Amanda J. McClendon, Judge

Biography

Reports of Cases Reviewed by Appellate Courts – Beginning Jan. 1, 2022

Text is the appellate court’s summary of the opinion.

Scroll down for important information.

 

Danielson v. Armstrong, No. M2022-01725-COA-R3-CV  (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 21, 2023) (memorandum opinion).  This appeal concerns the validity and enforceability of an oral loan agreement between former business partners. Because Appellant’s brief fails to comply with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the appeal is dismissed.  Updated opinion.

 

T.J. Martell Foundation for Cancer Research v. KraftCPAs PLLC., M2022-01821-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2023) (memorandum opinion).  This appeal followed the trial court’s certification of a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Because we conclude that the trial court’s certification was improvidently granted, we dismiss the appeal.

In Re Conservatorship of Tara Young, No. M2022-01448-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2023) (memorandum opinion).  This case involves an appeal from the trial court’s appointment of a permanent conservator to oversee the person and property of the appellant, Tara Young. Ms. Young’s brother, Daniel Wood, petitioned for a conservatorship after he discovered that Ms. Young had been admitted to the Vanderbilt Adult Psychiatric Hospital following a car accident. After several months of proceedings and a two-day trial, the trial court concluded that a conservatorship was warranted and appointed a conservator for the person and property of Ms. Young. The trial court further determined that medical decisions should remain vested with Ms. Young. Ms. Young timely appealed. On appeal, Mr. Wood did not file a brief in response to Ms. Young’s appellate brief. Upon review, we conclude that Ms. Young’s
brief lacks a statement of the issues presented for review and therefore does not comport with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27(a)(4). Inasmuch as Ms. Young has not presented any issues on appeal as required by Rule 27, we dismiss this appeal.

 

Locke v. Ashton,  No. M2022-01820-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept 25, 2023).  This is a health care liability action filed by a patient and her husband alleging serious injury as a result of surgery. The plaintiffs learned that the defendants had taken surveillance videos and sought discovery of those videos. The trial court allowed discovery of only the videos that the defendants intended to use at trial for impeachment purposes. The trial court gave the plaintiffs permission to seek an appeal under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 9. This Court granted the appeal. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

 

State of Tennessee v. Seidel, No. M2022-01169-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 15, 2023).  Defendant, Jeffrey Wayne Seidel, challenges the denial of his pre-sentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea to second offense driving under the influence (“DUI”). Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion by failing to consider the factors set out by our supreme court in State v. Phelps, 329 S.W.3d 436, 447 (Tenn. 2010), and that he established a “fair and just reason” to permit the withdrawal of his guilty plea. After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

McCall v. United Parcel Service,  No. M2022-01112-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 15, 2023).  A mother and father filed a personal injury action in 2022 on behalf of their adult daughter, who was allegedly injured in a car accident in 2007 when she was four years old. The daughter was not represented by counsel, and her parents purported to represent her. The trial court dismissed the daughter’s claims due to the running of the statute of limitations. On appeal, the daughter argues (through her mother/conservator) that the dismissal was in error because she lacks mental capacity. Because the daughter did not file suit pro se and was not represented by counsel, we conclude that the trial court properly granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


Eudaley v. U.S. Bank National Ass’n
,  No. M2021-00344-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 29, 2022).  A loan was secured by a deed of trust on the borrower’s real property. When the borrower repaid the loan in full, the bank paid a fee to record a deed of release. The bank then sought reimbursement of the fee from the borrower. The borrower filed a putative class action suit, alleging that Tennessee law prohibited the bank from seeking reimbursement of the recording fee. The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that federal regulations preempted the borrower’s claims. We affirm.

 

Jackson v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, No. M2022-00476-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 29, 2022).  Patient, by next of kin, sued hospital alleging negligence during his treatment. Trial court granted hospital’s motion to dismiss based on patient’s failure to file the complaint prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Patient appealed the dismissal. Because the trial court correctly determined that the statute of limitations commenced running when the patient was discharged, we affirm.

 

Moreno v. Jazzabi, Executrix of Estate of Ben Jazzabi, No. M2021-00024-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 29, 2022).  A landlord and tenant entered into a lease-purchase agreement.  Near the end of the lease term, the tenant sought to exercise the purchase option.  The landlord claimed that the tenant could not do so because she defaulted on rent payments.  The landlord also argued that he terminated the agreement before the tenant exercised the option.  The trial court rejected both arguments and granted the tenant specific performance of the purchase option.  We affirm.

 

Wilson v. Wilson, M2021-01307-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 27, 2022).  In this appeal, we review the trial court’s dismissal of the action upon its finding that it was an “abusive civil action,” pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-41-101 to -107, and res judicata. The appellee also seeks her attorney’s fees for this appeal. Discerning no error in the judgment of the trial court, we affirm the dismissal of the suit as to the former wife and award her the attorney’s fees she incurred defending this appeal. We remand for further proceedings.

 

Arnold v. Malchow, M2021-00695-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 15, 2022).  Appellant appeals from various orders entered against him in two consolidated cases. Because we lack subject matter jurisdiction, we dismiss this appeal.

 

Understanding the Limitations and Use of the Information Found in This Book

Tennessee’s trial judges resolve hundreds of thousands of legal and factual issues in tens of thousands of cases every single year.  No appeal is filed in the vast percentage of those cases, indicating that while the “losing” party may not like a ruling on a particular issue, that party understands there was an appropriate reason for the judge’s decision or, at a minimum, the judge was acting within his or her discretion.

 

Of course, a small number of decisions of trial judges do result in an appeal. Experienced trial lawyers know that the number of cases appealed out of a particular trial judge’s court does not, in and of itself, reveal much about the trial judge. For example, some judges hear more complex cases than others, and those cases are more likely to be appealed. Convictions in child sex abuse cases are frequently appealed, as are many criminal cases resulting in long sentences. There are a large number of parental rights termination cases that find their way to the appellate courts.  Judges who routinely try those types of cases will, other things being equal, see more of their cases reviewed by appellate courts than judges who do not see such cases.

 

Second, certain litigants (and certain lawyers) are more likely to appeal a case than others.  Thus, judges who have those litigants or lawyers regularly appear in their courtrooms will find more cases reviewed by the appellate courts.

 

For these and other reasons, the reader is cautioned not to read too much into the number of cases appealed from a court.  Stated differently, there is no reason to believe that a judge who has ten cases reviewed by an appellate court in a single year is a “worse” judge than one who has one case appealed, or that a judge who has three cases appealed is a “better” judge than one who has nine cases appealed.

 

Next, the number of times a judge’s ruling is reversed by an appellate court is not necessarily indicative of the quality of his or her work. For example, experienced lawyers know that there are “holes in the law,” i.e., cases where there is no law directly on point and the judge is forced to predict what an appellate court would rule on the issue. The fact that a judge decided an open legal issue one way and an appellate court decided it another way does not mean that the trial judge was “wrong” or does not understand the law. It simply means that the trial judge had a different view of what the law should be than the appellate court that decided the issue. A trial judge is not blessed with a crystal ball that can with 100 percent accuracy forecast how an appellate court will rule on an undecided legal issue.

 

In addition, the trial court is sometimes not provided with the same in-depth legal arguments and law that is supplied to the appellate court by the parties, or which is provided by law clerks at the appellate level (many trial courts do not have law clerks). The trial judge may have reached the same conclusion as the appellate court if he or she had been supplied with additional law or argument.

 

Finally, the law changes constantly, and the trial judge may rule on a case based on today’s law, which may evolve between the time of that ruling and the issuance of an opinion of the appellate court. In such cases, the reversal of the case by the appellate court is a question of timing of the original court decision as compared to changes in the law, not one of error by the trial court.

 

So, what is the value of this book?  How can the trial lawyer use it to help his or her clients given the limitations expressed above? Permit me to digress slightly.

 

You have seen the coffee cups or t-shirts that proclaim, “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.”

 

Some read this phrase as suggesting that the “great lawyer” is one who has an improper relationship with the judge – that he or she can use a personal relationship to improperly influence the judge.  But most lawyers know better.  Most lawyers understand that “knowing the judge” means knowing the judge’s background, preferences concerning the presentation of evidence (including exhibits), arguments of motions, drafting of proposed orders, and given that experience, how he or she is likely to rule on a particular issue.  “Knowing the judge” also means knowing the local rules, local forms, local customs, and what things irritate the judge (and every judge is irritated by at least one thing that lawyers or litigants may do).

 

Many lawyers, particularly those in more rural areas of the state or who limit their practice to one area of law, understand the personality and preferences of the judges they see on a regular basis. Many of these lawyers may have a fair advantage appearing before that judge. (The advantage is “fair” because it results from experience and knowledge.)  That advantage – knowing how the judge thinks and his or her preferences – is not outcome-determinative, but it still may be an advantage, similar to a sports team playing on their home field.

 

Why did I say it “may” be an advantage, given what I said earlier about the benefits of “knowing the judge?”  Because simply knowing the judge’s thought processes and preferences is not enough. You still need to have the law and the facts on your client’s side.  And you need to be prepared to be able to give the judge what he or she needs to know to make a ruling.

 

So, the purpose of “The Book” is to give Tennessee lawyers case-related information to help them understand the trial judge who will rule on their client’s case or preside over a jury trial. By looking at past appellate court rulings arising from cases decided by the trial judge, anyone unfamiliar with a judge can get a “feel” for the judge. The case data contained herein does not compare with daily or weekly appearances in front of the judge on issues like a given case, but it is readily available information that give you an idea of how the judge has ruled in the past on a variety of matters.

 

The cases included are those originally decided by the trial judge that were in appellate court opinions released on or after January 1, 2022.  Note that there are a substantial number of judges who first took office in 2022 and thus it is reasonable to assume that there will be no appellate decisions for such judges until late 2023 or 2024.

 

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