Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the County Court at Law No. 3, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2018CV00153 Honorable David J. Rodriguez, Judge
Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice Beth
TCOE, Inc. appeals the county court's judgment awarding
appellee SA Quad Ventures, LLC possession of certain leased
premises. On appeal, TCOE contends the county court erred in:
(1) denying its plea to the jurisdiction and failing to
dismiss SA Quad's suit; and (2) granting judgment and a
writ of possession in favor of SA Quad. We affirm the county
leased commercial premises to TCOE. Subsequently, SA Quad
sent nine notices of default to TCOE for alleged material
breaches of the lease. The final notice included a notice to
vacate. When TCOE refused to vacate, SA Quad filed a forcible
detainer action in justice court. SA Quad's verified
original petition did not contain a description of the facts
and grounds for eviction as required by Rule 510.3 of the
Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. See Tex. R. Civ. P.
510.3(a)(2). SA Quad filed its first amended petition a week
later, but unlike the original petition, it was not verified.
See id. R. 510.3(a). The justice court rendered
judgment in favor of SA Quad, awarding it possession of the
premises. TCOE appealed to the county court at law and moved
to dismiss the matter for want of subject matter
jurisdiction. The county court denied TCOE's motion,
found TCOE forcibly detained the leased premises, and awarded
SA Quad possession of the premises, attorney's fees,
costs, and interest. TCOE appealed.
first contends the county court erred in denying its plea to
the jurisdiction and failing to dismiss SA Quad's suit.
According to TCOE, SA Quad's failure to file a verified
petition in the justice court divested that court-and the
county court-of subject matter jurisdiction. TCOE next
asserts the lower courts erred in granting SA Quad a writ of
possession because SA Quad failed to prove it had a superior
right to possession or that TCOE was in default at the time
of the notice to vacate. We address these arguments in turn.
review de novo a challenge to a lower court's subject
matter jurisdiction. Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd.,
548 S.W.3d 477, 486 (Tex. 2018). Review is de novo because
the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a question of
law. Harris Cty. v. Annab, 547 S.W.3d 609, 612 (Tex.
510.3(a) provides that petitions in eviction cases "must
be sworn to by the plaintiff[.]" Tex.R.Civ.P. 510.3(a).
TCOE argues the absence of a verified pleading violated Rule
510.3(a), divesting the justice court-and, by extension, the
county court-of subject matter jurisdiction. See id.
TCOE contends that because we must strictly construe
"statutes" creating claims, verification of a
petition is mandatory to confer jurisdiction. For support,
TCOE points to cases involving the Texas Citizens
Participation Act and cases concerning motions to reinstate
after dismissals for want of prosecution. None of these
cases, however, hold a court is deprived of subject matter
jurisdiction if a plaintiff files an unverified petition,
even where a statute requires verification.
contrast, SA Quad cites several opinions in forcible detainer
actions which support the conclusion that verification is not
a jurisdictional requirement. We agree.
courts should be "reluctant to conclude that a provision
is jurisdictional, absent clear legislative intent to that
effect." City of DeSoto v. White, 288 S.W.3d
389, 393 (Tex. 2009). This is because deeming a provision
jurisdictional "opens the way to making judgments
vulnerable to delayed attack." Id. Nothing in
the plain language of Rule 510.3 demonstrates that the
petition requirement is jurisdictional. See Crosstex
Energy Servs., L.P. v. Pro Plus, Inc., 430 S.W.3d 384,
391-92 (Tex. 2014) (reviewing statute's plain meaning to
determine whether requirement is jurisdictional). Although
the rule provides a petition must be sworn, "mandatory
statutory duties are not necessarily jurisdictional."
Id. at 391. Also, because the purpose of the rule is
to maintain "a just, fair, equitable and impartial
adjudication of the rights of the litigants . . . at the
least expense," deeming the provision to be
jurisdictional defeats the rule's purpose. Tex.R.Civ.P.
1; see Crosstex Energy, 430 S.W.3d at 392
(considering purpose of statute when determining whether
provision is jurisdictional).
this court has recognized that a defective verification does
not deprive a court of jurisdiction in a forcible detainer
action. Lenz v. Bank of America, N.A., 510 S.W.3d
667, 669 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2016, pet. denied). Our
sister courts have treated defective verifications as no
verification at all and still maintained jurisdiction over
those cases. See, e.g., Norvelle v. PNC Mortg., 472
S.W.3d 444, 446 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2015, no pet.);
Mekeel v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 355 S.W.3d
349, 355 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2011, pet. denied); Shutter
v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 318 S.W.3d 467, 469-70 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2010, pet. dism'd w.o.j.); Reagan v. NPOT
Partners I, L.P., No. 06-08-00071-CV, 2009 WL 763565, at
*1-2 (Tex. App.-Texarkana Mar. 25, 2009, pet. dism'd
w.o.j.) (mem. op.) (reasoning that even defective affidavit
which left complaint "effectively unsworn" did not
deprive trial court of ...