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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Jul 11, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

J. Daniel Freemon, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Patsy Burkes.

Attorneys 2:

William J. Eledge and Walter C. Doerflinger, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Jo Elaine Tidwell.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

In this property dispute involving two sisters, the plaintiff instituted the action, seeking to set aside a recorded deed on the basis that the instrument contained a forged signature. The defendant’s counsel, who filed an answer to the complaint, was attorney of record at the time of the trial. On the date of trial, the defendant’s counsel did not appear in court because he had been recently suspended from the practice of law, a fact unknown to the defendant until she appeared for trial. When the trial court elected to proceed with the hearing, the defendant represented herself. Upon the conclusion of the trial, the trial court announced its decision in favor of the plaintiff, determining that the deed contained a forged signature and ordering that the deed be set aside. The court also ordered that the defendant pay all costs, including the expense for the plaintiff’s expert witness. The defendant subsequently retained new counsel, who filed a motion for new trial. The motion was denied. The defendant appeals. Determining that the trial court erred in failing to order a continuance of the trial, we vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial on the merits.