ROY D. COX
CAROLYN ELLEN COX
Session February 28, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Sullivan County No. C0017446C E.
G. Moody, Chancellor
appeal arises from a combined judgment of divorce and an
award of damages in tort. After awarding the husband a
divorce, the court classified, valued, and divided the
marital property. The court also granted the husband a
judgment for compensatory and punitive damages arising from
an intentional tort committed by the wife. The wife raises
numerous issues on appeal, including the classification of
marital property, the equitable division of the marital
estate, and the amount of the damages award. Because the
court's order lacks sufficient findings of fact and
conclusions of law to explain its division of the marital
estate or the amount of punitive damages awarded, we vacate
those portions of the court's judgment and remand for
entry of an order in compliance with Rule 52.01 of the
Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. In all other respects, we
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Vacated in Part; Affirmed in Part; and Remanded
Wayne Culbertson, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Carolyn Ellen Cox.
W. Blankenship, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellee, Roy
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W. McClarty, J.,
NEAL MCBRAYER, JUDGE
eleven years of marriage, Roy D. Cox ("Husband")
filed a complaint in the Chancery Court for Sullivan County,
Tennessee, for an absolute divorce from Carolyn E. Cox
("Wife"). This was the second marriage for both
parties, and no minor children were involved. Wife filed both
an answer and a counterclaim for divorce.
months later, Husband filed an amended complaint, which
included his original allegations but also added a claim for
damages in tort. Husband claimed that Wife had attacked him
with a knife, causing injuries. In her answer, Wife admitted
that she stabbed Husband but denied that he was injured or
entitled to damages.
Proof at the Hearing
13, 2015, the court held a combined hearing on both the
divorce and Husband's tort claim. Wife stipulated that
Husband was entitled to a divorce and did not request
alimony. She also stipulated to the assault.
Proof Relevant to the Divorce Complaint
cohabitating for ten years, Husband and Wife married in 1999
and separated in 2010. At the time of the hearing, Husband
was 65 years old, and Wife was 51. The couple had accumulated
a modest amount of assets during the marriage.
owned Roy's Body Works, an automobile collision repair
shop. He had no employees and performed all of the repair
work himself. Wife testified that, after she moved in with
Husband, she also worked in the shop albeit without pay.
Wife's role was mainly limited to paperwork and tax
returns, but at times, she also made repair estimates.
parties agreed that their vehicles and other personal
property were separate property. They also agreed to an even
division of the proceeds from the sale of a camper. But they
disputed the classification and valuation of their remaining
assets,  including real property located in
Sullivan and Hawkins Counties in Tennessee.
the marriage, Husband relocated his business to property he
had purchased in Sullivan County. He later acquired the
neighboring property and built the home where the parties
lived. After the parties married, Husband added Wife's
name to the title to both tracts of the Sullivan County
during the marriage, Wife and her sister each inherited a
half-interest in real property in Hawkins County. Although
the Hawkins County property is titled in Wife's name
alone, the parties used marital funds to purchase the
sister's interest and to make improvements on the
area of disagreement at trial was the classification of five
accounts at Eastman Credit Union. Wife testified that the
accounts were jointly owned. Husband maintained that the
accounts were his separate property. But, on
cross-examination, Husband admitted that the credit union
accounts were owned by "Roy or Carolyn."
accounts were used solely for Husband's business,
one checking account contained only Husband's social
security benefits. The remaining two accounts, a primary
share account and an investment certificate of deposit, were
pledged as collateral for two loans made to Husband. The
reasons for Husband's borrowing were not entirely clear
from the record.
to the testimony, in 2009, a branch manager of Eastman Credit
Union convinced Husband that he could earn money by investing
in or loaning money to a company called Thomcrete
Construction, Inc. To obtain the necessary funds, Husband
borrowed from the credit union. Specifically, on July 20,
2010, shortly before filing for divorce, Husband borrowed
approximately $43, 000, secured by the funds in the primary
share account. And on September 9, 2010, he borrowed another
approximately $107, 000, secured by the certificate of
it was an investment or loan, Husband's plan did not
yield the anticipated gains. Thomcrete Construction failed to
make any payments to Husband, and at the time of the hearing,
the outstanding balance on Husband's loans was $134,
408.04. To prevent the credit union from exercising its
rights in the pledged accounts, Husband was making payments
on the loans, but only an amount sufficient to cover accrued
admitted that he pledged the credit union accounts without
consulting Wife. As of the hearing date, his attempts to
restructure his loans with the credit union or to recover
from Thomcrete Construction had proven unsuccessful. Husband
agreed that, if he ever recouped any of his losses, he would
share half of the recovery with Wife.
trial, Wife also asked the court to hold Husband accountable
for failing to maintain her health and automobile insurance
during the divorce proceedings in violation of the statutory
injunction. Husband agreed that he stopped payment
after Wife stabbed him but disputed the amount of Wife's
health insurance, Wife claimed that she paid both a $1,
209.12 reinstatement fee and $7, 949.61 in monthly premiums.
She admitted, however, that after the separation, all her
expenses, including the health insurance premiums and the
reinstatement fee, were paid from her father's funds.
Wife maintained that her father expected to be repaid. When
asked for documentation of her father's payments, Wife
could only show that he paid approximately $2, 087 for the
reinstatement fee and monthly premiums.
Wife claimed that she paid $2, 300 in automobile insurance
premiums, but later admitted her father actually paid her
premiums. And Wife only presented documentary evidence of two
payments, totaling $1, 146.
Proof Relevant to the Tort Claim
March 2011, Wife entered the marital residence and stabbed
Husband twice in the neck. She escaped while Husband was
calling for assistance, but she was later arrested and
convicted of simple assault. Paramedics treated Husband's
injuries on site because he refused to go to a hospital.
that time, Husband had suffered from a recurring infection
that had limited his ability to work. The symptoms first
appeared several days after the stabbing. He did not feel
well, and his wound turned red and puffy. His doctor
determined that he had a bacterial infection and prescribed
antibiotics. After a few doctor visits, the infection
apparently cleared. But, according to Husband, the infection
reappeared several times over the ensuing months. Husband
claimed that he was taking antibiotics to treat the infection
at the time of trial. But he did not submit any medical bills
or medical testimony as evidence at trial.
testified that, as a result of his injuries, he missed one
month of work and lost approximately $20, 000 in income. But
on cross-examination he admitted that he had never reported
$20, 000 in business income in previous years. He also agreed
that the lost income figure was an estimate based on
anticipated walk-in business. Husband eventually conceded
that he did not really know how much income he had lost when