Hong Kong Development, Inc. v. Nguyen – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Hong Kong Development, Inc. v. Nguyen, 229 S.W.3d 415 (Tex. App.--Houston 1st Dist. 2007, no pet.), the landlord filed a forcible detainer lawsuit in justice court and the tenant filed a separate tort lawsuit in county court at law.

The tenant appealed the ruling in the forcible detainer lawsuit to the county court at law, and moved to consolidate the tort case with and into the appeal of the forcible detainer action. The trial court granted the motion to consolidate.

On appeal the landlord argued that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to consolidate the lawsuits because its jurisdiction was limited by virtue of its appellate jurisdiction over the forcible detainer lawsuit.

The Court disagreed.

It reasoned that the two county courts at law involved in that case each had subject-matter jurisdiction over forcible-detainer appeals generally and also had subject-matter jurisdiction over the general categories of claims in the tort lawsuit. Id. at 440.

The Nguyen court also explained that "once jurisdiction is lawfully and properly acquired, no subsequent fact or event in the particular case serves to defeat the jurisdiction." Id.

As a result, the Nguyen court held that the county court at law "had subject-matter jurisdiction to consolidate the forcible-detainer and tort suits, that its order consolidating them was thus not void, and that the trial court was not divested of jurisdiction over the consolidated suit simply because the pre-consolidation suits had involved appellate and original jurisdiction, respectively." Id.

The Court explained that, in forcible-detainer actions, justice and county courts lack jurisdiction to adjudicate claims beyond the right to immediate possession. See id.

The Court held that the county court lacked jurisdiction to consider Nguyen's tort claims because none of them concerned the right to immediate possession, or constituted an attempt to collect rent, and she did not expressly limit her damages to that "suffered for withholding or defending possession of the premises during the pendency of the appeal." Id. at 435-36.