Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Gilmer v. McRae, et al.
In April 2012, Bobby Gibson signed a contingency fee contract with Barry Wade Gilmer and the Gilmer Law Firm regarding a legal malpractice case. When the contract was signed, Seth Little, an associate of the Gilmer Law Firm, was assigned to the case. During the summer of 2013, Little left the Gilmer Law Firm and began working for Chuck McRae at the McRae Law Firm. Little continued to work on Gibson’s case while employed at the McRae Law Firm. A settlement was ultimately reached in Gibson’s case, but the McRae Law Firm never received any money. McRae hired Michelle Biegel and Bettie Ruth Johnson to sue Gilmer over the attorneys’ fees generated by the settlement of the legal malpractice case. Later, Gilmer filed a lawsuit against McRae, Little, Biegel, and Johnson, alleging, among other claims, that McRae, Biegel, and Johnson committed civil conspiracy. Gilmer’s suit was ultimately dismissed, and this appeal followed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Gilmer’s October 2, 2017 complaint and the trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees. The Court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Gilmer’s amended motion to amend. Finally, the Supreme Court found that Gilmer was procedurally barred from raising the issue of whether the trial court abused its discretion by assigning the costs of the interlocutory appeal to Gilmer. View "Gilmer v. McRae, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Legal Ethics
Watercolor Salon, LLC v. Hixon
A Mississippi trial court denied Watercolor Salon LLC’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed against Watercolor’s former employee Nealie Hixon. The motion was based on an employment, confidentiality, and noncompetition agreement. Because Nealie was twenty years old and thus legally a minor when she entered the agreement, the trial court held the agreement was unenforceable. On appeal, Watercolor argues its employment agreement meets the statutory exception that permits minors eighteen years or older to enter into enforceable contracts “affecting personal property.” The Mississippi Supreme Court found Watercolor's logic was flawed and stretched the statutory minor disability exception too far. "Just because an employment contract restricts an employee from taking intellectual property or covers what happens upon breach or termination does not completely change the fundamental nature of the contract. And here the fundamental nature of the contract was a noncompetition agreement that Nealie would give up her ability to work in a certain geographical area for a fixed time in exchange for continued employment at a higher hourly wage. So this employment contract was simply a contract affecting Nealie’s right to work, not her personal property. Thus, the statutory exception does not apply. And because Nealie disaffirmed the contract, it is unenforceable against her." The Court affirmed the denial of Watercolor's motion for injunctive relief, which was based solely on the unenforceable agreement. Whether Watercolor had any remaining claims against Nealie that were not based on the contract, such as the taking of trade secrets, remained to be determined on remand. View "Watercolor Salon, LLC v. Hixon" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Labor & Employment Law
White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC
Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC (JCA), a law firm practicing out of Ridgeland, Mississippi, filed suit against Shad White, in his official capacity as auditor for the state of Mississippi, seeking to recover damages for services rendered and for the reimbursement of costs and expenses owed to a public relations firm. A circuit court found that, because discovery had not been completed in the case, genuine issues of material fact remained. Thus, it denied the office of the state auditor’s (OSA) motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. Because JCA failed to submit evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact that the employment contract complied with statutory requirements, and because JCA’s alternative claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment. View "White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts
Broadband Voice, LLC v. Jefferson County, Mississippi
Broadband Voice, LLC, d/b/a Fuse.Cloud, LLC (Fuse), appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint with prejudice. Fuse argued that it was entitled to $116,984.02 in early-termination fees from the four contracts it had with Jefferson County (the County). Fuse also argued that the trial court erred, inter alia, by denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings. Because the early-termination provision in Fuse’s contract with the County was unenforceable, the Mississippi Supreme Court found trial court did not err by denying Fuse’s motion for judgment on the pleadings or by dismissing Fuse’s complaint with prejudice. View "Broadband Voice, LLC v. Jefferson County, Mississippi" on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law, Contracts, Government Contracts
SRHS Ambulatory Services, Inc. v. Pinehaven Group, LLC, et al.
The issue this appeal presented stemmed from a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to First American Title Company (First American) and its grant of a declaratory udgment to Pinehaven Group, LLC (Pinehaven), against Singing River Health System Ambulatory Services (AS). Singing River Health System (SRHS) informed AS that its real estate purchase from Pinehaven ten years before was void for lack of ratification by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors (the board). AS sought to void the purchase and to recover from Pinehaven and First American. The circuit court held that AS’s purchase from Pinehaven was valid and enforceable. Finding that no factual dispute that the contract was valid and enforceable existed, the Mississippi Supreme Court declined to address the other issues presented on appeal that were based on the alleged ratification requirement. "AS properly considered, approved, and executed the contract for its purchase of the Pinehaven property. As such, we affirm the circuit court’s decision that lack of ratification did not render the Pinehaven purchase void." View "SRHS Ambulatory Services, Inc. v. Pinehaven Group, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Real Estate & Property Law
Jones v. Alcorn State University, et al.
Ernest Jones appealed a circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Board of Trustees of the State of Institutions of Higher Learning of the State of Mississippi (IHL) because the doctrine of judicial estoppel barred his claims. Jones became the head football coach at Alcorn State University. Subsequently, he filed a breach of contract action against the IHL on in 2008. Jones was fired in January 2009. In October 2015, Jones petitioned a bankruptcy court in Florida for protection from his creditors. Jones failed to disclose the breach of contract suit against the IHL in the bankruptcy schedule’s “list of suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case.” A jury returned a verdict in Jones’ favor in his breach of contract suit. On the day of the verdict, he voluntarily dismissed his bankruptcy proceeding. IHL moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the circuit court set aside the verdict. Then in April 2017, while Jones’s appeal was pending before the Court of Appeals, he filed a second bankruptcy petition, this time, Jones proposed and filed a Chapter 13 plan. Despite the pending appeal, Jones again failed to disclose the IHL suit to the bankruptcy court, attesting under oath that no such claims existed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the IHL suit. Back at the circuit court, IHL moved for summary judgment, arguing judicial estoppel barred Jones from recovery. Within ten days of the IHL’s seeking dismissal, Jones moved to amend his bankruptcy plan and for the first time disclosed the IHL lawsuit. Thereafter, the circuit court held a hearing on the IHL’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of the circuit court’s discretion in applying judicial estoppel to the facts found in this record. View "Jones v. Alcorn State University, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Bankruptcy, Civil Procedure, Contracts
Omega Protein, Inc. v. Evanston Insurance Company
An explosion at the Omega Protein Plant in Moss Point, Mississippi killed one man and seriously injured several others. Multiple lawsuits were filed against Omega in federal district court. Colony Insurance Company filed a declaratory judgment action in state circuit court seeking a declaration that it did not cover bodily injuries arising out of the Moss Point facility explosion. Evanston Insurance Company intervened also seeking a declaration of no coverage for the same injuries: Evanston provided a $5 million excess liability policy, which provided coverage after Colony’s $1 million policy was exhausted. Because Colony settled one of the underlying personal injury cases for $1 million (the limits under its policy), Omega sought excess coverage from Evanston for the injuries that occurred at its plant. A special master was appointed, and the trial court granted Evanston’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the pollution exclusion in the insurance contract barred coverage. Omega appealed that grant of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that a pollution exclusion in the insurance contract was ambiguous, and should have been construed in favor of the insured, allowing coverage. Further, the Court found the question of whether coverage was triggered was governed by the language of the contract, and that Evanston failed to prove there could be no coverage under the excess liability policy. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment as to all issues and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Omega Protein, Inc. v. Evanston Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Insurance Law, Personal Injury
Camille Village, LLC v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n, et al.
The dispute underlying this appeal began with the failure of Camille Village, LLC, the owner of an apartment complex, to deposit additional money in escrow for repairs after it was demanded by Lenders Federal National Mortgage Association and Barings Multifamily Capital, LLC. The Lenders held Camille Village to be in default, lengthy settlement negotiations failed, and the amount demanded for repairs increased dramatically after additional inspections. After a trial, the chancery court concluded that Camille Village was in default and had failed to prove the Lenders had acted in bad faith. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Camille Village, LLC v. Federal National Mortgage Ass'n, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Real Estate & Property Law
Singing River MOB, LLC v. Jackson County
Two cases were consolidated for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review. In the first appeal, Singing River MOB, LLC (MOB), argued that the leases between itself and Singing River Health System (SRHS) and the lease between Jackson County, Mississippi (County), and SRHS were valid and that the chancery court erred by finding the leases invalid under Mississippi’s “minutes rule.” In the second appeal, Jackson County and SRHS contended the chancery court erred by fashioning its own equitable relief as a result of the first ruling. MOB also raised its own objection as to the manner in which the equitable relief was fashioned. After careful review, the Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the partial summary-judgment order as to the first appeal (No. 2019-IA-01630-SCT); however, the Court reversed and remanded that order as to the second appeal (No. 2019-IA-01653-SCT). View "Singing River MOB, LLC v. Jackson County" on Justia Law
Rogers v. Estate of Pavlou
Ken Rogers and Costas Pavlou entered into an agreement for Rogers to potentially purchase a concession stand from Pavlou. The concession business, costas Place, would operate at the Mississippi State Fair, The agreement required Rogers to pay Pavlou $35,000 “on or before October 25, 2009.” If that condition was satisfied, Pavlou would give Rogers the option to purchase Costas Place for an additional $35,000 payment “on or before two weeks after the last day of the Mississippi State Fair in the year 2011.” Rogers failed to pay the first $35,000 by the deadline; he first made a payment of $30,225 on November 23, 2009, which Pavlou accepted. Then, from 2009 to 2011, Pavlou paid Rogers an equal share of the net income from Costas Place per the agreement. Nevertheless, all that remained was for Rogers to provide the final $35,000 payment in 2011, but the deadline passed. Rogers contended Pavlou waived the 2011 deadline. Rogers claimed that during his divorce proceeding, Pavlou represented to Rogers that he would extend the deadline for the option to purchase the business until after the divorce proceedings ended. Pavlou countered that, pursuant to the contract, Rogers’s option to purchase the business lapsed when he failed to pay the remaining $35,000. Rogers sued Pavlou asserting breach of contract. Including his claims of waiver, Rogers insisted that Pavlou gave reassurances that he would accept that second installment of $35,000 after Rogers’s divorce was final. The case proceeded to trial, but, in the meantime, Pavlou died, and his estate was substituted as party-defendant. After discovery and litigation but before trial, Pavlou’s estate filed two pretrial motions, a motion to take judicial notice of prior testimony and a motion to exclude parol evidence. Pertinent here, the estate sought to introduce Rogers' testimony at his divorce proceeding; Pavlou’s counsel asked the trial judge to “take judicial notice that he testified [the joint venture agreement] was void, that he swore to the Chancery Court it was void.” On the motion to exclude parole evidence, Pavlou’s counsel argued the 2009 agreement “very specifically and expressly said that modifications had to be in writing, that there would be no verbal alterations to the contract.” The trial court granted Pavlou's motion for a directed verdict, finding Rogers failed to present competent proof that Pavlou waived the payment deadline. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Rogers v. Estate of Pavlou" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts