TBJ: When She Lies About Paternity

What are the consequences of lying about who the father of a child is? Lacy A. Daniel explores intentional misrepresentation of paternity, in the August Tennessee Bar Journal, out today. It comes with a pretty sweet picture on the cover, too. (This baby, whose paternity is not in question, is the child of former TBA Access to Justice Coordinator Sarah Hayman.)

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
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
07 - 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 Court of Appeals


Court: TN Court of Appeals


James H. Drescher, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ford Motor Company

Charles Craig Northcott, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for the appellee, Robert Beaver


In this appeal we are asked to construe the scope of the Tennessee Lemon Law and to determine whether it applies to Plaintiff’s vehicle. For the following reasons, we find the law applicable to vehicles with a “gross vehicle weight” of 10,000 pounds or less, and we affirm the trial court’s conclusions that Plaintiff is entitled to protection and relief thereunder.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Charles Taylor, Pro Se.

Charles Oldham, Pro Se.

Jerry Shattuck, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, William E. Young, Solicitor General and Ann Louise Vix, Senior Counsel, for the Appellee, Utility Management Review Board.


Respondent utility district commissioners appeal the trial court’s determination that a ground for removal from office added to Tennessee Code Annotated § 7-82-307(b)(2), as amended effective June 2009, may be applied retrospectively to acts occurring prior to the effective date of the amendment to remove them from office. They also appeal the trial court’s determination that the additional ground for removal of commissioners, “failing to fulfill the commissioner’s or commissioners’ fiduciary responsibility in the operation or oversight of the district,” is not unconstitutionally vague. We reverse retrospective application of the additional ground for removal contained in the statute, as amended; hold that the statute is not void for vagueness; and remand.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Dana C. McLendon, III and M. Matthew Milligan, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gursheel S. Dhillon.

Casey A. Long, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, Rennee N. Dhillon.


The trial court granted Mother’s petition to waive mediation and modify custody, and modified the parties’ parenting schedule upon finding a material change of circumstance. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Eugene N. Bulso, Jr. and Steven A. Nieters, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, H. Preston Ingram and IS Investment, Inc.

W. Scott Sims and Jason W. Callen, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Scott Sohr and SIS Development, LLC.


This complex litigation arises out of a series of disputes between two former partners and members in more than twenty partnerships and limited liability companies that were in the business of real estate development. Following a tumultuous six year business relationship, in an attempt to extricate themselves from their business relationships, the parties executed a Membership Interest and Exchange Agreement, which distributed the entities so a portion were solely owned by one former partner/member and the others were solely owned by the other former partner/member. After closing on the Exchange Agreement, the plaintiff commenced this action against his former business partner alleging fraud, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraudulent transfer of which most, but not all, of the claims arose from the Exchange Agreement. The complaint was later amended to add additional claims. The defendant filed a Counter-Claim alleging that the plaintiff was also in breach of the Exchange Agreement. The trial court dismissed several of the plaintiff’s claims on summary judgment. The remaining issues were tried. At the close of the plaintiff’s proof during the jury trial, the trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of the defendant on some, but not all, of the remaining claims. At the conclusion of the jury trial, the jury entered a verdict for the defendant on the remaining claims. Although the jury found the defendant in breach of three provisions of the Exchange Agreement and a partnership agreement of a jointly owned company, the jury awarded no damages based upon the plaintiff’s prior knowledge and acquiescence of the breaches. Thereafter, each party sought to recover their respective attorney’s fees pursuant to § 11(l) of the Exchange Agreement. The trial court held that defendant was the prevailing party; therefore, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to recover his attorney’s fees pursuant to § 11(l) of the Exchange Agreement and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the defendant. The trial court also awarded the defendant indemnity under the bylaws of one corporation and the partnership agreement of another. The trial court also assessed discretionary costs against the plaintiff. On appeal, the plaintiff raises numerous issues relating to the dismissal of his claims on summary judgment and directed verdict, the instructions given to the jury, the trial court’s ruling on a post-trial motion to amend the defendant’s answer, attorney’s fees and costs, and indemnity. We affirm the trial court’s rulings on summary judgment and directed verdict in all respects. We affirm the trial court’s ruling on attorney’s fees and costs under the Exchange Agreement, holding that as the trial court correctly determined the defendant was the prevailing party for those purposes. We also affirm the trial court’s determinations that the defendant was entitled to indemnification under the provisions of the Partnership Agreement and indemnification under the bylaws of IS Investment, Inc.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Julie R. P. King and David L. Scott, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellant, Gert Jan Leenhouts

Karla Hewitt Miller and Rachel D. Sharp, Nashville, Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellee, Amanda Leenhouts

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a motion to set aside a default judgment. The wife filed a complaint for divorce. The husband was served with process. After the husband failed to file an answer, the wife filed a motion for a default judgment. The husband filed no response to the motion. The trial court granted the wife a default judgment and held a hearing on the wife’s divorce complaint. The husband did not appear at the hearing. Based on the evidence wife presented at the hearing, the trial court divided the marital estate. The husband then filed a motion to set aside both the default judgment and the divorce decree. The trial court denied the husband’s motion, and the husband now appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Bruce N. Oldham, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Evelyn L.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Marcie E. Greene, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.


The Department of Children’s Services filed two petitions to terminate the parental rights of a mother to each of her two children after they were found to be dependent and neglected. The mother was served with both petitions, but she failed to appear at the proceedings where the court heard evidence about her persistent drug use and the Department’s attempts to help her overcome the problems that prevented her from safely parenting her children. The trial court found that the Department had established two grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence that applied to both petitions: persistence of conditions and substantial failure to comply with parenting plans. The court also found that it was in the best interest of the children that the mother’s parental rights be terminated. Mother appealed. We affirm.


Court: TN Court of Appeals


Floyd Don Davis, Norris Arthur Kessler, III, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brian Wayne Smart.

Cynthia A. Cheatham, Manchester, Tennessee; for the appellee, Sandy Jane Smart.


Mother and Father were divorced in 2007 and granted joint custody of their then-six year old child. Mother filed a petition for modification in which she asked to be named the primary residential parent because the joint arrangement was not working for the parties and was not in Child’s best interest. Trial court granted Mother’s petition to be named primary residential parent, but directed that major decisions for Child should be made jointly. Father appealed, arguing that trial court erred in finding material change of circumstances had occurred since the initial parenting plan was entered and that the comparative fitness analysis favored Mother as the primary residential parent. Mother appealed trial court’s judgment regarding major decision making. We affirm trial court’s judgment modifying the parenting plan to name Mother the primary residential parent and amend the plan to have Mother make major decisions for Child rather than both Mother and Father jointly. We affirm the trial court’s denial of Mother’s attorney fees but award her reasonable fees incurred on appeal.

TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Christopher P. Westmoreland, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jimmy Ray Massey, Jr.

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

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Jimmy Ray Massey, Jr., pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to felony failure to appear, a Class E felony, and was sentenced by the trial court as a career offender to six years at 60% in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that his guilty plea was involuntary and that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender; Robert G. Morgan (on appeal), Philip A. Condra and Kandi M. Nunley (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the appellant, Martin Dean “Cub” Meeks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and Steven H. Strain and David O. McGovern, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: GLENN

The defendant, Martin Dean “Cub” Meeks, was convicted by a Grundy County jury of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court failed to properly exercise its duty as thirteenth juror; (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to establish premeditation; and (3) whether the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on voluntary intoxication. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals


Joseph D. Baugh, Franklin, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Kelly Ruth Osteen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Mary Katharine White, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant, Kelly Ruth Osteen, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, theft of property valued under $500.00, fraudulent use of a credit card or debit card, and illegal possession of a credit card or debit card. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of three years, to be served on supervised probation. This sentence was to run concurrently with another sentence, number II-CR084354. After each of two subsequent arrests for additional criminal offenses in case number II-CR065737 and case number IICR085803, a probation violation warrant was issued. The trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation , ordering her to serve seventy days and then return to supervised probation with an additional condition that she successfully complete the 21st Judicial District Drug Court program. Thereafter, another probation violation warrant was issued for the Defendant’s failure to complete the drug court program, and, after a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered that she serve her sentence in jail. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to revoke her sentence and seeks jail credit for time she spent participating in the drug court program. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Services Friday for Knoxville Lawyer

Arrangements have been announced for Knoxville lawyer Ralph Harwell, who died Tuesday. The family will receive friends at Laurel Church of Christ, 3457 Kingston Pike, at 5 p.m. on Friday. A memorial service will follow at 7 p.m., also at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the medical mission Health Talents International, through which Harwell supported several children.

Nashville Attorney Samuel Baron Dies

Nashville attorney Samuel Baron died Monday (July 29) at the age of 62. A graduate of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Baron was licensed in 1977 and operated his own practice in the historic Music Row neighborhood. Visitation was held today, Thursday, at 5 p.m., followed by the life celebration service at 6 p.m. at West Harpeth Funeral Home.

Group Offers to Certify Law Schools’ Honesty

The nonprofit organization Law School Transparency has unveiled a new “LST Certification Program” for law schools that are grappling with the ABA’s new rules governing the reporting of job-placement statistics. LST, which helped push the ABA into beefing up the consumer information law schools must report each year, said it would review a law school’s marketing materials to ensure that the job placement statistics provided comply with the ABA’s rules and adhere to LST’s own best practices. It promises “compelling graphics that appeal to today’s applicants” and to bestow an “LST Certified” mark for schools’ promotional materials—evidence to prospective students, alumni and others that they are “open, honest, and fair.” LST was founded in 2009 by a student at Vanderbilt University Law School. The National Law Journal has the story.

State Wins Nearly $800K in Drug Settlement

Tennessee will receive $768,890 as its share of a $409.9 million False Claims Act settlement reached between the federal government and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., the Nashville Business Journal reports. The settlement resolves allegations of off-label marketing of Rapamune, an “immunosuppressive” drug that prevents the body’s immune system from rejecting a transplanted organ. According to the state Attorney General's office, Rapamune is FDA-approved for kidney transplants. Wyeth was named in civil and criminal proceedings for allegedly illegally promoting the sale and use of Rapamune for use in other organ transplant cases besides kidneys.

Judge: Fed 'Inappropriately' Inflated Debit Card Fees

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Wednesday struck down federal regulations on debit-card transaction fees, finding that the Federal Reserve adopted rules that "inappropriately" inflated fees by billions of dollars, the National Law Journal reports. The ruling won't change transaction fees just yet, though. Judge Leon ordered the Federal Reserve to vacate the rules, but simultaneously said he would stay that order to give the agency time to replace the problematic sections. 

House Sends Student Loan Agreement to President

The House sent President Barack Obama legislation that prevents interest rates in new federal student loans from doubling. The bill, which has been approved by the Senate, passed by a 392-31 vote yesterday evening in the House. According to the Memphis Business Journal, the bill allows federal student loan rates to be tied to the yield on 10-year Treasury notes. "This permanent, market-based plan ends the annual game of Congress playing politics with student loan interest rates at the expense of students planning their futures," said state Sen. Lamar Alexander.

Senate Approves Media Shield Measure

The Senate Judiciary Committee took a step forward on legislation to protect reporters and the news media from revealing their sources by agreeing to legislation sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a key supporter of a federal media shield law. The measure would codify many of the regulations proposed earlier this month by Attorney General Eric Holder. The panel approved it on a voice vote, although the lawmakers put off until September a broader debate over whether Congress defines who is a journalist, WATE reports.

Corker: Republican Effort to Derail Obamacare 'Silly'

While U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is no fan of President Obama’s health care reform, he does not support the latest effort by several Congressional Republicans including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to oppose any spending bills that include money to support the law. "I think it's a silly effort, and what people are really saying who are behind that effort is, 'We don’t have the courage to roll up our sleeves and deal with real deficit reduction and spending decisions. We want to take ourselves out of the debate and act like we are being principled to the American people by saying if there is one dime of funding for Obamacare we are not going to vote for the (continuing resolution),"' Corker said Tuesday on MSNBC. The Memphis Business Journal has the story.

EEOC Lawyer Talks About Employment Trends

A former trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who now represents employers in lawsuits, Paul Patten, says several recent EEOC cases highlight the increasing government scrutiny of employers that use blanket criminal background checks to screen applicants. The EEOC recently sued Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General and a U.S. unit of German automaker BMW AG, alleging the companies refused to hire applicants with criminal records, when the companies should have individually considered each applicant. Patten will discuss rapidly evolving employment law trends, along with a panel of industry experts, Aug. 8 in a seminar sponsored by The Daily News.


Questions, comments: Email us at TBAToday@tnbar.org

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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