph.D. (“Defendant”) in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) over Defendant’s actions in connection with paternity litigation to which Plaintiff was a party. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, but never filed a responsive pleading to the original complaint. The Trial Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Before time for appeal expired, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint as he was entitled to do under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 15.01 given that Defendant never filed a responsive pleading to the original complaint. However, the Trial Court never ruled on Plaintiff’s amended complaint. The order appealed from is not a final judgment, meaning we lack subject matter jurisdiction to hear this appeal. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/29/21
Tullahoma Industries, LLC v. Navajo Air, LLC Et Al.
M2019-02036-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Melissa T. Blevins-Willis

To collect on its judgment, a judgment creditor served a garnishment on a bank. The garnishee bank initially responded that it held funds belonging to the judgment debtor, a limited liability company. Later, the bank responded “no accounts found.” The bank had two deposit accounts purportedly belonging to a different entity that shared the same name, address, and principal as the judgment debtor. The bank also had an escrow account of which the judgment debtor was a beneficiary. The judgment creditor argued that these three accounts were subject to the garnishment. The trial court disagreed. We affirm. 

Franklin County Court of Appeals 06/29/21
Priority Waste Service, Inc. et al. v. Santek Environmental, LLC, et al.
E2020-01073-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

The plaintiffs in this action are operators of businesses that collect and transport municipal solid waste. The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants, a company that operates a landfill and the county that is a partial owner of the landfill, alleging violations of certain statutes regulating solid waste disposal and landfill operations. Upon a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims based upon, inter alia, the plaintiffs’ lack of standing and the court’s determination that the statutes did not create a private right of action. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/28/21
Federal National Mortgage Association v. Connie Mundy Et Al.
E2020-00825-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

Generally at issue in this litigation is the propriety of a foreclosure. The trial court held that summary judgment should be entered in the appellee’s favor due to, among other things, the appellant’s lack of standing. The appellant’s principal brief only raises issues connected to the trial court’s determination on standing, although even these issues have now been disclaimed by the appellant on appeal. We therefore affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/25/21
Severiano Martinez Rubio Et Al. v. BB&J Holdings, Et Al.
E2020-00355-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

This is a case for the enforcement of a restrictive covenant prohibiting commercial use of lots in a residentially restricted neighborhood. The trial court awarded the plaintiffs nominal damages in the sum of $500 against one defendant and denied the plaintiffs’ requests for specific equitable performance and injunctive relief and for punitive damages. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 06/25/21
Curtis Pierce Et Al. v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00533-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Halton

This is a negligence case that was dismissed in the Tennessee Claims Commission for several articulated reasons, including that Tennessee’s recreational use statute barred the plaintiffs’ claims. For the specific reasons stated herein, we affirm the decision of the Claims Commission.

Court of Appeals 06/25/21
Sherman Matthews v. UPS Store Center 3138 Et Al.
E2020-00255-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J.B. Bennett
A store clerk packaged a customer’s personal property for shipment. When the property was damaged during shipment, the customer sued the store and the clerk for compensatory damages. At the close of the plaintiff’s proof, the defendants moved to dismiss because the plaintiff did not come forward with sufficient proof of damages. The trial court granted an involuntary dismissal. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(2). On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erroneously excluded his evidence. We conclude that the excluded evidence, if admitted, would not have affected the outcome. So we affirm.
Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/25/21
In Re Evella S. Et Al.
M2019-02075-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

Grandparents sought to terminate the parental rights of a mother and a father to their two children on the statutory ground of abandonment. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned the children by failure to visit or support them during the four months preceding the filing of the termination petition. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned the children by exhibiting wanton disregard for their welfare. And the court ruled that termination of both parents’ rights was in the children’s best interest. Because Mother proved that her failure to visit was not willful and her support under the circumstances was not “token,” we reverse the termination of Mother’s parental rights. But the record contains clear and convincing evidence that Father abandoned the children by exhibiting wanton disregard for their welfare and that termination is in the children’s best interests. So we affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights.    

Warren County Court of Appeals 06/24/21
John Doe v. Jane Roe
M2020-01277-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This appeal involves review of a trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s lawsuit pursuant to the Tennessee Public Participation Act. The trial court determined that the Tennessee Public Participation Act was not applicable and denied the motion, finding that the defendant’s activity was not protected. The defendant now appeals, contending that the underlying matter involves the exercise of her right to free speech and her right to petition. We agree and find that the defendant engaged in protected activity in the filing of a Title IX complaint. Because we find that the defendant’s appeal is limited to that part of the trial court’s judgment relating to the allegations in plaintiff’s lawsuit concerning defendant’s Title IX complaint, we reverse in part the trial court’s cited basis for denial and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion and the Tennessee Public Participation Act. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/24/21
Samuel Chandler, et al. v. Cynthia Perkins Frazier a/k/a Cynthia Edwards
W2020-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

This case involves a pro se complaint to quiet title filed by several plaintiffs challenging a deed that was executed over twenty years ago. This is the second appeal in this matter. After the plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed in 2016, only one plaintiff/appellant appealed to this Court. The remaining plaintiffs did not participate in the first appeal. The matter was remanded for findings of fact and conclusions of law, and the appellant died at some point. After a second order of dismissal was entered containing the requisite findings, the instant appeal was filed by counsel purportedly on behalf of the original plaintiffs. We conclude that the appeal must be dismissed because the plaintiffs who did not participate in the first appeal are bound by the first order of dismissal, which became final as to them when they did not appeal. Also, the sole appellant from the first appeal has died, and the attorney who filed the notice of appeal has admittedly never communicated with the appellant or anyone acting on behalf of his estate. As such, this appeal is hereby dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/24/21
Renee Downs v. Glenn J. Williams, M.D., et al.
W2020-00845-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Valerie L. Smith

This is an appeal of a health care liability case. Although the matters presented for our review were taken under advisement following oral argument, we hereby dismiss the appeal with prejudice pursuant to the stipulation of the parties.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/24/21
Richard L. Branson, Jr. Et Al. v. Wayne Rucker Et Al.
E2020-01382-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

In this action involving a collision between an automobile and a bull that escaped its enclosure and entered the roadway, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of one of the defendants, who had maintained a leasehold interest in the property from which the bull escaped. The trial court determined that no genuine issues of material fact were in dispute and that the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the plaintiffs had failed to show that the defendant owned the bull in question and because the defendant had terminated the lease before the accident occurred. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Union County Court of Appeals 06/23/21
Charles Clifton v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company
M2019-02193-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

In this action for breach of an insurance policy, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant insurance company upon finding that, pursuant to an occupancy clause, the insurance policy had become “automatically void” when the plaintiff homeowner had vacated the insured residence and had allowed other individuals to occupy the insured residence without obtaining the insurance company’s written consent. The trial court subsequently certified its summary judgment order as final, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02, determining that although the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed, the insurance company would be allowed to pursue a counter-complaint it had filed against the plaintiff. The plaintiff has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Warren County Court of Appeals 06/23/21
James David Lucy v. Lea Kiele Miu Ling Lucy
W2020-01275-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

In this divorce action, the husband appeals the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro to the wife. Because the trial court’s final order contains no findings of fact or conclusions of law to support its alimony award under Rule 52.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, we vacate the alimony award and remand this case to the trial court for the entry of a more detailed order.

Obion County Court of Appeals 06/23/21
Gary Wayne Garrett v. Tennessee Board of Parole
M2019-01742-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

An inmate petitioned for a common law writ of certiorari after the Tennessee Board of Parole denied him parole. The trial court dismissed the petition. In this appeal, the inmate argues that the Board’s action was illegal and arbitrary and that the rules and procedures in place at the time of his crimes should have governed his parole. We affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/22/21
State of Tennessee v. Julia Hurley, Loudon County Commissioner For The 2nd Judicial District
E2020-01674-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

We granted this extraordinary appeal to determine whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the trial court considered the proper statute, the relevant facts, and the arguments advanced by the parties, we conclude that the application for an extraordinary appeal was improvidently granted. We therefore dismiss this appeal.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 06/22/21
In Re Elijah R.
E2020-01520-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his son. The trial court found grounds for termination based on persistent conditions and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody or financial responsibility. It also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the best interest of the child. We reverse the trial court’s finding of persistent conditions but otherwise affirm the termination of parental rights and remand.

Washington County Court of Appeals 06/21/21
David Jernigan, As Next Of Kin and Surviving Husband To Jane Ann Jernigan, deceased v. Robert Evan Paasche, M.D., Et Al.
M2020-00673-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

In this health care liability action, an initial jury trial resulted in a verdict for the defendant physicians. The plaintiff filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court granted. Prior to the second jury trial, the trial court determined that the trial should be bifurcated such that the first phase would address only the applicable standard of care and whether the defendants deviated therefrom, and the second phase would address causation. Following completion of the standard of care phase, the jury again ruled in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff filed a second motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. The plaintiff timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 06/21/21
Nandigam Neurology, PLC Et Al. v. Kelly Beavers
M2020-00553-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry Tatum

This case arises from a defamation and false light lawsuit filed in the General Sessions Court for Wilson County (the “general sessions court”). The action was dismissed pursuant to the Tennessee Public Participation Act (the “TPPA”) and the plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the Circuit Court for Wilson County (the “circuit court”). After concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal, the circuit court transferred the case to this Court. On appeal, the parties dispute whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction, and the defendant argues that the ruling of the general sessions court should be affirmed. We conclude that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction to decide this appeal and, discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the general sessions court dismissing the plaintiffs’ legal action pursuant to the TPPA. 

Wilson County Court of Appeals 06/18/21
Sam B. Crenshaw v. Saad Kado et al..
E2020-00282-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal concerns a foreclosure sale of the plaintiff’s property. The defendants filed motions to dismiss the plaintiff’s action alleging, in part, that the action violated the statute of limitations. In response, the plaintiff alleged that his action was timely due to equitable estoppel. The Trial Court granted the defendants’ motions and dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendants. Taking the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint as true, the plaintiff pled sufficient facts in his complaint to support a claim of equitable estoppel for purposes of the statute of limitations. Therefore, we hold that the Trial Court erred by granting the defendants’ motions to dismiss filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6).

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/17/21
Wilmington Savings Fund Society Et Al. v. Estate of Sallie L. Miller
E2020-00717-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This is a detainer action concerning real property owned by the decedent and sold at a trustee’s sale. The trial court granted possession of the property to the purchaser. We now affirm the decision on appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/17/21
Carol Buckley v. The Elephant Sanctuary In Tennessee, Inc.
M2020-00804-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

In this Rule 10 extraordinary appeal, the plaintiff seeks review of the trial court’s decision to grant a new trial on the basis of an improper comment made during closing arguments, despite the fact that a curative instruction was given. Having reviewed all of the grounds asserted in support of the motion for new trial, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion.

Lewis County Court of Appeals 06/16/21
Jeremy James Dalton v. Clerks Of Courts In Fentress County Et Al.
M2020-01658-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Elizabeth C. Asbury

Appellant, acting pro se, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his writ of mandamus for failure to state a claim and to comply with procedural requirements. We do not reach the merits of the appeal due to Appellant’s failure to comply with the briefing requirements outlined in Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee and Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Fentress County Court of Appeals 06/16/21
John C. Helton v. Esther R. Helton
E2020-00599-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

This is an appeal from the trial court’s judgment finding Husband in civil contempt for his failure to comply with certain monetary obligations under the parties’ final decree of divorce. In addition to finding Husband in contempt, the court entered a monetary judgment against Husband and awarded Wife attorney’s fees in connection with the proceedings. Husband argues that the trial court erred in finding him in civil contempt, contending that he does not have the present ability to pay. He does not object to any other aspect of the trial court’s order, including the judgment entered against him. For her part, Wife raises an issue regarding the amount of the trial court’s award of her attorney’s fees. We vacate the trial court’s finding Husband in civil contempt and remand for reconsideration of Husband’s ability to pay, and we further vacate the trial court’s award of Wife’s attorney’s fees and remand for reconsideration.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/15/21
Allan F. White Jr. Et Al. v. Bradley County Government Et Al.
E2020-00798-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

A police officer pursued and shot a man whom she encountered outside her home at two in the morning. After the man died from his injuries, his parents and estate brought suit in the Bradley County Circuit Court against the officer, the sheriff who supervised her, and the county, alleging negligence and violation of the man’s rights under federal law and the United States Constitution. Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee (“the district court”). The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the federal civil rights claims and remanded the state law tort claims to the Circuit Court. On remand to the Circuit Court, the claims against the sheriff were voluntarily dismissed and the remaining defendants moved for summary judgment. In reliance on the district court’s legal conclusions, the Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the police officer based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel and to the Bradley County government based on governmental immunity. Plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, we hold that collateral estoppel bars the claims against both the police officer and the county. Accordingly, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/15/21