Session February 25, 2015
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Smith County No. 2014-CV-28 John D. Wootten, Jr., Judge
Mark Evans, Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, appellant, Pro Se.
Klint W. Alexander and V. Austin Shaver, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Greentree Servicing, LLC.
Jamie D. Winkler, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jackie Farris.
W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Andy D. Bennett, J., joined.
W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Mark Evans owns real property adjoining property owned by Jackie Farris. Both properties are located in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee. At some point, a dispute arose between Mr. Evans and Mr. Farris over the location of a fence. Mr. Evans alleged that Mr. Farris tore down the fence, which Mr. Evans contends was located on his property, and moved it into a drainage ditch. The drainage ditch was also allegedly located on Mr. Evans's property. As a result, Mr. Evans's driveway was "washed out."
Mr. Evans brought an action against Mr. Farris and the entity from whom he purchased his property, Green Tree Servicing, LLC, in General Sessions Court for Smith County. Mr. Evans asserted four claims: (1) breach of contract; (2) fraud; (3) criminal trespass and vandalism, Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 39-14-405 and -408 (2014); and (4) violations of the Tennessee Real Estate Broker License Act of 1973, Tennessee Code Annotated § 62-13-312(b)(1), (2), (4), and (20) (2009). The general sessions court conducted a hearing on March 27, 2014. At the conclusion of the hearing, the general sessions court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because Mr. Evans's claims involved a boundary line dispute. The court advised Mr. Evans, who was proceeding pro se, that the chancery court had jurisdiction over such claims.
Rather than re-filing his claims in chancery court, Mr. Evans appealed the general sessions court's dismissal to the circuit court for de novo review. Green Tree moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Farris filed a similar motion. Green Tree and Mr. Farris both argued that Tennessee Code Annotated § 16-11-106(a) (2009) grants the chancery court exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over cases involving a boundary line dispute. The circuit court agreed, finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear Mr. Evans's claims because "one or more of [Mr. Evans's] claims arise from a boundary line dispute . . . ." Mr. Evans timely appealed the circuit court's dismissal of his case.
A. Mr. Evans's Compliance with Procedural Requirements
Before we address the merits of this appeal, we must first address a threshold issue -whether Mr. Evans waived his arguments on appeal by failing to comply with the applicable rules. Green Tree and Mr. Farris each argue that Mr. Evans's brief fails to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 and Tennessee Court of Appeals Rule 6. In considering this argument, we are mindful that Mr. Evans is not a lawyer and that he may have little legal training or familiarity with the judicial system. A party is entitled to fair treatment by our courts when they decide to represent themselves; however, "[p]ro se litigants are not [ ] entitled to shift the burden of litigating their case to the courts." Whitaker v. Whirlpool Corp., 32 S.W.3d 222, 227 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000); see also Young v. Barrow, 130 S.W.3d 59, 62 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003). ...