Gina C. Higgins, Judge


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.


Adams v. Conner, No. W2023-00151-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 28, 2023).  This case originated in general sessions court with the filing of a pro se civil warrant. The defendant also filed a cross-complaint against the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s civil warrant was quickly dismissed in the general sessions court. The defendant/cross-plaintiff eventually obtained a judgment against the plaintiff/cross-defendant. The plaintiff/cross-defendant promptly filed a notice of appeal. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal of the dismissal of his civil warrant due to his notice of appeal being untimely. The trial court also dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal of the judgment on the cross-complaint for failure to prosecute. We reverse both rulings and reinstate the plaintiff’s appeal.


CIC Services, LLC v. Prabhu, No. W2022-01431-COA-R3-CV (Tenn.Ct. App. Sept. 18, 2023). This case involves a dispute arising from services provided by the appellee, CIC Services, LLC (“CIC”), a creator and manager of “captive” insurance companies, to the appellant corporation, SRM Group, Inc. (“SRM”).  SRM hired CIC to form and manage two captive insurance companies to serve SRM in risk management, and the parties memorialized their relationship in two management agreements, one for each of the newly formed captive insurance companies.  When CIC subsequently ended its contractual relationship with SRM for cause, SRM demanded arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clauses contained in the agreements.  The arbitrator dismissed all of SRM’s claims.  CIC then demanded a second arbitration, seeking attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs incurred during the first arbitration and stating claims for breach of contract and fraudulent inducement against SRM.  The second arbitrator ultimately awarded to CIC $261,487.04 in attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs incurred during the first arbitration proceeding, pursuant to the indemnity clauses in the parties’ management agreements, and $137,337.50 in attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs because CIC was the substantially prevailing party in the second arbitration.  When SRM did not respond to CIC’s demand for payment of this award, CIC moved for confirmation of the award in the Shelby County Circuit Court (“trial court”).   SRM responded by filing a motion with the trial court to modify or vacate the award.  After the parties fully briefed the issues, the trial court confirmed the award in full and concomitantly denied SRM’s motion to modify or vacate.  SRM timely appealed.  Upon review, we  affirm the trial court’s confirmation of the arbitration award, determining that because appellant Suresh Prabhu voluntarily participated in both arbitrations without raising objection to the potential attachment of liability against him as an individual, Mr. Prabhu and SRM have waived objection to the attachment of individual liability to Mr. Prabhu.  We further determine that the trial court properly denied SRM’s motion to vacate the award because the second arbitrator acted within her discretion to direct the arbitration procedure and SRM has failed to show any of the criteria necessary to meet the high standard for vacatur pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act or the Commercial Rules of the American Arbitration Association.

Adams v. Brittenum, No. W2023-00800-COA-T10B-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 6, 2023).  A pro se petitioner seeks accelerated interlocutory review of an order denying a motion for recusal. Because the filing does not comply with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we dismiss the appeal.


Allen v. American Yeast, Inc., No. W2021-00956-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 15, 2023). In a prior appeal involving this case, this Court vacated the trial court’s decision to require the Appellants herein to interplead funds, but we otherwise affirmed the trial court’s actions, including the dismissal of the underlying case. Following our remand for further proceedings consistent with the appellate opinion, such as the collection of costs, the trial court ruled, notwithstanding our prior affirmance of the case’s dismissal, that the case “shall be Dismissed With Prejudice” but upon the payment of $300,000.00 into the registry of the court. The trial court further dismissed, without prejudice, a petition to enforce an attorney’s lien that plaintiff’s former attorneys had attempted to get the trial court to adjudicate in the present litigation. Because this Court’s prior opinion affirmed the trial court’s previous dismissal, thus ending the underlying case, we conclude that the trial court’s efforts to condition dismissal of the case on remand was in error. Regarding the petition for enforcement of an attorney’s lien, the issue raised for our review on appeal is whether the trial court should have transferred the matter to another court division as opposed to dismissing the petition without prejudice. For the reasons stated herein, we discern no error with the trial court’s disposition on that issue.


Halliburton v. Ballin, W2022-01208-COA-T10B-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2022).  This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal from the denial of motions for recusal of the trial judge. Having carefully reviewed the record provided by the appellant, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motions.


Shaw v. Shaw, W2018-00677-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 10, 2022).  This appeal involves a multitude of challenges brought to the orders of the trial court in a post-divorce dispute involving minor children. We vacate the trial court’s decision to sua sponte order a new parenting plan, as well as to enter a temporary and permanent injunction against Mother. We also reverse the trial court’s decision to award Father discretionary costs for expert fees regarding an issue on which he did not prevail. Otherwise, we affirm the rulings of the trial court.


The Villages of Cool Springs Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Goetz, W2021-00556-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 19, 2022).  In this dispute between Appellant, homeowner, and Appellee, homeowners’ association, the trial court granted Appellee’s motion for summary judgment. Appellant’s property is bound by a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Appellant painted his home’s trim without first seeking approval from the homeowners’ association in violation of the declaration. Appellant failed to meet his burden of proof to show a dispute of material fact regarding his affirmative defenses. As such, the trial court did not err in granting the Appellee’s motion for summary judgment, nor in awarding attorney’s fees to Appellee under the declaration. Affirmed and remanded.


Myers as Executor of the Estate of Charles Price Boone v. Boone, No. W2020-01167-COA-R3-CV  (Tenn. Ct. App. June 8, 2022).  This appeal stems from a divorce proceeding, in which the Shelby County Circuit Court (“Trial Court”) found that two billboard marketing agreements for billboards located at 5871 Poplar Avenue and 0 Ricky Bell Cove were property belonging to the corporation, St. Charles Place, Inc., a corporation owned solely by Husband. The Trial Court found that the parties’ marriage was short-term in nature and distributed the marital property, awarding Dawna Divine Boone (“Wife”) 60% of the marital estate and Charles Price Boone (“Husband”) 40% of the marital estate. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the Trial Court in all respects. 

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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