Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC
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
Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C.
In May 2015, the Chickasaw County School District entered into a contract with Sullivan Enterprises, Inc., for window restoration work on the Houlka Attendance Center. In July 2015, during construction, a fire began that completely consumed the attendance center. Liberty Mutual, the school district’s insurer, paid the school district $4.3 million for the damage to the building. Liberty Mutual then filed a subrogation suit against Sullivan Enterprises, Fowlkes Plumbing, LLC, and Quality Heat & Air, Inc. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi found that the waiver of subrogation did not apply to damages to the “non-Work” property, thus Liberty Mutual could proceed in litigation as to “non-Work” property damages. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an interlocutory appeal and certified a question to the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether the subrogation waiver applied to “non-Work” property. The Supreme Court determined that based on the plain meaning of the contract language, the waiver of subrogation applied to both work and non-work property. View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC
John and Cindy Henderson filed suit against Copper Ridge Homes (“Copper Ridge”) and First Bank regarding the construction of their new home in Magnolia, Mississippi. The case quickly spiraled into foreclosure proceedings upon the Hendersons’ defaulting on their loan with First Bank. The judge granted First Bank’s motion for judicial foreclosure. After that, the Hendersons unsuccessfully moved multiple times to amend their complaint to add wrongful foreclosure. The judge granted Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment on the Hendersons’ claims, finding that the claims, which arose from the alleged faulty construction of the house traveled with the title to the property. Because the Hendersons no longer owned any interest in the house and land, the judge found that they had lost their right to seek damages. On appeal, the Hendersons argued the trial court erred by granting First Bank a judicial foreclosure, by granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment, and by denying their motions for leave to amend and to add wrongful foreclosure to their complaint. Finding that the trial court erred in granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s post-foreclosure motions for dismissal of the Hendersons’ claims, The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the grant of judicial foreclosure, reversed the grant of summary judgment to both parties, and remanded the case to the trial court for determination of the Hendersons’ claims. View "Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC" on Justia Law
Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Smith
Dorothy Smith sued her homeowner's insurance carrier, Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”), after Farm Bureau denied her claim based on the earth-movement exclusion in the policy. Smith filed suit against her home builder, Larry Brown, d/b/a Brown’s Construction Company, and Farm Bureau after learning that her home’s foundation was defective. Smith filed a claim for the repair of the foundation. Farm Bureau filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court. Farm Bureau then filed a petition for interlocutory appeal by permission, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying Farm Bureau’s motion for summary judgment: the earth-movement exclusion was unambiguous and excluded coverage for the property damage suffered by Smith. View "Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Smith" on Justia Law
Land Holdings I, LLC d/b/a Scarlet Pearl, LLC v. GSI Services, LLC
Land Holdings I, LLC, d/b/a Scarlet Pearl, LLC (“Casino”), sought to expunge a lien filed by GSI Services, LLC (“GSI”). The chancellor denied the Casino’s petition to expunge the lien because GSI performed work at the Casino within ninety days of filing its lien. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s order. View "Land Holdings I, LLC d/b/a Scarlet Pearl, LLC v. GSI Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Hudson v. Yazoo City, Mississippi
This case arose from the tragic 2014 death of nine-year-old Patrauna Hudson, who drowned in flash-flood waters that swept through a drainage ditch that ran alongside her family’s residence. Patrauna’s estate (the “Estate”) filed suit against Yazoo City for wrongful death under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Yazoo City (the “City”) on all claims filed against it by the Estate, having found Yazoo City immune from liability under both the discretionary-function exception and the open-and-obvious exception contained in Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9. The Estate appealed, maintaining that Yazoo City violated numerous city ordinances, along with certain federal regulations, when the City converted a portion of the drainage ditch downstream from the Hudson residence into a covered tunnel with two side-by-side culverts in 2007. The Estate argued that these laws imposed a ministerial duty upon Yazoo City, and the City breached that duty by failing to comply with all the mandatory requirements prescribed by these laws when the city implemented and carried out the 2007 project. Therefore, the Estate contended, the City was not immune from liability. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the Estate’s claim that Yazoo City is liable for the wrongful death of Patrauna failed as a matter of law for failure to state a cause of action. The Court also found the Estate abandoned its claim for negligently failing to maintain its drainage ditches. The Estate, however, abandoned this claim under the auspices of the test adopted by this Court in However, the Court found “slight evidence,” which if developed further, could create a genuine issue of fact with regard to this claim, and that the Estate should have been given the opportunity to do so. The Supreme Court found the trial court’s ruling as to the open-and-obvious exception provided by Section 11-46-9(1)(v) was premature in this case because factual questions remained. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hudson v. Yazoo City, Mississippi" on Justia Law
Olshan Foundation Repair Company of Jackson, LLC v. Moore
Phillip Moore, Gloria Moore, and Katelyn Moore sued Olshan Foundation Repair of Jackson, LLC (Olshan), and Wayne Brown. Olshan and Brown sought to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision within a contract between Phillip Moore and Olshan for the repair of the foundation of the Moores’ home. The circuit court ordered Phillip and Gloria Moore to arbitrate their claims. But because the circuit court declined to order Katelyn Moore to the arbitral forum, Olshan and Brown appealed. Finding that Katelyn Moore was neither a third-party beneficiary to the foundation-repair contract nor was she bound by direct-benefit estoppel, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Katelyn Moore’s claims, including negligence and intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, were wholly independent of the terms of the contract to which she was not a party. As such, Olshan was not allowed to enforce an arbitration clause respecting Katelyn Moore’s claims, which were unrelated to the contract. View "Olshan Foundation Repair Company of Jackson, LLC v. Moore" on Justia Law
D. W. Caldwell, Inc. v. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company
Yates Construction, LLC, and D.W. Caldwell, Inc., entered into a construction subcontract for the roof installation on a residential dormitory at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. When Caldwell completed both the repairs and the roof installation, it had yet to receive total payment for the structural repairs. The companies disputed the scope and expense of these repairs and quickly negotiated to an impasse. Thereafter, Caldwell filed a claim against Yates for causing delay and increased costs by failing to pay for work performed, which was in breach of the agreements between the parties. The parties proceeded to arbitration. Although the arbitration record was neither recorded nor transcribed, the parties conceded that the arbitrator considered arguments, reviewed evidence, and heard witness testimony over the course of three days. He then reopened the proceedings for additional documentation, before issuing his thirteen-page award. Within two weeks of the arbitrator’s decision to deny Yates’s motion for reconsideration, Caldwell requested that the circuit court confirm the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-125. Yates moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-25. With the understanding that Yates would provide oral argument on its motion at the award confirmation hearing, Caldwell filed a request to limit the presentation of proof before the circuit court. Ultimately, the trial court reviewed fourteen exhibits and the testimony of one witness in making its decision. Based on this evidence, the court issued its order modifying the arbitrator’s award. Finding that the arbitrator had duplicated the labor costs for shingle installation in its award–once under the original subcontract and once under the oral agreement to repair the structural damage (referred to as the Repair Agreement)–it amended the award, reducing the total by $104,507. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined: (1) the miscalculations alleged in this matter were not evident from the award itself, nor were they apparent from the agreed-upon record; and (2) the judge erred when he allowed the parties to present witness testimony regarding the extent of any alleged miscalculations, rather than relying on the award and the arbitration record as the relevant law suggested. Finding error, the Court therefore reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded this case to the circuit court with directions to confirm the arbitration award. Furthermore, because the subcontract between the parties provided that each contractor would be responsible for his own fees and costs, the Court declined to assess costs to one party over the other, and instead, enforced their bargained-for agreement. View "D. W. Caldwell, Inc. v. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company" on Justia Law
Cope v. Thrasher Construction, Inc.
Thrasher Construction, Inc. (Thrasher) brought a third-party beneficiary action against Bruce Cope, Mary Cope, and Ike Thrash (the Copes and Thrash). Thrasher sought damages for payments owed for waterproofing the Inn by the Sea, a condominium in which the Copes and Thrash had acquired a full ownership interest by agreeing, in part, to pay all outstanding bills for work previously performed on the property. During trial, the county court dismissed the third-party beneficiary claim but allowed Thrasher to proceed on a quantum meruit theory of the case. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Thrasher for $69,290, and the county court entered judgment based on that verdict. The Copes and Thrash appealed the judgment to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the judgment of the county court. The Copes and Thrash then appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing the facts did not support a recovery on quantum meruit. Thrasher cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing its third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals held quantum meruit was not the proper method of relief because the action should have proceeded as a third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the third-party beneficiary action was the appropriate basis for Thrasher’s recovery; however, because the trial court ultimately reached the correct result, no further proceedings were needed in this case. View "Cope v. Thrasher Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Springer v. Ausbern Construction Co., Inc.
A jury awarded Ausbern Construction Company, Inc. (Ausbern) a verdict of $182,500 against Chickasaw County Engineer Edward Springer in his individual capacity for tortious interference with a road-construction contract. On appeal, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed the monetary judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Springer, holding the element of tortious interference that constitutes malice was not satisfied because Springer’s actions were not without right or justifiable cause. Though the lack of evidence demonstrating malice was dispositive to the decision to reverse and render, a majority of the Court of Appeals alternatively held that Ausbern’s claim against Springer had implicated the Mississippi Tort Claims Act and the trial court had erred by failing to grant Springer’s motion to dismiss due to lack of presuit notice. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the record did not support the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that Springer raised the issue of presuit notice in his motion to dismiss. Although Springer raised lack of notice as an affirmative defense in his answer to Ausbern’s first amended complaint, he simply argued that he was entitled to immunity in support of his motion to dismiss. The Court did not disturb the dispositive holding reached by the Court of Appeals resulting in the rendered judgment in favor of Springer; the Supreme Court granted certiorari review to resolve the Court of Appeals’ perceived conflict between Zumwalt v. Jones County Board of Supervisors, 19 So. 3d 672 (Miss. 2009), and Whiting v. University of Southern Mississippi, 62 So. 3d 907 (Miss. 2011). "Whiting" did not overrule, sub silentio, "Zumwalt" as the Court of Appeals presumed in reaching its alternative holding. The Supreme Court overruled Whiting to the extent it held that a claim for tortious interference with a contract was subject to presuit notice requirements of the Tort Claims Act. Ausbern’s claim against Springer in his individual capacity for tortious interference with the contract did not trigger the presuit notice requirements of the Tort Claims Act. View "Springer v. Ausbern Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law