Session August 21, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Greene County No. 2017-CV-426
Douglas T. Jenkins, Chancellor 
case involves a dispute between siblings, named as
co-executors of their mother's estate. Anthony Arrington
(plaintiff) brought this action against his sister Barbara
Bryant, alleging she engaged in "self-dealing, fraud,
theft, and conversion" of the assets of their late
mother, Nuffie Arrington (decedent). Ms. Bryant responded by
alleging that the parties had mediated their dispute and
entered into a settlement agreement disposing of all issues
between them. She presented the settlement agreement and two
checks she wrote to plaintiff in accordance with the
agreement. The plaintiff had cashed the checks. Ms. Bryant
asserted the defense of accord and satisfaction. Plaintiff
admitted entering into the agreement, but argued that it
should be rescinded because of fraudulent inducement and
concealment. Ms. Bryant died while the action was pending in
the trial court. Her children, Rachel Bryant Ramsey and
Nathan Bryant (defendants) were substituted for her. The
trial court granted summary judgment for defendants, finding
the settlement agreement valid and enforceable. We affirm the
trial court's judgment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
William S. Nunnally, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Anthony Arrington.
Douglas L. Payne, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Rachel Bryant Ramsey.
C. Jessee, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Corey Shipley,
Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Nathan Bryant.
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W.
McClarty, J., joined.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE
complaint alleges, in pertinent part, as follows. Decedent
died testate on May 1, 2015. Her will was admitted to
probate; plaintiff and Ms. Bryant were named co-executors.
The will devised the estate in equal portions to plaintiff
and Ms. Bryant. On March 24, 2016, Ms. Bryant opened an
estate account in her name only. She did not tell plaintiff
that the estate account was opened only in her name.
According to the complaint, Ms. Bryant "withdrew from
the account various sums of money to effect repairs on the
vacant residence of the decedent and/or for her personal
benefit." There was a savings account containing the
decedent's funds at First Tennessee Bank. The account
jointly bore the names of decedent, plaintiff, and Ms.
Bryant. Ms. Bryant alleged that there had been improper
expenditures from the savings account, On the day before
decedent's death, Ms. Bryant withdrew the entire balance.
also had a checking account at First Tennessee. Unbeknownst
to plaintiff, on October 25, 2011, Ms. Bryant had her name
placed on the checking account. Thereafter, Ms. Bryant
"used the account for her personal benefit on many
occasions" and "engaged in over 400 known acts of
self-dealing, fraud, theft and conversion to the detriment of
her mother and the plaintiff."
complaint further states that "on May 2, 2017, prior to
. . . any lawsuit being filed, Plaintiff and [Ms. Bryant]
attempted mediation and executed a Settlement and Mediation
Agreement." Plaintiff alleges that he "was denied
information about the savings checking and estate accounts of
the decedent at the time of the mediation." Plaintiff,
asserting that the settlement agreement should be rescinded,
alleges that Ms. Bryant "intentionally concealed from
him material facts" and "induced him to enter into
an agreement without knowledge of those facts, which he would
not have entered into had he had full knowledge of the
Bryant responded by filing a "motion to dismiss, or, in
the alternative, motion for summary judgment," stating,
in pertinent part, as follows:
Through the mediation process the parties reached and
executed a Settlement and Mediation Agreement to settle
all issues between them including, but not limited
to, the division of the . . . Estate assets, the division of
remaining estate expenses, and all issues related to [Ms.
Bryant's] actions, both as Co-Executor of the estate and
as custodian of any funds belonging to [decedent] prior to
her death. . . .
In addition to monetary consideration which was promptly paid
by [Ms. Bryant] and accepted by Plaintiff pursuant to the
Agreement, each party fully released the other from
any and all claims in relation to [decedent] and her estate.
The Settlement and Mediation Agreement between the parties
constitutes a binding contract for which good and valuable
consideration passed, and it further constitutes an accord
and satisfaction of all claims of Plaintiff against [Ms.
Bryant] including those alleged in the Complaint filed
(Emphasis in original; paragraph numbering in original
support of her motion, Ms. Bryant filed her affidavit,
wherein she stated that she was required to pay plaintiff $5,
000 plus the remaining balance of the estate account, $3,
913.53, under the terms of the settlement agreement. She
provided copies of two checks in those amounts that she had
tendered to plaintiff and that he cashed.
Plaintiff responded with his own affidavit, stating:
[Ms. Bryant] has actively concealed from me necessary and
vital factual information, and committed fraud upon my mother
in her lifetime and upon me following her death. I want the
agreement to be set aside.
With respect to the $5, 000.00 she paid to me, I am willing
to return it or pay it into the Court, but it can also be
used as an offset for future defined damages.
trial court entered an order dismissing the action, finding
and holding as follows:
The parties reached a settlement agreement at the mediation
and their agreement was immediately reduced to a writing
entitled Settlement and Mediation Agreement which was then
and there executed by the parties.
The Settlement and Mediation Agreement provided, in pertinent
part, that the parties ... "are in dispute over certain
accounts of the Estate and of [decedent] prior to her death
..." The Agreement further contained a full and mutual
release between the parties. The Plaintiff, Anthony
"Tony" Arrington, specifically released the
Defendant, Barbara A. Bryant, "of any and all issues
arising from the Estate, her actions as an executor for the
Estate, her actions as a custodian of funds of the Estate and
belonging to [decedent] prior to [decedent's] death, any
and all claims he now has, or may have, against Barbara in
relation to [decedent], the Estate..."
In executing the Settlement and Mediation Agreement, the
parties each acknowledged adequate consideration, and the
monetary consideration required under the Agreement was
timely paid by [Ms. Bryant] and received by Plaintiff.
The issues raised by Plaintiff in this action, all of which
relate to expenditures by [Ms. Bryant] from the accounts of
[decedent] before she died as well as from the Estate
account, were in dispute and were addressed and negotiated by
the parties at mediation as evidenced by the Settlement and
(Ellipses in original; numbering in original omitted.) The
trial court held the settlement agreement to be valid and
binding on the parties.
filed a motion to alter or amend, arguing that the motion to
dismiss should not have been granted. He pointed out that
defendants had neither filed a concise statement of material
facts as required by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03, nor responded to
his discovery requests filed with the complaint. Following a
hearing, the trial court entered its final judgment, stating:
the motion to alter and amend is GRANTED to the limited
extent that the order of dismissal should be amended to
reflect that the court treated the Defendants' motion as
one for summary judgment and not as a Rule 12 dismissal for
failure to state a claim; however, the court finds no other
error and the motion is, respectfully DENIED in all other
(Capitalization in original.) Plaintiff timely filed a notice
issue presented by plaintiff, as quoted from his brief, is:
"Did the trial court err in granting a Rule 56 motion
for summary judgment and not allowing the plaintiff to engage
in discovery and without there being a concise statement of
material facts submitted by the movant?"
standard of review of a grant of summary judgment is as
stated by the Supreme Court:
Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04. We review a trial
court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment de novo,
without a presumption of correctness.
[I]n Tennessee, as in the federal system, when the moving
party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving
party may satisfy its burden of production either (1) by
affirmatively negating an essential element of the nonmoving
party's claim or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving
party's evidence at the summary judgment stage
is insufficient to establish the nonmoving party's claim
or defense. . . . The nonmoving party must demonstrate the
existence of specific facts in the record which could lead a
rational trier of fact to find in favor of the nonmoving
Rye v. Women's Care Ctr. of Memphis, MPLLC, 477
S.W.3d 235, 250, 264-65 (Tenn. 2015) (italics ...