WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.
Session November 14, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-002902-16
Rhynette N. Hurd, Judge.
case involves the appeal of an action for possession of
property initially filed in general sessions court. On appeal
to the circuit court, the trial court dismissed the
appellant's counterclaims for failure to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted. The circuit court
thereafter determined that the appeal from general sessions
court was not timely. We reverse the circuit court's
dismissal of the general sessions appeal for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction but affirm the dismissal of the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed in Part; Affirmed in Part; and Remanded.
Drayton D. Berkley, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Bradley E. Trammell and Kavita Goswamy Shelat, Memphis,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Wells Fargo Bank, N. A.
Steven Stafford, P. J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Arnold
B. Goldin, J., joined.
STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.
case originated with the filing of a detainer warrant by
Plaintiff/Appellee Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells
Fargo") in Shelby County General Sessions Court
("general sessions court") against
Defendant/Appellant Marcus Dorris ("Appellant").
The warrant sought only possession of the property. At the
scheduled June 20, 2016 hearing, Appellant did not appear and
the general sessions court awarded possession of the property
in question to Wells Fargo. The following day, Appellant
filed a motion to set aside the judgment and attached, as
exhibits, motions to transfer to circuit court and to
dismiss, as well as an answer and three counterclaims. In
these filings, Appellant sought to (1) transfer the action to
circuit court; (2) dismiss the eviction action; and (3)
assert counterclaims for wrongful foreclosure, violation of
the federal Truth in Lending Act, and fraudulent suppression
of the transfer of the note.
6, 2016, the general sessions court clerk's office issued
a writ of possession regarding the subject property. On July
8, 2016, while the post-judgment motion was pending,
Appellant filed a notice of appeal to circuit court. On
August 9, 2016, the general sessions court entered its order
denying the motion to set aside, stating, in relevant part,
that the notice of appeal divested the general sessions court
of jurisdiction and the parties should proceed with the
appeal in circuit court.
case was transferred to the Shelby County Circuit Court
("trial court") and on October 5, 2016, Wells Fargo
filed a motion to dismiss Appellant's counterclaims. The
motion did not address whether Appellant's counterclaims
were timely raised during the detainer proceeding in general
sessions court but instead addressed the substance of
Appellant's arguments. On December 9, 2016, the trial
court granted Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss
parties then engaged in a period of discovery. On February
13, 2017, however, Wells Fargo filed a motion to enforce the
June 20, 2016 judgment of the general sessions court, arguing
for the first time that Appellant's appeal was untimely
where no notice of appeal had been filed in the ten days
following the August 9, 2016 order denying the motion to set
aside. On April 7, 2017, the trial court issued
an order enforcing the judgment of the general sessions
court. The trial court ruled that Appellant failed to file a
notice of appeal in the ten days following the general
sessions court's denial of the motion to set aside, as
required for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction. By this
order, all of the claims raised by the parties had been
adjudicated and Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal to
raises two issues on appeal, which are taken, and slightly
restated, from his brief:
1. Whether the July 8, 2016 notice of appeal transferred
subject matter jurisdiction to the trial court from the
general sessions court.
2. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing
Appellant's counterclaims against Wells Fargo.
initial matter, we must first determine whether the trial
court had subject matter jurisdiction to consider
Appellant's appeal from the general sessions court.
Subject matter jurisdiction concerns "a court's
lawful authority to adjudicate a controversy brought before
it[, ]" is dependent on the nature of the action and the
relief sought, and is determined by reference to the
authority granted to the court by the constitution or the
General Assembly. Chapman v. DaVita, Inc., 380
S.W.3d 710, 712 (Tenn. 2012) (citing Meighan v. U.S.
Sprint Commc'ns Co., 924 S.W.2d 632, 639 (Tenn.
1996); Landers v. Jones, 872 S.W.2d 674, 675 (Tenn.
1994); Kane v. Kane, 547 S.W.2d 559, 560 (Tenn.
1977)). When challenged, the party asserting that the court
has subject matter jurisdiction over the controversy bears
the burden of proof. Chapman, 380 S.W.3d at 712
(citing Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of
Memphis, 363 S.W.3d 436, 445 (Tenn. 2012)). The
"determination of whether subject matter jurisdiction
exists is a question of law, our standard of review is de
novo, without a presumption of correctness."
Northland Ins. Co. v. State, 33 S.W.3d 727, 729
(Tenn. 2000) (citing Nelson v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 8 S.W.3d 625, 628 (Tenn. 1999)).
extent that this case involves the interpretation of a
statute, our review is also de novo with no presumption of
correctness. See Rajvongs v. Wright, 432 S.W.3d 808,
811 (Tenn. 2013). "When the statutory language is clear
and unambiguous, we must apply its plain meaning in its
normal and accepted use, without a forced interpretation that
would limit or expand the statute's application."
Eastman Chem. ...