Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the County Court At Law No. 1 Kaufman County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 17C-105
Justices Bridges, Brown, and Boatright
L. BRIDGES JUSTICE
underlying forcible detainer action, the trial court awarded
appellee Noe Sanchez possession of appellant Thomas
Brown's house. In a single issue, appellant argues the
trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because a
title dispute was inextricably linked to the question of
immediate right to possession of the property. We affirm the
trial court's judgment.
first amended original petition for forcible detainer alleged
he purchased the property from Kaufman County, Texas after
appellant lost the property through failure to pay ad valorem
taxes. Appellee attached the Sheriff's Tax Deeds, the Tax
Resale Deeds, and the Eviction Notice. Appellee provided
written notice to vacate and demand for possession by
certified mail, but appellant failed to vacate the property.
Subsequently, appellee asked the court to evict appellant.
answered the lawsuit and argued the eviction proceeding
should be stayed because of a separate case involving title
to the property in which he claimed "conduct and
omissions of the named Defendants clouded the title to the
property . . . and ultimately resulted in [a] foreclosure
subsequently filed a plea to the jurisdiction challenging the
trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant
argued title to the property "was in dispute at the time
of the purported foreclosure sale and the issue of both of
the parties' claim to title ownership of the property is
subject of a bonafide dispute, the resolution of which must
precede determination of the issue of the immediate right to
present possession of the Property." Specifically, he
claimed wrongful foreclosure of the property. The trial court
denied appellant's plea to the jurisdiction and granted
possession of the property to appellee.
to the jurisdiction challenges the trial court's
authority to determine the subject matter of the action.
Gibson v. Dynegy Midstream Servs., L.P., 138 S.W.3d
518, 522 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2004, no pet.). Whether the
trial court had subject matter jurisdiction is a question of
law reviewed de novo. See City of Dallas v.
Carbajal, 324 S.W.3d 537, 538 (Tex. 2010).
plaintiff has the burden of alleging facts that affirmatively
establish the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction.
Gibson, 138 S.W.3d at 522. If a plea to the
jurisdiction challenges the pleadings, we determine if the
pleader has alleged facts that affirmatively demonstrate the
trial court's jurisdiction to hear the case. Id.
Further, due to the special jurisdictional limitations
imposed on justice courts, a plea to the jurisdiction in an
eviction case may be based on an affirmative defense raised
in the defendant's pleadings that the trial court cannot
resolve apart from determining title. Id. In such a
case, we determine whether the defendant is correct in
asserting, in light of the defensive pleading, that questions
of title and possession are so integrally linked that the
justice court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the
forcible detainer action is a procedure to determine the
right to immediate possession of real property where there
was no unlawful entry. Rice v. Pinney, 51 S.W.3d
705, 709 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2001, no pet.). It is intended to
be a speedy, simple, and inexpensive means to obtain
possession without resort to an action on the title.
Williams v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 315 S.W.3d 925,
926-27 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). To maintain
simplicity, the applicable rule of procedure provides that
"the only issue shall be as to the right to actual
possession; and the merits of the title shall not be
adjudicated." Tex.R.Civ.P. 746. Accordingly, the only
issue in a forcible detainer action is which party has the
right to immediate possession of the property. Rice,
51 S.W.3d at 709. When there are issues concerning both title
and possession, the issues may be litigated in separate
proceedings in different courts with appropriate
jurisdiction. Yarbrough v. Household Fin. Corp.,
III, 455 S.W.3d 277, 280 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.]
2015, no pet.).
plea, appellant disputed the validity of the
"wrongful" foreclosure sale. However, allegations
concerning the propriety of a foreclosure cannot be
considered in a forcible detainer action. Id.;
see also Am. Homes 4 Rent Props. One, LLC v. Ibarra,
No. 05-13-00973-CV, 2014 WL 3212843, at *2 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth July 8, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.); Murphy v.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 199 S.W.3d 441, 446 (Tex.
App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. denied). Rather, such
allegations may be brought in a separate suit, which appears
to be exactly what appellant has done by filing the separate
extent appellant argues the title dispute must be determined
prior to possession, meaning the issue of title is so
intertwined with the issue of possession that a trial court
would be required to determine title before awarding
possession, he has failed to support his title claim with
specific evidence. Falcon v. Ensignia, 976 S.W.2d
336, 338 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1998, no pet.) (specific
evidence of a title dispute is required to raise the issue of
jurisdiction). Appellant mentioned the separate cause of
action in his pleadings and during the hearing; however, the
mere mention of a title dispute is not enough. See,
e.g., Presley v. McGrath, No. 02-04-403-CV,
2005 WL 1475495, at *3 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth June 23, 2005,
pet. dism'd w.o.j.) (counsel ...