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-18-01053-E
Justices Bridges, Brown, and Nowell
forcible detainer and eviction case, appellant John Chowdhury
appeals the county court's judgment awarding possession
of real property (the Property) to appellee Kingdom Group
Investments (KGI). In two issues, Chowdhury contends the
county court lacked jurisdiction to enter judgment. For the
following reasons, we affirm the county court's final
1998, Chowdhury borrowed money secured by a deed of trust on
the Property. In November 2017, Elegant Investment Group,
Inc., Holiday Lodge, Inc., and Tuesday Real Estate, LLC,
together, bought the Property at a foreclosure sale and, on
December 22, 2017, sold the Property to KGI. In January 2018,
counsel for KGI sent a letter to Chowdhury demanding that he
vacate the Property within three days. When Chowdhury failed
to vacate, KGI filed this action in justice court for
possession of the Property.
to his brief, Chowdhury filed an action in district court on
December 18, 2017, before the Property was conveyed to KGI,
challenging the foreclosure sale. Chowdhury asserts that he
later added KGI as a defendant in the district court action
and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing
KGI from taking any action to evict Chowdhury. Neither the
TRO, the petition, nor any other evidence of the district
court action are in the appellate record.
a February 6, 2018 bench trial, the justice court entered a
take-nothing judgment in KGI's forcible detainer action.
KGI appealed the judgment to county court, where Chowdhury
filed a motion to dismiss, plea to abate, and plea to the
jurisdiction. Chowdhury argued the county court lacked
jurisdiction because the district court TRO, which was in
effect from January 9, 2018 until February 6, 2018, precluded
KGI from prosecuting the forcible detainer action and
rendered the justice court's judgment void.
Alternatively, Chowdhury argued the county court should have
abated or dismissed the forcible detainer action because the
right of possession "was so intertwined" with title
to the Property that the county court lacked jurisdiction.
Chowdhury's brief states the county court considered, but
orally denied, the motion during a March 15, 2018 hearing at
which the county court had "specific evidence" of
the district court action. However, there is no
reporter's record of March 15, 2018 hearing.
a subsequent bench trial in county court, KGI offered into
evidence without objection the deed of trust, a substitute
trustee's deed showing Elegant Investment Group, Inc.,
Holiday Lodge, Inc., and Tuesday Real Estate, LLC bought the
Property at a foreclosure sale, a special warranty deed
showing the Property was sold to KGI, and the notice to
vacate KGI sent to Chowdhury. Chowdhury offered no evidence
and raised the district court action only tangentially by
asking a KGI officer testifying at trial if he had been aware
a lawsuit challenging the foreclosure was pending when KGI
received the deed. The officer testified he had not been
aware of the lawsuit. Following trial, the county court
entered a final judgment awarding possession of the property
a court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law
reviewed de novo. Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. v.
State, 381 S.W.3d 468, 476 (Tex. 2012). The justice
court of the precinct where a property is located has
jurisdiction over forcible detainer actions related to that
property. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.004(a);
Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 27.031(a)(2); Rice v.
Pinney, 51 S.W.3d 705, 708 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2001, no
pet.). A party may appeal a justice court's judgment to a
county court for trial de novo, but the county court's
jurisdiction is confined to the justice court's
jurisdictional limits. Tex.R.Civ.P. 510.10(c); Rice,
51 S.W.3d at 708.
only issue in a forcible detainer action is which party has
the right to immediate possession of the property.
Shutter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 318 S.W.3d 467,
470-71 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, pet. dism'd w.o.j.).
Whether the sale of the property under a deed of trust is
invalid may not be determined in a forcible detainer and must
be brought in a separate suit. Id. at 471;
see Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.3(e) ("The court must
adjudicate the right to actual possession and not
title."). However, the mere existence of a title dispute
will not deprive the justice court of its jurisdiction; a
forcible detainer action may be prosecuted in justice court
concurrently with a title dispute in district court.
Morris v. Am. Home Mortgage Serv., Inc., 360 S.W.3d
32, 35 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, no pet.);
Rice, 51 S.W.3d at 713. A justice court lacks
jurisdiction to determine a right to possession only if
resolution of that right depends upon resolution of a title
dispute. Morris, 360 S.W.3d at 34-35. In order to
defeat jurisdiction, the title issue must be "so
integrally linked to the issue of possession that possession
may not be determined without first determining title."
Falcon v. Ensignia, 976 S.W.2d 336, 338 (Tex.
App.-Corpus Christi 1998, no pet.).
appeal, Chowdhury contends the county court lacked
jurisdiction because the district court's TRO precluded
KGI from prosecuting the forcible detainer action and
rendered the justice court's judgment void. Chowdhury
also asserts the right to possession was ...