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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals reversing Defendant’s convictions for four counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and reinstated Defendant’s three convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and three convictions for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s request for a separate trial from that of his codefendants; (2) Defendant did not waive the issue of whether his multiple convictions for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony violated the prohibition against double jeopardy; and (3) Defendant’s three convictions for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. The court remanded to the trial court for resentencing and corrected judgments. View "State v. Harbison" on Justia Law

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Charity Spires and Plaintiff-Appellee Kenneth Spires married and had one child, Uriah. A month after Uriah was born, Kenneth abandoned Charity and the child. Though the Spires did not divorce, Kenneth never returned to the marital home. Charity died in an automobile accident involving Defendant Haley Simpson. Custody of Uriah was awarded to his maternal grandmother, Constance Ogle, who served as administrator of Charity's estate. Kenneth filed this wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson and her parents. Ogle sought to intervene. While she acknowledged Kenneth was the Decedent's surviving spouse, Ogle argued he should be disqualified from prosecuting the lawsuit because he owed child support arrearages, and because the abandoned the Decedent and Uriah. While Ogle’s motion to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit was still pending, a Chancery Court entered an order of adoption, permitting the Decedent’s brother, Captain (now Major) Dana Trent Hensley, Jr., M.D., to adopt Uriah. The adoption order terminated Kenneth's parental rights as to Uriah. Ultimately the trial court granted the motion to intervene, dismissed Kenneth from the suit and substituted Ogle and Major Hensley as plaintiffs. Kenneth appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that as the surviving spouse, Kenneth was not disqualified from commencing and maintaining the wrongful death action, notwithstanding the child support obligation. Because Kenneth was not statutorily disqualified from bringing the action, the Court of Appeals held that he was the proper plaintiff and that Kenneth and Uriah were each entitled to half of the settlement proceeds under the laws of intestate succession. Based on Kenneth's stipulation that he owed almost $72,000 in child support for four other children, the appellate court determined that his entire portion of the lawsuit proceeds had to be paid towards his outstanding child support obligations through the Child Support Receipting Unit. The Tennessee Supreme Court held the prohibitions in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 20-5-107(b) and 31-2-105(b) were intended to apply only to cases in which the “parent” who seeks to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit was a parent of the decedent child, and the child support arrearage is owed for the support of that decedent child. Neither statute was applicable under the facts of this case. Consequently, the Court reversed and vacated the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals applying Sections 20-5-107(b) and 31-2-105(b) in this case. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Spires v. Simpson" on Justia Law

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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in reversing the judgment of the juvenile court and awarding Mother custody of the parties’ minor children and erred in ordering the change in custody prior to an opportunity for the Father to appeal to the Supreme Court. In 2013, Father and Mother agreed to a modification of an existing parenting plan. Father later learned that Mother had relocated from Ohio to Nevada with the parties’ minor children, where she was employed as a prostitute. The juvenile court granted Father’s motion for an emergency temporary custody order and a temporary restraining order and designated Father as the primary residential parent. The juvenile court upheld the magistrate’s determination, finding a material change in circumstances. The court subsequently concluded that changing the primary residential parent from Mother to Father was in the best interest of the children. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals committed reversible error by failing to accurately apply the standard of review; and (2) the juvenile court properly applied the statutory factors governing a best interest analysis, and its conclusion was not an abuse of discretion. View "C.W.H. v. L.A.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this wrongful death case, the court of appeals erred by vacating the trial court’s order and remanding the case for further proceedings without reviewing the correctness of the trial court’s ruling on the decedent’s child’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion. The decedent’s mother, in her capacity as her unmarried son’s next of kind, filed this wrongful death suit, seeking damages. The case was settled and dismissed. Almost twenty months later, the decedent’s alleged minor child filed a Rule 60.02 motion to set aside the order of dismissal and to be substituted as the plaintiff. The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that it was not timely filed. The court of appeals vacated the trial court’s ruling, ruling that the Rule 60.02 motion was not ripe for adjudication until the trial court conclusively established the child’s paternity. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by focusing on issues surrounding the child’s paternity rather than reviewing the correctness of the trial court’s ruling on the Rule 60.02 motion; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the Rule 60.02 motion was not timely filed. View "Hussey v. Woods" on Justia Law

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This legal malpractice action was not barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Defendant attorneys represented Plaintiffs in a lender liability lawsuit. Plaintiffs later filed this lawsuit alleging legal malpractice. The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims as barred by the statute of limitations. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court held (1) Carvell v. Bottoms, 900 S.W.2d 23 (Tenn. 1995), is the proper analysis for determining when a claim of legal malpractice accrues; (2) the complaint in this case failed to establish an actual injury prior to the date of the trial court’s final judgment in the underlying case, and therefore, the trial court erred in determining that Plaintiffs’ legal malpractice claims were time barred; and (3) the trial court erred in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. View "Story v. Bunstine" on Justia Law

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Once funds are withdrawn from a bank account held by a married couple as tenants by the entirety, the funds cease to be entireties property. Husband and Wife in this case deposited funds in a joint checking account designated with a right of survivorship. Husband later withdrew the majority of the funds from the joint account and placed them in a certificate of deposit (COD) issued solely in his name. After Husband died, the trial court concluded that the COD was an asset of Husband’s estate because the funds ceased to be entireties property when withdrawn from the joint account. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the COD belonged to Wife because the funds were impressed with the entireties and could be traced to the joint account. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the COD issued to Husband from funds withdrawn from the joint bank account belonged to Husband’s estate, not to Wife. View "In re Estate of Calvert Hugh Fletcher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Tennessee’s theft statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 39-14-103, encompasses theft of real property. Defendant physically entered and occupied for one week a vacant house valued at more than two million dollars and filed documents with the county register of deeds office purporting to reflect her ownership of the property. Defendant was convicted of theft of property valued at over $250,000 and aggravated burglary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the theft statute applies to theft of real property by occupation, seizure, and the filing of a deed to the property; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; and (3) the trial court did not err in limiting Defendant’s cross-examination of a prosecution witness and her closing argument. The court remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing. View "State v. Gentry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Deficiencies in the State’s timely filed notice of intent to sentence Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a repeat violent offender did not entitle Defendant to relief via the plain error doctrine. The court of criminal appeals set aside Defendant’s sentence of life without parole and remanded to the trial court for resentencing due to the deficiencies in the State's notice, holding that the document filed by the State did not qualify as notice pursuant to the repeat violent offender statute. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) although the notice was imperfect, it fairly informed Defendant of the State’s intent to seek enhanced sentencing and triggered Defendant’s duty to inquire into the errors and omissions; and (2) Defendant failed to establish that the deficiencies in the notice adversely affected a substantial right - one of the necessary criterion to obtain relief via the plain error doctrine. View "State v. Patterson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by a federal court regarding whether a repairman’s lien arising under Tenn. Code Ann. 66-19-101 may be enforced by a method other than attachment of the lien-subject property itself. Here, the lien-subject property was sold to a purchaser and was no longer available for attachment during the pendency of the federal court action, so the lien holder sought to reach the proceeds from the sale of the lien-subject property. The Supreme Court answered by holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 66-21-101, which addresses enforcement of a statutory lien by original attachment where the lien statute does not specify a method to enforce the lien, is not a statutory vehicle for the lien holder to reach the proceeds from the sale of the lien-subject property and neither provides for nor excludes other remedies that may be available to the lien holder to reach the proceeds from the sale of the lien-subject property. View "Embraer Aircraft Maintenance Services, Inc. v. Aerocentury Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the general rule that to establish standing a contestant must show that he or she would be entitled to share in the decedent’s estate if the will were set aside or if no will existed. In this case the contestants to a will were five of the decedent’s seven children. The contestants were disinherited by a will dated October 1, 2013 and by a prior will dated October 11, 2012. The trial court dismissed the will contest for lack of standing based on two prior decisions of the Supreme Court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the cases cited in the courts below did not announce a broad, bright-line rule that persons disinherited by facially valid successive wills lack standing. The court went on to hold that the contestants satisfied the general standing requirement long recognized in Tennessee by showing that they would share in the decedent’s estate under the laws of intestacy and under prior wills. View "In re Estate of J. Don Brock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates