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Bottorffet v. Sears

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 23, 2019

LUCASD. BOTTORFFET AL.
v.
ANNE A. SEARS

          Session March 7, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County Nos. 2018-185, 217CV3155 James G. Martin, III, Judge

         After 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.

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

          Anne A. Sears, Franklin, Tennessee, pro se.

          Lucas D. Bottorff, Brentwood, Tennessee, pro se.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Anne A. 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.[1] 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.[2] Ms. Sears appealed the chancery court's judgment and continued living at the Boxwood Property.

         On November 13, 2017, while Ms. Sears's appeal of the chancery court's decision was still pending, [3] Mr. 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 appealed.

         Standard of Review

         The only issue on appeal involves the subject matter jurisdiction of the general sessions court and the circuit court.[4] 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.

         Whether 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 ...


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