State Supreme Court Reverses Verdict That Invalidated Marriage And Will

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court has sent a Hamblen County case back to chancery court for a retrial, after ruling that certain evidence regarding a will and a widow’s real estate holding was improperly admitted.

A jury verdict invalidated the marriage of Raymond Smallman and Linda Caraway, which occurred shortly before Mr. Smallman’s death, and his purported will offered for probate by Ms. Caraway.

In 2006, Mr. Smallman and Ms. Caraway met, began dating, and decided to marry, planning a June 2008 wedding.  In Spring 2008, Mr. Smallman was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and the wedding plans were cancelled. Mr. Smallman’s radiation therapy and chemotherapy were unsuccessful and his health declined rapidly. In April 2009, Mr. Smallman executed a will at his attorney’s office, naming Ms. Caraway primary beneficiary of his estate valued at over a million dollars. Ms. Caraway moved into Mr. Smallman’s residence and took care of him as his health worsened.  On June 24, 2009, Mr. Smallman and Ms. Caraway were married at Mr. Smallman’s home. Mr. Smallman died of cancer 13 days later.

Ms. Caraway filed a petition as Mr. Smallman’s widow seeking to have his will admitted to probate.  Mr. Smallman’s two sons by an earlier marriage filed a declaratory judgment action asking the trial court to declare the marriage void and to find that Mr. Smallman died intestate.  The Smallman sons alleged that the marriage and the will were invalid because their father lacked the mental capacity to marry or execute a will, and because of Ms. Caraway’s undue influence and fraud.  At the trial, the court allowed the jury to hear evidence regarding the will of Ms. Caraway’s late mother, and of the value and extent of Ms. Caraway’s real estate holdings. The jury found for the Smallman sons on all issues, and the trial court invalidated the marriage and ruled that Mr. Smallman died intestate.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Supreme Court in an opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee ruled that the evidence regarding Ms. Caraway’s real estate holdings and her mother’s will was irrelevant and prejudicial, and that the error in allowing the jury to hear it probably affected the verdict.  The court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new jury trial. 

To read the In Re Estate of Raymond L. Smallman opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee and the separate concurring/dissenting opinion authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit the opinion section of TNCourts.gov. 



Copies Of Remaining Chattanooga Photo Books Available At Zarzour's Restaurant

Remaining copies of the Chattanooga Photo books are available at Zarzours Restaurant on Rossville Avenue off Main Street. It is near Fire Hall #1. They include the Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga, and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga.  All were published by Chattanoogan.com and printed by College Press at Collegedale. The more than ... (click for more)

Brown Charged After GPS Pinpoints Location Of Stolen Box Truck

Police have arrested Charles Eric Brown after a GPS pinpointed the location of an expensive stolen box truck and other stolen items at his parents' residence. Brown, 29, of 3000 McGill Cemetery Road, is charged with theft over $65,000, burglary and vandalism. Officials of American Stage Company on Tennessee Avenue reported a burglary on July 30. The owner said they locked ... (click for more)

Shame On Anyone Planning A Protest At Coolidge Park Thursday Evening - And Response (7)

Whether you're Alt-Left or Alt-Right, Coolidge Park isn't the place to showcase your hate and indifference with one another. Just because it's your right, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should do it. Many have this misconception that this park is named after a President, Nope. It's named after a great man, a true patriot, and Medal of Honor recipient from right ... (click for more)

A Tale Of 3 Properties

Here in Lookout Valley on the far southwest edge of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, trees and rocks are plentiful but sidewalks are as rare as unicorns. It’s a land the governments forget – until tax collection time.  The recent county reappraisal spoke about ‘comps,’ recent sale prices of comparable local properties. But the assessors defined ‘comparable’ to suit themselves, ... (click for more)

Baylor Scores Six Straight TDs In 42-21 Win Over Irish

Notre Dame coach Charles Fant knows that the only way his Fighting Irish football team will get better is to schedule teams that are better. Fant got his wish Thursday night at Finley Stadium in the opening game of the first-ever Kickoff Classic as Notre Dame challenged the Baylor Red Raiders. Nobody scored in the first quarter, but the Irish drew first blood with a touchdown ... (click for more)

Lady Raiders Open Season With 3-0 Sweep Of Lady Owls

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – A year ago, Cleveland dominated perennial District 5-3A volleyball contender Ooltewah by winning all three matches between the two rivals. The last time the two teams clashed was in the district tournament championship game and the Lady Blue Raiders won 3-1 after posting a pair of 3-0 wins during the regular season. The Lady Raiders and Lady Owls squared ... (click for more)