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Divine Business Enterprises, LLC v. Ablegrowth, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

May 8, 2018

DIVINE BUSINESS ENTERPRISES, LLC, APPELLANT
v.
ABLEGROWTH, INC., APPELLEE

          Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 of Tarrant County, Texas (Tr.Ct. No. 2016-000963-1)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Greg Neeley, Justice

         Divine Business Enterprises, LLC appeals the trial court's judgment rendered in favor of Ablegrowth, Inc. DBE raises five issues on appeal. We dismiss for want of jurisdiction in part and affirm in part.

         Background

         On January 20, 2016, Ablegrowth filed a sworn petition for eviction in the Justice Court for Precinct 7 of Tarrant County, Texas. In its petition, Ablegrowth alleged that it was entitled to possession of the premises because of unpaid rent and other lease violations. The justice court ruled in Ablegrowth's favor, and DBE filed a de novo appeal in the County Court at Law Number One of Tarrant County, Texas.

         The county court at law initially ruled for Ablegrowth. Thereafter, DBE retained counsel and filed a motion for new trial, which was granted. Following a bench trial, the county court at law found that Ablegrowth is entitled to possession of the premises and awarded $3, 575.00 in past due rent, post judgment interest, and court costs. The trial court further awarded $2, 500.00 in attorney's fees. Further still, the trial court ordered the county clerk to issue a check for all remaining funds plus any and all accrued interest minus administrative fees then held in the registry of the court to be paid immediately to Ablegrowth. This appeal followed.

          Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         As an initial matter, we must determine if we have jurisdiction to consider the issues DBE raises in its appeal. See Guillen v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 494 S.W.3d 861, 865 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.). Subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law we review de novo. Id. at 866.

         On appeal from a forcible entry and detainer judgment, we have no jurisdiction to review the issue of possession if, as is the case here, the disputed premises were used for commercial purposes. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.007 (West Supp. 2017). The prohibition against considering possession includes consideration of any finding essential to the issue of, dependent on, or primarily concerned with the issue of possession. See Hong Kong Dev., Inc. v. Nguyen, 229 S.W.3d 415, 431-32 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2007, no pet.); Volume Millwork, Inc. v. W. Houston Airport Corp., 218 S.W.3d 722, 726-27 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. denied).

         In its first issue, DBE argues that the trial court abused its discretion by granting Ablegrowth possession where DBE was not found to be in default of the lease agreement.[1] In its second issue, DBE contends that the trial court abused its discretion by issuing a writ of possession in favor of Ablegrowth after DBE filed a notice of appeal and posted a supersedeas bond and a cash bond. Both of these issues seek for this court to consider possession or a finding primarily concerned with the issue of possession. Therefore, we lack jurisdiction to consider them. See Nguyen, 229 S.W.3d at 431-32.

         Counterclaims

         In its third issue, DBE argues that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to consider its counterclaims for breach of contract, wrongful eviction, and retaliation.[2]

          A forcible detainer action is a special proceeding created to provide a speedy, simple, and inexpensive means for resolving the question of the right to possession of premises. See Tehuti v. Bank of New York Mellon Tr. Co., Nat'l Ass'n, 517 S.W.3d 270, 273 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2017, no pet.). The justice courts have original jurisdiction over forcible entry and detainer cases. See id. at 274. Counterclaims and the joinder of suits against third parties are not permitted in such cases. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.3(e). The county court's jurisdiction on appeal extends only as far as the justice court's jurisdiction. Espinoza v. Lopez, 468 S.W.3d 692, 695 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, no pet.). Therefore, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to consider DBE's counterclaims since it had no jurisdiction to do so. DBE's third issue is overruled.

         Attorney's Fees

         In its fourth issue, DBE contends that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding Ablegrowth $2, 500.00 in attorney's fees. Specifically, DBE argues that there is no evidence of record supporting the reasonableness of the attorney's fees awarded.

         Standard of Review ...


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