LUCASD. BOTTORFFET AL.
ANNE A. SEARS
Session March 7, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Williamson County Nos. 2018-185,
217CV3155 James G. Martin, III, Judge
the administrator of an estate obtained a judgment vesting
title to real property in the estate, the administrator filed
a detainer summons against the decedent's daughter in
general sessions court seeking possession of the property.
The general sessions court determined that the estate was
entitled to possession of the property, and the
decedent's daughter appealed to the circuit court. The
circuit court granted possession of the property to the
estate and ordered the decedent's daughter to vacate the
premises within thirty days. The decedent's daughter
appealed, and we affirm the trial court's judgment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
A. Sears, Franklin, Tennessee, pro se.
D. Bottorff, Brentwood, Tennessee, pro se.
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J.,
D. BENNETT, JUDGE.
and Procedural Background
Sears resided with her mother, Sally Sears
("Decedent"), at 1019 Boxwood Drive, Franklin,
Tennessee (the "Boxwood Property") for
approximately twelve years. Following Decedent's death in
July 2016, Ms. Sears continued living at the Boxwood
Property, and a dispute arose between Decedent's estate
and Ms. Sears regarding ownership of the
property. The administrator of the estate, Lucas D.
Bottorff, filed suit against Ms. Sears in the chancery court
for Williamson County on December 7, 2016, seeking to recoup
certain assets allegedly belonging to the estate, including
the Boxwood Property. After hearing the matter, the chancery
court entered an order on May 31, 2017, vesting title to the
Boxwood Property in the estate. Ms. Sears appealed the chancery
court's judgment and continued living at the Boxwood
November 13, 2017, while Ms. Sears's appeal of the
chancery court's decision was still pending,
Bottorff initiated this lawsuit by filing a detainer summons
in the general sessions court for Williamson County seeking
possession of the Boxwood Property. In an order entered on
April 16, 2018, the general sessions court found that Ms.
Sears had failed to obtain a stay of the chancery court's
judgment, granted possession of the Boxwood Property to the
estate, and ordered Ms. Sears to vacate the premises within
ten days. Ms. Sears appealed the general sessions court's
decision to the circuit court for Williamson County. The
circuit court heard the matter on May 25, 2018, and in an
order entered on June 7, 2018, granted possession of the
Boxwood Property to the estate. The court then ordered Ms.
Sears to vacate the property within thirty days. Ms. Sears
only issue on appeal involves the subject matter jurisdiction
of the general sessions court and the circuit
court. Subject matter jurisdiction concerns a
court's authority to adjudicate a particular case or
controversy. Northland Ins. Co. v. State, 33 S.W.3d
727, 729 (Tenn. 2000). A court obtains subject matter
jurisdiction from either a statute or a constitutional
provision. First Am. Trust Co. v. Franklin-Murray Dev.
Co., L.P., 59 S.W.3d 135, 140 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001). It
cannot be conferred on a court by the conduct or agreement of
the parties. Staats v. McKinnon, 206 S.W.3d 532, 542
(Tenn. Ct. App. 2006). A judgment entered by a court lacking
subject matter jurisdiction is void. First Am. Trust
Co., 59 S.W.3d at 141. Therefore, we must vacate a trial
court's judgment and dismiss the case if we determine the
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
a court has subject matter jurisdiction "depends on the
nature of the cause of action and the relief sought."
Id. at 140. If a court's subject matter
jurisdiction is challenged, the first step is to
"ascertain the nature or gravamen of the case."
Staats, 206 S.W.3d at 542. Second, the court must
"determine whether the Tennessee Constitution, the
General Assembly, or the common law have conferred on it the
power to adjudicate cases of that sort." Id. A
determination regarding the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction presents a question of law that we review de