One Judge to Handle All Local Meningitis Suits

Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr. has ordered that three pending and any similar future local cases involving the fungal meningitis outbreak to be assigned to him only. In a one-paragraph order, Binkly granted a request from lawyers for the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center that all pending and future meningitis suits against their clients be assigned to a single judge. The Tennessean has the story.

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.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - TN Court of Appeals
02 - 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 Supreme Court


Court: TN Supreme Court

TN Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Charles M. Duke and John D. Kitch, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Kitchen Designs and Cabinetry, and James E. Richie.

George E. Barrett, James Bryan Lewis, and Seth Marcus Hyatt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Mark and Mary Brewer.


General contractor filed breach of contract action against homeowners, alleging the homeowners failed to pay invoices on an extensive home renovation project. The homeowners denied there were outstanding invoices and filed counterclaims for breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act against the general contractor and its owner, in his individual capacity, who contractually agreed to supervise the project for an additional fee. The homeowners alleged the general contractor failed to perform the contract in a workmanlike manner; they also asserted a claim against the owner asserting that he agreed to personally supervise the project for a percentage of the contract and that he breached his agreement by failing to properly supervise the work. The trial court, Judge Barbara Haynes presiding, awarded summary judgment to the homeowners on all claims and counterclaims. On the homeowners’ counterclaims, Judge Haynes also awarded treble damages, attorney’s fees, and costs, pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The counter-defendants filed a motion to alter or amend the decision as to the counterclaims; however, Judge Haynes retired before ruling on the motion. The case was then assigned to Judge Hamilton Gayden and, following a hearing, he denied the motion to alter or amend. The counter-defendants appealed. We affirm the summary dismissal of the general contractor’s breach of contract claim for it is undisputed the homeowners paid the contract amount in full. As for the homeowners’ counterclaims, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of the homeowners on their breach of contract claim against the general contractor and the award of damages for failing to perform the contract in a workmanlike manner. We also affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of the homeowners against the supervisor for failing to properly supervise the work; however, we find the evidence insufficient to establish the damages that proximately resulted from the supervisor’s breach as distinguished from the damages resulting from the general contractor’s breach. As for the homeowners’ claims that the general contractor and the supervisor violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, we have determined there are material facts in dispute concerning whether the contractor or the supervisor used or employed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the TCPA; therefore, summary judgment as to the TCPA claims was not appropriate. We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment on the TCPA claims as to the contractor and the supervisor and remand these claims, and the determination of damages for failing to properly supervise, for further proceedings.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Donald N. Capparella, Nashville, Tennessee, and Amy J. Farrar, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Olga Alekseenko Jacobsen.

Lauren M. Spitz, and Demeka Kay Church, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jarrod Justin Jacobsen.


Mother appeals the trial court’s designation of Father as the primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child, the parenting plan, and the division of marital property. The trial court found that the majority of the factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106 weighed equally in favor of both parents but designated Father as the primary residential parent primarily because the court awarded Father the marital residence, which provides stability for the child. The trial court, however, did not make any findings concerning a wealth of evidence of physical and emotional abuse by Father, some of which Father admitted, and we have determined that the preponderance of the evidence established that Father was abusive of Mother, sometimes in the child’s presence. Because Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-406(a) mandates that a parent’s parenting time shall be limited if the parent is found to have engaged in abuse, we reverse the designation of Father as the primary residential parent, as well as the parenting plan adopted by the court, and remand with instructions to designate Mother as the primary residential parent and establish a new parenting plan considering all applicable factors. As for the division of the marital estate, the trial court awarded Father 68% of the marital estate and Mother 32%, which Mother contends is inequitable. She asserts the inequitable distribution is due to Father being awarded the marital residence, which was unencumbered and valued at $216,000, with Mother receiving $55,000, being 26% of the equity, as her share of the marital residence. Considering the length of the marriage, that each spouse contributed substantially to satisfying the mortgage on the residence, and the relatively equal earning capacities of the parties, inter alia, we have determined it is inequitable to award Father 74% of the equity in the marital residence, the result of which awards him 68% of the marital estate. Therefore, we remand with instructions to modify the award by ordering Father to pay Mother $97,200, instead of $55,000, for her interest in the marital residence. As for attorney’s fees, we find no error in the trial court’s denial of Father’s request for his attorney’s fees at trial and we deny each party’s request for attorneys’ fees on appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


John Ray Phillips, Jr., Gallatin, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Rexford L. Goostree, Jr.

Russell E. Edwards, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Reginald M. Mudd and Mary Anne Mudd.


In suit to recover rent due and owing under a lease agreement in which a corporation was named as tenant, trial court entered judgment in favor of landlord against individual who had signed the lease in the space in the signature box designated “Tenant.” Individual appeals, contending that his signature on the lease is not sufficient to bind him personally to the obligations under the lease. Landlord appeals award of damages. We affirm the holding that the individual’s signature on the lease renders him personally liable and remand the case for a determination of whether the landlord is entitled to an award of prejudgment interest and for an award of attorneys’ fees incurred on appeal.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Thomas D. Yeaglin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Francesca Maria Pier.

Brian S. Faughnan, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Katherine Jungkind and Evans Petree, P.C.

Richard Glassman and Lacey Adair Bishop, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Wanda Shea, Mary Morgan Whitfield and Shea Moskovitz.


The trial court awarded Defendants summary judgment in this action for legal malpractice. We affirm based on expiry of the applicable statute of limitations.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Allen Woods, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ramin Saeedpour.

J. Ross Pepper and Timothy Aaron Roberto, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Virtual Medical Solutions, LLC, and Richard Gant.


Doctor sued Seller of medical equipment for a refund of the purchase price of the equipment pursuant to a money back guarantee; Seller counterclaimed for attorney’s fees and litigation costs pursuant to a separate purchase agreement. The trial court granted Seller’s motion for summary judgment with respect to the guarantee on the basis that Doctor failed to meet a condition precedent; the trial court also granted Doctor’s motion for partial summary judgment with respect to Seller’s request for fees and costs on the basis that the guarantee and the purchase agreement were separate contracts. Doctor and Seller appeal. Finding no error, we affirm both judgments.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


James R. Potter, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricky Earl Genes.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Michael J. Fahey, II, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WITT

The defendant, Ricky Earl Genes, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault, and the Hickman County Circuit Court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to a term of 18 years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in its application of certain enhancement factors. In addition, the defendant challenges both the manner of service and the alignment of his sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

CORRECTION: On the first paragraph of page 1, line 9 has been changed from "preemptorily" to "peremptorily."

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph D. Baugh, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Timothy W. Sparrow.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Terry E. Wood, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Williamson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Timothy W. Sparrow, of two counts of second degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count of attempted aggravated robbery. After merging the second degree murder convictions, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred by failing to suppress a suggestive pretrial identification of the appellant as the perpetrator; (2) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his convictions; (3) whether the trial court erred by not upholding the appellant’s Batson challenge after the State peremptorily challenged a black juror; (4) whether the trial court erred by admitting a statement made by a State’s witness; (5) whether the trial court erred by admitting a photograph of the murder victim that was taken while he was alive; (6) whether the trial court erred by admitting a black t-shirt that was alleged to belong to the appellant; (7) whether the trial court erred in its communications with jurors; (8) whether the trial court erred in sentencing; and (9) whether the principles of double jeopardy were violated. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Veterans Courts Receive Commission Funding

The Shelby County and Montgomery County Veterans Courts each will receive a $20,000 donation from the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The Veterans Courts are devoted solely to helping former service members deal with legal problems.

Committee Plans Activities to Aid in Access to Judicial System

More outreach to law schools and an increase in efforts to support and promote pro bono clinics were some of the projects members of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee considered at a retreat this past weekend in Gatlinburg. The committee also talked about promoting the civil right to counsel, countering human trafficking and providing legal support for veterans and individuals serving in the military. All could be a part of the work plan for 2013-2014. The committee, which assists lawyers and legal organizations in providing access to justice system to the poor and marginalized, is led by Nashville attorney Alexandra MacKay.

Report Scrutinizes History of AG Appointment Provisions

Tennessee is the only U.S. state that currently provides for its attorney general to be appointed by the state’s supreme court, a practice the state has had in place since its 1870 constitution was adopted. The provision has been the source of legislative interest during the last two decades, according to Gavel to Gavel, which analyzed the results of various provisions since 1997.

Best Websites for Lawyers

The ABA Techshow Saturday closed with the always-crowd pleasing section “60 Sites in 60 Minutes,” a session about the top websites for lawyers. The ABA Journal did a wrap-up, highlighting several favorite sites such as Vilvo, The Wirecutter, Meeting Wizard and more. Click here to view the list.

Bill Plans to Lower 'Jock Tax' for Pro Athletes

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, has sponsored a bill to repeal the “jock tax,” a 2009 tax on professional athletes that is one of the highest in the country. The National Hockey League Players Association is behind the legislation. The union called out Tennessee’s privilege tax in the most recent contract and committed to getting the levy repealed. The tax generates roughly $3.5million a year and affects NHL and NBA players. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

Chattanooga City Council Lawsuit Dismissed

Chancellor Frank Brown has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Hamilton County Election Commission by Councilman Peter Murphy contesting the district nine election results, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Murphy filed the lawsuit after losing the March 5 city election to Yusef Hakeem, however Brown noted that the lawsuit was filed after the five-day statute of limitations required by state law for election issues.

Clergy Parallel Bible Story to Support Medicaid Expansion

A left-leaning clergy group delivered baskets of loaves and paper fish to each Tennessee legislator on Monday in order to show support for expanding the state’s Medicaid program, NPR reports. Religious advocates gathered to deliver the baskets in an attempted biblical parallel to the miracle of feeding the 5,000. Gov. Bill Haslam has not yet said yes or no the expansion. “That’s a pretty clear command to have concern for the ‘least of these,’” Haslam said. “But we also have a responsibility to make sure that’s something that’s affordable for the state, not just now but 10 years from now.”

House Gives OK to Grocery Tax Cut

The state House unanimously approved a proposal to cut sales tax on groceries. The Memphis Business Journal reports that the proposal, put forth by Gov. Bill Haslam, will decrease sales tax from 7 percent to 5 percent and cost state coffers about $23 million.

Complaints Continue About Legislative Session’s Pace

The fast pace of this year’s legislative session has sparked bipartisan criticism that some proposed laws are not getting properly vetted, while debate on others is at times short-lived. Lawmakers are set to adjourn by April 18, the earliest date for concluding business since 1990, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Among others, Transportation Committee chairman Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, and Calendar and Rules Chair Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, have raised concerns as GOP leaders drive lawmakers to complete business quickly.


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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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