Assigned on Briefs February 23, 2015.
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Greene County No. 20110247 Hon. Kindall T. Lawson, Judge
Roger A. Woolsey, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Lanny Jones and Melissa Sue Jones.
Jerry W. Laughlin, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Irene Kesterson.
John. W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and D. Michael Swiney, J., joined.
JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.
Over the course of four months, Irene Kesterson ("Plaintiff") and her late husband, Willard Kesterson,  agreed to loan Lanny Jones and Melissa Sue Jones (collectively "Defendants") $30, 000. Defendants executed three notes, dated March 25, 1996, May 15, 1996, and July 8, 1996, payable to Plaintiff and her husband bearing an interest at the rate of 6 percent. Two of the notes bore a due date of "one year-ninety day notice, " and the third note bore a due date of "one year or ninety day notice." Defendants remitted interest through August 3, 1999. Following Defendants' failure to remit payment on the principal, Plaintiff filed suit on August 29, 2011.
Defendants responded with a motion for summary judgment, arguing that collection of the notes was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff responded by asserting that Defendants should be estopped from raising the statute of limitations as a defense. She alternatively argued that Defendants revived the obligation beyond the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff claimed that in 1999, Defendants requested to delay payment until they could buy and sell some property. She asserted that Defendants also repeatedly assured her that they would remit payment as soon as they were able to pay the debt. She claimed that based upon their agreement and the repeated assurances, she chose not to take any legal action until filing the complaint at issue.
The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, finding that genuine issues of material fact remained. The case proceeded to a bench trial. There is no transcript of the proceeding available for this court's review. Pursuant to Rule 24 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, the trial court filed a Statement of the Evidence, which we recount as follows:
Plaintiff testified that she and her husband were "great friends" with Defendants and that they loaned them approximately $30, 000. Defendants executed three notes in recognition of the debt obligation. She asserted that she intended to reserve the right to demand payment within 90 days.
Plaintiff recalled that Defendants paid the accumulated interest on the notes in August 1999 and assured her that they would pay the rest after they bought and sold some property. She also recalled that Mr. Jones assured her in June 2002 that he would fulfill the debt obligation when he sold some property. She said that he claimed that he had not sold the property each time she asked for payment. She stated that she asked for payment "several times" after her husband passed away in 2006. She asserted that both defendants advised her that she would receive payment. She acknowledged that they never specifically discussed her intention to delay filing suit but that she trusted their assurances that she would eventually receive payment.
Bill Pearson testified concerning Plaintiff's reputation for truth in the community. Following his testimony, the parties stipulated that she was a person of good character.
Mr. Jones testified that he borrowed money from Plaintiff and her husband. He admitted that he last remitted payment in August 1999. He acknowledged that he told Plaintiff he would remit payment when he sold some property that he purchased in 2000. He admitted that he sold the aforementioned property in 2011. He asserted that she did not request payment before 2006 and that his promise to pay occurred before 2010. He later stated that he did not believe that he owed her any more money and that he never promised to pay her anything. ...