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Holt v. Trustee of Willoughby Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetary

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 22, 2015

JOSEPH J. HOLT
v.
TRUSTEE OF THE WILLOUGHBY CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CEMETARY, ET AL.

Assigned on Briefs April 30, 2015

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Greene County No. 20130107 Douglas T. Jenkins, Chancellor

Jeffrey A. Cobble, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Hal H. Lane.

Douglas L. Payne, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Joseph J. Holt as Personal Representative of the Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, and the Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer.

Judy S. Robinson, Greeneville, Tennessee, Administratrix ad litem for the Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer.

Whittney N.L. Good, Greeneville, Tennessee, Guardian ad litem for unknown heirs of the Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer.

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., C.J., and JOHN W. MCCLARTY, J., joined.

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE

Joseph J. Holt, Personal Representative of the Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking, in part, to have the Trial Court construe the Last Will of Georgia Myers Smelcer ("the Will") with regard to trusts created by the Will and the Will's residuary clause. The instant suit was consolidated for purposes of trial with the suit titled In Re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, Trial Court number 12P00043. Hal H. Lane appealed the Trial Court's judgment in In Re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, and we affirmed the Trial Court's judgment in that case in our Opinion In re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, No. E2014-01499-COA-R3-CV, filed contemporaneously with this Opinion.

George E. Myers filed a Motion for Determination of Beneficiaries in the instant suit alleging, in part, that he was an heir of Georgia Myers Smelcer and therefore "entitled to be the beneficiary of all assets not specifically delineated in the Will." Mr. Lane filed a response to Mr. Myers's motion requesting the Trial Court "enter an order overruling the motion and dismissing the claim of George E. Myers."

In its Declaratory Judgment entered on May 20, 2014, the Trial Court, inter alia and as pertinent to this appeal, entered an order as requested by Mr. Lane and denied Mr. Myers's motion seeking to be declared an heir of Georgia Myers Smelcer. Mr. Lane appealed the Trial Court's Declaratory Judgment to this Court.

Mr. Lane filed a motion seeking leave to supplement his principal brief on appeal to add references to the record on appeal. Mr. Lane's brief on appeal is deficient in that it fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27 and R. Ct. App. 6. Given the dispositive issue in this appeal, however, in the exercise of our discretion pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 2 we will proceed to consider the appeal. Diggs v. LaSalle Nat'l Bank Assoc., 387 S.W.3d 559, 563-64 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012). We, therefore, deny Mr. Lane's motion to supplement his principal brief as moot.

In his brief on appeal Mr. Lane attempts to raise the same issue that he raised In re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer. We addressed this issue fully and completely in our Opinion in In re: Estate of Georgia Myers Smelcer, No. E2014-01499-COA-R3-CV, filed contemporaneously with this Opinion.

The dispositive issue in the appeal now before us is whether Mr. Lane has standing to appeal the Trial Court's May 20, 2104 Declaratory Judgment. This presents an issue of law, which we review de novo with no presumption of correctness. S. Constructors, Inc. v. Loudon County Bd. of Educ., 58 S.W.3d 706, 710 (Tenn. 2001).

Standing is a judge-made doctrine by which a court determines whether a party should be permitted to pursue a claim. City of New Johnsonville v. Handley, No. M2003–00549–COA–R3–CV, 2005 WL 1981810, at *15 n.23 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 16, 2005), Rule 11 appl. perm. appeal denied Feb. 6, 2006. We have stated that the basis for this decision is "whether the plaintiff has alleged a sufficiently personal stake in the outcome of the litigation to warrant a judicial intervention." Wood v. Metro. Nashville & Davidson County Gov't, 196 S.W.3d 152, 157 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005). As this Court has explained:

Standing limits access to the courts to those who have a justiciable claim. Thomas v. Tenn. Dep't of Transp., No. M2010–01925–COA–R3– CV, 2011 WL 3433015, at *6; 2011 Tenn.App. LEXIS 426, at *18–19 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2011); Wood v. Metro. Nashville & Davidson Co. Gov't, 196 S.W.3d 152, 157 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005); Metro. Air Research Testing Auth., Inc. v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Co., 842 S.W.2d 611, 615 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992). In order to have standing to appeal a trial court's order, a party must be "aggrieved" by the order. Clark v. Perry, No. 02A01–9704–CH–00080, 1998 WL 34190562, at *7; 1998 Tenn.App. LEXIS 194, at *19 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 1998) (citing Ray v. Trapp, 609 S.W.2d 508, 512 (Tenn. 1980); Koontz v. Epperson Elec. Co., 643 S.W.2d 333, 335 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1982)).

In re: Montana R.T., No. E2011-00755-COA-R3-PT, 2012 WL 2499498, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012), no appl. perm. appeal filed.

We further have explained:

Only a party aggrieved by the trial court's order may appeal and obtain review of that order. Ray v. Trapp, 609 S.W.2d 508, 512 (Tenn. 1980); Koontz v. Epperson Elec. Co., 643 S.W.2d 333, 335 (Tenn.App. 1982). A party is "aggrieved" when he has an interest recognized by law which is injuriously affected by the order, or when his property rights or personal interests are directly affected by operation of the order. Koontz, 643 S.W.2d at 335.

Clark v. Perry, No. 02A01-9704-CH-00080, 1998 WL 34190562, at *7 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998), no appl. perm. appeal filed.

The Trial Court granted the only relief sought by Mr. Lane in this suit when it denied Mr. Myers's claim. As Mr. Lane was granted the only relief he sought in this suit, he cannot be considered an aggreived party to the Trial Court's Declaratory Judgment. As Mr. Lane is not an aggreived party to this suit, he lacks standing to appeal the Trial Court's Declaratory Judgment.

The judgment of the Trial Court is affirmed, and this cause is remanded to the Trial Court for collection of the costs below. The costs on appeal are assessed against the appellant, Hal H. Lane, and his surety.


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