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Patten Custom Homes, LLC v. Mahlin

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

July 18, 2017


         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-16-03213-B

          Before Justices Francis, Brown, and Schenck



         Patten Custom Homes, LLC ("PCH") appeals the trial court's take-nothing judgment in its forcible detainer action. We reverse the trial court's judgment and render judgment that PCH is entitled to possession of the property at issue and to reasonable attorney's fees, and we remand to the trial court to determine a reasonable amount of attorney's fees to be awarded to PCH. We issue this memorandum opinion because all issues are well settled in law. Tex.R.App.P. 47.4.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Robert Mahlin, Anne Mahlin, and Samanum Ngernerd (collectively, "Occupants") occupied the property at 5223 Richard Avenue in Dallas. PCH sent notices to Occupants to vacate following its purchase of the property. When Occupants failed to do so, PCH filed a forcible-detainer action in a justice court, alleging Robert Mahlin and Ngernerd had executed a promissory note and deed of trust with Homecomings Financial Network, Inc. and then defaulted on the mortgage. PCH further alleged the property was sold at a March 1, 2016 foreclosure sale pursuant to the mortgage to Catalyst Resource Group, Incorporated ("Catalyst"), which then sold the property to PCH. The justice of the peace awarded possession and $1500 in attorney's fees to PCH.

         The Mahlins[1] appealed the justice court's award to the county court at law and filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the foreclosure sale was ineffective and all subsequent deeds issued pursuant to the sale were void because Robert Mahlin sent letters dated February 29, 2016, to lenders rescinding his mortgage pursuant to the Truth and Lending Act "due to violations of the TILA." The county court at law conducted a bench trial at which the trial judge denied the plea to the jurisdiction and proceeded to hear the case. PCH submitted the following documents as evidence, which were admitted over the Mahlins' objections: (i) notice of substitute trustee sale; (ii) substitute trustee's deed; (iii) warranty deed with vendor's lien; and (iv) notices to vacate addressed to Robert Mahlin, Samanum Ngernerd, Anne Mahlin, and all other occupants. At the Mahlins' request, the trial judge took judicial notice of the pleadings on file with the court. On July 28, 2016, the trial court entered its final judgment, which ordered that PCH take nothing.[2]


         I. Standard of Review

         In its sole issue, PCH argues legally insufficient evidence supports the trial court's take-nothing judgment.

         When, as in this case, a trial court makes no separate findings of fact or conclusions of law, we imply all facts necessary to support the trial court's judgment that are supported by the evidence. Rossman v. Bishop Colo. Retail Plaza, L.P., 455 S.W.3d 797, 808 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2015, pet. denied). We must affirm the trial court's judgment if it can be upheld on any legal theory that finds support in the evidence. Id.

         A party challenging the legal sufficiency of an adverse finding on an issue on which that party had the burden of proof at trial must demonstrate on appeal that the evidence conclusively established, as a matter of law, all vital facts in support of the issue. Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis, 46 S.W.3d 237, 241 (Tex. 2001) (per curiam). In reviewing a matter-of-law challenge, we first examine the record for evidence that supports the adverse finding, while ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Id. We indulge every reasonable inference to support the finding, crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable factfinder could and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 807, 822 (Tex. 2005). If there is no evidence to support the adverse finding, we then examine the entire record to determine if the contrary proposition is established as a matter of law. Dow Chem., 46 S.W.3d at 241. We sustain the issue only if the contrary proposition is conclusively established. Id.

         II. Applicable Law

         A forcible-detainer action is used to determine the superior right to immediate possession of real property where there is no claim of unlawful entry. Williams v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 315 S.W.3d 925, 926 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). It is intended to be a speedy, simple, and inexpensive means to obtain immediate possession of property. Id. at 926-27. The only issue in a ...

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