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Watson v. Ralston-Good

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 30, 2017

TOM WATSON
v.
ROSEMARIE RALSTON-GOOD ET AL.[1]

          Assigned on Briefs March 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 16C118 W. Neil Thomas, III, Judge

         The plaintiff business owner, who provided carpet cleaning services, filed an action in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court ("general sessions court") against a customer, alleging that the customer had failed to compensate him for services rendered. The customer subsequently filed a counterclaim against the business owner, alleging that he had ruined an oriental rug in her home and sprayed chemicals on her furniture. The general sessions court entered a judgment in favor of the customer. The business owner appealed to the Hamilton County Circuit Court ("trial court"). Following a de novo trial, the trial court also found in favor of the customer, determining that the business owner had damaged the customer's carpet. The trial court awarded damages to the customer in the amount of $500.00. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Tom Watson, East Ridge, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Rosemarie Ralston-Good, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          John Ralston-Good, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On August 31, 2015, Tom Watson, owner of a carpet cleaning franchise named Southern Empire Chem-Dry, filed an action against Rosemarie Ralston-Good in the general sessions court, alleging that she had failed to compensate him for carpet cleaning services rendered. Ms. Ralston-Good subsequently filed a counterclaim in the action against Mr. Watson, alleging that he had damaged an oriental rug and sprayed chemicals on her furniture. [2] The general sessions court adjudicated both the original claim and counterclaim on December 16, 2015. The general sessions court ruled in favor of Ms. Ralston-Good, dismissing Mr. Watson's claim and awarding Ms. Ralston-Good damages in the amount of $347.80. Mr. Watson appealed to the trial court. On June 23, 2016, Ms. Ralston-Good filed a motion with the trial court to add John Ralston-Good as a second defendant and counter-plaintiff due to Ms. Ralston-Good's daily medical appointments. The trial court granted Ms. Ralston-Good's motion.

         The trial court conducted a de novo trial on the merits on July 12, 2016. The record contains no transcript or statement of the evidence reflecting the proceedings of July 12, 2016. On July 13, 2016, the trial court entered a judgment, finding that the "carpet cleaning by [Mr. Watson] who was retained by [Ms. Ralston-Good] resulted in some damage to the carpet" and awarding to Ms. Ralston-Good damages in the amount of $500.00. In its judgment, however, the trial court misstated the procedural history of the case, referencing the "appeal of Rosemarie Ralston-Good from a decision of General Sessions Court in her favor." The trial court stated that a "companion case in General Sessions Court" resulted in a decision in favor of Ms. Ralston-Good "and no appeal was taken." The trial court also inverted the parties' names in the style of the case on the written judgment. Mr. Watson timely appealed to this Court while Ms. Ralston-Good did not institute an appeal. Mr. Watson subsequently filed a notice with the trial court that he did not intend to file a transcript or statement of the evidence. See Tenn. R. App. P. 24(d).

         II. Issues Presented

         Mr. Watson essentially presents two issues for our review, which we have restated as follows:

1) Whether the trial court committed reversible error by issuing a judgment that misstated the facts of the case.
2) Whether the trial court erred by failing to comply with due process requirements and the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

         III. Standard of Review

         Regarding de novo appeals to circuit court from general sessions court, this Court previously has explained:

Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-15-729 (Supp. 2007) governs appeals from general sessions court to circuit court, and requires a de novo review by the circuit court. As our Supreme court held in Ware v. Meharry Medical College, 898 S.W.2d 181 (Tenn. 1995):
De novo appeals from the general sessions court differ from other types of appellate proceedings. The circuit court does not review the general sessions court's decision. Rather, it provides the parties an entirely new trial as if no other trial had occurred and as if the case had originated in the circuit court.

Id. at 184 (citations omitted).

Consequently, this Court reviews the decision of the circuit court de novo upon the record with a presumption of correctness as to the trial court's findings of facts. We must affirm those findings unless the evidence preponderates to the contrary. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Union Carbide v. Huddleston, 854 S.W.2d 87, 91 (Tenn. 1993).

Best Signs, Inc. v. Bobby King, 358 S.W.3d 226, 229-30 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009) perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 17, 2009) ...


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