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Black v. Countryside Village Apartments

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 10, 2013


On Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law Number 3 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1019126

Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Higley, and Massengale.


Michael Massengale Justice

Frances Angela Black appeals from a judgment in favor of Countryside Village Apartments. In a bench trial, the trial court found that Black had violated her apartment lease by permitting an individual to possess marijuana on the premises. The county court rendered judgment for Countryside and ordered that Black be evicted from her apartment. Black appeals, challenging the admissibility of certain testimony and asserting that the trial court improperly weighed and evaluated the evidence. We affirm.


Frances Angela Black lives in an apartment at Countryside Village Apartments in Humble, Texas. Black's residency at Countryside is part of a program of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Certain conditions of her lease prohibit Black from engaging in criminal activity that threatens the peaceful enjoyment of the premises by others, having unauthorized residents, and engaging in or allowing unlawful activities in her apartment, in common areas, or on the complex grounds.

Black lives in her apartment with four children, two of whom are her own and all of whom are children of her boyfriend, Edwin Hulitt. Countryside's manager, Keslie Smith, testified that Hulitt had lived in the apartment for at least a year at the time of the incident that gave rise to these proceedings.

On December 28, 2011, the Humble Police Department received a call of a domestic disturbance at Countryside. Three officers responded to the scene. One of these officers, T. Meek, testified that Black and Hulitt were engaged in an argument inside Black's apartment and that a crowd had formed outside to observe the argument, which was both audible and visible from outside the apartment. After the police separated Black and Hulitt and spoke with each of them—Hulitt outside the apartment and Black inside—Officer Meek observed a bag of marijuana in an open drawer in the living room of the apartment. Officer Meek testified that Hulitt stated that the marijuana was his, at which point he arrested Hulitt for possession of marijuana. At the time of the arrest, both Black and Hulitt told Officer Meek that Hulitt lived in the apartment.

Countryside gave Black notice of its intent to evict her for (1) causing a disturbance resulting in a law enforcement response; (2) allowing Hulitt to reside in the apartment when his name was not on the lease; (3) allowing marijuana inside her unit; and (4) making false statements to Countryside management regarding her income and employment status. Countryside then successfully sued to evict Black in justice court. Black appealed to the county court, which conducted a de novo bench trial, neither party having requested a jury. Both parties were represented at trial by counsel. The county court entered judgment for Countryside and ordered Black evicted, finding that Hulitt had possessed marijuana on the property in violation of the lease. The county court's judgment made no mention of the other theories on which Countryside brought suit. Black did not request any findings of fact or conclusions of law.

Black now brings six issues on appeal. We affirm.


Black challenges the admissibility of certain evidence as hearsay and asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in its evaluation of the evidence. We review a trial court's decisions to admit or exclude evidence for abuse of discretion. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 575 (Tex. 2005); see also Comiskey v. FH Partners, LLC, 373 S.W.3d 620, 630 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, pet. denied). We will not overturn the judgment because of evidentiary rulings "[u]nless an erroneous ruling probably caused rendition of an improper judgment." Horizon/CMS Healthcare Corp. v. Auld, 34 S.W.3d 887, 906 (Tex. 2000); see also Comiskey, 373 S.W.3d at 630; Tex.R.App.P. 44.1(a)(1). To the extent that Black challenges the legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting the judgment, this court must look at all of the evidence admitted and determine whether, after disregarding all evidence that a reasonable trier-of-fact could disregard, more than a scintilla of evidence supports the judgment. See City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 813, 827–28 (Tex. 2005). To determine the factual sufficiency of the evidence, we are required to examine all of the evidence, and we will set aside the judgment only if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986). The trier of fact may choose to "believe one witness and disbelieve others" and "may resolve inconsistencies in the testimony of any witness." McGalliard v. Kuhlmann, 722 S.W.2d 694, 697 (Tex. 1986).

I. Sufficiency of the evidence

A. Dismissal of criminal charges against ...

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