SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi

SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law