Kinney v. Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Inc.

Plaintiffs Frank Schmidt Sr. and other former parishioners of the St. Paul Catholic Church in Pass Christian appealed the second dismissal with prejudice of their claims against the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Inc., Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi, and Rev. Dennis Carver. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The storm caused extensive damage to the St. Paul Catholic Church and its ancillary properties. The actual church building was also damaged, although the extent of the damage is disputed by the parties. Plaintiffs insisted that the church remains structurally sound, that many of its sacred articles were unharmed, and that repair costs should be less than $2.5 million. Church Defendants maintain that the church and its most sacred places were “destroyed in large part.” Bishop Rodi issued a decree merging the St. Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes Parishes to form a new parish called the Holy Family Parish. The decree stated that the Holy Family Parish would maintain two church edifices, St. Paul Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Church. A number of St. Paul’s former parishioners, including some of the Plaintiffs in this case, filed a canonical appeal through the Roman Catholic Church’s ecclesiastical tribunals. In 2007, the Vatican issued a decree which stated that Bishop Rodi had acted in accordance with the requirements and procedures set forth under canon law. While the canonical appeal was pending, 157 former parishioners filed suit asserting, in part, that Bishop Rodi held the St. Paul Church property in trust for the members, that any financial contributions designated for reconstruction of the church were held in trust for that particular purpose, that Church Defendants had violated said trusts, and that Father Carver had made misrepresentations in soliciting donations for the rebuilding efforts. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed in part, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert the St. Paul property was held in trust for their benefit. However, the Court reversed and remanded the chancellor’s dismissal of the diversion-of-designated funds claim, as well as the claim against Father Carver for intentional misrepresentation, finding subject-matter jurisdiction existed over these claims. On remand, the chancellor denied Plaintiffs’ motions for additional discovery and granted Church Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that the chancellor erred in dismissing their claims for diversion of designated funds and intentional misrepresentation. Because none of the Plaintiffs established the requisite elements for a diversion of designated funds, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on this issue. In addition, because no Plaintiffs could establish a claim for intentional misrepresentation, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on this issue. Therefore, the Court affirmed the Chancery Court's judgment. View "Kinney v. Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Inc." on Justia Law