JOHN WESLEY SULLIVAN ET AL.
Session February 19, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 16073 Stella L.
appeal arises from an unlawful detainer action initiated by
the conservator of the owner of the property. After the
general sessions court awarded the conservator possession of
the property, the defendant appealed to circuit court. The
defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging
that the conservator had exceeded the scope of the
conservatorship in filing the unlawful detainer action, and
that unlawful detainer was not the proper cause of action.
The circuit court denied summary judgment, and the case
proceeded to a bench trial. Following trial, the circuit
court awarded possession of the house to the conservator, and
the defendant now appeals. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Richard Thomas and David A. Kozlowski, Columbia, Tennessee,
for the appellant, Brenda Marie Kreiling.
Ryan Bragg, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joshua
G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson II and W. Neal McBrayer,
G. CLEMENT JR., P.J., M.S.
Wesley Sullivan has owned the residential property at issue,
located at 213 Ashwood Drive in Columbia, Tennessee, for more
than twenty years. During this time, up to and until December
2016, Mr. Sullivan and his girlfriend, Brenda Kreiling, lived
together at this address without Ms. Kreiling being asked to
pay rent, utilities, or household maintenance.
December 2016, Mr. Sullivan suffered a debilitating stroke
and has resided in an assisted living facility ever since
while Ms. Kreiling has continued to reside in Mr.
Sullivan's home on Ashwood Drive without paying rent.
February 2017, Mr. Sullivan's son, Joshua R. Sullivan,
his daughter, Dana Michelle Jones, and his girlfriend, Ms.
Kreiling, filed separate petitions in the Chancery Court for
Maury County to be appointed the conservator for Mr.
Sullivan. In August 2017, after a lengthy hearing,
the chancellor appointed Joshua Sullivan (hereinafter
"the Conservator") conservator of his father's
person and estate.
the hearing on the petition to appoint a conservator, the
chancellor specifically discussed the utilization of the home
on Ashwood Drive as an income-producing asset, stating that
the Conservator would be responsible for management of the
Ashwood Drive property including whether Ms. Kreiling was to
after his appointment, the Conservator informed Ms. Kreiling
that she would have to pay rent if she intended to stay in
the home. The Conservator said this discussion was undertaken
in the hopes of offsetting the costs of care for Mr. Sullivan
and the upkeep of the home. Ms. Kreiling responded that she
had never paid rent and had no intentions of paying rent in
the future. Shortly thereafter, when the Conservator went to
the Ashwood Drive property to inspect the property as part of
his duties under the conservatorship, Ms. Kreiling prevented
the Conservator from entering the home.
Ms. Kreiling refused to pay rent, the Conservator sent a
Notice of Eviction to her in September 2017, giving Ms.
Kreiling thirty days to vacate the home. After more than
thirty days passed and Ms. Kreiling refused to pay rent or
vacate the home, the Conservator filed an unlawful detainer
action in Maury County General Sessions Court seeking to
remove Ms. Kreiling from the home. In the Detainer Summons,
the Conservator noted that Ms. Kreiling's initial
possession was based on "[c]o-habitation with
boyfriend." The Detainer Summons further alleged that
the Conservator's right to possession was based on the
"conservatorship . . . established for John W. Sullivan
and [Ms. Kreiling] is not agreeable to paying rent."
Following a trial, the Conservator was awarded possession of
Kreiling appealed the decision of the general sessions court
to the Maury County Circuit Court by filing a Petition for
Writ of Certiorari and Supersedeas, which was granted by the
circuit court. The Conservator then filed a motion to dismiss
which the circuit court denied. Thereafter, Ms. Kreiling
filed a motion for summary judgment. In her motion, Ms.
Kreiling asserted that the action must be dismissed because
there was no landlord-tenant relationship between her and Mr.
Sullivan, and her right to live on the property was not based
on a lease or contractual agreement between the parties.
Therefore, Ms. Kreiling alleged that the remedy of unlawful
detainer was not the appropriate cause of action to eject her
from the residence. She also alleged that the Conservator
exceeded the scope of the conservatorship in filing the
unlawful detainer action against Mr. Sullivan's expressed
desire for Ms. Kreiling to remain in the house.
a hearing on February 23, 2018, the circuit court took the
motion for summary judgment under advisement. On February 26,
2018, the court issued a letter to the parties with its
ruling on the motion, finding that as a matter of law,
unlawful detainer was an appropriate remedy for the
Conservator to regain possession of the residence. The judge
further found that the remaining issue as to whether the
Conservator had exceeded the scope of his authority was a
genuine issue of material fact reserved for consideration at
trial. On April 9, 2018, the court entered an order denying
summary judgment nunc pro tunc to February 23, 2018.
trial was held April 9, 2018. The court heard testimony from
Mr. Sullivan, the Conservator, the Conservator's property
manager, and Ms. Kreiling. Mr. Sullivan testified that most
of his personal belongings remained in his home on Ashford
Drive. He said that he leaves the assisted living facility to
return home and stay with Ms. Kreiling "on the weekends,
every chance [he] get[s]." Mr. Sullivan also testified
that he did not want Ms. Kreiling evicted from the residence.
The Conservator admitted that his father told him he wanted
Ms. Kreiling to be allowed to continue living in the home
without paying rent; nevertheless, the Conservator stated it
was his affirmative duty to utilize the home as an
income-producing asset regardless of his father's wishes.
the scope of the Conservator's authority, the chancery
court's Order Appointing Conservator, which was
introduced into evidence at trial in the circuit court, reads
in pertinent part:
This cause came to be heard before the Honorable J. Russell
Parkes, Judge, on July 26, 2017, upon the sworn Petition of
Joshua R. Sullivan for the appointment of a conservator of
the person and property of the Respondent, John Wesley
Sullivan and the Intervening Petition of Dana Michelle Jones.
Based upon the sworn medical examination report filed by Dr.
Bamigboye, the Respondent's physician, who is licensed to
practice medicine in the State of Tennessee; the testimony of
the Petitioner, Intervening Petitioner, statements in open
court of counsel for both parties, the Guardian Ad Litem;