Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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Timothy and Rebecca Hillhouse entered into a contract with Chris Cook Construction for the construction of their home. The contract contained an arbitration provision mandating that arbitration be conducted before a forum that was unavailable at the time the contract was executed. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration and appointing an arbitrator. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in so doing: because the forum was a contract requirement, the arbitration provision was unenforceable, and appointing an arbitrator required courts to reform the contractual agreement between the parties. Judgment was reversed and the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood entered into two separate contracts with Coumanis Allen, a general contractor. Subsequently, Coumanis did not pay subcontractors for their work, and Warren & Warren, one of Coumanis’s subcontractors, filed construction liens on Oak Grove’s and Westwood’s separate real property. In both payment actions, Warren admitted to failing to file its lis pendens notice along with its construction liens, waiting 110 days to file it. The two separate legal actions were brought before the Chancery Court of Lamar County, Mississippi, and were assigned to separate chancellors. Oak Grove and Westwood filed separate motions for summary judgment, which were denied by the chancellors; they timely appealed. The crux of the appeals was one of statutory interpretation: whether the failure to comply with Mississippi Code Section 85-7- 405(1)(c)(i) (Supp. 2020), which required the simultaneous filing of a lis pendens notice with the commencement of the payment action, rendered Warren’s liens unenforceable and ineffective. Chancellor Sheldon erred by denying Oak Grove’s motions for summary judgment, and Chancellor Gambrell erred by denying Westwood’s motion to dissolve. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancellors’ decisions and entered summary judgment in favor of KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood. View "KD Oak Grove, LLC v. Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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