Assigned on Briefs April 1, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 1-327-18 Kristi M.
petitioner commenced this action in the Knox County Circuit
Court ("trial court"), naming as respondents his
mother, his brother, and a purported family trust. He
alleged, inter alia, that his mother and brother had
"brought about" the wrongful death of his father
and had mishandled trust funds. Additionally, the petitioner
requested "financial separation" from familial
assets, a money judgment, and injunctive relief to freeze
familial assets. Following a hearing, the trial court entered
an order dismissing this action with prejudice upon finding
that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because all parties
involved in the matter resided in Campbell County and all
acts forming the basis for the petitioner's claims had
occurred in Campbell County. The petitioner has appealed. We
determine that although the trial court correctly found that
it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the court erred by
dismissing this action with prejudice. We further determine
that, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 16-1-116
(2009), this matter should be transferred to the court
wherein jurisdiction lies. We therefore vacate the portion of
the trial court's judgment dismissing the case with
prejudice and remand for entry of an order transferring this
action to the Campbell County Circuit Court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed in Part, Vacated in Part; Case
Maddox Bruce, LaFollette, Tennessee, Pro Se.
M. Bullock, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellees, Carolyn
Marsh Jackson, Jackson Family Trust, and Morgan Jackson.
R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and W. Neal McBrayer,
R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
petitioner, Shane Maddox Bruce, proceeding at all relevant
times without benefit of counsel, filed a "Petition for
Financial Separation and Wrongful Death Suit" in the
trial court on September 18, 2018. Mr. Bruce named as
respondents his mother, Carolyn Marsh Jackson; his brother,
Morgan Jackson; and the Jackson Family Trust. Mr. Bruce's
father, Okey Jackson ("Decedent"), had died on
December 4, 2017. Among multiple allegations set forth in the
petition, Mr. Bruce alleged that Ms. Jackson and Morgan
Jackson (collectively, "Respondents") had "brought
about" the wrongful death of Decedent by "ignoring,
even obstructing [Decedent's] treatment of elemental
arsenic poisoning . . . ."
the petition for financial separation, Mr. Bruce alleged that
Respondents had misappropriated funds through establishment
and management of a family trust and that they had
"mingled assets based on combined family
enterprises," from which Mr. Bruce requested "his
interests to be separated with financial compensation due him
. . ." in the amount of $246, 085.16. Mr. Bruce
concomitantly filed a motion for injunctive relief,
requesting a temporary restraining order "to freeze
assets, properties and accounts from [being] transferred to
any other parties seeking them outside any normal activities
of maintenance of properties or usual billings . . . ."
Although no responsive pleading was filed in the trial court,
we note that on appeal, Respondents assert that no
"Jackson Family Trust" exists and that the
"only trust is a joint living trust titled to [Ms.]
Jackson and [Decedent]."
Bruce subsequently filed a motion to join Morgan
Jackson's former wife, Jessica Jackson, as a respondent
in the action. Through this motion, he also sought to
increase the amount of "personal compensation" he
was seeking to $450, 000.00, although he did not style the
motion as one to amend his complaint. Mr. Bruce then filed a
motion to join a purported associate of Morgan Jackson's
as a defendant in the wrongful death claim, requesting a
judgment for "a nominal $500, 000.00 in loss of expected
profits" against Morgan Jackson's associate. We note
that neither of these individuals was joined to this action
prior to dismissal by the trial court, although Jessica
Jackson is represented by Respondents' counsel on appeal.
a hearing conducted on October 19, 2018, the trial court
entered an order on October 24, 2018, dismissing this action
with prejudice for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The court stated in pertinent part:
The court has reviewed the Petition and concludes that all
parties involved in this matter reside in Campbell County,
Tennessee, and the acts that form the basis of the claims in
the Petition occurred in Campbell County, Tennessee. [Mr.
Bruce] acknowledged this at the hearing on October 19.
Accordingly, jurisdiction does not lie in Knox County,
Tennessee, and this matter must be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction. The dismissal is with prejudice.
Bruce filed a timely notice of appeal on November 2, 2018. On
November 26, 2018, Mr. Bruce filed a motion to vacate the
judgment in the trial court. Although Mr. Bruce cited in his
motion only a statute regarding a trial court's
discretion in granting a change in venue, see Tenn.
Code Ann. § 20-4-204, his motion appears to have been
filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. We
note that absent remand from this Court, the trial court was
without subject matter jurisdiction to consider Mr.
Bruce's post-judgment motion. See Burke v. Huntsville
NH Operations LLC, 491 S.W.3d 683, 692 (Tenn. Ct. App.
2015) ("Absent an application for remand, the trial
court's attempt to enter further orders addressing a
party's Rule 60.02 motion is a nullity." (quoting
Born Again Church & Christian Outreach Ministries,
Inc. v. Myler Church Bldg. Sys. of the Midsouth, Inc.,
266 S.W.3d 421, 425 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007))). We therefore
will proceed with this appeal, having determined that the
appeal was docketed with this Court upon the timely filing of
Mr. Bruce's notice of appeal. See Tenn. R. App.
P. 5; Burke, 491 S.W.3d at 691-92.
Bruce has not included a statement of the issues in his
principal brief on appeal as required by Tennessee Rule of
Appellate Procedure 27(a)(4). See Tenn. R. App. P.
13(b) ("Review generally will extend only to those
issues presented for review."); Owen v. Long Tire,
LLC, No. W2011-01227-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 6777014, at *4
(Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 22, 2011) ("The requirement of a
statement of the issues raised on appeal is no mere
technicality."). Noting this omission, Respondents have
gleaned from Mr. Bruce's argument the following issue,
which we have restated slightly:
Whether the trial court erred by dismissing this action with
prejudice rather than without prejudice.
addition, we note that Mr. Bruce has asserted in the argument
section of his principal brief that the trial court erred by
dismissing the action based on lack of jurisdiction rather
than transferring the matter based on lack of improper venue.
Inasmuch as this Court must determine, as a threshold matter,
whether the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction even
when the issue is not presented for review, we will begin our
analysis by addressing the trial court's finding of lack
of jurisdiction. See Tenn. R. App. P. 13(b)
("The appellate ...