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Mora v. Vincent

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 13, 2017

FREDDY MORA, ET AL.
v.
DAVID VINCENT, ET AL.

          Session January 26, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Bradley County No. 2011-CV-143 Jerri S. Bryant, Chancellor

         Freddy Mora ("Plaintiff"), pro se, appeals the February 4, 2016 judgment of the Chancery Court for Bradley County ("the Trial Court") in this suit alleging violations of Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-101, et seq., the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Plaintiff's brief on appeal severely fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We, therefore, find that Plaintiff has waived his issues on appeal. David Vincent and Teresa Vincent ("Defendants") raise an issue regarding the Trial Court's award to Plaintiff of attorney's fees. We find and hold that while the award of attorney's fees was proper, there is nothing in the record before us on appeal showing any evidence which the Trial Court could have relied upon in determining the amount of attorney's fees. Nor is there anything in the record showing that the Trial Court considered the factors contained in Rule 8, RPC 1.5 of the Rules of the Supreme Court or the applicable case law in determining the amount of reasonable attorney's fees. Given all this, we vacate the amount awarded in attorney's fees and remand this case to the Trial Court for further proceedings to determine the amount of reasonable attorney's fees to be awarded to Plaintiff.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed, in part; Vacated, in part; Case Remanded

          Freddy Mora, Cleveland, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

          Laurie H. Hallenberg, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellees, David Vincent and Teresa Vincent.

          Mitchell L. Meeks, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, John Christopher German.

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR. and JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Freddy Mora and Nadya Mora[2] sued David Vincent alleging, among other things, violations of Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-101, et seq., the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, in connection with an agreement for the Moras to lease/purchase real property located in Cleveland, Tennessee. The Moras later amended their complaint to name Teresa Vincent and John Christopher German[3] as additional party defendants.

         The case was tried without a jury, and all parties were represented by attorneys at trial. After trial, the Trial Court entered its judgment on February 4, 2016, finding and holding, inter alia, that the defendants had violated the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, that the plaintiffs were entitled to the return of their security deposit and personal property that remained on the premises, that the plaintiffs were entitled to an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $7, 500, that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their other claims, and that the defendants had failed to prove their counterclaim. Plaintiff Freddy Mora appealed the Trial Court's judgment to this Court.

         Plaintiff is pro se on appeal. As this Court explained in Young v. Barrow:

Parties who decide to represent themselves are entitled to fair and equal treatment by the courts. Whitaker v. Whirlpool Corp., 32 S.W.3d 222, 227 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000); Paehler v. Union Planters Nat'l Bank, Inc., 971 S.W.2d 393, 396 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997). The courts should take into account that many pro se litigants have no legal training and little familiarity with the judicial system. Irvin v. City of Clarksville, 767 S.W.2d 649, 652 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988). However, the courts must also be mindful of the boundary between fairness to a pro se litigant and unfairness to the pro se litigant's adversary. Thus, the courts must not excuse pro se litigants from complying with the same substantive and procedural rules that represented parties are expected to observe. Edmundson v. Pratt, 945 S.W.2d 754, 755 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996); Kaylor v. Bradley, 912 S.W.2d 728, 733 n. 4 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995).

Young v. Barrow, 130 S.W.3d 59, 62-63 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003).

         Plaintiff's brief on appeal severely fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure specifies that an appellant's brief must contain, inter alia:

(1)A table of contents, with references to the pages in the brief;
(2)A table of authorities, including cases (alphabetically arranged), statutes and other authorities cited, with references to the pages in the brief where they are cited;
* * *
(4)A statement of the issues presented for ...

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