Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No. 2 Harris County,
Texas Trial Court Case No. 1104954
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and
CARTER HIGLEY, JUSTICE
an appeal from the county court's judgment dismissing a
forcible-detainer action for lack of jurisdiction. A house
buyer, SellUsYourHouse.com, LLC ("the Buyer")
purchased real property from three siblings. The Buyer then
filed a forcible-detainer action against a fourth sibling,
Russell Glenn Walker, who claimed to possess a one-fourth
interest in the property. The justice court entered judgment
for the Buyer, and, after a de novo trial, the county court
reversed, holding that both courts lacked jurisdiction.
issues, the Buyer argues that (1) the county court erred in
dismissing its suit because the evidence proves, as a matter
of law, that the Buyer has a superior right to immediate
possession of the property and (2) the county court abused
its discretion in admitting documentary evidence that Walker
possesses a one-fourth interest in the property because such
evidence was unauthenticated and irrelevant.
forcible-detainer action involves residential property
located in Harris County, Texas ("the Property").
The Property was purchased in the early 1970s by Earnest Carl
Johnson ("Earnest Sr.") and his wife, Isabel Marie
Johnson (nee Walker).
died intestate decades later, on August 29, 2004. She was
survived by Earnest Sr. and their four children, Earnest C.
Johnson III ("Earnest Jr."), Carolyn Johnson,
Sherriel Johnson, and appellee Russell Glenn
Walker. At the time of Isabel's death, Russell
was living on the Property with Isabel and Earnest Sr. After
Isabel died, Russell continued to live on the Property,
helping care for Earnest Sr.
Sr. died intestate about nine-and-a-half years later, on
December 17, 2013. After Earnest Sr. died, Russell continued
to live on the Property. However, Earnest Sr. and Isabel
remained the Property's record title holders, as neither
of their estates were probated.
in 2017, Russell's three siblings, Earnest Jr., Carolyn,
and Sherriel, conveyed their interest in the Property to a
company specializing in residential home buying,
SellUsYourHouse.com, LLC (again, "the Buyer"). The
record does not reflect the circumstances under which the
conveyance took place or why Russell was not included in the
21, 2017, Russell filed an heirship affidavit with the Harris
County Clerk. The affidavit consisted of the testimony of two
disinterested witnesses, Benny Nelson and Aron Matton, who
stated that they had known Earnest Sr. for years; that
Earnest Sr. died on December 17, 2013 without leaving a will;
and that he was survived by his four adult children, Russell,
Earnest Jr., Carolyn, and Sherriel.
days later, on July 13, 2017, the Buyer recorded a general
warranty deed with the Harris County Clerk. Under the deed,
Earnest Jr., Carolyn, and Sherriel "granted, sold and
conveyed" their interest in the Property to the Buyer.
The deed did not state whether the three siblings'
collective interest in the property was partial or complete.
Nor did the deed mention Russell or otherwise indicate
whether Russell (or anyone else) owned an interest in the
Property. After the Buyer recorded the deed, Russell
continued to live on the Property.
that September, Russell received a statutory notice to vacate
from the Buyer. The notice advised Russell that his
possession of the Property had been terminated and demanded
that he vacate the Property within three days. The notice
further advised Russell that if he failed to vacate the