Federal Program Helps Tennessee Homeowners

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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
06 - TN Court of Appeals
08 - 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

STEPHEN TAYLOR v. AIRGAS MID-SOUTH, INC., ET AL.

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys:

Ronald L. Harper and Jeffrey E. Nicoson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Airgas Mid-South, Inc. and Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company.

Jay E. DeGroot, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Stephen Taylor.

Judge: PARISH

In this workers’ compensation appeal, it is undisputed that the employee sustained a compensable injury, that the employer was providing medical care as required by the workers’ compensation statute, and that the employee sought and received a spinal fusion treatment without informing or consulting with his employer. The trial court ordered the employer to pay for the unauthorized treatment, and the employer has appealed from that decision. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.


TN Court of Appeals

CHERYL O. CHARLES v. GISSELLE CARTER NEELY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Petitioner/Appellant Cheryl O. Charles, Memphis, Tennessee, self-represented

Kathleen N. Gomes, Memphis, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellee, Gisselle Carter Neely

Judge: KIRBY

This case involves an alleged agreement about funds distributed from a reopened estate. The decedent father died years ago, leaving three daughters and an estranged wife. The father’s estate was probated and closed. Long afterward, the petitioner daughter discovered unclaimed funds in the father’s name held by the State. Another daughter, the executrix of the father’s estate, reopened the father’s estate. Finding no claims against the estate, the probate court distributed the funds to the executrix, in accordance with the father’s will, and closed the estate. The daughter who discovered the unclaimed funds filed the instant petition in chancery court, asserting that the sisters had agreed that the funds would be split among them in accordance with their mother’s will. Based on the probate court’s adjudication of the father’s reopened estate, the chancery court granted summary judgment in favor of the executrix daughter, holding that res judicata barred the chancery court action. We affirm the grant of summary judgment as to allegations in the chancery court petition that the probate court should have distributed the funds differently. We reverse the grant of summary judgment as to the remainder of the chancery court petition, finding that the petition also asserts claims based on an alleged separate oral agreement among the sisters, and hold that the respondent executrix sister has not conclusively established the defense of res judicata as to these remaining claims.


MARY SUE COOK V. EAST TENNESSEE HUMAN RESOURCE AGENCY, INC., ET. AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Ronald J. Attanasio, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mary Sue Cook.

Nathan D. Rowell and Brian R. Bibb, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, East Tennessee Human Resource Agency, Inc.

Judge: MCCLARTY

This is a negligence case in which Passenger sued ETHRA and Driver for injuries she sustained when exiting an ETHRA public transit vehicle. The trial court dismissed the claim against Driver but denied ETHRA’s motion for summary judgment. Following a bench trial, the court dismissed the claim against ETHRA, holding that Passenger failed to prove that Driver was negligent. Passenger appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.


ANN C. KING (WALDEN) v. DAVID M. KING

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Steve Merritt, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellant, David M. King.

Ann C. Walden, Lenoir City, Tennessee, Pro Se appellee.

Judge: SWINEY

Ann C. King (“Wife”) filed a motion seeking to renew a 2001 judgment against David M. King (“Husband”). After a hearing, the Chancery Court for Anderson County (“Anderson Chancery Court”) entered an order renewing the judgment. Husband appeals to this Court raising issues regarding whether the Anderson Chancery Court lacked jurisdiction and whether the renewal of judgment complied with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 69.04. We hold that the Anderson Chancery Court had jurisdiction and did not err in renewing the judgment.


RICHARD LIPUT v. BOBBY GRINDER

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Richard Liput, Savannah, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Colin M. McCaffrey, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State Auto Mutual Insurance Company.

Judge: STAFFORD

Appellant appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Appellee uninsured motorist carrier for failure to properly and timely serve the alleged tortfeasor. After a careful review of the record, we affirm.


STEPHEN MEACHAM, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT E. MEACHAM v. WILLIAM EARL STARNES, SR.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Irwin I. Cantor, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Plaintiff/Appellant Stephen Meacham, personal representative of the Estate of Robert E. Meacham

Dawn Davis Carson, Russell B. Jordan, and Hal S. (Hank) Spragins, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant/Appellee William Earl Starnes, Sr.

Judge: KIRBY

This case involves the bond requirements for an appeal from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. The plaintiff sued the defendant for damages in General Sessions Court, and a judgment was entered in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff sought a de novo appeal to Circuit Court. Within ten days of the General Sessions Court judgment, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and paid $211.50 to the General Sessions Court clerk, pursuant to T.C.A. § 8-21-401(b)(1)(C)(i). The plaintiff did not file any further bond at that time. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the Circuit Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because the plaintiff had not complied with the appeal-bond requirement in T.C.A. § 27-5-103. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss on that basis. The plaintiff now appeals. We reverse in light of our recent decision in Bernatsky v. Designer Baths & Kitchens, LLC, No. W2012-00803-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 593911 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 15, 2013), and remand for further proceedings.


MARKINA WESTMORELAND, ET AL. v. WILLIAM L. BACON, M.D., ET AL.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Donald N. Capparella, Amy J. Farrar, Bill M. Wade, Candi Renee Henry, Nashville, Tennessee: William Bryan Smith, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Markina Westmoreland, et al.

Robert Lee Trentham, James A. Beakes, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, William L. Bacon, M.D.;

Michael A. Geracioti, Kelly R. Thomas, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Wichai Chinratanalab, M.D.;

Thomas W. Lawrence, Jr., Matthew A. Moushon, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee,Chukwuemeka Venatius Ikpeazu, M.D.

Judge: COTTRELL

The Tennessee Supreme Court remanded this case to us for consideration in light of its opinion in Shipley v. Williams. In the original appeal of this medical malpractice case, this court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants on the basis that the plaintiff’s only expert witness was not competent to testify pursuant to the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-115. On remand we conclude the trial court erred in ruling that the plaintiffs’ expert was not competent to testify and, consequently, the plaintiffs created genuine issues of material fact, making summary judgment for defendants inappropriate. We reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

CHRISTOPHER TURNER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Manuel Benjamin Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Turner.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rachel Marie Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Petitioner, Christopher Turner, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his 2008 conviction for attempted aggravated robbery and his effective nine-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that counsel provided the ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to investigate and interview witnesses adequately and by failing to request that his case be severed from his codefendant’s case. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CARL BOND

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Phyllis Aluco (on appeal) and Jim Hale (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Carl Bond.

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

Judge: BIVINS

Carl Bond (“the Defendant”) was convicted after a jury trial of aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender to seventeen years, to be served in confinement at 100%. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is not sufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court erred in its ruling on the admissibility of a prior conviction for impeachment purposes, and that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. RONALD EARL COOK

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Claudia Jack, District Public Defender, and Richard H. Dunavant, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Ronald Earl Cook.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Larry Nichols, Assistant District Attorney General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

Defendant pled guilty to eleven counts of observation without consent, Class A misdemeanors, two counts of stalking, Class A misdemeanors, one count of phone harassment, a Class A misdemeanor, one count of theft of property worth less than $500, a Class A misdemeanor, and ten counts of criminal trespass, Class C misdemeanors. The defendant was sentenced to the maximum sentence on all counts—eleven months and twenty-nine days on each of the Class A misdemeanors and thirty days on each of the Class C misdemeanors. The trial court ordered the defendant to serve all sentences consecutively, for a total effective sentence of almost sixteen years. In addition, the trial court placed a special condition on each judgment that “further ordered that the defendant shall not receive good time credit or work release” on any of his sentences. On appeal, the defendant claims the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentences and ordering that he not receive “good time” credit. After careful review of the record, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the defendant to serve all of his sentences consecutively. However, the trial court was without authority to order the denial of the defendant’s statutory “good time” credit. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgments with respect to the special condition directing that the defendant be denied “good time” credit and remand the case for entry of judgments deleting this special condition. We otherwise affirm the judgments.


SHUNDELL LYNN DICKERSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James O. Martin, Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal) and Kristen VanderKooi, Nashville, Tennessee, (at trial) for the appellant, Shundell Lynn Dickerson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Shundell Lynn Dickerson, appealed the trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief, and this court affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court. Shundell Lynn Dickerson v. State of Tennessee, No. M2011-00644-CCA-R3-PC, 2012 WL 2564376 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, filed July 3, 2012). In that opinion, Petitioner raised the issue of whether his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the convicting evidence on direct appeal. We acknowledged that pursuant to our supreme court’s decision in State v. Parker, 350 S.W.3d 883 (Tenn. 2011), appellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence must be undertaken with respect to the offense for which a defendant was convicted rather than the greater offense with which he or she was charged. We were precluded, however, from fully considering the issue because the summary of the facts contained in our opinion in the direct appeal was not adequate to allow for review of the issue, and, through no fault of Petitioner, the appellate record in the direct appeal was destroyed in the historic Nashville flood in May, 2010. Therefore, this court could not determine from the record whether Petitioner suffered prejudice by appellate counsel’s deficient performance in failing to challenge the sufficiency of the convicting evidence on appeal. Since the filing of that opinion, this court has granted Petitioner’s petition to rehear the issue of the ineffectiveness of appellate counsel, and Petitioner has supplemented the record with copies of the trial transcript. Both parties have filed supplemental briefs. After a review of the record before us, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


DEMARIO JOHNSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James P. DeRossitt, IV, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Demario Johnson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Betsy Weintraub, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

Post-conviction petitioner, Demario Johnson, challenges his 2008 conviction of first degree murder and resulting sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, he alleges the following claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) failure to investigate and present evidence of his mental health history; and (2) failure to challenge the medical examiner’s opinion regarding the victim’s cause of death. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WESLEY JONES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark Mesler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Wesley Jones.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Pamela Fleming and Reginald Henderson, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Defendant-Appellant, Wesley Jones, appeals his conviction for first degree premeditated murder. On appeal, he argues that (1) the trial court abused its discretion in allowing a witness to be recalled to testify, and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. HOWARD B. LEWIS, III

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Peggy R. Smith, White Bluff, Tennessee, for the appellant, Howard B. Lewis, III.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; and Timothy J. Peters, Assistant District Attorney General Pro Tem, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: PAGE

A Dickson County grand jury indicted appellant, Howard B. Lewis, III, for especially aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and domestic assault. He entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault, and the State dismissed the remaining charges. The parties agreed to submit the length of the sentence and any alternative sentencing decision to the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced appellant to six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Appellant now challenges the trial court’s findings, alleging that the trial court impermissibly enhanced his sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


WADE P. TUCKER v. ARVIL CHAPMAN, WARDEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Wade P. Tucker, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

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

Judge: GLENN

The petitioner, Wade P. Tucker, appeals the summary dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the court erred in failing to consider his motion for appointment of counsel and that the indictment was defective so as to deprive the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction. After review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.


Supreme Court Considers DNA Sampling

U.S. Supreme Court justices argued Tuesday whether to let police take DNA without a warrant from those arrested in order to use it to solve old cases, according to Knoxnews. In the case Maryland v. King, Alonzo King was arrested and charged with felony second-degree assault. Police took a cheek swap of King’s DNA, which identified him in the 2003 rape and robbery of a 53-year-old woman, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. However, the state Court of Appeals said warrantless DNA samples violated King’s rights and that he had “a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches.” The court is reviewing that ruling and will make a decision later this year.


Court Hears Challenge to Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case challenging the part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that forces places with a history of discrimination, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before they make any changes in the way elections are held. The lawsuit from Shelby County, Ala., claims the “dire local conditions” that once justified federal oversight of elections no longer exist. The Commercial Appeal has the story.


Feds to Investigate Robertson County School Segregation

Federal civil rights investigators from the Departments of Justice and Education will visit Robertson County next week to look into community complaints that the public schools are racially segregated. The Tennessean reports the trip will include visits to eight schools and interviews with Director of Schools Dan Whitlow, as well as former assistant director of schools Danny Weeks. Residents can also discuss the issue at a community meeting at 6 p.m. on March 7 at the Robertson County Senior Center in Springfield. Robertson County remains under a federally approved desegregation plan and could lose federal funding if it does not keep schools integrated.


Man Seeks New Trial After Representing Himself

A Memphis man convicted of three carjackings and nine other felonies was denied a new trial despite his claims that he was ineffective in acting as his own attorney for part of the trial, the Commercial Appeal reports. In a hand-printed motion, Christopher John Clark stated that he had a mental condition that prevented him from properly serving as his own defense counsel. Federal prosecutor Jennifer Webber stated “Precedent does not support allowing Clark to demand his right to represent himself, make an informed decision to do so and then get a second bite at the apple when that decision does not go in his favor” noting that the judge repeatedly tried to discourage Clark from representing himself. He faces 50 years in prison when he is sentenced next month by Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell of Kentucky, one of several visiting judges helping to reduce a backlog of cases in Memphis.


Georgia Lawyer Censured

Georgia attorney John Michael Giglio, licensed to practice law in Tennessee, received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility for informing his client in an estate matter that he would charge a 15 percent contingency fee, but did not provide a written contract documenting the terms of the fee agreement. The client contested the reasonableness of Giglio’s $70,000 attorney fee and a probate court clerk and master found the reasonable fee to be $20,000. Giglio was ordered to refund $50,000 plus the cost of the fee proceeding. Download the BPR notice.


Justices Say Court Erred in Allowing Evidence

The Tennessee Supreme Court sent a Hamblen County case back to Chancery Court for retrial after ruling that the trial court allowed evidence to be presented that was irrelevant and prejudicial, and saying that allowing the jury to hear it probably affected the verdict. The trial court had invalidated the marriage of Raymond Smallman and Linda Caraway, which had been conducted shortly before Smallman's death, and refused to allow Caraway to have Smallman’s will admitted to probate as his widow. The Chattanoogan has this story. Read Justice Sharon Lee's opinion and Justice William Koch's concurring and dissenting opinion.


Bill Would Exempt New Cars From Testing

Vehicles less than three years old would be exempt from Tennessee’s mandatory emissions testing under a bill working its way through the General Assembly, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. House Transportation Committee Chairman Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, calls the proposal a “common sense bill," saying that there is no need to test newer cars. There are only six counties in the state that, because of their air quality, require emissions testing: Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.


Knoxville Attorney Dies

Knoxville attorney Geoffrey D. Kressin died Monday (Feb. 25) at the age of 65. Born in Oklahoma, Kressin received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and law degree from the University of Tennessee. He practiced in Knoxville with the Luedeka Neely Group, P.C and was an associate professor at the University of Tennessee from 1974 to 1988. Kressin’s practice emphasized patent, trade secret, trademark and copyright litigation. He was a member of the American, Tennessee and Knoxville Bar Associations. Funeral services will be held March 11 at 3 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 800 Northshore Dr., Knoxville. Receiving of friends will immediately follow the service in the church fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to “Dr. Joe,” Kressin’s oncologist or memorial donations to Johns Hopskins University.


 
 

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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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