Supreme Court Reaffirms Validity Of Court Orders

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that an insurance company properly relied upon a juvenile court order prior to paying a claim to the financial guardian of a minor beneficiary. 

In 2002, David Ray Hood purchased a $100,000 life insurance policy from The Old Line Life Insurance Company of America. After Hood died in 2007, his 16-year-old son, Erik, who was the sole beneficiary, requested payment of the proceeds from Old Line. An independent insurance agent in Knoxville helped Erik and his 26-year-old half-sister, Casey Jenkins, obtain the necessary paperwork, which included the establishment of financial guardianship. No attorneys were involved in the process. At Casey’s request, the Juvenile Judge for Grainger County appointed her as guardian for her brother, but initially failed to specify that the guardianship was for financial purposes.

The Old Line insurance representative asked the juvenile court to clarify the financial nature of the guardianship and verify that the order had been validly entered. After receiving written assurances from the juvenile court clerk and judge, the representative issued a check for $100,854.88 to Casey for the benefit of Erik. 

When the entire amount was depleted eight months later, Erik filed a lawsuit against both his sister and Old Line, claiming that Casey had spent most of the money for her own benefit and that Old Line should have ensured that the juvenile judge had considered all legal requirements pertaining to the guardianship, such as a management plan and a bond, before sending Casey the check. 

The trial court agreed and entered judgments against Casey and Old Line. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment against Old Line, holding that the order entered by the juvenile judge was “woefully deficient” and that Old Line had not acted in good faith. 

While acknowledging that the juvenile judge had failed to address some legal requirements for the creation of a financial guardianship, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the order had been signed and entered by a court with authority in the case, and that Old Line was entitled to rely upon a “facially valid” judgment. Citing the rule that all citizens should ordinarily be able to rely upon the integrity of a court order, the state’s high court also held that Old Line had conducted a good faith investigation before paying the claim and that the loss, in this instance, should be the sole responsibility of the guardian. 

To read the Erik Hood v. Casey Jenkins et al. opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.

LBMC Gains Bryan Mattice

LBMC, PC, one of the Southeast’s largest accounting and business consulting firms, has added Bryan Mattice to the Accounting and Assurance services team. Bryan Mattice, CPA,   serves as a staff accountant serving a variety of industry clients in the Accounting and Assurance service team. Mr. Mattice comes to LBMC from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee where he worked ... (click for more)

Tennessee American Water Submits 2015 Infrastructure Capital Projects

Tennessee American Water has submitted to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority its 2015 infrastructure capital projects in conjunction with the new alternative rate mechanism.   Approved earlier in 2014 by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the alternative rate mechanism creates a process whereby Tennessee American Water will annually submit by December 1 its capital infrastructure ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex Fetches $15 Million

Walnut Commons, the first downtown apartment complex built in many years, sold for $15 million, one of the developers said. John Clark said the initial estimate on the project was $11 million and it wound up costing around $12 million to build. "We're very pleased with the sale," he said. Mr. Clark, along with partners David Hudson and Bob McKenzie, are selling their stock ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Principal Ronald Hughes Named Tennessee's 2014-15 Principal Of The Year

A Hamilton County elementary school principal and an Anderson County supervisor have earned top honors for their work in Tennessee education. Ronald Hughes, principal of Apison Elementary School in Chattanooga, was named Tennessee’s 2014-15 Principal of the Year. He has served as principal at Apison Elementary for the past six years, and spent three decades working in Tennessee ... (click for more)

Congratulations To Ron Hughes

Hearty congratulations to Ron Hughes for being selected as Tennessee State Elementary Principal of the Year for 2014. Wherever Ron has been assigned as principal, he has exhibited strong leadership both academically and morally. His faith in God and his love for the students of Hamilton County have guided his actions and everyone that has benefited from the excellent education ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Brittany’s Days Dwindle

So here we are, facing what is known as “Devil’s Night” before Halloween comes, and the almost macabre news now comes that Brittany Maynard, the beautiful girl who has chosen to end her life as soon as Saturday, is struggling to meet her own deadline. She has inoperable brain cancer and, at best, only months to live. The 29-year-old, who was married shortly before her devastating ... (click for more)