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In re Peterson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 15, 2016

IN RE WALTER PETERSON, JR.

          Assigned on Briefs October 4, 2016

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Hamilton County No. 15-G-007 Pamela A. Fleenor, Chancellor

         Wife challenges the trial court's decision authorizing the Department of Human Services to take her husband into protective custody pursuant to the Adult Protection Act. Because, after the trial court's decision, the adult taken into protective custody was released from DHS custody and later died, we have determined that this appeal is moot.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Pamela R. O'Dwyer, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sheila Peterson.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Kathryn A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Human Services.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On January 22, 2015, the Department of Human Services ("DHS") applied for and was granted a search warrant to enter the home of Dr. Walter Peterson, Jr.[1] The application alleged, in part, that DHS had received a report that Dr. Peterson was being abused or neglected by his wife and son. DHS and law enforcement officers entered the Peterson home on January 23, 2015. According to DHS, Dr. Peterson consented to be removed from the home to receive medical care; he was then hospitalized.

         On January 29, 2015, DHS petitioned the chancery court for authorization to consent to protective services for Dr. Peterson under the Tennessee Adult Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 71-6-101-124. The same day, the chancery court ordered that, pending a final hearing, DHS would have protective custody of Dr. Peterson. The court also appointed a temporary financial guardian, an attorney ad litem, and a guardian ad litem. Dr. Peterson's wife, Sheila Peterson, opposed the grant of protective custody and moved for the dismissal of the action and the immediate release of Dr. Peterson. Dr. Peterson was subsequently moved to a rehabilitation facility.

         After a five-day trial, the court entered an order on March 12, 2015 in which it ruled that Dr. Peterson lacked the capacity to consent to protective services, was in imminent danger, and was "in need of protective services for purposes of medical treatment and to prevent neglect." The court appointed a temporary guardian for purposes of consenting to protective services as well as a temporary guardian for financial purposes. On May 26, 2015, the court entered an order ruling on several motions, including Mrs. Peterson's motion to alter or amend the March 12, 2015 order authorizing the consent to protective services and appointment of a temporary financial guardian for Dr. Peterson. In its final order, the chancery court reiterated its conclusion that Dr. Peterson lacked capacity to consent, was in imminent danger, and needed protective services. Mrs. Peterson appealed.

         Based upon medical evidence presented at a hearing on July 9, 2015, the chancery court found that it was safe and in Dr. Peterson's best interest for him to return home under the care of his wife. In an order dated July 10, 2015, the court decreed that Dr. Peterson be discharged from the rehabilitation facility, that DHS be responsible for monitoring his care on a weekly basis, and that he remain under the protection of the court. On September 9, 2015, the ...


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