October 31, 2007

No TRCP 34A spoliation for plaintiff who demolished home after suing homebuilder, who had opportunity to obtain factual evidence during construction

CHARLES GROSS ET AL. v. MICHAEL K. McKENNA ET AL. (Tenn.Ct.App. October 30, 2007).

This case arose out of a construction contract between Charles Gross and Kathy Gross ("Homeowners") and Woodbridge Construction Services, LLC, a company run by Michael K. McKenna ("Builder"). The parties' relationship went sour in the midst of construction, and Homeowners sued Builder and Woodbridge seeking damages for breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("the TCPA").

After a bench trial, the court awarded Homeowners damages of $79,622.31 against both defendants. Builder appeals on various grounds. Regrettably, he has failed to provide us with either a transcript of the proceedings or a statement of the evidence, and, as a result, we are unable to reach most of the issues raised by him, as we must accept the trial court's factual determinations as conclusive in the absence of a record. The only issue requiring extended discussion is Builder's claim that the trial court should have dismissed the case or imposed some other sanction against Homeowners for demolishing the home and thus destroying evidence during discovery without first notifying the court and Builder. Although this was a violation of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, the trial court has broad discretion to determine what, if any, sanctions to impose for such violations, and we do not find an abuse of discretion in its decision to impose no sanction. The remainder of Builder's issues are also found to be without merit. We therefore affirm.

Opinion may be found at:

October 30, 2007

Court strictly construes contractual size and notice requirements against landscaping company, condoning contractor's contractual "takeover" rights


This appeal involves a dispute between a contractor and a landscaping subcontractor over the subcontractor's installation of undersized trees and the contractor's subsequent invocation of the take over clause upon the landscaper's failure to cure the defect. Both parties asserted breach of contract, and the trial court awarded damages to the defendant contractor for the cost of completing the job through a third-party landscaper and for attorney's fees and expenses. Concurring with the trial court that the subcontractor breached the contract when it installed undersized trees and, despite sufficient notice and opportunity to cure, failed to do so, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Opinion may be found at:

October 10, 2007

Homebuilders may be liable for misrepresentation for constructing features that would violate neighborhood restrictions when used by the homebuyer


The defendant had her house built in a restricted subdivision and began using it for operation of her fitness training business. The owners of the corporation that developed the neighborhood and constructed the defendant's house were also controlling members of the subdivision homeowners association's board of directors. The homeowners association filed suit to permanently enjoin the defendant from conducting her business out of her home upon grounds that such activity violated subdivision restrictions. In her answer and countersuit, the defendant argued that the homeowners association's controlling board members had waived the restrictions by certain actions during construction of her house. The defendant also filed a third party complaint against the development corporation and against the individual owners of the corporation for misrepresentation. Upon motions for directed verdict, the trial court granted the homeowners association's request for a permanent injunction and dismissed the defendant's countercomplaint against that entity. The trial court also dismissed the defendant's complaint against the individual owners by directed verdict, but denied the development corporation's motion for directed verdict. A jury then found the development corporation liable for misrepresentation. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court did not err in granting the homeowners association's motion for directed verdict or in failing to grant the development corporation's motion for directed verdict. However, we conclude that the trial court did err in granting the individual owners' motion for directed verdict. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part, reversed in part and the case is remanded.

Opinion may be found at:

October 01, 2007

If the Water Quality Control Board deems an issue to be "complex" and "contested," a lawyer must prosecute the claim.


The sole issue on appeal is whether a non-attorney's attempt to participate in a contested case hearing before the Water Quality Control Board as the representative of a corporation is permitted pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. Section 4-5-305(a), which expressly provides that a corporation may participate in the hearing by a duly authorized representative, or prohibited as constituting the unauthorized practice of law. Notwithstanding the fact that the statute provides that a duly authorized representative of a corporation may "participate" as the representative of the corporation in a hearing, we have determined that a non-attorney may not participate as the representative of a corporation if doing so requires the non-attorney to exercise the professional judgment of an attorney.

Opinion may be found at: