Rules and Not Following Them

Not hiring an attorney and not following the Rules of Procedure, can result in losing a case, as one recent pro se litigant found (i.e., she represented herself). In Ford Motor Credit Co., LLC v. McCormick-Jackson, Ms. Jackson co-signed a contract to purchase a vehicle along with her business, Event World, LLC. The seller ultimately assigned the financing contract to Ford Motor Credit Co. Unfortunately, Ms. Jackson had to close her business and fell behind on the car payments. Ford Motor Credit Co., tried unsuccessfully to repossess the car, and ended up suing Ms. Jackson for breach of contract.
Ms. Jackson filed a pro se answer wherein she raised several defenses. Ford filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (i.e., arguing that Ford wins despite Ms. Jackson's answer). Although Ms. Jackson filed her initial answer, she never filed an opposition to Ford's motion. Eventually, the trial court granted Ford's motion finding in Ford's favor on all its claims. Ms. Jackson appealed – again representing herself.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding that Ms. Jackson's brief failed to comply with the Rules of Appellate Procedure which require that the content of appellate briefs contain such things as a table of authorities (i.e., cited cases, statutes, etc.), an argument preceded by a summary thereof, a statement of issues, and a statement of supported facts. Although the Court of Appeals gave the pro se party the benefit of the doubt, it noted, "the shortcomings in her brief on appeal prevent this Court from reaching the substantive issues that she attempts to raise" and that there was no "cognizable legal argument" upon which the Court could rule. In other words, Ms. Jackson lost her appeal, and her chance to show that the trial court made a mistake in not considering her defenses to Ford's claims, because she didn't follow the rules.
Money is often the driving force behind personal and business decisions. In Ms. Jackson's case, she appears to have attempted to save on legal fees, but ultimately found herself facing a the loss of a car and a judgment of approximately $30,000. The reader is left wondering whether the case could have resulted in a different outcome had Ms. Jackson engaged legal counsel or at least followed the rules.
Ford Motor Credit Co., LLC v. McCormick-Jackson, No. W2014-02485-COA-R3-CV, (Tenn. Ct. App. June 16, 2015).