LARRY D. PATTON, ET AL.
SHELBY COUNTY GOVERNMENT, ET AL.
Session: January 18, 2017
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No.
CT-002153-15 Felicia Corbin Johnson, Judge.
2014, the plaintiffs filed this claim against several
defendants pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort
Liability Act due to the recording of a forged deed in 2009.
The circuit court dismissed the lawsuit based on the
GTLA's one-year statute of limitations. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
D. Patton, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Mildred H. Patton, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Barnett Turner, Jr., and Virginia Patterson Bozeman, Memphis,
Tennessee, for the appellees, Shelby County Government,
Shelby County Reigster, Emma Summerville, and Christina
Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John W. McClarty and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.
BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE.
Facts & Procedural History
October 8, 2014, Mildred H. Patton and her son Larry D.
Patton (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a pro se
"Petition for Judicial Review for Forgery, Fraud[ulent]
Conveyance and Negligence with Malice" in the chancery
court of Shelby County. The complaint named as defendants the
Shelby County Government, the Shelby County Register of
Deeds, Shelby County Government employee and notary public
Emma Summerville, and the deed examiner at the Shelby County
Register of Deeds office, Christina Morgan (collectively,
"Defendants"). The complaint set forth a claim
pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act
("GTLA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101, et seq.
According to the complaint, on June 6, 2009, defendant Emma
Summerville notarized a forged and fraudulent quitclaim deed
to property located at 2087 Benton Street in Memphis that was
owned by Mildred Patton and her other son, Crawford Patton.
The Benton Street property was vacant at the time, as Larry
Patton and Crawford Patton were both living with their mother
Mildred at another home in Memphis. The forged quitclaim deed
purportedly conveyed the Benton Street property to Jerry L.
Harris. The Register of Deeds office rejected the deed
because it was incomplete and sent a letter to the Benton
Street address stating that the deed lacked necessary
information. Upon receipt of the letter, Larry Patton called
the Register's office and spoke with deed examiner
Christina Morgan. He explained that the Patton family did not
know a Jerry Harris and had not conveyed the Benton Street
property to anyone, nor did they intend to do so. Allegedly,
Ms. Morgan said that she would call the Pattons "if
anything else [came] up."
to the October 8, 2014 complaint, on June 23, 2009, defendant
Emma Summerville notarized a second forged and fraudulent
quitclaim deed again purporting to convey the Benton Street
property from Mildred and Crawford Patton to Jerry Harris.
Unbeknownst to the Pattons, this deed was successfully
recorded in the Register of Deeds office. Six months later,
on January 20, 2010, Larry Patton paid the real property
taxes for the Benton Street property and was provided with a
receipt listing the name Jerry Harris. The October 8, 2014
complaint stated, "This is when I found out that Emma
Summerville had notarized and Christina Morgan had filed that
forged, fraudulent deed on the property[.]" According to
the complaint, Larry Patton called Christina Morgan to ask
why she did not verify the validity of the deed but received
no explanation. In June 2010, Larry Patton and Mildred Patton
went to the Memphis Police Department and filed a complaint
regarding the forgery. Mildred and Crawford Patton executed a
quitclaim deed on June 8, 2010, conveying the Benton Street
property to Mildred and Larry Patton. On or about June 16,
2010, Larry took the deed to the Shelby County Register's
office, but he was told that he could not file his deed.
October 8, 2014 complaint recited that Mildred, Crawford, and
Larry Patton had jointly filed a pro se lawsuit in chancery
court on June 23, 2010, entitled "Petition for
Cancellation of Forged Deed and to Quiet Title." The
only defendant in that lawsuit was Jerry L. Harris. The 2010
complaint alleged that the June 23, 2009 deed was
"fraudulent, forged, and void." While the matter
was pending, Larry Patton returned to the Shelby County
Register of Deeds office and successfully filed his June 8,
2010 quitclaim deed on August 31, 2012. The chancery court
entered an order in the action to quiet title on May 1, 2013,
granting summary judgment in favor of Mildred and Crawford
Patton, declaring that the June 23, 2009 deed was a forgery
and "null and void" and ordering the deed stricken
from the records of the Shelby County Register.
their October 8, 2014 complaint, Mildred Patton and Larry
Patton alleged that defendant Christina Morgan committed
"negligence with malice" by recording the June 23,
2009 deed days after speaking with Larry Patton about the
prior forged deed. They alleged that the Register's
office failed to exercise reasonable care in allowing the
forged deed to be filed. Plaintiffs sought compensatory and
punitive damages due to Defendants' actions. They
attached numerous documents to their complaint, including the
various quitclaim deeds, numerous letters and tax notices
regarding the property, documents related to their complaint
with the police department, their previous chancery court
petition and the May 1, 2013 summary judgment order, in
addition to other items.
November 14, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
October 8, 2014 complaint based on the GTLA's one year
statute of limitations and the allegations relating to events
that occurred in June 2009. The case was subsequently
transferred to circuit court due to its jurisdiction over
GTLA claims. Defendants renewed their motion to dismiss in
the motion to dismiss was heard, Mildred Patton filed pro se
a First Amended Complaint. The First Amended Complaint
removed Larry Patton as a plaintiff. It repeated the
allegations regarding the forgery in June 2009 but omitted
all references to the discovery of the forgery and the prior
chancery court lawsuit filed in 2010. The First Amended
Complaint stated, "On or around January, 2014, Plaintiff
learned for the first time that the Quit Claim Deed (Inst.
No. 09075677) recorded by Jerry L. Harris contained the
forged signatures of the Plaintiff and Crawford Patton and
that Defendant Summerville knowingly and fraudulently
attested" the deed. Defendants filed another motion to
dismiss. They argued that the allegation that Mildred Patton
did not learn about the forgery until 2014 was "patently
false" given her statements in the original complaint
and the previous chancery court lawsuit she filed against
Jerry Harris in 2010. Defendants argued that Mildred Patton
had unequivocal knowledge that a forgery had occurred, at the
very latest, when the chancery court entered the order on May
1, 2013, declaring the deed a forgery, and therefore her
complaint against Defendants filed on October 8, 2014, was
barred by the one year statute of limitations.
Patton subsequently filed a motion for permission to amend
her complaint, again, to rename Larry Patton as a plaintiff
and necessary party. The motion alleged that Larry Patton was
"inadvertently tak[en] off" the First Amended
Complaint and that he possessed all of the knowledge
regarding the lawsuits and investigation, while Mildred
Patton did not. The motion to amend alleged that Larry Patton
was the principal plaintiff who incurred the loss and damage
when the property was deeded to Jerry Harris. The motion to
amend also asserted that the complaint was filed "well
within the one year statute of limitations."
response, Defendants did not object to Larry Patton being
renamed as a plaintiff, but they asked the court to deny any
further amendment to the complaint as futile due to the
statute of limitations. In a reply, Plaintiffs contended that
the statute of limitations did not begin to run until October
2013, when Larry Patton received a property tax bill and
learned that the Register's office had finally complied
with the May 1, 2013 order and changed its records to reflect
that the property was owned by Mildred Patton and Larry
Patton. Larry Patton argued that he became aware of his
"legal ability" to file a lawsuit at that time. He