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In re Estate of Battle

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 12, 2017

IN RE: ESTATE OF DONALD CARL BATTLE

          Session August 16, 2017

         Direct Appeal from the Probate Court for Davidson County No. 15P-116 David Randall Kennedy, Judge

         This is a partition case. Appellants petitioned the trial court to order a partition sale of property they own as tenants in common with Appellee. The court ordered the property to be appraised and, upon receipt of the appraisal, held that the Appellee could buy out Appellants' interest in the property for their portion of the appraised value. Appellants appeal the trial court's failure to order a sale of the Property in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-27-201. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

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

          Robert John Notestine, III, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Ruby Jean Brown-Battle, Carlton Battle, Adrienne Battle-Koger, and Christopher L. Battle.

          John Richard Manson and Andre Philip Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Bayside Builders, LTD.

          Brandon O. Gibson, J. delivered the opinion of the court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, and Kenny Armstrong, J.J., joined.

          OPINION

          BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE.

         Donald Carl Battle died intestate on December 6, 2014. Mr. Battle's wife and three adult children are the heirs to his estate. On October 9, 2015, the administrator for Mr. Battle's estate and his heirs at law (collectively the "Estate") filed a complaint to partition property located at 1033 North 12th Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee (the "Property"). The Estate asserted that it co-owned the Property with Bayside Buildings, Ltd. ("Bayside"), as tenants in common, and that the parties had been unable to reach an agreement regarding the sale or division of the Property between them. Further, the Estate contended that it would be "in the best interest of the parties that the Property be sold for cash at a private or public sale and that the proceeds be divided according to the respective rights and interest of the co-owners, as provided in T.C.A. 29-27-101 through T.C.A. 29-27-219."

         The Property was also the subject of a previous partition suit filed in 1990 by Bayside's predecessors in interest against Mr. Battle. That litigation ended in 1992 with an agreed order stipulating that Mr. Battle owned a 25% interest in the Property and Bayside's predecessor owned a 75% interest.[1] Based on this prior agreed order, Bayside filed a motion for summary judgment in this case arguing that the doctrine of res judicata barred the parties from re-litigating the issue of partition and the percentages of the parties' interests in the Property. Bayside also proposed to have the Property appraised and offered to purchase the Estate's 25% interest.

         On August 29, 2016, the trial court partially granted Bayside's motion for summary judgment. The court held that there was no dispute that the Estate owns a 25% interest in the Property and Bayside owns the remaining 75%. The percentages of ownership interest are not at issue on appeal. The court found, however, that factual determinations remained as to the value of the Property and the amount of any contributions, advancements, or other recoupments to which the parties may be entitled. Therefore, the court ordered that the Property be appraised, and if the parties could not agree on a commercial appraiser by September 9, 2016, the court would choose the appraiser. The court then set the matter for a "review hearing" on October 26, 2016.

         At the review hearing on October 26, counsel for the Estate announced that the parties had agreed on an appraiser, and the court set the next review conference for December 7, 2016. On December 1, 2016, Bayside filed the appraisal of the Property with the court. According to this appraisal, a fee simple interest in the Property was worth $340, 000.00. At the review conference on December 7, 2016, Bayside reasserted its desire to purchase the Estate's interest in the Property. By order entered December 15, 2016, the trial court granted Bayside's request and ordered Bayside to tender $85, 000.00 (being 25% of $340, 000.00) to the Estate by January 13, 2017, to purchase the Estate's portion of the Property. The court further ordered that in the event Bayside did not pay the Estate $85, 000.00 for their 25% of the appraised value by January 13, 2017, the Property would be immediately placed on the market for sale.

         On December 29, 2016, Bayside filed a motion with the trial court to allow it to deposit the $85, 000.00 into the clerk's office until the Estate signed a quitclaim deed transferring its interest to Bayside. The Estate filed an objection to Bayside's motion on January 9, 2017. In this response, the Estate generally objected to the trial court's order that required the Estate to convey its interest in the Property to Bayside based on the value set forth in the appraisal rather than a value brought by a sale of the Property. The Estate asserted that the trial court should have ordered the Property to be sold pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-27-201 as the Estate requested in its original petition for partition. On January 13, 2017, the trial court rejected the Estate's arguments and again ordered Bayside be allowed to purchase the Estate's 25% interest in the Property based on the valuation in the appraisal. The court further granted Bayside's motion to deposit its funds in the clerk's office pending delivery of a quitclaim deed by the Estate. This January 13, 2017 order stated that it was a final order for purposes of Rule 54.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. On January 24, 2017, the Estate filed a notice of appeal of the trial court's January 13, 2017 order.

         II. ...


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