Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the County Court At Law No. 1 Kaufman County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 18C-034
Justices Whitehill, Partida-Kipness, and Pedersen, III
Inc. appeals the county court order dismissing its case
against Classic Industries, L.P. for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. In its sole issue, Haco-Atlantic contends the
county court, sitting in its appellate capacity, erred in
dismissing the case because Haco-Atlantic's claim against
Classic Industries was within the amount in controversy
jurisdictional limit of the justice court at the time it
originally filed suit. Because we conclude the amount of
damages specifically pleaded in the justice court did not
exceed $10, 000 when the action was filed and there was no
evidence that the allegations were fraudulently made to
confer jurisdiction, we reverse the dismissal order and
remand the cause to the county court. We issue this
memorandum opinion because the issues are well-settled in
law. See Tex. R. App. P. 47.4.
a suit on a debt that was originally filed in justice court.
Haco-Atlantic sued Classic Industries alleging it owed $8,
168.16 for work Haco-Atlantic performed on some of Classic
Industries' machinery. In its petition, Haco-Atlantic
also requested $1, 250 in attorney's fees for a total
award of $9, 418.16. The case proceeded and a discovery order
was entered. Haco-Atlantic then filed a motion for
summary disposition seeking $8, 168.16 plus $2, 500 in
attorney's fees. In response, Classic Industries moved to
dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction asserting the
amount sought by Haco-Atlantic exceeded the justice
court's $10, 000 amount in controversy jurisdictional
limit. The justice court denied Haco-Atlantic's motion
for summary disposition, granted Classic Industries'
motion, and dismissed the case without prejudice.
Haco-Atlantic then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in
the county court at law. In county court, Classic Industries
again filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing the county
court lacked jurisdiction over the case because the justice
court lacked jurisdiction based on the amount in controversy.
The county court agreed with Classic Industries and dismissed
the case. Haco-Atlantic appeals.
a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law
that we review de novo. See Harris Cnty v. Annab,
547 S.W.3d 609, 612 (Tex. 2018). Where, as here, the
jurisdictional challenge is based on the amount in
controversy, the plaintiff's pleadings are generally
determinative unless the defendant specifically alleges and
proves the amount pleaded was merely a sham for the purposes
of wrongly obtaining jurisdiction. See Bland Indep. Sch.
Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000). In fact,
when the amount in controversy alleged in the original
petition is within the jurisdictional limits but is
subsequently amended to increase the amount in controversy
above the court's jurisdictional limits, the court
retains jurisdiction if the additional amount accrued because
the passage of time. See Cont'l Coffee Prods. Co. v.
Cazarez, 937 S.W.2d 444, 449 (Tex. 1996); See also
Flynt v. Garcia, 587 S.W.2d 109, 109-10 (Tex. 1979) (per
curiam) (once jurisdiction is lawfully and properly acquired,
no later fact or event in the particular case serves to
justice court's original jurisdiction is limited to those
civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in the
district or county court and "in which the amount in
controversy is not more than $10, 000 exclusive of
interest." Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 27.031(a)(1).
When a case originally filed in justice court is appealed to
the county court, the appellate jurisdiction is also
restricted to the jurisdictional limits of the justice court
because a county court has no jurisdiction over the appeal
unless the justice court had jurisdiction. Rodney R.
Elkins & Co. v. Immanivong, 406 S.W.3d 777, 779
(Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, no pet.).
Haco-Atlantic's petition in justice court sought damages
of $8, 168.16 plus attorney's fees of $1, 250 which
totaled $9, 418.16, less than the $10, 000 jurisdictional
limit. There is nothing in the record to reflect the amount
of damages or attorney's fees stated in the original
petition were incorrect at the time the petition was filed.
Moreover, the fact that its request for attorney's fees
had increased to $2, 500 by the time it filed its motion for
summary disposition in the justice court did not defeat
jurisdiction because such fees are considered additional
damages as a result of the passage of time. See
Immanivong, 406 S.W.3d at 779-80.
reaching our conclusion we necessarily reject Classic
Industries' contention that in its original petition,
Haco-Atlantic pleaded damages in excess of the justice
court's jurisdiction. To support its position, Classic
Industries argues a statement in Haco-Atlantic's original
pleading- "In this suit Plaintiff seeks monetary relief
under $100, 000, including damages of any kind, penalties,
costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest and attorney
fees"-is an acknowledgment by Haco-Atlantic that the
amount in controversy could approach $100, 000. We do not
construe the above sentence as Haco-Atlantic's admission
that it was seeking damages that would approach $100, 000. On
the contrary, the pleading explicitly requests $8, 168.16 in
damages and $1, 250 in attorney's fees which is not only
under $100, 000 but also less than $10, 000.
Classic Industries failed to establish the amount in
controversy pleaded by Haco-Atlantic exceeded the justice
court's amount in controversy jurisdictional limits when
the case was originally filed or that Haco-Atlantic's
pleading allegations regarding the amount in controversy were
merely a sham for the purposes of wrongfully obtaining
jurisdiction, the county court erred in granting
Classic Industries' motion to dismiss for lack of
jurisdiction. We therefore resolve Haco-Atlantic's sole
issue in its favor.
on the record before us, we reverse the county court's
dismissal order and remand the cause to the county court for