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Furrer v. Furrer

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

October 10, 2019

RONNIE FURRER AND GENEVA MAE SCHNELLE, Appellants
v.
FAY ELAINE FURRER, Appellee

          Submitted on July 22, 2019

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Montgomery County, Texas Trial Cause No. 18-30808

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STEVE MCKEITHEN, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Ronnie Furrer and Geneva Mae Schnelle ("the Appellants") appeal from a judgment finding them guilty of forcible detainer and awarding Ronnie's ex-wife, Fay Elaine Furrer, possession of property. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         Ronnie and Fay divorced in 2006, and the divorce judgment awarded Fay the property located on Newton Circle in Conroe, Texas. In 2018, Fay filed a suit for eviction against the Appellants in the Justice Court, Precinct 1, Montgomery County, Texas. Prior to filing suit, Fay attached a notice to vacate to the exterior of the front door of the property located on Newton Circle. See Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 24.005 (West Supp. 2018). The justice court dismissed Fay's suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Fay appealed to the county court, exercising her right to obtain a trial de novo. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.9, 510.10(c). Fay filed a petition alleging that (1) she was the owner of the real property that is the subject of the suit by virtue of having been granted title to the property in a 2006 divorce judgment, (2) the Appellants took possession of and occupied the property, (3) she served the Appellants a notice to vacate the property, (4) the Appellants have failed and refused to vacate the property, and (5) she has the right to immediate possession of the property. The Appellants filed an answer and a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the county court did not acquire subject matter jurisdiction of the eviction suit because the justice court did not have jurisdiction. The Appellants also argued that the property was not located in Precinct 1.

         The county court conducted a bench trial. Fay testified that when she and Ronnie divorced in 2006, she was awarded the property at issue, and Ronnie's counsel stipulated that the divorce decree awarded the property to Fay as her separate property. Fay explained that she gave Ronnie permission to move back in with her in 2008, and Fay left in 2009 because of family violence. Fay testified that in 2018, she posted a notice to vacate on the front door of the house, and Ronnie has refused to move out of her house. Fay further testified that she is afraid of Ronnie because he has been violent in the past, and she posted the notice to vacate on the outside of the door because she was scared that he would be violent if she tried to go inside the house. Fay explained that Ronnie is living in her house with Geneva, and Fay asked the court to grant her a writ of possession and have them both removed. Fay testified that she had not made any payments on the land or the mobile home since she left the property in 2009, and that she considered the payments Ronnie made to be rental payments. According to Fay, Ronnie is not leasing the property from her and does not have her permission to be there, and she has asked Ronnie to leave several times.

         Ronnie testified that he is currently in possession of the property that Fay had had been awarded in the divorce, and that he received a notice to vacate the property, which was posted on the outside of the front door. According to Ronnie, he never received a copy of the notice to vacate in the mail. Ronnie testified that he contested the removal because he made payments while living at the property. Ronnie testified that he had never paid Fay rent.

         The county court denied the Appellants' plea to the jurisdiction, found the Appellants guilty of forcible detainer, and rendered a judgment that Fay have possession of the property. The Appellants filed a motion to set aside the judgment, for a new trial, or to modify the judgment, arguing that the county court did not have subject matter jurisdiction and that the evidence was insufficient to support the county court's judgment. The Appellants argued that the justice court did not have jurisdiction because Fay failed to give proper notice to vacate the property and to provide the required information in her petition, and that the county court should have deferred to the judgment of the justice court and determined that it also did not have jurisdiction. The county court denied the Appellants' motion for new trial.

         The county court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, in which the court found, among other things, that the Appellants stipulated that Fay owned the property, the property is located in Precinct 1, Montgomery County, Texas, Fay placed a notice to vacate on the outside of the front door of the mobile home attached to the property, Ronnie admitted receipt of the notice to vacate, and the Appellants refused to vacate. The county court concluded, among other things, that: (1) it had jurisdiction; (2) the statutory notice requirements in an eviction case do not affect the court's jurisdiction; (3) the lack of explanation in the pleading as to why the eviction was sought does not deprive the court of jurisdiction; (4) Fay had a greater right to possession of the property; (5) the Appellants committed a forcible detainer; (6) Fay made a proper demand for the property; (7) the manner of notice was legally sufficient; and (8) the Appellants had actual notice. The Appellants appealed.

         Analysis

         In issue one, the Appellants complain that the county court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. According to the Appellants, the justice court's order of dismissal based upon lack of jurisdiction deprived the county court of jurisdiction. Fay appealed the justice court's judgment dismissing her eviction suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction to the county court, exercising her right to obtain a trial de novo. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.9, 510.10(c). The Appellants now appeal the judgment entered by the county court at law. The county court at law has jurisdiction to conduct a ...


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