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Hopper v. Debboli

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 8, 2017

NANCY LYNN HOPPER
v.
ANTHONY ANGELO DEBBOLI

          Session January 17, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Rutherford County No. 03-5930DR Howard W. Wilson, Chancellor

         Former Husband and Wife owned a business together while they were married. In a post-divorce order, the trial court decreed that the business was to be wrapped up and sold. Former Husband failed to comply with the order and Former Wife filed a motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a petition for civil contempt. The court granted Former Wife a TRO but did not rule on the petition for contempt. Former Wife filed a motion to set a hearing on her petition for contempt two years later, and the trial court dismissed the motion as moot. Former Wife appealed, and we reverse the trial court's judgment. We conclude that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this appeal because the trial court failed to resolve all outstanding issues in the case.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed and Remanded

          Robert J. Foy, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nancy Lynn Hopper.

          Sandra L.M. Smith, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Anthony Angelo Debboli.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Nancy Lynn Hopper and Anthony Angelo Debboli were married from 1990 until May 2003. The final order of divorce incorporated a Marital Dissolution Agreement ("MDA") that contemplated the continuation of their business, Aristocat Resort. The trial court entered an order ten years later, on August 29, 2013, directing Mr. Debboli to wrap up the business within the following three months. The trial court awarded Ms. Hopper control over the sale of the business, and the proceeds were to be split evenly.

         On February 18, 2014, Ms. Hopper filed a motion for a TRO or injunction and a petition for contempt and/or enforcement based on Mr. Debboli's failure to wrap up the business as the trial court ordered on August 29, 2013. In her motion for a TRO, Ms. Hopper asked the court to enjoin Mr. Debboli from exercising possession or control over Aristocat Resort. In her petition for contempt, Ms. Hopper asked the court to find Mr. Debboli in willful civil contempt and to impose sanctions; to enforce the order for sale of the business; to award her a judgment for net profits earned; and to award her reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         The trial court held a hearing on March 14, 2014, and it issued an order granting Ms. Hopper a TRO on April 7, 2014. The court ordered that Mr. Debboli:

shall be restrained from acting, through an agent or otherwise, in any way to contravene the order of August 29, 2013. More specifically, [Mr. Debboli] shall be restrained from operating Aristocat Resort and assets of that business, the building, the equipment, and any other asset of that business.

         The court did not mention Ms. Hopper's petition for contempt or the relief she sought either at the hearing or in its written order, but the judge told Ms. Hopper's attorney at the hearing, "Mr. Foy, I'll grant that motion to the extent you've suggested. We'll deny the balance of the relief."

         The trial court appointed a special master to sell the parties' business, Aristocat Resort, and the business was sold at auction in August 2014. Following the sale of the business, the trial court entered an order on August 27, 2014, directing that Mr. Debboli be paid $94.00 from the net proceeds of the auction due to an early termination fee of his cell phone contract that he incurred when the business was sold. The court entered another order the following day directing the clerk and master to distribute the net proceeds of the business equally to the parties after the payment of associated costs.

         Then, on August 20, 2015, nearly a year later, Ms. Hopper filed a motion to set a final hearing on the petition for contempt and/or enforcement she filed in February 2014 to address "unresolved" issues. The court held a hearing on January 13, 2016, and it denied Ms. Hopper's motion by order entered on ...


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