Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 5 Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-15-05401-E
Justices Bridges, Fillmore, and Stoddart
M. FILLMORE, JUSTICE.
Brooks, pro se, appeals the county court's
judgment awarding possession of certain residential real
property to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Wells Fargo). In five
issues, Brooks asserts the county court erred by granting
judgment in this forcible-detainer suit because (1) the
justice court did not have jurisdiction since the
forcible-detainer suit was based on a deed executed in
violation of section 21A.002(a) of the business and commerce
code, (2) the forcible-detainer suit against Brooks as a
third-party violated rule of civil procedure 510.3(e), (3)
the county court abused its discretion by excluding evidence
concerning title to the property, (4) the county court did
not have jurisdiction since the issue of possession of the
real property was intertwined with the issue of title to the
property, and (5) he did not have any
"lien/contract" with Wells Fargo rendering him a
tenant at sufferance. We affirm the county court's
Fargo filed a forcible-detainer suit in justice court against
Brooks, Allen Sheffield, and "all other occupants"
seeking to evict them from the residential real property
located at 1842 Huntingdon Avenue, Dallas, Texas (the
Property). Brooks appeared for trial in the justice
court, but Sheffield did not. The justice court signed a
judgment in favor of Brooks on September 29, 2015.
Fargo filed an appeal of the justice court judgment in county
court. Wells Fargo's forcible-detainer suit
was heard by the county court on November 5, 2015. Brooks
appeared pro se at that trial. The county court
signed a partial default judgment against Sheffield on
November 9, 2015, ordering that, as between Sheffield and
Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo had a superior right of possession
of the Property. As between Brooks and Wells Fargo, the
county court found issues related to title to the Property
were too intertwined with issues related to possession for
the court to determine at that time which party had a
superior right to possession of the Property. The county
court abated the case for a period of approximately six
months or until May 5, 2016, in order for the parties to seek
relief from a court of competent jurisdiction as to issues
related to title to the Property. See Kassim v. Carlisle
Interests, Inc. 308 S.W.3d 537, 541 (Tex. App.-Dallas
2010, no pet.) (forcible-detainer suit may run concurrently
with another action in another court; matters relating to
possession may overlap in the two proceedings because
judgment of possession in forcible-detainer action is
determination only of right to immediate possession and does
not determine ultimate rights of the parties concerning any
other issue in controversy relating to the real property).
unresolved title dispute involving Brooks, Sheffield, and
Wells Fargo and the Property, was resolved in the 162nd
Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas, during the
abatement of the forcible-detainer suit in county court.
See Brooks v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No.
05-16-00550-CV, 2017 WL 1550043 (Tex. App.-Dallas Apr. 28,
2017, pet. filed) (mem. op.) (the suit to quiet
title). In that case, Brooks, pro se,
filed suit to quiet title on November 21, 2014. On January 7,
2016, Wells Fargo moved for summary judgment on Brooks's
claim Id. at *1, 2. On March 14, 2016, the district
court granted Wells Fargo's motion for summary judgment
and ordered that all claims Brooks asserted or could have
asserted in the suit to quiet title were dismissed with
prejudice. Id. at *2.
period of abatement in Wells Fargo's appeal of the
forcible-detainer suit to the county court expired on May 5,
2012, and the case proceeded to trial before the county court
on May 12, 2016. Brooks was represented by counsel at the
trial. Wells Fargo's evidence consisted of a July 29,
2004 "FHA Deed of Trust, " a November 7, 2006
Substitute Trustee's Deed, an October 13, 2014 Special
Warranty Deed, and three June 24, 2015 notices to vacate the
premises sent to "occupant and/or tenant, "
Sheffield, and Brooks. The FHA Deed of Trust secured a loan
from Summit Mortgage Corporation (Summit) to Sheffield.
Sheffield agreed in the deed of trust that, if he failed to
make all required payments on the loan, Summit had the right
to foreclose on the Property. The Substitute Trustee's
Deed references Sheffield's obligation to make loan
payments to Summit pursuant to the note secured by the FHA
Deed of Trust; the transfer and assignment of the note,
together with the lien securing the note, to Washington
Mutual Bank (WAMU); and Sheffield's default on the note.
The Substitute Trustee's Deed also reflects WAMU
purchased the Property at a non-judicial foreclosure sale
following Sheffield's default on the note. The Special
Warranty Deed reflects Wells Fargo acquired the Property from
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., as attorney-in-fact for the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver of
testified he occupied the premises located on the Property.
Brooks introduced into evidence a January 15, 1983 warranty
deed whereby Brooks's mother conveyed her interest in the
Property to Brooks; a November 14, 2005 judgment of a justice
court in favor of Brooks in connection with a
forcible-detainer suit he filed against
Sheffield; and a home equity mortgage entered into
between Brooks and Beneficial Texas Inc. on July 26, 2006, in
which Brooks purported to grant Beneficial Texas a deed of
trust for the Property.
county court signed a final judgment on May 17, 2016, in
which it found that, as between Brooks and Wells Fargo, Wells
Fargo had a superior right to possession of the Property and
ordered Wells Fargo was entitled to possession of the
Property. Brooks filed this appeal of the county
court's forcible-detainer judgment in favor of Wells
Applicable to a Forcible-Detainer Action
detainer occurs when a person, who is a tenant at sufferance,
refuses to surrender possession of real property.
See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.002(a)(2) (West
2014). A forcible-detainer action is a special proceeding
created to provide a speedy, simple, and inexpensive means
for resolving the question of right to immediate possession
of real property. Rice v. Pinney, 51 S.W.3d 705, 709
(Tex. App.-Dallas 2001, no pet.). In a forcible-detainer
action, "[t]he court must adjudicate the right to actual
possession and not title." Tex.R.Civ.P. 510.3(e).
a justice court, nor a county court in a de novo appeal, is
deprived of jurisdiction to resolve questions regarding the
immediate right to possession of real property in a
forcible-detainer suit merely by the existence of a title
dispute; rather, they are only deprived of jurisdiction if
the right to immediate possession necessarily requires the
resolution of a title dispute. Rice, 51 S.W.3d 713.
If an independent basis exists on which to award immediate
possession that would not require resolution of a title
dispute, a justice court, and the county court on appeal from
the justice court, has jurisdiction to do so. Garza v.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 05-14-01578-CV, 2016 WL
3136150, at *2 (Tex. App.-Dallas June 2, 2016, no pet.) (mem.
op.); see Rice, 51 S.W.3d 712.
24.004(b) of the Property Code
on section 24.004(b) of the property code, Brooks asserts in
his first issue that the county court erred by failing to
dismiss the forcible-detainer suit because the justice court
did not have jurisdiction over that suit. See Ward v.
Malone, 115 S.W.3d 267, 269 (Tex. App.- Corpus Christi
2003, pet. denied) (appellate jurisdiction of statutory
county court is confined to jurisdictional limits of justice
court, and county court does not have appellate jurisdiction
if justice court did not have jurisdiction). Wells Fargo
responds that Brooks's reliance on section 24.004(b) is
misplaced and section 24.004(b) is inapplicable in this case.
Whether a court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question
of law, subject to de novo review. Tex. Dep't of
Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226
24.004(b) of the property code provides:
A justice court does not have jurisdiction in a forcible
entry and detainer or forcible detainer suit and shall
dismiss the suit if the defendant files a sworn statement
alleging the suit is based on a deed executed in violation of
Chapter 21A, Business & Commerce Code.
Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.004(b). Section 21A.002(a) of
the business and commerce code provides:
A seller of residential real estate or a person who makes an
extension of credit and takes a security interest or mortgage
against residential real estate may not, before or at the
time of the conveyance of the residential real estate to the
purchaser or the extension of credit to the borrower, request
or require the purchaser or borrower to execute and deliver
to the seller or person making the extension of credit a deed
conveying the residential real estate to the seller or person
making the extension of credit.
Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 21A.002(a) (West
appellate record contains an affidavit filed by Brooks in
justice court stating, "Attached hereto are true and
correct copies of the following documents, with their
attachments AND alleging the suit is based on a deed executed
in violation of Chapter 21A, Business & Commerce
Code." Brooks attached an assortment of documentation to
his affidavit. However, in his affidavit, he provided no
explanation as to why the documents attached to his affidavit
substantiate his "allegation." On appeal, other
than establishing the Property is residential real estate to
which section 21A.002(a) of the business and commerce code
would apply, Brooks provides no information to substantiate
the conclusory statement in his affidavit that the
forcible-detainer suit by Wells Fargo against him was based
on a deed executed in violation of section 21A.002(a).
See Haynes v. City of Beaumont, 35 S.W.3d 166, 178
(Tex. App.-Texarkana 2000, no pet). (conclusory statement is
one that does not provide underlying facts to support
Substitute Trustee's Deed upon which Wells Fargo relies
in support of its forcible-detainer suit references both
Sheffield's obligation to make loan payments to Summit
pursuant to a note secured by a deed of trust on the Property
and the transfer and assignment of the note, together with
the liens securing the note, to WAMU, upon Sheffield's
default on the note. The Substitute Trustee's Deed
further reflects WAMU's purchase of the Property at a
non-judicial foreclosure sale following Sheffield's
default on the note. Wells Fargo acquired the Property by
Special Warranty Deed on October 13, 2014, from JPMorgan
Chase Bank, N.A., as attorney-in-fact for the FDIC as
receiver of WAMU.
record on appeal supports neither the allegation in
Brooks's affidavit that Wells Fargo's
forcible-detainer suit was based on a deed executed in
violation of chapter 21A of the business and commerce code
nor that the sale of the Property to Sheffield required
Sheffield's execution of a deed conveying the Property to
the lender, Summit, in lieu of foreclosure. We resolve
Brook's first issue in which he contends the justice
court did ...