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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Savio Mathew sued Yusuf Sultan in small claims court for damages resulting from the installation of a laminate floor in Mathew’s home. The small claims court awarded Mathew $4,000, and Sultan filed an appeal for a de novo trial in the Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 2. A trial was set and notice was sent to Sultan; however, because Sultan allegedly did not receive the trial notice, he did not appear. Consequently, the county court rendered a default judgment against him. Sultan appealed to the court of appeals. Citing Texas Government Code �28.053(d), the court of appeals concluded that it did not have jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. HOLDING:Affirmed. The Texas Government Code provides that a “[j]udgment of the county court or county court at law on the appeal [from the small claims court] is final.” �28.053(d). The question here is whether the word final in �28.053(d) means final and appealable or final and not appealable. Before 1998, several courts held that a county court’s or county court at law’s judgment on de novo appeal from a small claims court could be appealed to the court of appeals. In 1998, however, Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals held that the word final in �28.053(d) meant “that there is no further appeal beyond the county court or county court at law.” Davis v. Covert, 983 S.W.2d 301 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 1998, pet. dism’d w.o.j.). The Davis holding has since been followed by most Texas courts of appeals. When construing �28.053(d) in the context of other small claims court provisions, all of which underscore the Legislature’s basic goal of providing a simplified and inexpensive court procedure, the court believes it reasonable to conclude that in �28.053(d), the Legislature intended to forgo the added time and expense that inevitably accompany an appeal to the court of appeals. Sultan contends that because a “final judgment” is required for an appeal, the word final in �28.053(d) may not be interepreted as prohibiting review by the court of appeals. The court rejects this argument, noting that the term “final judgment” applies differently in different contexts. Further, the court finds that to construe �28.053(d) to mean “final and appealable” would be redundant. Absent �28.053(d), an appeal to the court of appeals would be allowed in small claims cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $100. Texas Government Code �22.220(a). Thus, to allow the county court’s judgment in a small claims case to be appealed to the courts of appeals, the Legislature need not specifically declare that the judgment of the county court is final and appealable. The court finds no violation of the open courts provision of the Texas Constitution. The court recognizes that there is a difference between the justice court and small claims court with respect to a party’s ability to appeal to the court of appeals. Under �28.003(a) of the Texas Government Code, small claims courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the justice courts in actions involving amounts not exceeding $5,000. Nonetheless, there is no statute restricting the right to appeal to the courts of appeals in cases originating in justice courts. A few courts of appeals have reasoned that, given this jurisdictional overlap, it is illogical for the Legislature to allow appeals to the courts of appeals for claims initiated in a justice court, but not for claims initiated in a small claims court. The court does not agree that the difference is illogical. Considering the statute as a whole, and giving meaning to the language that is consistent with its other provisions, the court concludes that by declaring in �28.053(d) that the “judgment of the county court or county court at law is final,” the Legislature intended to prohibit appeals to the courts of appeals. OPINION:Jefferson, C.J.; O’Neill, Green, Johnson, Simmons (assigned) and Gaultney (assigned), JJ., join. Hecht, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Wainwright and Medina, JJ., join.

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