December 11, 2001
What follows is the case style or name, first paragraph, author's name, and the names of attorneys for the parties of each opinion released eletronically today to TBALink.
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Howard H. Vogel
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN R. FARNER, JR. Court:TSC Attorneys: R. Wayne Culbertson, Richard A. Spivey, and Timothy Reid Wilderson, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, John R. Farner, Jr.. Paul G. Summers, Attorney General & Reporter; Michael Moore, Solicitor General; Patricia C. Kussmann, Assistant Attorney General; H. Greeley Wells, District Attorney General; and Teresa Murray-Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee. Judge: DROWOTA First Paragraph: The primary issue presented in this appeal is whether Tennessee law recognizes a co-perpetrator rule which bars the defendant's convictions for criminally negligent homicide on the basis that the victims were co-participants in the drag race. After fully and carefully considering the record in this case in light of the relevant authorities, we conclude that no rule of Tennessee law bars the defendant's convictions for criminally negligent homicide as a matter of law. We hold that causation in criminal cases generally is a question of fact for a properly instructed jury, that a victim's contributory negligence is not a complete defense but may be considered in determining whether or not the defendant's conduct was a proximate cause of death, and that a jury's determination of the causation issue will be reviewed on appeal under the familiar sufficiency of the evidence standard and not disturbed so long as the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's determination. Because the trial court in this case failed to provide the jury with an instruction on proximate causation, an essential element of the offense, and because the jury was erroneously provided an instruction as to criminal responsibility, a theory that the State now concedes is inapplicable, the defendant's convictions for criminally negligent homicide must be reversed. To prevent needless litigation and to promote judicial economy, we exercise our discretion and address two other issues which will likely arise at any retrial - the propriety of Officer Farmer testifying as an expert and the admissibility of the computer animated visualization of the accident. We conclude that Officer Farmer may properly testify as an expert so long as the trial court is assured that Officer Farmer's opinions are based on relevant scientific methods, processes, and data, and not upon mere speculation. However, we further conclude that the computer animated visualization should not be admitted unless the State can establish that the visualization is based on accurate and complete information and that it fairly illustrates the expert opinion of Officer Farmer as to how the accident occurred. The convictions for criminally negligent homicide are therefore reversed; the convictions for reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, drag racing, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death are affirmed. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TSC/farnerjohnr.wpd
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. COLICO S. WALLS Court:TSC Attorneys: W. Mark Ward and Garland Erguden, Assistant District Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Colico S. Walls. Paul G. Summers, Attorney General & Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Lucian D. Geise and Mark A. Fulks, Assistant Attorneys General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Jennifer S. Nichols, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee. Judge: ANDERSON First Paragraph: The defendant was convicted of escape from a penal institution and theft of property over $1,000. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We granted this appeal to determine the following issues: (1) whether a defendant's flight from the rear of a patrol car constitutes the offense of escape from a penal institution under Tenn. Code Ann. S 39-16-605; (2) whether the escape statute is unconstitutionally vague; and (3) whether the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of attempted escape. After considering the record and applicable authority, we conclude that the legislature did not intend that a defendant's flight from the rear of a patrol car would constitute escape from a penal institution under Tenn. Code Ann. S 39-16-605. We therefore dismiss the conviction for escape from a penal institution, but affirm the conviction for theft. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the trial court for any further proceedings. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TSC/wallscolico.wpd
MICHAEL BLAIN SAMPSON, et al. v. BURL WINNIE d/b/a WINNIE HIGH TECH HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING Court:TCA Attorneys: Dorothy B. Stulberg and William Allen, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Michael Blain Sampson and Grace Parton. Gary L. McDonald, Kingston, Tennessee, for the Appellee, Burl Winnie d/b/a Winnie High Tech Heating and Air Conditioning. Judge: SWINEY First Paragraph: Michael Blain Sampson and Grace Parton ("Plaintiffs") brought suit against Burl Winnie d/b/a Winnie High Tech Heating and Air Conditioning ("Defendant"), alleging breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Defendant installed a new gas heating and air conditioning unit in Plaintiffs' home, and shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs became dissatisfied with the new unit's performance and Defendant's installation of the unit. The Trial Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Tennessee Consumer Protection Act claim but awarded Plaintiffs damages for breach of contract in the amount of $2,600. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/sampsonmb.wpd
TIP'S PACKAGE STORE, INC., et al. v. COMMERCIAL INSURANCE MANAGERS, INC., et al. Court:TCA Attorneys: Ronald L. Grimm and Stephen W. Gibson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellants Commercial Insurance Managers, Inc., and George P. Taylor, IV. James S. MacDonald, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellees Rebecca J. Jordan, deceased, by next friend and parents, Marvin H. Jordan and Betty J. Jordan. John K. Harber, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellee Kathleen M. Moberg, deceased, by next friend and father, Warren D. Moberg. M. Robin Repass and John D. Lockridge, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellees Tip's Package Store, Inc., and H. Wayne Tipton. Judge: SWINEY First Paragraph: Plaintiffs H. Wayne Tipton ("Tipton") and Tip's Package Store, Inc., (Tip's) brought this lawsuit against George P. Taylor ("Taylor") and Commercial Insurance Managers, Inc., ("Commercial") seeking indemnification for an agreed judgment entered against Tip's in a lawsuit involving the tragic deaths of two young University of Tennessee students. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants improperly obtained for them an "occurrence" liability policy as opposed to a "claims made" liability policy, thereby resulting in a lack of insurance coverage for the wrongful death claims. After a jury trial, the Chancery Court entered judgment in favor of both Plaintiffs in the amount of $1,000,000 for indemnification based on the jury's answers to interrogatories. Defendants appeal, arguing, among other things, that: (1) the statute of limitations had run; (2) a covenant not to execute entered into between the families of the deceased young women and Plaintiffs extinguished any potential liability; and (3) the jury's responses to interrogatories were fatally inconsistent. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/tips.wpd
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