Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Joe Tubwell had been living in a house in DeSoto County, Mississippi, since 2005. In 2016, the mortgage loan on the house went into default, and foreclosure proceedings were initiated. Tubwell filed a complaint against the mortgage companies in an attempt to stop the foreclosure. The case was moved to a federal court where the mortgage companies were granted summary judgment. Tubwell, Morgan Stanley, and Specialized Loan Servicing LLC (SLS) entered settlement negotiations and reached an agreement. Tubwell agreed to vacate the property by April 30, 2020, in exchange for a confidential sum of money. The property was sold to FV-1, Inc., in trust for Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Holdings LLC. However, Tubwell refused to vacate the property by the agreed deadline and did not return the settlement funds.The mortgage companies filed a complaint against Tubwell in the DeSoto County Circuit Court to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment ordering Tubwell to relinquish possession to the plaintiffs and dismissed Tubwell’s counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction. Tubwell appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court's decision.The Supreme Court of Mississippi granted Tubwell’s petition for certiorari to address the issue of whether it was error to dismiss his counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court found that the circuit court had jurisdiction to entertain Tubwell’s counterclaims and erred when it declined to do so based on a lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the circuit court and the Court of Appeals with regard to the dismissal of Tubwell’s counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the circuit court and the Court of Appeals on the remainder of the issues raised. View "Tubwell v. FV-1, Inc." on Justia Law

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VT Halter Marine (VTHM), a shipbuilder, contracted to build a barge and a tug for a client. During construction, over a thousand steel flange plates were incorrectly bent due to the use of an improperly sized die, leading to thinning and cracking of the plates. The faulty plates were installed onto the vessels, and the cracking was discovered later. The cost of replacing and repairing the cracked flange plates amounted to approximately $3,300,000. VTHM submitted a claim to their insurer, Certain Underwriters of Lloyd’s of London (Underwriters), for the cracked flange plates.The Underwriters denied VTHM's claim, asserting that the policy excluded coverage for faulty workmanship and the cost of replacing or repairing improper or defective materials. VTHM contested the denial, leading to a lawsuit for breach of contract. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment in the trial court. The trial court granted Underwriters' motion for summary judgment, ruling that the policy unambiguously excluded coverage for faulty workmanship and the cost of repairing, replacing, or renewing any improper or defective materials.In the Supreme Court of Mississippi, VTHM appealed the trial court's decision, arguing that the flanges were part of the vessel and coverage for faulty workmanship exists if it results in cracking of the vessel. The Supreme Court, however, affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court found that the insurance policy unambiguously excluded the cost of replacing or repairing improper or defective materials. The court concluded that the faulty workmanship directly resulted in improper materials being installed, and the only resulting damage was to the improper materials themselves. Therefore, VTHM's claim for the costs of repairing and/or replacing the improper materials installed was not covered under the policy. View "VT Halter Marine, Inc. v. Certain Underwriters of Lloyd's of London" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi has once again ruled on the case of Robert Stratton, who has been fighting for the possession of his 1949 International KB 3/4-ton truck. In 2006, Stratton left his truck at a repair shop. In 2009, Jerry McKey, who had bought the shop, refused to return the truck unless Stratton paid storage fees. This led to a series of legal battles, with Stratton ultimately being awarded possession of the truck and $1350 in damages, and McKey being denied his claim for storage fees.In 2021, Stratton discovered his truck, which he had believed to be destroyed, restored and in Brookhaven, Mississippi. He filed a motion to vacate the previous court decisions, arguing that the truck's existence invalidated the previous rulings. However, the Supreme Court of Mississippi disagreed. It affirmed the trial court's denial of Stratton's motion to vacate, stating that Stratton is entitled to immediate possession of the truck and $1350 in damages, and he owes McKey no storage fees.The court found no grounds for Stratton's claims of fraud or new evidence, and it emphasized the importance of finality in court judgments. It also noted that the trial court had considered the potential of a double award to Stratton, but chose not to alter its judgment because Stratton's initial complaint had requested damages on multiple claims. The court concluded that the decision to deny Stratton's motion to vacate was within the trial court's discretion and should remain undisturbed. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law

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In Mississippi, Samuel and Sandra Evans appealed the trial court's decision not to set aside a foreclosure sale. They executed a deed of trust for real property in 2003, but defaulted on their payments. Foreclosure proceedings were initiated and the property was purchased at the foreclosure sale by MC&J Investments, LLC. The Evans alleged that they had an oral agreement with the managing member of MC&J Investments to buy the property at the foreclosure sale and then sell it back to them. The trial court found that the bid price paid by MC&J Investments was not so inadequate as to shock the conscience of the court and that no written evidence was provided to support the alleged promise to sell back the property. The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decision, ruling that the oral agreement was barred under the statute of frauds and did not fall under the doctrine of promissory estoppel because there was no evidence that the Evans relied on the alleged promise. Additionally, the court found that the price paid at the foreclosure sale didn't shock the conscience of the court and therefore didn't err in not setting aside the foreclosure sale. View "Evans v. MC & J Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between a group of individuals and companies associated with John Logan and a mix of investors and former investors in medical clinics that Logan has run. The parties attended a mediation to resolve five separate but related lawsuits. Following the mediation, RedMed believed there was an enforceable settlement agreement, while Logan believed the mediation only created a framework for further negotiations. The trial court granted RedMed’s Motion to Enforce Settlement, finding that a binding settlement agreement had been reached. Logan appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in finding a binding settlement agreement. The Supreme Court of Mississippi reverses the trial court's ruling. The court found that the proposed settlement agreement lacked material terms required by Mississippi contract law, such as the interest rate and term of a promissory note, and therefore no meeting of the minds occurred. The court further found that the conduct of the attorneys and mediator at the conclusion of the mediation indicated that mutual assent to the terms of a contract was lacking. As a result, the court concluded that no enforceable contract was formed at the mediation. Therefore, the case is remanded back to the trial court. View "Logan v. RedMed, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a dispute before the Supreme Court of Mississippi, Amrut Patel claimed that Dilip Bhana failed to repay three loans. The Chancery Court of DeSoto County had granted a judgment in favor of Patel in 2014. In 2021, Patel attempted to renew the judgment by filing a notice of renewal with the DeSoto County Circuit Court. In 2022, Patel pursued executing the judgment in the DeSoto County Chancery Court. However, Bhana filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the judgment had expired because Patel did not properly renew it. The chancery court denied Bhana’s motion to dismiss.Bhana's case was brought before the Supreme Court of Mississippi on interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court clarified that there are three ways to renew a judgment in Mississippi: filing a notice of renewal with the clerk of the court that rendered the judgment, filing a motion to renew in the court that rendered the judgment, or filing a new suit on the judgment in any court in which venue is proper. The court found that Patel did not follow any of these methods properly. Patel had filed a notice of renewal in the circuit court, not the chancery court that had issued the judgment, and he had not filed a new suit to renew the judgment.The Supreme Court of Mississippi held that Patel's judgment against Bhana had expired because Patel had not renewed it in any manner provided by law or case precedent. The court also ruled that Bhana did not waive his statute of limitations defense and that the chancery court had abused its discretion by finding Bhana’s motion to dismiss untimely. Consequently, the court reversed the chancery court’s denial of Bhana’s motion to dismiss and rendered judgment in favor of Bhana. View "Dilip v. Patel" on Justia Law

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At Home Care, Inc. filed suit against RiverHills Capital Corporation and others for breach of contract, fraud, and for quiet title surrounding a lease on real property that At Home Care purchased. RiverHills Capital Corporation filed a motion to transfer the case to chancery court, alleging that the chancery court had subject-matter jurisdiction because, in essence, At Home Care could not succeed on the merits of its legal claims. The circuit court denied its motion. Because the circuit court did not err by denying the motion to transfer, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed and remanded this case to the circuit court. View "Riverhills Capital Corporation, et al. v. At Home Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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Construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, received the prime contract to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital in 2017. Electrical contractor McInnis Electric Company secured the winning bid to install the electrical and low voltage systems package for the project and subsequently signed a subcontract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Terms of the subcontract incorporated the prime contract, which were related to the same project by reference. The contract provided that work was set to begin on the project on February 15, 2018. However, McInnis, was directed not to report on site until June 4, 2018, and, due to delays, was unable to begin until July 23, 2018. As work progressed, the schedule allegedly became delayed as a result of Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate the work of the various subcontractors. McInnis averred that Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate and facilitate the work of the various subcontractors worsened as the project progressed, and Brasfield & Gorrie experienced turnover in management. This failure allegedly delayed McInnis’s work, which was not on the path toward completion, supposedly through no fault of its own. Construction issues were amplified when on March 11, 2020, Mississippi experienced its first reported case of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the Mississippi Governor instituted a shelter in place order in response to the ongoing pandemic, requiring certain nonessential businesses to close and recommending social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Mississippi. The children’s hospital was not classified as an existing infrastructure as it was a nonoperational work in progress and thus was not subject to the executive order’s exception to the governmental shutdowns. By May 8, 2020, McInnis had suffered an approximately 40 percent loss in its workforce due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the decrease in the available workforce, Brasfield & Gorrie demanded McInnis perform under its contractual obligation. McInnis took measures to continue the work. Brasfield & Gorrie further declined requests for accommodation and instead terminated McInnis on May 13, 2020. The case before the Mississippi Supreme Court here stemmed from disagreements and a broken contract between the parties, contesting whether arbitration was appropriate to settle their disputes. The trial court compelled arbitration, and the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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The facts of this case involved the formation of a promissory note between James Rhea and Career General Agency, Inc, GuideOne America Insurance Co. and Dennis Basden. The promissory note was allegedly signed in 2007 and paid off by 2017. Rhea filed this suit in 2018 claiming unconscionability, unjust enrichment, conversion and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Career General. Career General filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the general three year statute of limitations expired in 2010. Rhea argued that under the doctrine of equitable estoppel and the continuing tort doctrine, the statute of limitations did not begin to run until he finished paying the note in 2017. In February 2020, the trial court granted Career General’s motion to dismiss finding that equitable estoppel and the continuing tort doctrine did not apply and that the statute of limitations barred Rhea’s claim. Ninety-nine days later, Rhea filed a “Motion for New Trial, Amended Judgment or Reconsideration under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59” stating that he had not received notice of the court’s order and asking the court to reconsider whether equitable estoppel and the continuing tort doctrine should apply. In June 2020, Career General responded to the Rule 59 motion and argued that Rhea had failed to present: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) new evidence not previously available; or (3) a need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. But Career General did not raise the issue of timeliness in their response. After a hearing in April 2021, the trial court denied Rhea's motion. The Mississippi Supreme Court found after review that the Court of Appeals in this case reached the correct decision but for the wrong reason. Regardless of whether the parties or the court raised the issue of timeliness, the Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals correctly found that it did not have appellate jurisdiction to review the February 2020 order. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was thus affirmed. View "Rhea v. Career General Agency, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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A Mississippi circuit court granted law firm Campbell DeLong, LLP, a declaratory judgment against a former partner of the firm, Britt Virden, who had alleged breach of contract, among other claims. Virden appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. On certiorari review, the Supreme Court found that Virden’s prewithdrawal claims were not precluded by a signed agreement, which only came into operation in the event of death, termination, withdrawal, or retirement of a partner. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the appellate and circuit court judgments and remanded the case for the circuit court to allow Virden an opportunity to maintain an action against his former firm for breach of an implied contract regarding partner compensation. View "Virden v. Campbell Delong, LLP, et al." on Justia Law