J. S. & ASSOCIATES, INC., Plaintiff,
MARIA STEVENSON, Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff,
J. S. & ASSOCIATES, INC., Counterclaim Defendant.
in the Court of Appeals 27 March 2019.
by Defendant from order entered 30 April 2018 by Judge
Rebecca Thorne Tin in Mecklenburg County District Court No.
Law Firm, PLLC, by Malik Dixon, for the
& Van Allen PLLC, by Nathan A. White, for the
case presents a novel circumstance in which the prevailing
party appealed from a small claims court decision in her
favor in order to assert related counterclaims in the
district court above. Maria Stevenson, Defendant and
Counterclaim Plaintiff, appeals from the district court's
order dismissing her appeal and its accompanying
counterclaims, which were brought for the first time on
appeal. Stevenson contends that her appeal rests in a gap
between jurisdictional amount in controversy thresholds and
the pleading requirements of compulsory counterclaims. After
careful review, we find that Stevenson's circumstance is
governed by existing law and, therefore, affirm.
in February 2015, Stevenson was a tenant in a home owned by
J.S. & Associates, Inc. (hereafter, "JSA"), in
Charlotte. The parties' relationship decayed over time
due to issues concerning the maintenance of the property.
November 2017, JSA filed a summary ejectment motion against
Stevenson in small claims court.
December 2017, the trial court entered judgment in
Stevenson's favor, denying JSA's request for summary
ejectment. Nevertheless, Stevenson appealed the small claims
court's judgment to the district court in order to assert
counterclaims against JSA, arising from JSA's alleged
failure to maintain the rental property. JSA moved to dismiss
April 2018, the district court granted JSA's motion to
dismiss Stevenson's appeal, holding that Stevenson was
not an aggrieved party and, therefore, had no right to appeal
the small claims court judgment. Stevenson timely appealed.
case presents our Court with a specific issue which we have
not been asked to decide before: Where a defendant prevails
in an action in small claims court, may she nonetheless bring
compulsory counterclaims that exceed the jurisdictional limit
of small claims court in an appeal to district court? We hold
that this particular circumstance need not be directly
provided for, as a proper avenue for redress presently
North Carolina, small claims courts have jurisdiction over
claims for summary ejectment of a tenant, in addition to
claims for monetary damages. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-210(2)
(2017). The amount in controversy in an action in small
claims court may not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10, 000).
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-210(1). This amount in controversy
"ceiling" is a jurisdictional limitation,
Fickley v. Greystone Enterprises, Inc., 140 N.C.App.
258, 261, 536 S.E.2d 331, 333 (2000), which extends to all
counterclaims, cross claims, and third-party claims brought
in small claims court, see N.C. Gen. Stat. §
7A-219 (2017). That is, a defendant in a small claims action
is not allowed to bring forth any counterclaim against the