Articles Posted in Contracts

by
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

by
This appeal stemmed from Brian Pedigo’s suit against Rent-A-Center, Inc., for actual and punitive damages, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pedigo visited Rent-A-Center, Inc.’s (RAC) Booneville location, and decided to make the rental-purchase of a back-lit, LED television. He entered a Rental Purchase Agreement (RPA) for the lease. Under the RPA, Pedigo agreed to make specified payments over the course of twenty-three months, in an effort to own the television after all payments were remitted. Incorporated within the RPA was RAC’s standard Consumer Arbitration Agreement (CAA), which outlined those claims covered and those not covered in a dispute between the parties, and the process the parties would engage in should a dispute arise. Pedigo initialed and signed both documents, agreeing to the terms within. By February 2013, Pedigo had failed to fulfill his payment obligations under the RPA and was more than twenty days past-due under the agreement. Finding the contract had been breached, RAC manager Kristopher Robinson sought to recover the television from Pedigo. Through his attempts at recovery, Robinson discovered that the television was pawned shortly after it was leased. After discovering Pedigo had pawned the television, Robinson filed a complaint with the Booneville police in April 2013. Based on this information, an arrest warrant for the theft of rental property was issued for Pedigo on May 1, 2013. He was indicted on October 22, 2013, for defrauding RAC, and was arrested and incarcerated on December 11, 2013. On June 9, 2014, the State retired the October 2013 felony charge, ending the prosecution of the criminal matter. Following his release, Pedigo filed this civil action claiming that RAC filed a false report with the police which resulted in his incarceration–an act that he claims amounted to malicious prosecution. After a preliminary review of the matter, the Circuit Court found in favor of Rent-A-Center, ruling that the parties entered a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement which covered Pedigo’s claims. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, such ruling was made in error: though broad, the arbitration agreement did not contemplate Pedigo having to arbitrate his claim that Rent-A-Center maliciously swore out a criminal affidavit, causing his wrongful incarceration. Accordingly, the Court reversed the previous ruling and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Pedigo v. Rent-A-Center, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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

by
After remand, the trial court ruled that H.A.S. Electrical Contractors, Inc. (HAS) failed to meet its burden of proving purposeful discrimination. Hemphill Construction Company was the general contractor on a project in Waveland, Mississippi, to rebuild a state park after Hurricane Katrina. Hemphill entered a subcontract with HAS (one of many entered into between these companies - both before and after the event complained of) to perform the electrical work. According to HAS, Hemphill did not pay HAS all it was owed under the subcontract. HAS sued Hemphill for breach of contract, quantum meruit, and conversion. After a three-day trial, the jury found in favor of Hemphill on both HAS’s claims and Hemphill’s counterclaim. However, the jury declined to award Hemphill monetary damages. The subcontract entitled the “prevailing party” to reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. HAS filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), arguing the trial court erred: (1) in allowing Hemphill to use two of its peremptory strikes to exclude two African Americans from the jury, arguing neither pretext nor purposeful discrimination; and (2) in not finding the unilateral attorney’s-fees provision of the contract to be unconscionable. The trial court denied HAS’s motion for new trial and alternative motion for JNOV. In its briefs appealing the trial court ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court, HAS challenged the attorney’s-fees award and argued the trial court mishandled the Batson hearing when HAS challenged Hemphill’s use of peremptory strikes on the African-American jurors. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding HAS failed to prove: (1) purposeful discrimination in the jury selection process; (2) that the trial court’s ruling was clearly erroneous; or (3) that the trial court’s ruling was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the jury’s verdict, the trial court’s denial of HAS’s motion for new trial, and the trial court’s post-judgment award of attorney’s fees to Hemphill. View "H.A.S. Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Hemphill Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose out of a breach-of-contract action between Marc Daniels, Sandra Daniels, Crocker & Associates, Inc., and Maxx Investments, LLC (collectively, “the Danielses”) and Dennis Crocker, Gail Crocker and Crocker, Ltd. (collectively, “the Crockers”). The Danielses entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (the “Agreement”) with the Crockers to acquire Crocker & Associates, Inc. (“C&A”). Within eighteen months of the sale, C&A lost a number of important contracts and its employees resigned. The Danielses sued the Crockers for failing to disclose all material information about C&A as required by the Agreement. The Crockers answered the suit and brought counterclaims. After extensive discovery, the trial court granted the Crockers’ motion for summary judgment on the Danielses’ claims against them. The Danielses now appeal the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Because the record contained a genuine issue as to material fact concerning the Danielses’ contract claims and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on these claims. Further, because the Court remanded these claims for a jury to determine if the Danielses were entitled to compensation, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the punitive damages claim. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Daniels v. Crocker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

by
In a matter of first impression, the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed testamentary provisions in a contract. A provision in a lease stated that upon the lessor’s death, the lessor’s rights (primarily the right to receive lease payments) transferred to the lessor’s daughter, who was not a party to the lease. The lessor died, and the question presented under the facts of this case was whether the provision of the lease or the provisions of the lessor’s will determined the owner of the lease payments. The distinction turns on whether the instrument conveys any present interest to the grantee. The relevant question was when the interest vests in the grantee and whether it may be modified during the grantor’s life, not who has the right to prevent any interest from vesting. Because the grantee lacked a vested right, the provision at issue here was testamentary in nature and treated as a will. The parties agree the lease failed to comply with the statutory formalities required of a will, so the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision to reverse the chancellor’s decision finding the provision enforceable. View "Estate of Rose Greer v. Ball" on Justia Law

by
Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

by
Thomas L. Swarek and Thomas A. Swarek (father and son) appealed a Chancery Court’s finding that no binding enforceable contract existed between the Swareks and Derr Plantation, Inc. (DPI) for the lease and purchase and sale of Derr Plantation to the Swareks, thus denying Swareks’ equitable-relief request for specific performance. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court. View "Swarek v. Derr Plantation, Inc." on Justia Law

by
When this case came before the Mississippi Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal, the Court reversed in part. Because it was undisputed that neither sub-subcontractor Ground Control, LLC nor subcontractor Capsco Industries, Inc. (both Alabama companies) had a statutorily required certificate of responsibility to work in Mississippi, the Court agreed that the subcontract was void. But the Court found, despite the void contract, "Ground Control should not be precluded from having the opportunity to proceed in court under a claim for the value of what it expended in labor and supplies on the project." The case was remanded to the trial court so Ground Control could pursue the nonbarred "claims of unjust enrichment and quantum meruit." Despite this holding, Ground Control argued in this appeal that the trial court erred by limiting its claims on remand to unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. The Supreme Court found no error in the trial court so limiting Ground Control's claims. The Supreme Court did, however, find W.G. Yates and Sons Construction Company (Yates) and Capsco raised reversible errors in their cross-appeals. Based on the evidence presented at trial, the Supreme Court found Yates was entitled to a directed verdict because Ground Control failed to prove Yates’s liability for quantum meruit damages. The Court also found the quantum meruit damages award against Capsco was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Consequently, Capsco was entitled to a remittitur. The Court affirmed on Ground Control’s and Ground Control owner Frank Beaton’s direct appeals. On cross-appeal, the Court reversed a $36,644.69 judgment against Yates and rendered a judgment in Yates’s favor. The Court also reversed a $825,583.31 judgment against Capsco. The quantum meruit claim against Capsco was remanded, instructing the trial court to conduct a new trial on damages alone, unless a remittitur of $626,407.31, making the damage award $199,096, was accepted by Ground Control and Capsco. View "Ground Control, LLC v. Capsco Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Thomas Saul and Jon Swartzfager initially reached a verbal agreement for Saul’s purchase of a piece of property located within a larger tract of land Swartzfager owned. But another person came along and offered Swartzfager a significant sum to buy the whole tract. Swartzfager approached Saul and asked if he would forego their original land deal and in exchange accept a separate parcel within a different tract of land. Saul agreed to Swartzfager’s new offer, and Swartzfager reduced their agreement to writing, stating that for “good and valuable consideration” already received, he would transfer the second parcel to Saul upon request. However, Swartzfager later backed out and never transferred any land to Saul. Saul filed suit against Swartzfager seeking damages and specific performance. The chancellor found a valid contract existed between Saul and Swartzfager, and awarded him damages, attorney’s fees, and prejudgment interest. After review, the Supreme Court found the chancellor correctly ruled that Saul and Swartzfager had a contract, and Swartzfager was equitably estopped from denying the land deal. Furthermore, the Court found the chancellor’s awards for intentional infliction of emotional distress and attorney’s fees are supported. But Court found the chancellor erred in awarding prejudgment interest, because Saul did not plead a request for prejudgment interest. View "Swartzfager v. Saul" on Justia Law