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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

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Father’s appeal in this termination of parental rights case satisfied the signature requirement contained in Tenn. Code Ann. 36-1-124(d) and was not subject to dismissal. Father timely a timely notice of appeal from the judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights. The notice of appeal was signed by Father’s attorney but not signed personally by Father.The court of appeals entered an order directing Father to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction for failure to comply with section 36-1-124(d). Father’s response included a challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. The Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction over the case and, after directing the parties and the attorney general to address certain issues, held (1) section 36-1-124(d) does not require a notice of appeal to be signed personally by the appellant; and (2) because the notice of appeal signed by Father’s attorney satisfied the signature requirement, Father’s appeal was not subject to dismissal, thus rendering moot the other issues before the court. View "In re Bentley D." on Justia Law

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The legislature intended the phrase “not engaged in unlawful activity” in the self-defense statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 39-11-611, to be a condition of the statutory privilege not to retreat when confronted with unlawful force, and the trial court should make the threshold determination of whether the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity when he used force in an alleged self-defense situation. Defendant was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of attempted second degree murder and related offenses. The court of criminal appeals affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s conduct of being a felon in possession of a firearm was unlawful activity for purposes of the self-defense statute, but the trial court’s jury instructions were harmless error; and (2) Defendant’s remaining arguments on appeal were without merit. View "State v. Perrier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether a home inspector owes a duty of reasonable care to a homeowner’s guest. Plaintiff was injured when he fell from a second story deck that had not been properly constructed but had recently been inspected by a state home inspector hired by the homeowner. Plaintiff sued the home inspector, home inspection franchise, and other defendants not relevant to this appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants successfully negated essential elements of the claims of negligent misrepresentation and negligent inspection and that summary judgment was appropriate. View "Grogan v. Uggla" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, as merged by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Defendant was convicted of three counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and other related offenses. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for each of the first degree murders. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of death plus six years. The Supreme Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that Defendant acted with the requisite premeditation to support his first degree murder convictions; (2) Defendant waived his Fourth Amendment challenge to the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress statements he made to the police; (3) the death sentence imposed in this case was not excessive or disproportionate when compared to the penalty imposed in similar cases; and (4) as to the remaining issues raised by Defendant, the court agreed with the conclusions of the Court of Criminal Appeals. View "State v. Clayton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court’s decision in West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corp., 459 S.W.3d 33 (Tenn. 2014), holding that “reasonable charges” for medical services under Tennessee’s Hospital Lien Act are the discounted amounts a hospital accepts as full payment from patients’ private insurer and not the full, undiscounted amounts billed to patients, does not apply in personal injury cases. Further, the collateral source rule applies in this personal injury case, in which the collateral benefit at issue is private insurance. Therefore, Plaintiffs may submit evidence of the injured party’s full, undiscounted medical bills as proof of reasonable medical expenses, and Defendants are precluded from submitting evidence of discounted rates accepted by medical providers from the insurer to rebut Plaintiffs’ proof that the full, undiscounted charges are reasonable. The Supreme Court thus affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals, which concluded that West did not apply to personal injury cases but that evidence of discounted amounts accepted by the injured’s medical providers may be admissible to rebut Plaintiffs’ expert testimony on the reasonableness of the amount of the full, undiscounted bills. View "Dedmon v. Steelman" on Justia Law

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In this appeal challenging Defendant’s sentence, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals, vacated the sentencing determination of the trial court, and remanded the matter to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication. Defendant was sentenced to eight years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. The court of criminal appeals reversed and ordered Defendant to be placed on full probation. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court failed to make sufficient findings for the appellate courts to review the sentence with a presumption of reasonableness; (2) the record was inadequate to conduct an independent review of the sentence imposed by the trial court; and (3) consequently, the record was not sufficient to support the court of criminal appeals’ modification of Defendant’s sentence to order full probation. View "State v. Trent" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Tennessee Uniform Trust Code is intended to give trustees broad authority to fulfill their duties as trustee and gives trustees the power to enter into predispute arbitration agreements, so long as doing so is not prohibited under the operative trust instrument. At issue in this interlocutory appeal was whether the signature of the trustee of a trust on an investment/brokerage account agreement that included a provision requiring the arbitration of disputes bound the beneficiary of the trust to the predispute arbitration provision. The Supreme Court held (1) under both the Tennessee Uniform Trust Code and the operative trust instrument, the trustee had authority to enter into the arbitration agreement contained within the account agreement; and (2) applying the principle that a third party who seeks the benefit of a contract must also bear its burdens, the trust beneficiary in this case may be bound to arbitrate claims against the investment broker that sought to enforce the account agreement. The court vacated the trial court order compelling arbitration of all claims and remanded the case to the trial court for a determination as to which, if any, of the claims asserted by the trust beneficiary seek to enforce the account agreement. View "Harvey ex rel. Gladden v. Cumberland Trust & Investment Co." on Justia Law