Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
by
James Hughes twice invested in the Shipp family’s efforts to develop their property near Bentonia, Mississippi, into a gated community called Rose Lake, in exchange for lots in the future subdivision. Twice, he came up empty handed and sued the Shipps. At the close of Hughes came up empty handed. Hughes sued the Shipps. At the close of Hughes’s case, the chancellor found the situation “very inequitable.” Yet he still denied Hughes any equitable relief based on the running of the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed on alternate grounds. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari review specifically to address Hughes’s unjust-enrichment claim. And after review, the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the statute of limitations should not have run from the date Hughes cut the checks for the lots, but from the time his cause of action for unjust enrichment actually accrued. But the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ deciding to resolve this fact-intensive question on appeal. Furthermore, the Court disagreed that the dismissal of this claim should have been affirmed on alternate grounds, namely Hughes’s failure to “identify a promise.” Hughes’ unjust-enrichment claim was reversed and remanded that claim to the trial court for further proceedings. The trial court was affirmed in all other respects. View "Hughes v. Shipp, et al." on Justia Law

by
Cascio Investments, LLC (Investments), sued Philip Cascio (Cascio) for breach of contract, alleging violations of a noncompetition agreement (NCA). The circuit court found in favor of Investments, and Cascio appealed. Investments cross-appealed, seeking review of a punitive damages award and injunctive relief. The patriarch of the family, Phil Cascio, Sr., founded Cascio’s Storage and Warehouse, Inc. (CSW), during the 1970s, a business that primarily engaged in warehousing and storage of agricultural products in the Mississippi Delta region and beyond. Phil Cascio, Sr. passed the general management of the business to his son, Cascio while his other children, Jackie Pearson, Phyllis Cascio, and Patrick Cascio, pursued other careers. Not until later did Phil Cascio, Sr., divide his interests among his children. This extremely dissatisfied Cascio, Jr., who believed he should receive full ownership of the family businesses on account of the years of work he had poured into them. This chain of events led to a degeneration of the familial bonds between the Cascio siblings, which ultimately resulted in the action on review by the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s findings, so judgment was affirmed as to all issues except the joinder of Jackie and Phyllis as plaintiffs. As for the cross-appeal, the issue of the constitutionality of the punitive- damages cap was procedurally barred, and the circuit court was affirmed as to the denial of additional injunctive relief. View "Cascio v. Cascio Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Eric Parish and Parish Transport LLC (Parish Transport) emailed Doug Jordan, the Vice President of Jordan Carriers Inc. (Jordan Carriers), to inquire about purchasing heavy haul equipment from Jordan Carriers. After several email exchanges, Doug Jordan offered to sell the equipment for $1,443,000. Months later, Eric Parish responded, submitting Parish Transport’s offer to buy the equipment for $1,250,000. Later that day, Jordan replied, informing Parish Transport that he needed to discuss the offer and would get back with an answer. Jordan concluded his email with his name and contact information. After discussing the deal with his partner, Jordan replied to Parish’s email, stating, “Ok. Let’s do it.” But this time, Jordan’s email concluded with “Sent from my iPhone” instead of his name and contact information. The next day, Jordan received a higher bid for the equipment from Lone Star Transportation LLC (Lone Star), which Jordan accepted verbally over the telephone. After receiving a confirmation email from Lone Star, Jordan emailed Parish Transport informing the company that “a contract has already been entered into for the sale of [the equipment].” Parish Transport sued for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. The matter was later transferred and consolidated with Jordan Carriers’ motion for declaratory judgment. After the cases were consolidated, Jordan Carriers moved for summary judgment, arguing “that it did not have an enforceable contract with Parish [Transport] for the sale of the equipment.” The circuit court agreed and granted Jordan Carriers’ motion for summary judgment. Parish Transport appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because “[w]ithout a signature, an enforceable contract does not exist.” The Court of Appeals determined that “[m]erely sending an email does not satisfy the signature requirement” and that “[a]n email that states ‘Sent from my iPhone’ does not indicate that the sender intended to sign the record.” The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari to address an issue of first impression: an interpretation or application of Mississippi’s Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). After careful analysis, the Court found the UETA permitted contracts to be formed by electronic means, i.e, emails. Further, the Court found that the determination of whether an email was electronically signed pursuant to the UETA was a question of fact that turned on a party’s intent to adopt or accept the writing, which was a determination for the fact finder. Because there was a genuine issue of material fact about Doug Jordan’s intent, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Parish Transport LLC, et al. v. Jordan Carriers Inc." on Justia Law

by
TM Wood Products, M Wood Products, Inc., Marty Wood, and Kim Whitlow (collectively, “TM Wood”) appeal the trial court’s denial of their motion to set aside the judgment under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). Marietta Wood Supply, Inc., and Marietta Dry Kiln, LLC (collectively, “Marietta”), contracted with TM Wood to sell lumber. TM Wood acted as broker and agreed to sell Marietta’s green lumber and dry kiln for a $10-$40 commission per thousand feet. Under the agreement, TM Wood also hired or employed various trucking companies to haul the lumber after it was sold. Marietta filed a complaint against TM Wood alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of fiduciary duty, as well as fraudulent inducement, concealment, misrepresentation, and negligence. Marietta alleged that TM Wood had been wrongfully billing both the purchaser and the seller for shipping costs. It also alleged that TM Wood had been charging and receiving extra commissions on the lumber units TM Wood sold for Marietta from 2004 to 2012. After a bench trial, the court entered a final judgment in favor of Marietta in the amount of $800,000. The trial court found that TM Wood had been properly served at the addresses provided in an Agreed Order Allowing Withdrawal of Counsel. Marietta alleged that it sent a copy of the final judgment to Wood and Whitlow the following day. Marietta then hired an attorney in Arkansas to collect the judgment. TM Wood retained new counsel the following business day and served its motion to set aside the Mississippi judgment. TM Wood argued on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court that its right to a jury trial was violated, that it failed to receive notice of the bench trial, and that the judgment was excessive. The Supreme Court found the circuit clerk failed to send notice of the impending trial to TM Wood in accordance with Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 40(b), therefore, it reversed the trial court’s decision. View "TM Wood Products v. Marietta Wood Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court was whether Jackson Ramelli Waste LLC was entitled to additional compensation “over and above [the] amounts agreed upon by the parties, invoiced by [Jackson Ramelli], and accepted as payment by [Jackson Ramelli], in the absence of a contract, but under a quantum meruit theory[.]” From October 2009 to September 2015, Waste Management contracted with the City of Jackson to collect solid waste from all residential units and light commercial entities in the city. The contract required Waste Management to subcontract 35.802 percent of the work to minority-owned or women-owned businesses and to adhere to the requirements of the City’s equal business opportunity (EBO) plan. Waste Management entered a subcontract with Jackson Ramelli and Metro Waste Disposal to perform certain portions of the waste-collection services and to fulfill this obligation. Jackson Ramelli’s payment rate would be adjusted annually in accordance with any increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Both parties were prohibited from the assignment of the subcontract without the other party’s consent. Unbeknownst to Waste Management, after entering into the subcontract with Waste Management, Jackson Ramelli subcontracted all of its work to RKC LLC, a Louisiana company that was neither a minority- nor women-owned company. It is undisputed that RKC performed all of the residential waste-collection services that Waste Management hired Jackson Ramelli to perform. The subcontract between Waste Management and Jackson Ramelli expired at the end of September 2010; the parties continued services on a month-to-month basis. In January 2012, Jackson Ramelli purchased the right to assume Metro Waste’s routes related to the contract. As a result, Jackson Ramelli increased the amount it invoiced Waste Management to reflect the additional houses it acquired through its acquisition of Metro Waste’s routes. While Jackson Ramelli submitted monthly invoices to Waste Management for services rendered, it did not invoice Waste Management for any CPI adjustments or for any further houses serviced. But during this time, Jackson Ramelli raised the possibility of additional compensation to reflect (1) the changes in the CPI and (2) the increase in the number of houses Jackson Ramelli claimed to be servicing. Jackson Ramelli filed a complaint against Waste Management in July 2015 claiming Waste Management’s: (1) nonpayment of CPI increases between 2012 and 2015; (2) nonpayment of waste-collection services for additional houses between 2012 and 2015; and (3) nonpayment of work performed in March 2015. Because the record established that the additional work claimed by Jackson Ramelli was contemplated by its contract and because Jackson Ramelli did not have a reasonable expectation of additional compensation, the Supreme Court reversed its quantum meruit claim, and final judgment was entered in favor of Waste Management. View "Waste Management of Mississippi Inc. v. Jackson Ramelli Waste LLC" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was the computation of the broadband credit limits that a taxpayer may use against its franchise-tax and income-tax liabilities. During the tax periods at issue, AT&T Mobility II, LLC, and BellSouth Telecommunications operated telecommunications enterprises and made significant investments in broadband technology developments throughout Mississippi, generating Broadband Investment Credits (Broadband Credits) under Mississippi Code Section 57-87-5. BellSouth Mobile Data, SBC Alloy Holdings, New BellSouth Cannular Holdings, New Cingular Wireless Services, SBC Telecom, and Centennial were all direct or indirect corporate owners of AT&T Mobility II. The taxpayers here each filed a separate franchise-tax return and were included as affiliated group members in the combined corporate income-tax return filed on behalf of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) determined that the broadband credits the taxpayers had claimed had been improperly applied to an amount greater than the credit cap of 50 percent of the taxpayers’ tax liabilities according to Mississippi Code Section 57-87- 5(3) (Rev. 2014). The MDR disallowed portions of the broadband credits claimed by the taxpayers and assessed additional franchise taxes, interest and penalties to the taxpayers separately on several dates between December 22, 2014, and May 20, 2015. The taxpayers argue that each taxpayer is jointly and severally liable for the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group, therefore making the income-tax liability of each taxpayer the same as the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The chancellor granted summary judgment in favor of the taxpayers and ruled that the taxpayer’s tax liabilities under Chapters 7 and 13 of Title 271 of the Mississippi Code was the aggregate of the taxpayer’s separate franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's ruling on the credit-computation issue. "The plain and unambiguous language of Section 57-87-5 clearly limits broadband credits that a taxpayer may take in any given year to 50 percent of the aggregate of the taxpayers’ franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group." View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. SBC Telecom, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

by
David and Jill Landrum began developing land in Livingston, Madison County, Mississippi, in approximately 2006. David sought financial assistance from Michael Sharpe. Michael invested substantial sums in the business, and his wife, Marna Sharpe, gained a membership interest in the business. In 2010, Livingston Holdings, LLC (Livingston), a Mississippi limited-liability company, was formed. The original members of the company were Jill, Marna, and Sara Williams. Livingston acquired Williams’s ownership interests, and Marna later assigned her membership interest to B&S Holdings, LLC (B&S). The development became the Town of Livingston. The members of Livingston consisted of B&S and Jill. In this dispute between the members of the limited-liability company, the question presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether statutory provisions prevented the enforcement of an arbitration provision and waiver contained in the operating agreement of the company. Because the Court determined the statutory provisions did not control over the terms of the operating agreement, it affirmed the trial court’s decision to compel arbitration. View "B&S MS Holdings, LLC v. Landrum" on Justia Law

by
In June 2014, Chester Abbott, as majority shareholder and director of A&H Technologies, Inc., formally noticed a special shareholder meeting. The meeting was to be held on July 23, 2014, in Mississippi. William Boatright, the only other shareholder, could not attend because he was working on an A&H project out of state. Despite William’s conflict, Chester proceeded with the meeting as the sole shareholder in attendance. Chester re-elected himself the lone director of A&H. He further determined he had been the only elected director of the company since 2001. Finally, he addressed the six-figure bonus he gave himself in December 2013, recording on the minutes that it was based on “his extraordinary work and effort to continue to build business and upon his forgoing any bonus for 2009 to 2012.” Chester held a board-of-directors meeting that same day. Chester elected himself president of A&H. Chester replaced William as vice president with his daughter-in-law Cynthia Abbott. And he replaced William’s wife, Kelley Boatright, as secretary/treasurer with his own wife, Carol Abbott. William sued Chester and A&H the next day, alleging that Chester’s oppressive conduct toward William was detrimental to A&H. In his complaint, William sought both to replace Chester as president of A&H and to become majority shareholder. Alternatively, he requested dissolution. Before the lawsuit, Chester owned 51% of A&H’s shares, and William owned 49%. After four years of litigation, the chancellor met William halfway, ordering a stock transfer that would have made William a 50% owner, equal with Chester, and directed William have equal say. The Mississippi Supreme Court gave deference to the equitable remedy the chancellor chose, because it was properly within his authority and discretion. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's judgment. View "Boatright v. A & H Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Michael Montgomery, an employee of Taylor Construction working as a truck dispatcher, called Superior Mat Company to rent mats for Taylor Construction’s use. From June 9, 2017, to June 27, 2017, Taylor employees drove to Superior’s location in Covington County and picked up more than seven hundred mats. When Taylor returned the mats, Superior alleged that many were in varying degrees of dirtiness, or in some cases, damaged beyond repair. Taylor paid Superior for the mats until Superior additionally billed Taylor for the mats Taylor did not return. Taylor later stopped payment on all invoices from Superior. Superior filed suit against Taylor in Covington County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, open account, quantum meruit, and bad-faith breach of contract. Taylor filed its answer along with a motion to transfer venue under Rule 82(d). After hearing arguments, the circuit court denied Taylor's motion. Taylor appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding the record demonstrated credible evidence that substantial events or acts occurred in Covington County. View "Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc." on Justia Law

by
At stake in this appeal before the Mississippi Supreme Court was the ability of Hobbs Construction, LLC, to continue doing business in the state as a commercial general contractor. The Mississippi State Board of Contractors revoked the certificate of responsibility (COR) held by Hobbs. The chancery court granted Hobbs’s motion for a preliminary injunction and enjoined the Board’s revocation decision during the pendency of the appeal. Later the chancery court entered an order reversing the Board’s decision and reinstating Hobbs’s COR. The Board appealed, arguing that the chancery court erred because the Board’s revocation decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary and capricious, was within the Board’s power to make, and did not violate Hobbs’s statutory or constitutional rights. The Board argued also that the chancery court erred by granting a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court determined the Board violated Hobbs’s constitutional right to due process of law by not providing sufficient notice of the charges that were considered at the revocation hearing and were a basis for the revocation decision, therefore it affirmed the chancery court's. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found the chancery court did not err by granting a preliminary injunction. View "Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC" on Justia Law