Mock Trial Case Released for 2013 Competition

The case and rules for the 2013 High School Mock Trial Competition is now available for competitors. This year's criminal scenario features an investment broker who uses clients’ investments to fund his lavish lifestyle, but while awaiting trial, suddenly dies in a car crash. Suspicion falls on a local auto mechanic and pharmacist, both who lost their life savings in the scheme, and had a motive to kill the broker. As always, the case offers opportunities for students to express their creativity, develop persuasive speaking skills and learn the basics of trial procedure. The case was prepared by the TBA YLD Mock Trial Committee, under the leadership of  Troy Weston, Candi Henry and Will Holloway. Local competitions will take place in February, with the state finales slated for March 15-16 in Nashville.

Today's Opinions

Click on the category of your choice to view summaries of today’s opinions from that court, or other body. A link at the end of each case summary will let you download the full opinion in PDF format.

00 - TN Supreme Court
01 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
08 - TN Court of Appeals
01 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
00 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders

You can obtain full-text versions of the opinions two ways. We recommend that you download the Opinions to your computer and then open them from there. 1) Click the URL at end of each Opinion paragraph below. This should give you the option to download the original document. If not, you may need to right-click on the URL to get the option to save the file to your computer.

TN Workers Comp Appeals


Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals


Ashley Yarnell Baskette, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Mr. Bult’s, Inc. and Zurich American Insurance Company.

Jay E. DeGroot, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Scott Strain.


An employee alleged that he sustained an injury to his back. His employer denied the claim. The trial court found the injury to be compensable and awarded the employee 30% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the injury is compensable. On appeal, the employee asserts that the award of benefits was inadequate. After review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Roger W. Dickson, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Lynda Hill, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Fork Union Medical Investors Limited Partnership, Goochland Medical Investors Limited Partnership and Life Care Centers of America, Inc.

Robert Boston and Michael T. Harmon, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, HR Acquisition of Virginia Limited Partnership and HRT Holdings, Inc.


This is a dispute over a claim for rent reimbursements in a lease agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, holding that the undisputed facts showed that a limitation of remedy provision in the lease relieved the defendant from any liability. We affirm the judgment of the court below.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Jonathan Swann Taylor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anderson County, Tennessee.

Bruce D. Fox and John A. Willis, Clinton, Tennessee, and Ronald C. Koksal, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kenneth E. King.


Kenneth E. King was arrested for driving on a revoked license. He was put in a cell with several violent criminals. At his arraignment, the court ordered him released. The person charged with processing the release delayed his release by simply doing nothing. While awaiting his release, Mr. King was assaulted by one of his cellmates. He sustained serious injuries, including partial loss of vision in one eye. He filed this action against Anderson County (“the County”). After a bench trial, the court found the County 55% at fault and King 45% at fault for provoking the assault. It determined that the total damages were $170,000 reduced to $93,500 to account for King’s comparative fault. The County appeals. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John T. Batson, Jr., and E. Courtney Epps, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Farragut Board of Zoning Appeals and Mark Shipley, Assistant Community Development Director.

Richard L. Hollow, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Lura M. McBride.


This is an appeal from a judgment in a certiorari review action where the trial court ruled in favor of the petitioner. The trial court found that a proposed construction project involving the petitioner’s property was not covered by the local zoning ordinance, and, therefore, the petitioner was not required to seek a variance from the local board of zoning appeals in order to obtain a building permit. The respondents appeal. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General,and R. Mitchell Porcello, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Commissioner of Revenue.

Wayne R. Kramer, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Oak Ridge Land Company, LP.


The Department of Revenue conducted an audit on plaintiff's partnership, and as a result franchise and excise taxes of $317,659.72 plus interest of $59,525.59 were assessed against plaintiff. Plaintiff brought an action contesting the assessments, and since the Commissioner had relied on Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1320-6-1-.20 to make the assessment, the plaintiff charged the Rule was inconsistent with the provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2006. The Trial Judge held the regulation was in conflict with the code section to the extent that the Rule attempted to restrict the deduction for charitable contributions made to only the book basis, rather than the fair market value, and the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on that issue and an abatement in the assessment of $303,049. The Court also found that the plaintiff was in error in not including certain real property in calculating the net worth under the ruling of Crown Enterprises, Inc., v. Woods, and that the defendant was entitled to a judgment of additional tax in the amount of $14,610.72. Both parties appealed. On appeal, we reverse the Trial Court's Judgment regarding excise tax and we remand for a Judgment on the excise tax as assessed by the Commissioner. The Trial Court's Judgment regarding the franchise tax is affirmed.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James W. Brooks, Jr., Wartburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ellen W. Hood.

Ernest A. Petroff and Stephen A. Marcum, Huntsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Martha R. Scent.


Martha Scent filed a declaratory judgment action against multiple defendants to establish her rights with respect to a deed of trust that granted her a lien on a tract of land. In addition, Scent sought to establish that “her” signature on a release of her deed of trust is a forgery. The trial court granted Scent partial summary judgment voiding and nullifying the release of her trust deed. The case proceeded to a bench trial with the focus on the priority of trust deeds as between Scent and the defendant Ellen W. Hood. Based upon the application of the doctrine of merger, the court ruled that Scent held the priority position. The court awarded judgment in her favor and gHood appeals. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Charles L. Trotter, Jr., Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.

Michael F. Rafferty, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, U.S. Bank, N.A., as Servicer for Tennessee Housing Development Agency.


U.S. Bank, N.A. (“Bank”) had a mortgage on a residence which was insured against fire loss by Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company (“Tennessee Farmers”). When the owner of the residence failed to pay the mortgage, the Bank commenced foreclosure proceedings. Thereafter, the owner filed for bankruptcy which stayed the foreclosure proceedings. After the residence was destroyed in a fire, the Bank filed a claim to recover the insurance proceeds. Tennessee Farmers refused to pay the claim. As a result, the Bank filed suit against Tennessee Farmers alleging breach of contract, bad faith refusal to pay an insurance claim, and unfair or deceptive practices under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the Bank, concluding that the Bank's failure to give Tennessee Farmers notice of the foreclosure proceedings did not invalidate the insurance coverage. On appeal to this Court, we reversed, finding that the Bank’s commencement of foreclosure proceedings amounted to an increase in hazard under the policy and the Bank’s failure to provide notice precluded coverage. After granting the Bank’s application for permission to appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of this Court, and held that commencement of foreclosure proceedings did not constitute an increase in hazard under the terms of the insurance policy or the applicable statutory provisions, and therefore, the Bank was not required to give notice to Tennessee Farmers. U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Tenn. Farmers Mut. Ins. Co., 277 S.W.3d 381 (Tenn. 2009). Subsequently, on remand from the Supreme Court, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of the Bank for the amount due on the mortgage plus accrued interest. The trial court further awarded the Bank attorney’s fees and costs based on its finding that Tennessee Farmers’ interpretation of the policy, that the Bank was required to provide them with notice of the commencement of foreclosure proceedings, amounted to bad faith and an unfair act or practice under the TCPA. After thoroughly reviewing the record, we reverse and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James D. R. Roberts, Jr., and Janet L. Layman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Edward Joseph Warwick, Sr.

Jeffrey W. Rufolo, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Katherine Dodge Gribben Warwick.

Sam D. Elliott, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, David W. Noblit and Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC.


Edward Joseph Warwick, Sr. (“Husband”) sued his former spouse, Katherine Dodge Gribben Warwick (“Wife”); her attorney, David W. Noblit (“Counsel”); and Noblit’s law firm (collectively “Defendants”). Husband alleges that, since the time of the parties’ divorce, Wife and Counsel had conspired against him in an effort to destroy him and gain access to his separate funds. Husband claims the Defendants are guilty of fraud on the court, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a civil conspiracy, for which he seeks eight million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings. Following a hearing, the trial court dismissed Husband’s complaint. The court stated “that the[] causes of action are barred by the statute of limitations or that the complaint failed to state a claim, or both.” Husband appeals. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James B. Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Frederico A. Dixon, III.

Lewis S. Howard, Jr., and Elizabeth D. Sherrod, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Elizabeth C. Wright.


Elizabeth C. Wright (“the Seller”) filed suit against Frederico A. Dixon, III (“the Buyer”) for breach of a contract to purchase real property. The contract allowed the Buyer to terminate in the event he was unable to obtain financing. Under the contract, termination was to be effective only if notice of same was “received.” The Buyer claims to have sent a notice of termination through his agent by fax to the Seller. The Seller claims that she did not receive it. The trial court found that the attempted termination was ineffective because it was not received. The Buyer appeals. We affirm.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Neil Umsted, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Andre Davis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Garland Erguden, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


Defendant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, a Class C felony, following a jury trial and sentenced as a Range III offender to fourteen years and six months incarceration. In this delayed appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by permitting him to be impeached with a hearsay statement contained in a police report. Following review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Judge Denies Request for Diversion in Towboat Homicides

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman denied pretrial diversion for a man charged with criminally negligent homicide in a 2010 crash between his towboat and a small fishing boat on the Tennessee River. The case also is scheduled for a federal civil trial in July 2013.

Kingsport Attorney Strives to Uphold Family Legacy

Kingsport native Michael LaGuardia credits his parents with instilling in him a strong work ethic and drive to “give back” to his community. He explains to the Kingsport Times News that his desire to give back stems from a tradition that started with his distant relative, famed New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who strove to be a righteous man of the people during the Great Depression. LaGuardia hopes to uphold his family’s legacy by one day becoming a judge.

Senate Approves Increased Email Privacy Legislation

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge before allowing a person’s email or other electronic communication to be reviewed. The bill makes it slightly more difficult for the government to access the content of a consumer’s emails and private files from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and other sources. Under the current law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Ac, a warrant is needed only for emails less than 6 months old.

Court Will Not to Hear Pay Equity Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court will not hear an appeal filed on behalf of Washington County Clerk and Master Brenda W. Sneyd after her lawsuit against the county was dismissed, by the State Court of Appeals, the Johnson City Press reports. Sneyed originally  filed suit in Sept. 2010 in Washington County Chancery Court to request back pay for not receiving the same 10 percent pay raise as her counterpart. 

Judge Requests Feb.1 Sentencing Date in Christian Newsom Conviction

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood sent a letter to state and defense attorneys asking to schedule Vanessa Coleman’s sentencing date for Feb.1. Judge Blackwood also stated he would hear defense attorney Theodore Lavit's motion for a new trial at that time. Coleman, who was convinced of 13 of 17 counts related to facilitation of the Christian Newsom murders, could receive up to 45 years in prison.

23 Lawyers Suspended for Fee and IOLTA Violations

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday issued an order suspending 23 additional Tennessee-licensed attorneys who did not pay their 2012 registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and did not file a mandatory compliance statement that eligible client funds are held in accounts participating in the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. See the full list of lawyers who have been suspended and/or reinstated in 2012.

License of Memphis Attorney Reactivated

The Board of Professional Responsibility has reported that the law license of Memphis lawyer James Walter McDonnell was reactivated on Nov. 26. Download the notice

Nashville Lawyer Reinstated

Bradley H. Frakes was reinstated to the practice of law by order of the Supreme Court on Nov. 27. His reinstatement is subject to several conditions, including restitution to a former client and use of a practice monitor.  In November 2011, Frakes was suspended for one year, retroactive to his temporary suspenson in November 2010. Download the BPR notice. 

Fayette County Lawyer Suspended

Terry D. Dycus of Somerville was suspended Nov. 27 by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court for one year, consisting of a 45-day active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation. He was also ordered to perform 10 hours of pro bono services and complete additional continuing legal education credits during his probation. Dycus admitted engaging in conversation of a sexual nature with two criminal defendants who were being prosecuted by the District Attorney's office for which he also worked. He was not the Assistant District Attorney assigned to those cases; however, he admitted that both defendants were represented by counsel and that he did not have permission to speak with either defendant. Download the BPR notice.

Former State Legislator Dies

Former state legislator Laban Ray DeFriese died Wednesday in Franklin at the age of 79. Born in Chattanoga, Mr. DeFriese was a graduate of Tyner High School, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee Law School. In the early 70s, he served in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He also created a successful business, Continental Caviar, and became one of only two Tennesseans ever featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Funeral services will be held tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Heritage Funeral Home chapel. Visit the Chattanogan for more information.

Services This Weekend for Judge Greer

Former Circuit Judge Thomas Greer died this morning (Nov. 29). He was 89. A Cumberland School of Law graduate, Judge Greer was appointed to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit post in 1970 and served until 1994. After leaving the bench, he conducted a limited law practice and did pro bono work. Visitation for Judge Greer will be Saturday at Ewton Funeral Home in Dunlap,  from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Dunlap. Funeral services will take place directly following visitation at 2 p.m.

Hotel Tax Law Up for Senate Review

The Tennessee Hospitality Association is seeking to amend a hotel tax law and require online travel companies to pay more in taxes, a measure that would add more than $1 million to annual tax revenue. The trade group argues that online travel companies have a competitive advantage because they pay taxes in a discounted room rate rather than the retail rate. It believes that changing the language of the state law will level the playing field. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.


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About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.

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