TED H. LOWE, III ET AL.
JOSEPH M. BROWN ET AL.
Session October 2, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 1-15-11 Dale C. Workman, Judge
Joseph M. Brown, Knoxville, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Rufus W. Beamer, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Ted H. Lowe, III, Mary Lowe Graham, and Angela D. Lowe, in their capacities as co-personal representatives of the Estate of Ted H. Lowe, Jr.
Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J. and D. Michael Swiney, J., joined.
THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE
I. Factual and Procedural Background
The defendant, Joseph M. Brown, and his wife, Jewel M. Brown, entered into a written lease agreement with Ted H. Lowe, Jr. ("the Decedent") on May 9, 2009. According to the terms of the lease agreement, the Browns were to pay $1, 200.00 per month in exchange for rental of a condominium unit in Knoxville. The agreement set a fixed term for the lease of approximately fourteen months, beginning May 9, 2009, and ending July 31, 2010. The lease also provided for the possibility of extension or renewal.
The Decedent died suddenly in December 2009 as the result of an automobile accident. It is undisputed that the Browns paid the Decedent $1, 200.00 monthly rent through November 2009. It is also undisputed that the Browns did not pay rent in December 2009 or thereafter. In his pleadings and on appeal, Mr. Brown asserts that he and Ms. Brown failed to pay rent because they were attempting unsuccessfully to identify and contact the attorney for the Decedent's estate ("the Estate").
On May 11, 2010, attorney Frank Watkins, acting on behalf of the Estate, filed a detainer warrant action and attempted to serve the Browns. Service of process was unsuccessful, and process was reissued on June 29, 2010, with service by posting and mailing. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-115(e) (2012) (providing for service of process of a detainer warrant through posting on the door of the premises combined with mailing via United States Postal Service first class mail in the event that three documented attempts at personal service of process are unsuccessful). The Estate obtained a default judgment in the Knox County General Sessions Court for possession of the condominium on August 10, 2010. Also on August 10, 2010, process was reissued with notice of a damages hearing set for September 10, 2010. Personal service of process to the Browns was accomplished on August 27, 2010, although the Browns refused to sign for service.
Following a non-jury trial conducted on October 19, 2010, the General Sessions Court awarded a judgment in favor of the Estate in the amount of $16, 120.36 and authorized a writ of possession in favor of the Estate for the condominium. Mr. Brown filed a notice of appeal to the Knox County Circuit Court on November 3, 2010. He and Ms. Brown, acting through attorney J. Myers Morton, subsequently filed a "Petition for Certiorari in Lieu of Appeal, " on January 14, 2011, which the Circuit Court ("trial court") granted on January 19, 2011.
On March 6, 2012, the trial court entered an order setting the action for trial and substituting the personal representatives of the Estate, Ted H. Lowe, III, Mary Lowe Graham, and Angela D. Lowe ("Personal Representatives"), as the proper plaintiffs. Through an agreed order entered September 27, 2012, the trial court, inter alia, substituted attorney Glen B. Rutherford as the Browns' counsel.
Following a non-jury trial conducted on January 9, 2013, the trial court entered a judgment in the amount of $15, 882.28 in favor of the Personal ...