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Loggins v. Continental Apartments

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 27, 2018

DR. NORMAN C. LOGGINS
v.
CONTINENTAL APARTMENTS ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs February 2, 2018

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004362-16 Jerry Stokes, Judge

         This complaint is a forcible entry and detainer action. Appellant appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for default judgment. The order appealed is not a final judgment so as to confer subject matter jurisdiction on this Court pursuant to Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal. Because the trial court entered its order dismissing Appellant's complaint while the appeal was pending in this Court, we vacate the order of dismissal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Vacated; Appeal Dismissed

          Dr. Norman C. Loggins, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Cedrick D. Wooten, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Continental Apartments, Harvard Stephens, and Barbara Nabrit Stephens.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         On October 26, 2016, Dr. Norman C. Loggins ("Appellant") filed a complaint against Continental Apartments, Harvard Stephens, and Barbara Nabrit Stephens (together "Appellees"). In his complaint, Appellant alleges that he was wrongfully evicted in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-18-127. Specifically, Appellant alleges that, on February 10, 2015, the Shelby County General Sessions Court entered a judgment in favor of Continental Apartments, granting a writ of possession for 1422 Lamar Avenue, Apartment #607. According to Appellant, Continental Apartments changed the locks on his apartment the same day the judgment was entered, thereby denying him an opportunity to retrieve his belongings in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-18-127. Appellant alleges that Continental Apartments and its agent never informed him of the location of his personal property, leaving Appellant with only the clothes on his back. Appellant's complaint requests compensatory damages in the amount of $9, 802, 834.32 and punitive damages in the amount of $35, 000, 000.00.

         On December 14, 2016, Continental Apartments filed an answer wherein it denied the material allegations of the complaint. As an affirmative defense, Continental Apartments alleged that Appellant's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.[1] Two weeks after Continental Apartments filed its answer to the complaint, Appellant filed a motion for default judgment. On April 7, 2017, the trial court entered an order denying Appellant's motion. On May 8, 2017, Appellant filed the instant appeal. Appellant's notice of appeal specifically states that the order appealed is the April 7, 2017 order denying the motion for default judgment. While Appellant's appeal was pending in this Court, on July 14, 2017, the trial court entered an order dismissing the complaint for lack of prosecution. Appellant raises one issue as stated in his brief, which is "whether the trial court erred in not granting [Appellant's] motion for default after the expiration of the thirty day period, in which [Appellee] failed to file an answer to the complaint."

         Before reaching Appellant's issue, Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 13(b) requires this Court to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate an appeal. Specifically, Tennessee Rule 13(b) of Appellate Procedure provides:

The appellate court shall also consider whether the trial and appellate court have jurisdiction over the subject matter, whether or not presented for review, and may in its discretion consider other issues in order, among other reasons: (1) to prevent needless litigation, (2) to prevent injury to the interests of the public, and (3) to prevent prejudice to the judicial process.

Tenn. R. App. P. 13. Subject matter jurisdiction concerns the authority of the court to hear a matter and cannot be waived. Meighan v. U.S. Sprint Commc'ns Co., 924 S.W.2d 632, 639 (Tenn. 1996). "Issues concerning subject matter jurisdiction are so important that appellate courts must address them even if they were not raised in the trial court." First Am. Trust Co. v. Franklin-Murray Dev. Co.,59 S.W.3d 135, 140 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001) (citing Manning v. Feidelson,136 S.W.2d 510, 510-11 (Tenn. 1940); Morrow v. Bobbitt,943 S.W.2d ...


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