Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Attorney Malcolm Murphy requested his client, Kenneth Borries, sign three promissory notes for legal services rendered. After Borries failed to pay the notes, Murphy filed suit. Borries appealed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Murphy. Because Borries did not deny voluntarily signing the promissory notes and because the notes contained clear and unambiguous terms, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Murphy. View "Borries v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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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

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In 2016, an unidentified driver struck a flagpole owned by 100 Renaissance, LLC, causing $2,134 in damage. Renaissance filed a claim with its insurance company, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America. Renaissance sought coverage under its automobile liability-insurance policy, which included uninsured-motorist(UM) coverage. Travelers denied the claim, determining there was no coverage under the UM policy because the flagpole was not a covered "auto." Renaissance's attorney sent an email to Travelers' claims handler, setting forth the Renaissance's legal arguments as to why coverage should be afforded under Mississippi's UM statute. The claims handler forwarded the email to Travelers' in-house counsel. When the claim was still denied, Renaissance filed suit on a bad-faith failure-to-pay theory. Renaissance took the claim handler's deposition, and asked her to explain the reasons Travelers denied the claim. In an effort to resolve the matter, Travelers paid the full amount for damage to the flagpole. Renaissance, however, continued to litigate its bad-faith claim. Travelers moved for summary judgment. Renaissance responded by asking for a continuance to conduct additional discovery. The additional discovery Renaissance claimed it needed was a production of the emails between the claims handler and the in-house counsel. The trial court granted the request for Travelers to produce the emails for in camera review. After that review, the trial court found that “Travelers ha[d] waived the attorney-client privilege as it relates to attorney Jim Harris.” The trial court ordered Travelers to produce the emails and to produce Harris (in-house counsel) for a deposition. Travelers filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court did not disagree with the trial court's determination that the privilege was waived, and affirmed its judgment. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. 100 Renaissance, LLC" on Justia Law

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After the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) reinterpreted a provision in a contract between it and the Mann Agency, LLC, the MDPS refused to pay more than $700,000 in invoices submitted by the Mann Agency. The Mann Agency filed suit against the MDPS for breach of contract. The trial court dismissed each party’s breach-of-contract claim, found that the case involved a bona fide dispute, and denied the Mann Agency’s claim for interest and attorneys’ fees. The Mann Agency appealed the trial court’s decision to deny its claim for interest and attorneys’ fees, arguing that the MDPS acted in bad faith. The MDPS cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred by dismissing as moot its breach-of-contract claim. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decisions. View "Mann Agency, LLC v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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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

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Michael Montgomery, an employee of Taylor Construction working as a truck dispatcher, called Superior Mat Company, Inc. 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, Mississippi, and picked up several hundred mats. Taylor Construction trucks returned the mats to Covington County on July 17, 2017. Superior alleged the mats came back in varying degrees of dirtiness or, in some cases, damaged beyond repair. Taylor Construction paid Superior for the mats until Superior additionally billed Taylor Construction for the mats it alleged Taylor Construction did not return. Taylor Construction later stopped payment on all invoices from Superior. Superior filed suit against Taylor Construction at the Covington County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, open account, quantum meruit, and bad-faith breach of contract. Taylor Construction filed its answer along with a motion to transfer venue under Rule 82(d). After hearing arguments, the circuit court denied Taylor Construction’s motion. Taylor Construction appealed, but finding the record demonstrated credible evidence that substantial events or acts occurred in Covington County, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robert Stratton, Sr. owned an antique truck and, in 2006, delivered it to John Shivers’s vehicle repair and restoration business in Liberty, Mississippi. Stratton and Shivers contemplated that Shivers would restore the truck at some point in the future, but they made no firm plans for the restoration, and they never agreed that Shivers would charge a storage fee. Stratton’s truck remained at Shivers’s shop until Jerry McKey bought the business from Shivers in May 2009. Shivers told McKey that Stratton owned the truck, but neither Shivers nor McKey notified Stratton of the change in the business’ ownership. When Stratton learned that the business had changed hands, he contacted McKey and requested possession of the truck. But McKey refused to let Stratton have his truck unless he paid storage fees. Stratton sued McKey for replevin, and the circuit court ruled that Stratton was entitled to possession of the truck conditioned upon his paying McKey $880 for storage fees within thirty days. Stratton appealed; the Court of Appeals affirmed. But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed both the trial and appellate courts, rendering judgment for Stratton. When McKey failed to relinquish possession of the truck, Stratton filed another complaint against him, and McKey filed a counterclaim for fees for storing the truck. McKey conceded that because he had sold the truck during the pendency of Stratton’s appeal, he owed Stratton the truck’s value. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court of awarded Stratton $350, which represented the value of the truck after the deduction of $1,000 in storage fees owed to McKey. Stratton appealed, challenging the amount of damages and challenging the circuit court’s award of storage fees to McKey. McKey did not file an appellee’s brief. In this case's second trip before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found McKey's counterclaim for storage fees was untimely, and the circuit court erred in awarding storage fees. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law

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After a mother requested life-insurance proceeds for the benefit of her two minor children after the death of the children’s father, the insurance company requested that she provide the appropriate guardianship documentation. The insurance company received the order appointing the mother guardian and providing directions for the issuance of funds. But the insurance company did not issue the funds as instructed by the order, and the mother misappropriated the funds. A guardian ad litem was then appointed by the chancery court for the minor children and eventually sued the insurance company in the Mississippi Circuit Court for negligence and breach of contract. The circuit court granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment, holding that because the insurance company was not a party to the guardianship proceeding in chancery court, the insurance company was not subject to liability for an alleged violation of the guardianship order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the insurance company’s liability and that summary judgment should not have been granted. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a trial on the merits. View "Samson v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America" 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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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law