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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jun 20, 2012

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

John Patrick Cauley, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellants, Richard Garvin and Serena Garvin.

Attorneys 2:

Jeffrey Russell Smith, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jeffrey R. Smith, Vickie L. Smith, Ken Lamberson, Paula Lamberson, Anthony Langeland, and Melissa Langeland.

Judge(s): COTTRELL

Homeowners in a subdivision used water from a sulfur well to water their lawn. Neighbors complained about the noxious odor, and when the Homeowners continued to use the sulfurous water, the neighbors sought and obtained an order permanently enjoining them from using their well for irrigation purposes. Three years later the Homeowners began using the sulfur well to water their lawn again, and the neighbors filed a petition seeking to hold the Homeowners in contempt for violating the court’s order. The Homeowners filed a retaliatory complaint against the neighbors, and the neighbors sought Rule 11 sanctions for having to defend that action. The trial court consolidated the hearing of the two motions, and following a hearing where testimony and documentary evidence were introduced, the court found the Homeowners had willfully violated the court’s order on at least nine occasions. The court also found the Homeowners’ action was filed in violation of Rule 11 and fined the Homeowners $1,000. The Homeowners appealed, claiming the two motions should not have been heard together and that the evidence did not support the court’s finding of willfulness beyond a reasonable doubt. We conclude the court did not abuse its discretion in hearing the two motions in the same proceeding, and that the evidence was not insufficient for the court to have found the Homeowners guilty of willfully violating its earlier order beyond a reasonable doubt. We thus affirm the trial court’s judgment.