The question presented on this appeal is whether or not the County Court on an appeal from the Justice Court in a forcible entry and detainer suit has the authority and jurisdiction to render a judgment in excess of $1,000 for damages suffered for the withholding or defending possession of the premises during the pendency of the appeal from the Justice Court to the County Court.
On October 13, 1959, in the Justice Court of Harris County, Texas, a judgment of forcible entry and detainer and costs was awarded to Malbis Memorial Foundation against P. J. Haginas and wife concerning the possession of real property. Haginas and wife perfected an appeal to the County Court at Law of Harris County, Texas, on October 16, 1959, by the timely filing of an appeal bond.
Haginas and wife filed no written pleas, either in the Justice Court or in the County Court at Law.
On May 12, 1960, Malbis Memorial filed its First Amended Original Petition in the County Court at Law alleging, for the first time, damages incurred by Malbis Memorial during the pendency of the appeal from the Justice Court. It was alleged that the damages for the wrongful withholding of possession of the premises during appeal amounted to $5,880.00 and that the expense incident to the prosecution of the suit in the County Court was the Sum of $1,500.00.
The judgment of the Court reflects that the Court based its judgment, awarding this aggregate sum of money in damages, on the findings that the sum of $1,750.00 was shown to be the reasonable rental market value of the premises during the pendency of the appeal from the Justice Court to the time of the trial of the case in the County Court; that the sum of $400.00 was incurred by Malbis Memorial as reasonable attorney's fees for the prosecution of the suit and the further finding that the sum of $250.00 was shown to have been the reasonable additional expenses incurred by Malbis Memorial in the prosecution of the suit in the County Court. The agreed statement of facts
The Court of Civil Appeals has affirmed the judgment of the County Court at Law. 349 S.W.2d 957.
Haginas and wife contend that the amount of damages allowable under Rule 752,
Malbis Memorial contends that the jurisdictional limit stated in Article 5, Section 16, supra, refers only to the amount in controversy at the time the suit is filed and that the monetary limit provided in the Constitution has no application to the appellate jurisdiction of the County Court. It is argued that when Article 5, Section 16, supra, of the Constitution and the applicable statutes and rules are read together, it is evident that the damages contemplated under Rule 752, supra, are not limited to the jurisdictional limit prescribed for the original jurisdiction of the County Court. We agree with this Contention.
The question presented in the Isbell case was: Did the County Court have the power to render judgment for a sum in excess of $1,000.00? This Court, in holding that the County Court was clothed with such power, announced the general rule that where jurisdiction is once lawfully and properly acquired, no subsequent fact or event in the particular case serves to defeat that jurisdiction. The Court reasoned that:
"Ordinarily the very conferring of jurisdiction upon a court, with nothing further said, empowers it inherently to use statutory and recognized means of enforcing its jurisdiction without regard to the value, the amounts, or the subject-matter involved in the process. * * *
The reasoning of the Court in the Isbell case is equally applicable where the problem is to determine the scope of Rule 752, supra. Article 3990, Vernon's Annotated Civil Statutes, the source of Rule 752, supra, was enacted by the Legislature for the protection of the winning party in the Justice Court. Specifically applied here, the rule was meant to protect Malbis Memorial and enable it to ultimately recover from Haginas and wife whatever damages it may have suffered by virtue of their withholding possession of the premises, regardless of the amount so long as it can prove such damages. A contrary holding would, in effect, mean that the only damages contemplated by Rule 752, supra, would be those damages that fall within the jurisdictional limits prescribed in Article 5, Section 16, supra, for the County Court's original jurisdiction. This untenable position, if adopted, would have the effect of rendering the County Court powerless to render judgment for any amount in the event the damages pending appeal from the Justice Court to the County Court were less than $200.00.
The primary object of the present forcible entry and detainer suit was to obtain possession of certain real property due to the failure of Haginas and wife to pay rent in accordance with a lease agreement between the parties. Possession has been withheld pending appeal and the amount of damages has been stipulated to be the sum of $2,400.00. The recovery of damages pending the appeal authorized by Rule 752, supra, is ancillary to the cause of action for possession. Since Haginas and wife elected to remain in possession of the premises pending appeal, they subjected themselves to liability under the appeal bond and under Rule 752, supra, for all damages accruing to Malbis Memorial by reason of their wrongfully withholding of the premises. The damages awarded by the trial court was due solely to the wrongful withholding of the premises by Haginas and wife.
The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals is affirmed.
"P. J. Haginas, et ux, have filed no written pleas, either in the Justice Court or in the County Court at Law.
"Plaintiff's First Amended Original Petition was filed on May 12, 1960, in the County Court at Law, alleging damages incurred by plaintiff during the pendency of the appeal from Justice Court and the case was duly called to trial.
"On May 26, 1960, judgment was entered by the County Court at Law, awarding possession of the real property and a money judgment in favor of Malbis Memorial Foundation for the sum of Two Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($2,400.00) and costs.
"It is agreed and stipulated by and between the parties hereto that the evidence adduced at the trial in the County Court at Law was sufficient to support the judgment entered therein."
"On the trial of the cause in the county court the appellant or appellee shall be permitted to plead and prove his damages if any suffered for withholding or defending possession of the premises during the pendency of the appeal and also all necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in prosecuting or defending the cause in the county court; provided that only the party prevailing in the county court shall be entitled to recover against the adverse party such damages, expenses, and costs. He shall also be entitled to recover against the sureties on the appeal bond in cases where the adverse party has executed such bond." (Emphasis added.)