GOP Leaders Outline Judicial Redistricting Plan

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other top Republicans in the state Senate are launching an effort to cut, realign, and redistrict the 31 judicial districts for the first time since 1984, The Tennessean reports. Supporters say the state’s judicial map is outdated and riddled with political inconsistencies, including too many judges in some districts and too few in others. Proponents say the new plan could save taxpayer money and rationalize the system by combining communities with similar needs into the same district. Others hope the redistricting plan is not a political move to shift the balance of Tennessee courts.

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
02 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
11 - TN Court of Appeals
03 - 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









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TN Workers Comp Appeals

DAVID AMADO v. BRIDGESTONE FIRESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS, LLC ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Timothy Pirtle, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Bridgestone Firestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, Old Republic Insurance Company, and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC.

Barry H. Medley, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Amado.

Judge: KURTZ

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained compensable injuries to both shoulders. His employer conceded the compensability of the right shoulder injury, but denied the left shoulder claim. An examination was done by a physician through the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) regarding the right shoulder claim. The trial court found that the presumption of correctness of the MIR impairment opinion had been overcome by clear and convincing evidence as to the right shoulder injury. The trial court also concluded that the left shoulder injury was compensable and awarded benefits accordingly. The trial court also denied employer’s claim that it was entitled to an offset pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-114(b) for benefits paid under its accident and sickness policy. We hold and find that the trial court erred by failing to apply the offset sought by the employer, and affirm the judgment in all other respects.


SHEILA PASCHALL EX REL MURRAY PASCHALL ET AL. v. SGS NORTH AMERICA, INC. ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Keith Williams and James R. Stocks, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sheila Paschall.

David J. Deming and Laurenn S. Disspayne, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, SGS North America, Inc., and Ace American Insurance Company.

Judge: KURTZ

In this worker’s compensation action, the widow of the decedent sought workers’ compensation benefits for her husband’s death. She filed suit twice but voluntarily nonsuited each of those actions. She filed suit a third time, and her husband’s employer moved to dismiss, contending that the third action was barred by the statute of limitations and by Tenn. R. Civ. Pro. 41.01(2). The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, and the widow has appealed, contending that her third action was timely filed. We reverse the decision of the trial court.


TN Court of Appeals

IN RE AUSTIN D. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Sarah E. Coleman, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nicole D.

Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terry D.

Judge: SUSANO

The trial court terminated the parental rights of Nicole D. (“Mother”)and Terry D. (“Father”) to their minor children, Austin D. and Trinity D. (collectively “the Children”). Mother and Father separated after an incident of domestic violence; the Children remained with Mother. A drug raid at Mother’s house led the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) to remove the Children and take them into temporary protective custody. DCS filed a petition seeking temporary legal custody. Later, the Children’s maternal grandmother, Lisa D. V. (“Grandmother”), filed an intervening petition and was granted temporary custody. A year later, Grandmother filed a petition seeking to terminate both parents’ parental rights; she seeks to adopt the Children. Following a bench trial, the court granted the petition based upon its findings, said to be made by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds for termination exist and that termination is in the Children’s best interest. Mother and Father appeal. We vacate in part and affirm in part. As to the trial court’s decision that termination is appropriate, we affirm that ultimate conclusion.

KATHY LYNN AVERITTE v. WILLIAM RONNY AVERITTE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Frank M. Fly, Heather G. Parker, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kathy Lynn Averitte

Tracy L. Light, Smyrna, Tennessee, for the appellee, William Ronny Averitte

Judge: HIGHERS

This appeal involves a post-divorce dispute over whether the parties’ MDA required the payment of alimony in futuro or alimony in solido. The Wife remarried shortly after the parties’ divorce, and the Husband filed a motion to terminate his alimony obligation, claiming that the obligation was for alimony in futuro, which automatically terminates upon remarriage. The trial court concluded that the obligation was for alimony in futuro, and therefore, the court granted the Husband’s motion to terminate his alimony obligation. Wife appeals. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.


SANDRA BELLANTI, ET AL. v. CITY OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael Fletcher, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, City of Memphis, Tennessee.

Thomas E. Hansom and Leigh Hansom Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Sandra Bellanti and Albert Bellanti.

Judge: FARMER

Plaintiff motorist was seriously injured when a padlock was hurled from beneath a lawn mower operated by a City of Memphis Parks Services employee and through the window of her vehicle, striking her in the head and resulting in the loss of her left eye. The motorist and her husband filed an action for damages against the City, which was adjudicated pursuant to the Governmental Tort Liability Act. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, and the City appeals. We affirm.


IN RE JACOB A.G. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Tiffany S. Lyon, Crossville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robin M.G.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Derek C. Jumper, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: SUSANO

Robin M.G. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights to her minor children, Daniel E.S. and Jacob A.G. (“the Children”). At separate times, the Children were removed to the custody of the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and were placed in foster care. DCS took custody of Daniel after he pleaded “true” to disorderly conduct and was adjudicated unruly. A year later, DCS petitioned the court to declare both Children dependent and neglected in Mother’s care and took Jacob into immediate protective custody. After the Children were adjudicated as being dependent and neglected, DCS implemented a permanency plan for each and worked with Mother for two years in a failed effort to reunify the family. DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. After a bench trial, the court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that multiple grounds for terminating Mother’s rights exist and that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Mother appeals. We affirm.


IN RE JORDAN T. J.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark C. Odle, Dickson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tommy J.

Hilary H. Duke, Dickson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jeffrey G. and Brenda G.

Judge: CLEMENT

The father in this termination of parental rights case, who was incarcerated at all times material to this case at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison and is indigent, appeals the termination of his rights contending he was denied due process because he was not informed of his rights as required under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(f), he did not sign a waiver of his rights, and he was not provided a court-appointed attorney. The father, who did not file a responsive pleading to the petition, contends, inter alia, that the trial court failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(f), which mandates that he be informed that he has the right to participate and contest the allegations and, if he wished to contest the petition, that a court-appointed attorney would be provided to assist in contesting the petition. The record does not contain a signed waiver by the father nor does it reflect that the juvenile court made the requisite determination that he was informed of his rights and, after being informed, voluntarily waived his right to a court-appointed attorney to assist in contesting the petition, or that, if he did not participate after being informed of his rights, the court may proceed with such action without the parent’s participation as set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(f)(5). We, therefore, vacate the judgment of the juvenile court as it pertains to the father’s parental rights and remand with instructions for the juvenile court to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(f) and, if the father wishes to contest the petition, that a court-appointed attorney be provided and the case set for a new trial once his attorney has had a reasonable opportunity to prepare.


RUTH M. MAXWELL v. MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FOUNDATION, INC. ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

R. Steven Waldron, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ruth M. Maxwell.

Joel P. Surber, Frank M. Gallina, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Mid Tenn Motorcycle Education Center, and Michael Upchurch.

Judge: CLEMENT

Plaintiff filed this action against the instructor of a motorcycle safety course and his employer for injuries she sustained when she drove off of the designated course site and collided with a parked pickup truck. The trial court found that the plaintiff’s negligence claims were barred because she signed a valid written waiver/release from liability document prior to starting the course. The trial court also dismissed the plaintiff’s gross negligence claims, finding there was nothing in the record which would allow a reasonable juror to conclude the defendant exercised a conscious neglect of duty or a callous indifference to consequences. We affirm.


HAROLD DEAN MCDANIEL v. KIMBERLY RUTH MCDANIEL

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Samuel F. Robinson III, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kimberly Ruth McDaniel.

James D. R. Roberts, Jr., and, Janet L. Layman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Harold Dean McDaniel.

Judge: SWINEY

This appeal arises from a divorce. Harold Dean McDaniel (“Husband”) sued Kimberly Ruth McDaniel (“Wife”) for divorce in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”). After a long and contentious legal battle, including an earlier appeal to this Court and subsequent remand for a new trial, the Trial Court entered its supplemental final decree of divorce. Wife appeals, raising a number of issues. We hold that the Trial Court did not adequately compute child support, and, therefore remand for its proper computation. We also modify the allocation of guardian ad litem fees. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court as modified, in part, and vacated, in part.


SUZANNE RENEE WILLIAMS-ALI AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF RUBY LEE COFER WILLIAMS v. MOUNTAIN STATES HEALTH ALLIANCE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert Payne Cave, Jr., Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Suzanne Renee Williams- Ali.

Frank H. Anderson, Jr., Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mountain States Health Alliance.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This is a case alleging negligence by defendant, Mountain States Health Alliance, which resulted in injury to a patient, Ruby Williams. Ms. Williams fell off a table while she was undergoing myocardial perfusion imaging, also known as a nuclear stress test. Mountain States Health Alliance asserted that Ms. Williams’s complaint sounded in medical malpractice instead of ordinary negligence, and asked for summary judgment because Ms. Williams had not complied with the filing requirements of the medical malpractice statute. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that the case involved a medical malpractice claim rather than an ordinary negligence claim. Ms. Williams’s Estate appeals. We affirm the trial court’s ruling.


IN RE: ESTATE OF DANNY W. WILSON, DECEASED

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

J. Thomas Caldwell, Ripley, Tennessee, for the appellant, Barbara Wilson

Taylor D. Forrester, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Albert J. Wilson

Judge: HIGHERS

Claimant filed a claim against the estate of his first cousin, seeking repayment of $47,300 in loans he made to the Decedent in the months before his death. The trial court sustained the claim, and the administrator of the estate appeals. We affirm.


FRED V. WILSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ANNA R. WILSON, DECEASED v. MONROE COUNTY, TENNESSEE ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

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

Jimmy W. Bilbo and Brent J. McIntosh, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellee, Fred V. Wilson, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Anna R. Wilson, deceased.

Judge: SUSANO

Fred V. Wilson and his wife, Anna R. Wilson, were the initial plaintiffs. They filed suit against Monroe County and the City of Sweetwater alleging that the amputation of Mrs. Wilson’s left leg was proximately caused by the negligence of those responding to an emergency call to her home. Mrs. Wilson died before trial and the case proceeded with her husband as the sole plaintiff, individually and in a representative capacity. At a bench trial, the court found that the injury to Mrs. Wilson’s left foot occurred during the ambulance ride from the Wilsons’ home to the hospital emergency room. It further found that the injury, which did not heal, necessitated the amputation of her leg. The court entered judgment against Monroe County. The claims against Sweetwater were dismissed. Monroe County appeals. The plaintiff, by way of a separate issue, challenges the sufficiency of the court’s award of damages. We affirm.


TELLICO VILLAGE PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. v. HEALTH SOLUTIONS, LLC, ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Kristi M. Davis, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, NBN Corporation d/b/a National Bank of Tennessee.

C. Coulter Gilbert, Kevin C. Stevens, and Briton S. Collins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tellico Village Property Owners Association, Inc.

Judge: SWINEY

Tellico Village Property Owners Association, Inc. (“TVPOA”) sued Health Solutions, LLC; Tellico Senior Living, LLC; Citizens National Bancorp, Inc. d/b/a Citizens National Bank of Tennessee; Home Federal Bank Corporation d/b/a Home Federal Bank; and NBN Corporation d/b/a National Bank of Tennessee (“National Bank”) with regard to a failed development project. TVPOA asked the Trial Court to declare that TVPOA’s option agreement concerning real estate in the development project had priority over certain recorded deeds of trust. National Bank appeals the Trial Court’s grant of partial summary judgment to TVPOA raising issues about whether the Memorandum of Agreement and Development Agreement between TVPOA and the Developer and the Developer Company violated the statute of frauds, and the Trial Court’s grant of TVPOA’s motion in limine to exclude evidence on National Bank’s claim of unjust enrichment. We find and hold that National Bank was not a party to the Memorandum of Agreement or the Development Agreement and, therefore, may not raise a statute of frauds defense. We further find and hold that the Trial Court did not err in excluding evidence on National Bank’s claim of unjust enrichment.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

JUAN A. HILL v. DAVID SEXTON, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Juan A. Hill, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; and Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Juan A. Hill (“the Petitioner”) filed for habeas corpus relief, claiming that his judgment of conviction is void because it (1) is based on a defective indictment and (2) fails to reflect pretrial jail credits. The habeas corpus court denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. BRUCE D. MENDENHALL

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

C. Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender (at trial); Jason Gichner (at trial), Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal), and Melissa Harrison (on appeal), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Bruce D. Mendenhall.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Pamela Sue Anderson and Rachael Marie Sobrero, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted of three counts and acquitted of two counts of solicitation to commit first degree murder, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-102, -12-107, -13-202. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years for each conviction and ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of thirty years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends the following: (1) that the trial court erred by denying his motion to sever two of the counts; (2) that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statements to the police; (3) that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statements made to a fellow inmate turned police informant; (4) that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress numerous letters the Defendant had sent from jail; (5) that the trial court erred by admitting redacted portions from numerous letters the Defendant had sent from jail and from several telephone conversations the Defendant had while in jail; (6) that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of another crime as “contextual background evidence;” (7) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions; and (8) that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. Following 1 our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


BRANDON NEAL v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Brandon Neal, Pikeville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; and Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Brandon Neal (“the Petitioner”) filed for post-conviction relief from his guilty pleas to attempted carjacking and aggravated assault, alleging that the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) violated his due process rights by miscalculating his sentences and that TDOC’s actions have rendered his pleas constitutionally infirm. The post-conviction court summarily denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Today's News

Copyright Infringement Lawsuits on the Rise

BitTorrent copyright infringement lawsuits seeking Internet Protocol (IP) address owners has grown in Middle Tennessee, sometimes filling federal dockets in Nashville, The Nashville City Paper reports. In this type of suit, plaintiffs come armed with the IP addresses of alleged online pirates who shared, at least in part, copyrighted files. They then subpoena Internet providers for the IP owner’s identifying information. The City Paper examined several of these cases, likened to the copyright infringement suits brought by the Recording Industry Association of America about online music sharing.


Rutherford County Drug Court Helps Addicts, DUI Offenders

Mary Schneider serves as the director of Drug and DUI courts for Rutherford County where up to 50 drug addicts and 25 DUI offenders are treated at a time, the Daily News Journal reports. The program takes referrals from the court, and offers first-time and repeat offenders treatment and extensive therapy. Schneider opened Drug Court in 2000 after researching the success of similar courts in other states.


Sandy Relief Bill Includes $1 Million for Legal Services

The Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill that passed the U.S. Senate yesterday includes $1 million for the Legal Services Corporation to provide assistance to low-income people in areas significantly affected by the super storm. The Legal Services Corporation says that individuals and families encounter a variety of civil legal needs after recovering from a natural disaster, including preventing wrongful eviction, obtaining repairs to damaged rental housing, and contesting inappropriate denials of insurance claims.


Children’s Library Launched at Juvenile Court

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court will launch a children’s library in the lobby of the courthouse for the dozens of young children who must spend untold hours in the lobby daily. The creation of the library is a joint volunteer effort of Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bailey, the Chattanooga Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division, Green Form Construction, CASA and others. The idea, Judge Bailey told the Hamilton County Herald, was not to just relieve the lobby of congestion and noise but also to spark in children an interest in reading.


Dunavant Awards Honor Public Service

The Bobby Dunavant Public Service Awards, which recognizes elected and non-elected public officials, began 10 years ago as a way to counter the damage done by the Tennessee Waltz federal public corruption investigation. The awards will be presented Feb. 27 at a luncheon by the Rotary Club of Memphis East as a part of a larger continuing discussion about the nature of “good government” and why citizens should get involved in elected and non-elected positions.


Longtime Court Officer to Retire

Court officer Bob Ball will retire Thursday after more than 30 years of service, according to the Chattanoogan. He served under Criminal Court Judge Don Poole since 2005, under Steve Bevil for 15 years, and before that under Russell Hinson for six years. He has been busy the past few weeks training his replacement, Gary Bender.


Public Service Luncheon Video Now Available

If you missed the 2013 Public Service Luncheon, you can now watch it online. The program features the presentation of awards to the Law Student Volunteer of the Year, the Ashley T. Wiltshire Public Service Attorney of the Year and the Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Volunteers of the Year, as well as the keynote address from former Federal Communications Commissioner Deborah Tate.


DOJ Criminal Division Chief to Step Down

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer says he will step down in March as chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, a post he has held since the 1960’s. Breuer announced his departure the day after BP entered a guilty plea in connection with the 2010 Gulf Oil spill, the biggest criminal investigation and penalty in the department’s history, NPR reports. The failed gun running sting operation known as Fast and Furious also sparked one of the biggest controversies of his tenure.


Cleveland and Bradley County Citizens Receive Free Tax Preparation

The Cleveland City Council will partner with the IRS for the sixth year to operate the Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax preparation services to citizens of Cleveland and Bradley County whose household incomes are $51,000 or less. There will be four VITA sites located at the South Cleveland Community Center, Bradley Baptist Association, Kmart, and Lee University. 


Ethics CLE on Tap This Week

A three-hour ethics CLE presented Friday in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville will provide a unique and entertaining look at a range of ethical issues attorneys face. Attendees will observe video presentations of ethical situations and engage in an interactive discussion to gain insights on recognizing and avoiding common ethical traps.


 
 

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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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