16, 2019 Session
from the Chancery Court for Knox County No. 178387-3 Michael
W. Moyers, Chancellor
appeal involves many attempts to secure repayment of a loan.
After the most recent hearing, the trial court denied the
plaintiff's request to revisit the prior rulings. We
affirm as modified.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed as Modified; Case Remanded
K. Vowell and Douglas L. Dunn, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, John Thomas Ammons.
Jenkins, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, William C.
Longworth and Tamara Longworth.
W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J.,
W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE
C. Longworth and his wife, Tamara Longworth ("the
Longworths"), began construction of a new home in the
late 2000s, just when the economic decline began, despite the
warnings of Mrs. Longworth's father, John Thomas Ammons.
In 2009, Mrs. Longworth informed her father that the
individuals under contract to purchase the Longworths'
old house, located on Wilnoty Drive in Knoxville, had backed
out. She sobbed that she and her husband "were going to
lose everything," as the new house was complete and the
construction loan was due. Mr. Ammons's understanding was
that if the couple was unable to pay the construction loan,
they were going to lose the new house. He told his daughter
that he "would loan them the money with the stipulation
that when the [old] house did sell, that they would repay the
loan at that time. . . ." Mrs. Longworth immediately
accepted the offer and told her father that "when the
house sold that they would repay [him] and how grateful they
were, how thankful they were." Mr. Ammons testified
that, at that time, he had no doubt he would be repaid. On
January 6, 2009, Mr. Ammons obtained a check from Y-12
Federal Credit Union in the amount of $193, 000. The bank
teller, who had known him for years, expressed her concern
that he was "lending such a large sum of money without
additional paperwork," but Mr. Ammons replied,
"[N]o, she's my daughter and she promised she'll
pay me back as soon as the old house sells."
days later, Mrs. Longworth requested that her father sign a
"gift letter" that certified to the Longworths'
lender that he had "given or will give the sum of $193,
000 as a gift to William C. Longworth towards the purchase of
the property located at 1619 Nicholas View Ln, Knoxville
TN." According to Mr. Ammons, at the time he signed the
"gift letter," Mrs. Longworth "reiterated
quite strongly how they knew that they were borrowing money
from me, that they would pay me back, pay the entire loan
when the house sold, and made it very clear that this was to
satisfy the lending institution." Mr. Ammons testified
that he did not feel he was doing anything improper because
there were no monthly payments on the loan; rather, the
agreement was that the money would be repaid once the old
house sold. The money borrowed from Mr. Ammons was used to
pay off the Wilnoty Drive home, automobiles, and credit cards
in order for the Longworths to "have a clear slate to
qualify for the loan on their new home."
Wilnoty Drive home, however, did not sell. Mr. Ammons soon
urged his daughter to "get the home cleaned up, cleaned
out, and get it on the market to rent" in order to
"[a]t least get some money coming in." After Mr.
Ammons helped the Longworths prepare the house, it was rented
to a couple from California. Despite Mr. Ammons requesting
that the rent money come to him in an escrow account until
the house sold, by July 2009, the Longworths had not made any
payments to him, even though by that time they had been
receiving rent payments in the amount of $1250 for several
months. One day when his daughter was visiting at his home,
Mr. Ammons brought up the subject of payment. Mrs. Longworth
got very upset and left with her children. After Mr. Ammons
called Mr. Longworth and left a message, his son-in-law
returned the call and offered to pay $600 out of the $1250
per month that the Longworths were receiving for rent. But
nothing was ever paid. According to Mr. Ammons, he was never
again able to reach either one of the Longworths by
telephone. However, Mrs. Longworth wrote her father a letter:
"As far as the money - we still intend to pay you back
as we agreed to do in the beginning. WE have never wavered on
the deal that was made. . . . We are aware that we owe you
the money." (Emphasis in original.).
appears that the Wilnoty house continued to remain off the
market as a rental property. Mrs. Longworth asserted that the
couple had lined up a buyer for the house for $185, 000, but
that her father rejected the sale. She also claimed that Mr.
Ammons was offered the deed to the property but refused to
accept it. Mr. Ammons rejected both of these contentions.
When Mr. Ammons's attorney sought a quitclaim deed to the
property, the Longworths' attorney challenged Mr. Ammons
to produce a signed contract that he was owed any money.
August 4, 2010, Mr. Ammons filed a complaint against the
Longworths in which he alleged that he had loaned them $193,
000 but feared that they would refuse to pay him. The
complaint asserted that the Longworths had acknowledged the
debt. In his request for relief, Mr. Ammons asked for
judgment in the amount of $193, 000, a "judgment
lien," and general relief. In their answer, the
Longworths denied any agreement to repay or that they owed
Mr. Ammons any money.
case proceeded to trial on September 2, 2011. In the
memorandum opinion, the trial court held that Mr. Ammons had
loaned his daughter $193, 000 and that both father and
daughter "understood this to be a loan[.]" The
court stated that "Mrs. Longworth, you have been
unjustly enriched if that money is not returned to Mr.
Ammons." The court further found that Mrs. Longworth
"acknowledges that this was the debt, acknowledges that
she had agreed to repay it and that it would be repaid."
The court held that "a judgment against Mrs. Longworth
should go down in the amount of $193, 000, secured by a
judgment lien against the Wilnoty Drive house." As to
Mr. Longworth, the court found that Mr. Ammons had "not
proved [his] case, and the case against Mr. Longworth is
dismissed." The trial court added: "I'm not
today going to order a sale of that house. I'll let the
parties try to work that out, how that it will be executed
upon or sold[.]" The court asserted, "So, the $193,
000 is solely [owed] by a judgment lien against the Wilnoty
Drive house, and I'll let you counsel decide how
you're going to enforce that judgment lien. . . ."
the court announced the decision, counsel for the Longworths
inquired as follows:
Mr. Jenkins: Your Honor, for clarification, how is this done?
Does this affect Mr. Longworth -
The Court: Good question. I'll let you guys work that
Mr. Jenkins: - about the ownership
The Court: That gets into questions of tenancy by the
entireties and a whole lot of other questions that I know
I'm not ready, willing or able to answer today. When we
get to the point of - if the Court has to intervene further,
to figure out how to enforce this judgment money, we'll
take that up at that time.
Right now, I'm saying there's $193, 000 judgment
against Mrs. Longworth that's secured by her interest in
the home. Whether that's an un[divided] interest or half
interest, I don't know. I'll let you guys work that
out, or we'll take that up another day, all right?
motion to alter or amend the judgment, filed by Mr. Ammons,
that asked the court to grant judgment against Mr. Longworth
because he also had been unjustly enriched was overruled on
March 9, 2012.
August 2016, Mr. Ammons sought the sale of Mrs.
Longworth's interest in the Wilnoty Drive property. The
Longworths responded as follows:
Mr. Longworth owned the Wilnoty Drive property prior to and
at the time of marriage. He continues to be the sole owner
listed on the Deed on file in the Register's office. At
no time has Mrs. Longworth been on the Deed for Wilnoty.
Assuming that Mrs. Longworth does have an ownership interest
in Wilnoty property, that interest is as a Tennent by the
Entirety [sic] and the Plaintiff's proper and equitable
remedy is to hope the Longworths divorce or to wait for Mr.
Longworth to "shuffle off this mortal coil,"
thereby separating ...