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Messler v. Brumlow

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 10, 2019

NEELD J. MESSLER II
v.
JANETTE ROBERTS BRUMLOW

          Session May 22, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 15C1173 John B Bennett, Judge

         This is an appeal challenging a jury verdict in an unlawful detainer action, in which both parties had raised additional counterclaims against one another, including breach of contract, fraud, and a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the appellee. However, neither the jury's verdict nor the trial court's judgment on the verdict, addressed all of the parties' claims. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Janette Roberts Brumlow, Chattanooga Tennessee, Pro se.

          John C. Cavett, Jr., Chattanooga Tennessee, for the appellee, Neeld J. Messler.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and John W. McClarty, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.

         Background and Procedural History

         On November 12, 2008, Janette Brumlow and Neeld Messler entered into a Standard Real Estate Rental Agreement and an Option to Purchase Real Estate Agreement, the latter of which granted Ms. Brumlow the right to exercise an option to purchase the subject property. Ms. Brumlow made monthly payments in conformity with the Rental and Option Agreements for several years-from January 1, 2009 through July 1, 2015-until, as she admits in her brief on appeal, she "stopped making payments" because she "was planning to move[.]" When Ms. Brumlow refused to vacate the property, Mr. Messler filed an unlawful detainer action against her in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court seeking possession of the property and a judgment for past due monthly payments. After the general sessions court entered a judgment in favor of Ms. Brumlow, Mr. Messler appealed the matter to the Hamilton County Circuit Court (the "trial court"). In addition to requesting a jury trial, Ms. Brumlow asserted multiple counterclaims against Mr. Messler, including breach of contract, fraud, and a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"). Mr. Messler filed an answer to Ms. Brumlow's counterclaims, denying the substantive allegations against him and raising statute of limitations defenses as to Ms. Brumlow's fraud and TCPA claims. On August 3, 2016, the trial court entered an agreed order, which extended the trial date, allowed the parties to amend their pleadings, and ordered Ms. Brumlow to vacate the premises of the subject property by August 31, 2016.[1] Mr. Messler then filed an amended answer and counterclaim, raising a breach of contract claim against Ms. Brumlow and seeking an additional monetary judgment in the amount of $14, 103.17.

         The case was set for trial, with Ms. Brumlow appearing pro se.[2] On August 10, 2017, during voir dire of the prospective jurors, Ms. Brumlow informed them that she would not challenge any of them, a violation of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 47.03. The trial court convened a sidebar, instructing Ms. Brumlow that such indications were prohibited; however, Ms. Brumlow repeatedly violated the trial court's instructions, and Mr. Messler subsequently moved for and the trial court granted a mistrial.[3] The case was reset and retried before a jury on February 22 and 23, 2018, resulting in a verdict in favor of Mr. Messler. The trial court entered its judgment on March 1, 2018. Ms. Brumlow thereafter appealed.

         Issue Presented

         Ms. Brumlow's brief on appeal does not raise any specific issues for this Court to review; however, we surmise from the language in her brief that she contends that the jury verdict was ...


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