Session August 14, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 17C2661 Thomas
W. Brothers, Judge.
case, the plaintiff-appellant, Nationwide Investments, LLC,
brought suit against Pinnacle Bank for, among other things,
an alleged violation of the state's Financial Records
Privacy Act. The case was dismissed at summary judgment, and
sanctions were imposed against the plaintiff and its counsel.
Although the plaintiff and its counsel now appeal, raising
several issues for our review, for the reasons stated herein,
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Charles Walker, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Nationwide Investments, LLC.
Charles Walker, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro se. 
M. Smythe, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Pinnacle
Bank Financial Partners, Inc, d/b/a Pinnacle Bank.
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Carma Dennis McGee, J.,
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
appeal arises out of a lawsuit between Nationwide
Investments, LLC ("Nationwide") and Pinnacle Bank
("the Bank"). Nationwide's counsel in this
appeal, Charles Walker, is also its sole member and owner.
Prior to the onset of the present litigation, Mr. Walker was
a debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The Bank was a
secured creditor in the bankruptcy case, with multiple
time of the bankruptcy case filing, on February 29, 2016, Mr.
Walker owned approximately forty residential properties. It
should be further noted that, immediately prior to the
bankruptcy case filing, Family Trust Services, LLC
("First Family") had obtained a prejudgment attachment
order in the Davidson County Chancery Court against all
rental real properties owned by Mr. Walker. In Mr.
Walker's Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, which had been
filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western
District of Tennessee, he requested that the attachment order
be stayed. The bankruptcy matter was thereafter transferred
to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District
March 23, 2016, attorney David Smythe filed a notice of
appearance on behalf of the Bank in the bankruptcy case.
Nearly two months later, on May 16, 2016, Steven Lefkovitz
filed a notice of appearance on behalf of Mr. Walker in the
in February 2015, the Bank had entered into a mortgage loan
transaction with Nationwide with regard to a property at 1125
Sunnymeade Drive in Nashville. As is relevant here, the Bank
received a lender's title policy as part of this
transaction. On June 2, 2016, in connection with Mr.
Walker's bankruptcy proceeding, Mr. Smythe received
service of a subpoena duces tecum issued by attorney Paul
Krog on behalf of his client, First Family, seeking
production of the title policy for the 1125 Sunnymeade Drive
property. Indeed, in pertinent part, the subpoena requested
that the Bank produce, on June 20, 2016, the following:
policy of title insurance written for the benefit of the
lender in connection with the transaction in the course of
which the deed of trust presently found in the records of the
Davidson County Register of Deeds as document number
20150225-0016193 and appended hereto was executed.
no other records were requested by the subpoena, and the
subpoena specifically indicated that it had been served as
specified in Tennessee Code Annotated section 45-10-106. The
Bank eventually would respond to the subpoena and produce the
title policy, with Mr. Smythe confirming in a letter to Mr.
Krog on June 16, 2016 that no motion to quash the subpoena
had ever been timely filed. The letter indicated that it was
also being mailed to Mr. Lefkovitz, counsel for Mr. Walker.
24, 2017, Mr. Walker filed an objection to the Bank's
secured mortgage claims in the bankruptcy case, challenging
the Bank's entitlement to attorney's fees.
Thereafter, on July 28, 2017, Mr. Walker filed an amended
objection in which he also accused Mr. Smythe of acts of
unethical conduct. After an objection hearing was held in the
bankruptcy court in August 2017, the bankruptcy court entered
two orders in early September 2017 awarding the Bank
attorney's fees and costs in conjunction with its claims.
Mr. Walker soon filed notices of appeal concerning these
orders, and on October 23, 2017, the present litigation
commenced in the Davidson County Circuit Court ("the
trial court"). On that date, Nationwide filed its
complaint asserting that the Bank had, among other things,
violated Tennessee's Financial Records Privacy Act. In
pertinent part, Nationwide asserted that the Bank had
"disclosed Nationwide's financial records to a third
party (known as a business competitor) without
the filing of the complaint, on October 27, 2017, Mr. Smythe
sent Mr. Walker a letter indicating that the Bank had
complied with the Financial Records Privacy Act and
requesting that Nationwide withdraw its complaint. According
to the letter, Nationwide's complaint failed to comply
with Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and
was not properly filed. Mr. Smythe warned that he would seek
sanctions against Mr. Walker, as well as Nationwide, if the
complaint was not withdrawn. A second letter, along with a
copy of a planned Rule 11 motion for sanctions, was sent to
Mr. Walker on November 8, 2017. Therein, warning was given
that the motion for sanctions would be filed on December 5,
2017 unless the complaint was dismissed or withdrawn prior to
Bank thereafter filed an answer to Nationwide's
complaint, and on December 5, 2017, the Bank filed a motion
for summary judgment and a motion for sanctions. In a
memorandum filed in support of the motion for summary
judgment, the Bank argued, among other things, that no timely
motion to quash the subpoena from Mr. Krog had ever been
filed, that the produced title policy did not qualify as a
"financial record," and that, even if the title
policy was a "financial record," the Financial
Records Privacy Act was followed when the Bank produced a
copy of the policy pursuant to the subpoena. In its motion
for sanctions, which was brought against Nationwide and Mr.
Walker, the Bank asserted that the complaint had been filed
in bad faith and submitted that it should be able to tender
an affidavit to the court detailing all attorney's fees
and expenses incurred by the Bank in seeking dismissal of
this "frivolous" lawsuit.
Nationwide responded to the motion for sanctions, an agreed
order was entered on April 16, 2018 setting hearings on the
Bank's motion for summary judgment and motion for Rule 11
sanctions for May 11, 2018. Nationwide thereafter responded
to the filed motion for summary judgment on May 7, 2018, and
on May 8, 2018, it filed a motion for leave of court to file
an amended complaint. On May 25, 2018, the trial court
entered a trio of orders denying Nationwide's motion for
leave to amend, granting the Bank summary judgment on all
claims, and granting Rule 11 sanctions against both
Nationwide and Mr. Walker. Because the order on the motion
for sanctions did not specify the amount of attorney's
fees assessed against Nationwide and Mr. Walker, a finalized
sanctions order was thereafter entered on June 19, 2018.
notice of appeal was filed on June 25, 2018, but Mr. Walker
filed a motion to alter or amend the sanctions order on July
19, 2018. A hearing on Mr. Walker's motion to alter or
amend was not held until December 7, 2018, and on that date,
Mr. Walker and Nationwide also filed a motion to disqualify
the trial court judge pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of
the Tennessee Supreme Court. The motion to disqualify was
promptly denied by written order on December 11, 2018.
Subsequently, on December 18, 2018, the trial court entered
an order denying Mr. Walker's motion to alter or amend.
addition to the notice of appeal that was filed, a petition
for recusal appeal was filed in connection with the trial
court's ruling on the motion to disqualify. Pursuant to
an order of consolidation entered by this Court on January
11, 2019, we are presently tasked with resolving raised