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Murray v. Miracle

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 27, 2017

BOBBY MURRAY, ET AL.
v.
DENNIS MIRACLE, ET AL.

          Session November 21, 2016.

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Roane County No. 16543 Frank V. Williams, III, Chancellor

         This is the third appeal in this suit; on remand from the prior appeal the court considered whether a discovery sanction previously imposed upon Plaintiffs was reasonable and the amount of damages to be awarded Defendants for defending the previous appeal, which was deemed frivolous. The trial court upheld the discovery sanction and awarded Defendants $8, 488.50 in damages for the prior appeal. Plaintiffs appeal, contending that the trial court abused its discretion in affirming the prior sanction and in making the award for the frivolous appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court; we declare this appeal frivolous and remand the case for a determination of damages.

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

          Loretta Murray and Bobby Murray, Harriman, Tennessee, Appellants, pro se

          Mark N. Foster, Rockwood, Tennessee, for the appellees, Dennis Miracle and Robert Daniel Smith.

          Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE

         This is the third appeal in this property dispute brought by Loretta and Bobby Murray ("Plaintiffs") against Dennis Miracle and Robert Daniel Smith ("Defendants"). In the first appeal, we reversed the dismissal of the Plaintiff's complaint for failure to comply with a discovery order and remanded the case. On remand, the chancellor ordered Defendants to repay the discovery sanctions to the Plaintiff and held a trial on the merits; the chancellor found that Plaintiffs had a right to improve the roadway at issue, appointed a special commissioner to oversee certain work on the property, and detailed how the work should be completed. Plaintiffs appealed and, in the second appeal, we affirmed the trial court's judgment appointing a commissioner to supervise the roadway improvements; pertinent to the issues involved in this appeal, we held:

The Trial Court's order requiring Defendants to repay to Plaintiffs the $438.82 was based upon a misunderstanding of our Opinion in Murray I. Given this, we vacate the Trial Court's September 25, 2012 order and reinstate the Trial Court's September 22, 2010 order awarding Defendants $438.82 for reasonable expenses including attorney's fees as a discovery sanction. Upon remand, the Trial Court is directed to address Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the discovery sanction requiring Plaintiffs to pay $438.82 to Defendants.

Murray v. Miracle, 457 S.W.3d 399, 404 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014). Further, we determined that the appeal was frivolous and remanded for an award of damages to Defendants for the frivolous appeal.

         On remand, Defendants filed a motion seeking the fees and costs they incurred in the appeal in Murray II. Plaintiffs responded to the motion. A hearing was held, and the trial court ordered Defendants counsel to release the $438.82 sanction, which he held in trust, to Defendants. The order also awarded Defendants damages in the amount of $8, 000 for defending the frivolous appeal. After entry of the order, on its own motion, the trial court entered an order of recusal after Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court against the court, their former counsel, and other defendants. Another chancellor was appointed to hear the case.

         The court held a hearing de novo on the matters raised in the order of remand and entered an order on April 18, 2016, denying Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of sanctions, ordering counsel for Defendants to release the $438.82 being held in counsel's trust account, and granting judgment in the amount of $8, 488.50 to Defendants for the damages from the appeal in Murray II.

         The court made extensive findings of fact and found that, with the exception of two expenses totaling $115.00, Defendants established that all of the fees and expenses were "reasonable, necessary, and constitute damages suffered by the Defendants due to Plaintiffs' frivolous appeal." The Plaintiffs sought a stay of execution pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 7, which was ...


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